The North Atlantic Alliance (NATO)

In our interconnected world conflicts cannot be resolved by any one country alone. We are dependent on partners and alliances. The North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) therefore remains a central anchor of our defence and security policy. With 28 members at present, NATO makes a crucial contribution towards security and stability in the Euro‑Atlantic area.

Adapting NATO to meet new challenges

In order to fulfil its duty to protect the citizens of its member states, NATO prepares itself to face new security challenges in an ongoing process. The Strategic Concept adopted at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 provides the political benchmarks for this. In the document entitled “Active engagement, modern defence”, three core NATO functions are set forth: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.

In extension of the previous deterrence and defence doctrine, prevention and resilience are to the fore when it comes to tackling the new security challenges. The main priorities in this connection are the spheres of cyber security, the exploration of measures aimed at helping to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and protection against attacks with weapons of mass destruction, as well as the fight against terrorism.

Clear signals for disarmament and arms control

NATO is also sending clear messages with regard to the global disarmament and arms control efforts. This is emphasised in the Strategic Concept by the commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and the establishment of a committee to provide advice on WMD control and disarmament. The NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR) adopted in Chicago in 2012 expressly spells out the importance of disarmament, arms control and non‑proliferation to the Alliance’s security.

Collective and smart defence

The Strategic Concept underscores the importance of the mutual defence obligation under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty as the Alliance’s core function.

In financially straitened times, it is crucial to ensure that defence budget cuts do not diminish the Alliance’s security. Against this background, the NATO Secretary-General’s Smart Defence Initiative is aimed at prioritising military capabilities in line with their actual significance. Essentially, this is about determining which military capabilities each Alliance partner has to provide for themselves and which can be provided by one or more partners for the entire Alliance. Furthermore, more military equipment should also be procured on a multinational basis. 

At the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012, the Heads of State and Government also agreed on the Connected Forces Initiative, which is aimed at improving cooperation among NATO armed forces and with partners. These initiatives partly complement each other in terms of content with a view to adapting the Alliance to deal with the challenges up to 2020 and beyond.

Nato webseite on Smart Defence

At the NATO Summit in Lisbon (November 2010), the Alliance Heads of State and Government made the fundamental decision to develop a NATO missile defence capability as a core task within the framework of collective Alliance defence, in order to ensure that the population and territory of the Alliance are protected as well as possible. The political decision made in Lisbon was rendered more concrete by the declaration on an interim capability at the NATO Summit in Chicago (May 2012). NATO will gradually develop its own air defence system in a way that also ensures missile defence.

Alliance solidarity with Turkey

The Active Fence mission in Turkey (since late 2012) is a tangible manifestation of Alliance solidarity: following consultations in the North Atlantic Council in June and October 2012 on the basis of Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, on 21 November 2012 Turkey requested the Alliance to support it by deploying the PATRIOT air defence missile system to its territory. The North Atlantic Council at Foreign Minister level complied with this request with its decision of 4 December 2012. Ten days later, the German Bundestag approved the mandate to deploy two Bundeswehr PATRIOT systems to Turkey. The current Bundestag mandate will remain in force until the end of January 2015.

In a difficult situation for Turkey, the deployment of German PATRIOT systems to Turkey in collaboration with the Netherlands and the US demonstrates that Germany is a reliable Alliance partner. Germany’s support for Turkey is part of NATO’s integrated air defence. Strengthening NATO’s integrated air defence in Turkey is a purely defensive measure intended to prevent the conflict in Syria from spreading to Turkey.

Military operations and crisis management

The most visible sign of NATO’s activity in the sphere of crisis management is its operations. One important topic of the last few years is the Alliance’s engagement in Afghanistan. NATO and its partners want to withdraw their combat troops from the country by the end of 2014. After that, a new, much smaller non‑combat mission is to continue providing support for Afghan security forces through training, advisory services and other forms of assistance. Germany declared at the NATO Summit in Chicago that after 2014 it will provide annual funding of around 150 million euros to help maintain the Afghan National Security Forces.

The Alliance is currently carrying out the following operations:

  • International Security Assistance Force (ISAF): NATO took over the UN‑mandated ISAF mission in Afghanistan in 2003. At present 47 countries are taking part, with a total of around 53,000 troops. With approximately 3000 soldiers Germany is the third‑largest troop contributor (as of March 2014).
  • Kosovo Force (KFOR) has been in Kosovo since 1999. At present 31 nations (including all NATO members except Belgium, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Spain) are taking part, with a total of around 5000 troops. With approximately 700 soldiers Germany is the largest troop contributor along with the US (as of March 2014).
  • Operation Active Endeavor (OAE): OAE is the NATO counterterrorism mission in the Mediterranean and was established following the attacks of 11 September 2001. Germany’s contribution includes ships which cross the Mediterranean to or from the counter‑piracy mission ATALANTA or to combat weapons smuggling within the scope of UNIFIL, ships for the Standing NATO Maritime Groups (SNMGs) as well as ORION maritime patrol aircraft and crews for NATO AWACS aircraft.
  • Operation Ocean Shield (OOS): Within the framework of OOS, NATO accompanies trading ships off the Horn of Africa and, when necessary, rescues captured ships. Operation Ocean Shield is working to develop local capabilities to combat piracy within the framework of UN‑coordinated cooperation and in close coordination with all other players in the region, especially the EU ATALANTA mission. Germany is participating in the EU‑led ATALANTA mission but not in the OOS operation.
  • Active Fence (Turkey): Germany is contributing up to 400 soldiers to help boost NATO’s integrated air defence on the Turkish‑Syrian border. The mandate will run until 31 January 2014. The US and the Netherlands also intend to station a number of PATRIOT batteries in Turkey (c.f. also “Alliance solidarity with Turkey”).

Cooperative security

NATO is not just a defence alliance. Rather, it is increasingly becoming a security alliance. Partnerships, i.e. cooperation with countries which are not NATO members, is therefore of growing importance. At present, NATO has partnerships with more than 40 states and international organisations. In view of the changed security environment and new challenges, the network of countries and international organisations with which NATO is engaged in political dialogue is to be broadened, and concrete cooperation with Alliance partners intensified.
Long‑standing institutionalised partnerships include:

  • The Euro‑Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) as well as its predecessor format, since 1992 (OSCE area)
  • Mediterranean Dialogue (MD), since 1994
  • Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), since 2004
  • Partners across the globe (bilateral cooperation programmes with Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq; these programmes have been grouped under this format since 2010)
  • NATO also has special forms of cooperation with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia in the shape of the NATO‑Russia Council (since 1997), the NATO‑Ukraine Commission (since 1997) and the NATO‑Georgia Commission (since 2008).

Also outside of these institutional formats, using flexible formats, the Alliance is able to maintain an exchange with other countries which contribute to Alliance operations and missions politically, militarily or logistically, or which express an interest in consultation meetings with NATO.

To this end, the NATO Foreign Ministers adopted a new partnership policy for the Alliance at their meeting in Berlin in April 2011, which was intended to make cooperation with other states and organisations more efficient, pragmatic and flexible. The German Government strongly supports NATO’s new, further evolved partnership policy, which focuses on the needs of the partners without losing sight of the Alliance’s legitimate interests.

Germany also remains committed to NATO’s “open‑door policy”. However, the accession to NATO by more states would require further reform efforts in the countries interested in joining NATO and would have to represent an added value to Euro‑Atlantic security.

Within the framework of cooperative security, NATO is also working to achieve worldwide disarmament, arms control and non‑proliferation. This includes individual measures such as Trust Funds to secure ammunition depots, to destroy military salvage or clear mines as well as political support for international efforts to bring about an effective non‑proliferation policy and reduce the nuclear weapons arsenals. In particular, the NATO‑Russia Council with its numerous sub‑committees offers a suitable framework for transparency measures as a prerequisite for the start of the relevant negotiations.

Further links:

Information on NATO's website on partnerships with non-NATO-states


NATO-Ukraine Commission

NATO-Georgia Commission

Basic Document of NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EPAC)

Mediterranean Dialogue

Istanbul Cooperation Initiative

Partners across the globe

On 4 April 1949, twelve states from Europe and North America signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC. Today, the following states are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (also known as the North Atlantic Alliance or NATO): Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Last updated 31.03.2014

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