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|North Atlantic Treaty Organization|
Organization du traité de l'Atlantique Nord
Flag of NATO
NATO countries shown in green
|Formation||4 April 1949|
|Membership||28 member states|
|Official languages||English, French|
|Secretary General||Jaap de Hoop Scheffer|
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, the Atlantic Alliance, or the Western Alliance, is a defence alliance established in 1949, from the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington, D.C., USA, on April 4, 1949. Its headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium. Its other official name is the same name in French, Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN).
Its members in 1949 were: The United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Three years later, on 18 February 1952, Greece and Turkey also joined.
When West Germany joined the organization on 9 May 1955 it was described as "a decisive turning point in the history of our continent" by Halvard Lange, Foreign Minister of Norway at the time. Indeed, the result was the Warsaw Pact, signed on 14 May 1955 by the Soviet Union and its satellite states as response to NATO.
After the Cold war in 1999 three former communist countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland joined the NATO. On 29 March 2004 seven more Northern European and Eastern European countries joined NATO: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and also Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Croatia and Albania received NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008. Republic of Macedonia received only conditional invitation because it was vetoed by Greece due to Republic of Macedonia's name dispute with Greece.
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