North Atlantic Treaty
North Atlantic Treaty authentication page
TypeMilitary alliance
LocationWashington, D.C.
Effective24 August 1949; 72 years ago (1949-08-24)
ConditionRatification by the majority of the signatories including Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States
  •  Albania
  •  Belgium
  •  Bulgaria
  •  Canada
  •  Croatia
  •  Czech Republic
  •  Denmark
  •  Estonia
  •  France
  •  Germany
  •  Greece
  •  Hungary
  •  Iceland
  •  Italy
  •  Latvia
  •  Lithuania
  •  Luxembourg
  •  Montenegro
  •  Netherlands
  •  North Macedonia
  •  Norway
  •  Poland
  •  Portugal
  •  Romania
  •  Slovakia
  •  Slovenia
  •  Spain
  •  Turkey
  •  United Kingdom
  •  United States
DepositaryGovernment of the United States of America
LanguagesFrench, English
Full text
North Atlantic Treaty at Wikisource

The North Atlantic Treaty, also referred to as the Washington Treaty, is the treaty that forms the legal basis of, and is implemented by, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The treaty was signed in Washington, D.C., on 4 April 1949.


The treaty was signed in Washington, D.C., on 4 April 1949 by a committee which was chaired by US diplomat Theodore Achilles. Earlier secret talks had been held at the Pentagon between 22 March and 1 April 1948, of which Achilles said:

The talks lasted about two weeks and by the time they finished, it had been secretly agreed that there would be a treaty, and I had a draft of one in the bottom drawer of my safe. It was never shown to anyone except Jack [Hickerson]. I wish I had kept it, but when I left the Department in 1950, I dutifully left it in the safe and I have never been able to trace it in the archives. It drew heavily on the Rio Treaty, and a bit of the Brussels Treaty, which had not yet been signed, but of which we were being kept heavily supplied with drafts. The eventual North Atlantic Treaty had the general form, and a good bit of the language of my first draft, but with a number of important differences.[1]

According to Achilles, another important author of the treaty was John D. Hickerson:

More than any human being Jack was responsible for the nature, content, and form of the Treaty...It was a one-man Hickerson treaty.[1]

As a fundamental component of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty is a product of the US' desire to avoid overextension at the end of World War II, and consequently pursue multilateralism in Europe.[2] It is part of the US' collective defense arrangement with Western European powers, following a long and deliberative process.[3] The treaty was created with an armed attack by the Soviet Union against Western Europe in mind,[citation needed] but the mutual self-defense clause was never invoked during the Cold War. Rather, it was invoked for the first and only time in 2001 during Operation Eagle Assist in response to the September 11 attacks.

By signing the North Atlantic Treaty, parties are "determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of the peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law."[4]


Founding members

Current NATO member states
Current NATO member states
Animated map of NATO membership over time
Animated map of NATO membership over time

The following twelve states signed the treaty and thus became the founding members of NATO. The following leaders signed the agreement as plenipotentiaries of their countries in Washington, D.C., on 4 April 1949:[5][6]

Non-founding members who joined before the dissolution of the Soviet Union

The following 4 states joined the treaty after the 12 founding states, but before the dissolution of the Soviet Union:

Members who joined after the dissolution of the Soviet Union

The following 14 states joined the treaty after the dissolution of the Soviet Union:


No state has rescinded its membership but some dependencies of member states have not requested membership after becoming independent:

  •  Cyprus (independence from the United Kingdom in 1960)
  •  Algeria (independence from France in 1962)
  •  Malta (independence from the United Kingdom in 1964)


Article 1

Article 1 of the treaty states that member parties "settle any international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."[4]

Members seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area through preservation of peace and security in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.[4]

Article 2

Article 2 of the treaty stipulates that "The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them."[7] This is sometimes referred to as the "Canadian Clause" after Pearson pushed for its inclusion in the treaty.[8] This included proposals for a trade council, cultural program, technological sharing, and an information program. Of those, only the latter two were passed.[9][10] Nonetheless, it has been brought up during trade disputes between members.[11]

Article 3

Article 3 of the treaty states that "In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack."[4]

Recently, this has been interpreted as the basis for the target for a 2% GDP expenditure rule,[12] which was established as a loose guideline in 2006.[13] This metric was confirmed again during the 2014 Wales summit.

It has also been used as a core concept for a mandate to strengthen member resilience: the ability to resist and recover from a major disasters, failures in infrastructure, or traditional armed attack. This commitment was first accept during the 2016 Warsaw summit, and further reiterated and clarified due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.[14][15] Per NATO documents, this has been understood to include seven key areas:

Article 4

Article 4 is generally considered the starting point for major NATO operations, and therefore is intended for either emergencies or situations of urgency. It officially calls for consultation over military matters when "the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened."[17] Upon its invocation, the issue is discussed in the NAC, and can formally lead into a joint decision or action (logistic, military, or otherwise) on behalf of the Alliance.[18] It has been invoked seven times since the alliance's creation.[19]

Article 4 invocations
Nation(s) Date Reason Outcome
Turkey Turkey February 2003 Iraq War.[19][20] Operation Display Deterrence.[21]
Turkey Turkey June 2012 The shooting down of a Turkish military jet by Syria.[19] Operation Active Fence.[22]
Turkey Turkey October 2012 Syrian forces shelling Turkish cities.[19]
Latvia Latvia[23]

Lithuania Lithuania[24]
Poland Poland[25]

March 2014 In response to the extraterritorial Crimean crisis. Deployment of littoral, naval, and air forces in the Black Sea by Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey.[26] Condemnation and support for sanctions of member countries and international community.[27] Reform and medical aid to the Ukrainian government.[28] Creation of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence.[29]
Turkey Turkey July 2015 In response to the 2015 Suruç bombing, which it attributed to ISIS, and other security issues along its southern border.[18][30][31][32] Denouncement of the attack[33] and reassessment of NATO assets in Turkey.[34]
Turkey Turkey February 2020 Increasing tensions as part of the Northwestern Syria offensive, including suspected[35] Syrian and Russian airstrikes on Turkish troops.[36][19] Augmentation of Turkish air defences.[37][38]
Bulgaria Bulgaria

Czech Republic Czech Republic
Estonia Estonia
Latvia Latvia
Lithuania Lithuania
Poland Poland
Romania Romania
Slovakia Slovakia[39]

February 2022 The 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine.[40] Defensive build-up,[41][42] matériel support to Ukraine,[43] and activation of the NRF.[44][45]

There have also been instances where Article 4 was not formally invoked, but instead threatened. In fact, this was viewed as one of the original intentions for Article 4: as a means to elevate issues and provide member nations a means of deterrence.[46] For example, in November of 2021, the Polish foreign ministry—along with Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia—briefly considered triggering article 4 due to the Belorussian migrant crisis, but it was not formally requested.[47][48]

Article 5

The key section of the treaty is Article 5. Its commitment clause defines the casus foederis. It commits each member state to consider an armed attack against one member state, in Europe or North America, to be an armed attack against them all. Upon such attack, each member state is to assist by taking "such action as [the member state] deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."

It has been invoked only once in NATO history: by the United States after the September 11 attacks in 2001.[49][50] The invocation was confirmed on 4 October 2001, when NATO determined that the attacks were indeed eligible under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty.[51] The eight official actions taken by NATO in response to the 9/11 attacks included Operation Eagle Assist and Operation Active Endeavour, a naval operation in the Mediterranean which was designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction, as well as enhancing the security of shipping in general. Active Endeavour began on 4 October 2001.[52]

In April 2012, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan considered invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty to protect Turkish national security in a dispute over the Syrian Civil War.[53][54] The alliance responded quickly and a spokesperson said the alliance was "monitoring the situation very closely and will continue to do so" and "takes it very seriously protecting its members."[55] On 17 April, Turkey said it would raise the issue quietly in the next NATO ministerial meeting.[56] On 29 April, the Syrian foreign ministry wrote that it had received Erdoğan's message, which he had repeated a few days before, loud and clear.[57] On 25 June, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister said that he intended to raise Article 5[58] at a specially-convened NATO meeting[59] because of the downing of an "unarmed" Turkish military jet which was "13 sea miles" from Syria over "international waters" on a "solo mission to test domestic radar systems".[60] A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman insisted that the plane was "flying at an altitude of 100 meters inside the Syrian airspace in a clear breach of Syrian sovereignty" and that the "jet was shot down by anti-aircraft fire," the bullets of which "only have a range of 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles)" rather than by radar-guided missile.[61] On 5 August, Erdoğan stated, "The tomb of Suleyman Shah [in Syria] and the land surrounding it is our territory. We cannot ignore any unfavorable act against that monument, as it would be an attack on our territory, as well as an attack on NATO land... Everyone knows his duty, and will continue to do what is necessary."[62] NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen later said in advance of the October 2012 ministerial meeting that the alliance was prepared to defend Turkey, and acknowledged that this border dispute concerned the alliance, but underlined the alliance's hesitancy over a possible intervention: "A military intervention can have unpredicted repercussions. Let me be very clear. We have no intention to interfere militarily [at present with Syria]."[63] On 27 March 2014, recordings were released on YouTube[64] of a conversation purportedly involving then Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, then National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan, and Deputy Chief of General Staff General Yaşar Güler. The recording has been reported as being probably recorded at Davutoğlu's office at the Foreign Ministry on 13 March.[65] Transcripts of the conversation reveal that as well as exploring the options for Turkish forces engaging in false flag operations inside Syria, the meeting involved a discussion about using the threat to the tomb as an excuse for Turkey to intervene militarily inside Syria. Davutoğlu stated that Erdoğan told him that he saw the threat to the tomb as an "opportunity".[citation needed]

Prior to the meeting of defence ministers and recently appointed Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at Brussels in late June 2015,[66][67] it was stated by a journalist, who referenced an off-the-record interview with an official source, that "Entirely legal activities, such as running a pro-Moscow TV station, could become a broader assault on a country that would require a NATO response under Article Five of the Treaty... A final strategy is expected in October 2015."[68] In another report, the journalist reported that "as part of the hardened stance, the UK has committed £750,000 of its money to support a counter-propaganda unit at NATO's headquarters in Brussels."[69]

According to a 2019 Pew Research poll, citizens of most member states do not support their country adhering to Article 5 obligations in the event of an attack from Russia.[70]

The United States and other countries have defense pacts with similar requirements as Article 5.

Article 6

Article 6 states that the treaty covers only member states' territories in Europe and North America, Turkey and islands in the North Atlantic north of the Tropic of Cancer, plus French Algeria. It was the opinion in August 1965 of the US State Department, the US Defense Department and the legal division of NATO that an attack on the U.S. state of Hawaii would not trigger the treaty, but an attack on the other 49 would.[71] The Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African shore are thus not under NATO protection in spite of Moroccan claims to them. Legal experts have interpreted that other articles could cover the Spanish North African cities but this take has not been tested in practice.[72] This is also why events such as the Balyun airstrikes did not trigger Article 5, as the Turkish troops that were attacked were in Syria, not Turkey.[73]

On 16 April 2003, NATO agreed to take command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which includes troops from 42 countries. The decision came at the request of Germany and the Netherlands, the two states leading ISAF at the time of the agreement, and all nineteen NATO ambassadors approved it unanimously. The handover of control to NATO took place on 11 August, and marked the first time in NATO's history that it took charge of a mission outside the north Atlantic area.[74]

Article 10

Main article: Enlargement of NATO § Article 10

Article 10 dictates the process by which other countries may join NATO, which is by unanimous agreement by current NATO members. Further, new NATO members can only consist of other European nations. In practice, this has turned into a set of action plans which an aspiring nation must follow in order to become a member. Including the Membership Action Plan (MAP) mechanism,[75] and Intensified Dialog formula.[76]

Changes since signing

Three official footnotes have been released to reflect the changes made since the treaty was written:[77]

Regarding Article 6:

Regarding Article 11:

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Joined as Kingdom of Greece.
  2. ^ Joined as West Germany. After reunification in 1990, the former East German territory became covered by NATO protection.


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  13. ^ "Press Briefing by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai after the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Defence Ministers". 8 June 2006. Finally, I should add that Allies through the comprehensive political guidance have committed to endeavour, to meet the 2% target of GDP devoted to defence spending. Let me be clear, this is not a hard commitment that they will do it. But it is a commitment to work towards it. And that will be a first within the Alliance.
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  22. ^ "NATO Foreign Ministers' statement on Patriot deployment to Turkey". 5 December 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2022. As the North Atlantic Council made clear on June 26 and October 3, we stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity. We, the NATO foreign ministers, declare our determination to deter threats to and defend Turkey. In response to Turkey’s request, NATO has decided to augment Turkey’s air defence capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance’s border.
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Further reading

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