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The beginnings of NATO’s military structure: birth of the Alliance to the fall of the Berlin Wall

12 pages, pdf
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The beginnings of NATO’s military structure: birth of the Alliance to the fall of the Berlin Wall

Publisher: NATO

Volume: 12 pages, pdf


More than fi ve decades since NATO’s founding, it is hard to imagine that the Organisation did not always have the complex military and political structures that have long been key features of its decision-making process. When the Alliance was created by the Washington Treaty of 4 April 1949, it possessed very little in the way of political structures and virtually no military establishments. The fi rst organisational structures were created by the Washington Treaty itself. Article 9 established a Council that became known as the North Atlantic Council (NAC), the top political decision-making body within the Alliance. Initially composed of member country foreign ministers, it was authorised to “set up such subsidiary bodies as may be necessary.” The Council was specifi cally instructed to “establish immediately a defence committee which shall recommend measures for the implementation of Articles 3 [maintain and develop individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack] and 5 [an armed attack against one or more of them shall be considered an attack against them all].” The Defence Committee, composed of defence ministers or their representatives, came into existence at the fi rst NAC meeting of 17 September 1949. The Council also directed the new Defence Committee to establish subordinate bodies for defence matters: a Military Committee composed of the chiefs of defence of member nations; the Standing Group, a three-nation executive body for the Military Committee with representatives from France, the United Kingdom and the United States; and fi ve committees known as Regional Planning Groups (Northern Europe, Western Europe, Southern Europe/Western Mediterranean, United States/Canada, and the North Atlantic Ocean) to examine issues of military import in each respective area.