NATO: Just the Facts Please

By Lauren Wagner  On 6/6/17 AT  9:50 CMT

Important things are happening with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and it’s hardly getting noticed. It’s understandable too, I think the combination of misinformation, and information overload has exhausted many Americans to the point of tuning out. Many of those who aren’t tuning out may be unknowingly disoriented by the constant noise of an inevitable echo chamber, focusing their efforts on daily dramas in Washington. Whether you fit into one of those categories, or somewhere in between, NATO is one subject every American should know the basics on… especially right now. Until recently our allies saw the United States as a fixed and committed powerhouse member. Now, many foresee a major fracturing, and emerging new leaders of the free world. What do you foresee? If you don’t have an opinion yet 20 easy NATO facts might help you form one.

20 Easy NATO Facts:

  1. It’s an intergovernmental military alliance based on 1949’s North Atlantic Treaty. All members of the Alliance are equal, and work together to manage crises around the world.
  2. It exists to protect the citizens and territory of its 29 member countries, called ‘collective defense’, which is explained in Article 5 of the treaty.
  3. Article 5 guarantees that an attack on one member will be met with the defenses of all members. It has thwarted would-be aggressors and helped NATO successfully maintain democratic governance and security for all its member states since its formation.
  4. Article 5 was invoked for the first and only time to collectively defend the U.S. after the 9/11/ 2001. All NATO Allies defended the U.S. as though they too had been attacked.
  5. The cost of running the Alliance is paid through contributions from every NATO country.
  6. NATO has its own budget, and a strict cost sharing formula. All our allies are paying their share.
  7. Other collective defense actions have included responding after the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and to Syria.
  8. Cyber defense experts share information about cyber threats with members only and they can also be sent to help members under attack. Access to training and information from NATO cyber-attack experts has been invaluable to U.S. security.
  9. Members set a goal for defense spending at 2% GDP; The 2% target is regarded as a guideline, and carries no penalties for members who don’t meet that.
  10. Has been involved in counterterrorism since 1980.
  11. Several allies, Germany included, pay significantly more per capita than the U.S.
  12. Each member funds their own defense. NATO does not keep track of what members spend on their own defense because each country may decide how to use their defense money, and how much they spend.
  13. Has active duty forces that serve the Alliance’s defense efforts continually.
  14. Those who take part in missions led by NATO divide the costs of those missions. They provide the biggest contributions by deciding to take part and choosing what support they cover.
  15. Common funding is divided into three categories, and wealthier members pay a proportionally bigger share.
  16. Defense spending for the alliance increased in 2015.
  17. 22 of the 28 NATO members increased their defense budgets last year. A 3.8% spending increase, without factoring U.S. spending into the equation at all.
  18. At the 2014 summit member countries with small armies, or none, pledged to increase funding slowly. They are simply too small to absorb quick increases in funding, but have honored agreements for plans to increase by 2024.
  19. The U.S. far surpasses the 2% GDP goal, spending 3.6% GDP by choice. Our budget reflects our stature and responsibility, unlike most NATO countries, the United States of America is a world power and takes part in many NATO missions.
  20. The Russian tank troops recently challenged the winner of NATO’s annual tank competition to “face off”. Russia is not part of the alliance and traditionally shuns the Russian games.

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