This day in 1949 marked the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty and the creation of NATO. The abbreviation stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The contract was signed in Washington, D.C, by the 12 original member states (10 countries of Western Europe plus the U.S. and Canada).
Another 16 member states joined NATO later, during six rounds of expansion (the last were Croatia and Albania in 2009). The first Secretary General of NATO – Lord Ismay – said that the purpose of the organization is “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”. According to the Treaty, an armed attack on any NATO member state is considered to be an armed attack against them all. The NATO Headquarters is, of course, located in Brussels.
NATO members’ defense spending constitutes about 70% of the world total invested in this purpose. The Supreme Commander of the military operations of NATO in Europe has the title of SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) and is always an American four-star general (or admiral).