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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


1. In general. NATO members. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in April 1949. Its founding members are Belgium, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Iceland, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Greece became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1952, along with Turkey. Through following NATO enlargements, the Federal Republic of Germany (1955), Spain (1982), Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia (2004), Albania, Croatia (2009) and Montenegro (2017) also became NATO members. Following the signing of the Accession Protocol of the Republic of North Macedonia (6.2.2019), the country is to become the 30th NATO member-state, as soon as all 29 allies have completed the necessary ratifying procedures.

2. NATO Core Mission. The new Strategic Concept of NATO, adopted in 2010, outlines the three main missions of the Alliance: a) collective defense (Article 5 of the Founding Washington Treaty), b) crisis management and c) enhancement of cooperation with partners (third countries and international Organizations).

A) Collective Defense

At the moment we are witnessing the implementation of the main decisions made at the NATO 2018 Brussels Summit, such as the enhancement of the “Deterrence and Defense Policy” of the Alliance, the configuration of an adaptation framework as a response to increasing security challenges and threats from the South and the improvement of cooperation and coordination between the Alliance and other international Organizations, especially the EU.

“Deterrence and Defense Policy” also includes burden sharing and the intensification of Allies’ efforts to increase their defense budgets so as to meet the Defense Investment Pledge target ( also known as triple c ), set at the Wales Summit in 2014: a) to commit 2% of the GDP to defense spending - US, Estonia, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK have already reached that goal (Cash), b)  to spend 20% of the overall defense spending in the Acquisition, Research and Development of major equipment (Capabilities), c) to contribute to NATO and non-NATO missions and operations (Contributions).

Strengthening NATO’s Deterrence and Defense posture is one of the major challenges for the Alliance, especially after the Crimea/Ukraine crisis of 2014.  Based on a “Responsiveness-Readiness-Reinforcement” scheme, NATO is currently strengthening its abilities for situational and threat awareness, is speeding up it’s decision making process and is keeping a high readiness level of NATO forces.

In the same vein, the Alliance is streamlining its “Deterrence and Defense” efforts with the policy for “Projecting Stability”. This policy comprises of a) dealing with emanating threats and security challenges from the South, b) fighting terrorism, c) expanding Partnerships and d) implementing the “Open Door” Policy. NATO is also enhancing the resilience of Allies and Partners as regards Cyber security and fighting terrorism.      

B) Crisis Management. NATO Operations

Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan

Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan was launched in January 2015, after the completion of mission ISAF in December 2014. Resolute Support Mission aims at training the Security Forces and supporting the restructuring of the country’s defense institutions. Greece participates with a number of army and air force officers in the RSM.


UN Security Council Resolution 1244 authorized the still ongoing presence of NATO’s Security Force (KFOR) in Kosovo in June 1999. KFOR is accepted by all stakeholders in the region, both due to its equal cooperation with the rest of the international organizations in place, and due to its neutrality to Kosovo status. However, KFOR is being gradually reduced, following the real developments of the security situation in the area. Greece has been participating since KFOR was launched.

Operation “Sea Guardian” (Mediterranean Region)  

At the NATO Warsaw Summit (8-9.7.2016), Allies decided the transformation of Operation Active Endeavour from an Article 5 (collective defence) operation to a non-Article 5 Maritime Security Operation, under the name “Sea Guardian”. This new operation, which started in November 2016, is responsible for three missions in the Mediterranean region: maritime situational awareness, maritime counter-terrorism and maritime security capacity building. According to the Warsaw Summit decisions, operation “Sea Guardian” can provide support to the EU Operation “Sophia” in the Central Mediterranean and in areas such as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, logistical support, Libyan naval and coastguard capability building as well as in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2292 concerning the situation in Libya.

NATO contribution in countering the refugee/migrant crisis

The contribution of NATO in countering the refugee/migrant crisis is implemented by the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG-2), which performs an “activity” of Monitoring, Surveillance and Reconnaissance of illegal flows in the Aegean, in cooperation with competent Greek and Turkish Authorities and with close communication with FRONTEX. According to the Secretary General of NATO, the activity is assessed to be successful, taking into consideration the criterion of FRONTEX-MARCOM cooperation.

C) Cooperation with Third Countries and International Organizations

a)    Cooperation structures with Third Countries

Russia. NATO-Russia cooperation officially started at the Rome Summit in 1997, when the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed. In the same spirit of cooperation, NATO-Russia Council (NRC) was founded in 2002. The main goal of the NRC is to establish a main platform in order to promote dialogue and cooperation between the 28 Member States and Russia on security issues of mutual interest. Although, after the Russian intervention in Ukraine, NATO blocked every cooperation channel with Russia, including the NRC, in the framework of NATO’s dual-track approach (deterrence and defense on the one side and open dialogue on the other) with Russia. NRC resumed its work in 2016 with meetings between Permanent Representatives in Brussels, where issues pertaining to the Ukraine crisis, the overall situation in Afghanistan, Hybrid threats and different military exercises of both NATO and Russia are currently discussed.  

The collapse of the INF Treaty (2.08.2019) has had a further negative impact on  NATO-Russia. The Alliance has already adopted a specific defensive package of measures against the development of the Russian SSC-8 land missiles. At the same vein, Russia has announced that, in response, is speeding up the development of new military equipment.

Ukraine. Relations with Ukraine date back at the beginning of the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War. In 1991, Ukraine became a member of the North Atlantic Council and of the Partnership for Peace programme in 1994. In 1997, the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) was established, which is, up to date, the linchpin of communication and of political dialogue between NATO and Ukraine.

Georgia. NATO-Georgia relations began right after the end of the Cold War in 1991. After the crisis with Russia, in 2008, the establishment of NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC) was decided. The role of the NGC is to provide political and consultative support as well as practical cooperation to Georgia, so that the country can come closer to its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. At the NATO Wales Summit in 2014, the participation of Georgia in the Interoperability Platform was decided, as an initiative to promote cooperation between Allies and Partner Nations that contribute greatly to NATO Operations.      

Partnership for Peace Program. PfP was established in 1994 mainly aiming at promoting bilateral cooperation between NATO and each Partner Nation. 22 countries currently participate in the Program (Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, the Kyrghyz Republic, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, the Republic of North Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan), contributing to all aspects of security of NATO, including military exercises and civil protection planning. The PfP is integrated in the broader framework of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Moreover, more enhanced cooperation relations (Enhanced Opportunity Partners) have been formed with certain of the above countries (Sweden, Georgia, Finland).

Mediterranean Dialogue. Upon decision of the North-Atlantic Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue began in 1994. It is a form of bilateral cooperation (NATO+1) with 7 non-member states (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia). The main purpose of the Dialogue is to promote security and stability in the Mediterranean region, using cooperation tools such as the Operational Capabilities Concept-OCC and the Partnership Action Plan Against Terrorism-PAP-T. It is worth mentioning that Jordan belongs to the NATO EOPs (Enhanced Opportunity Partners).

Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI). The ICI aims at promoting long-term cooperation of NATO with Gulf countries in the security domain. Out of 6 GCC countries, 4 have accepted NATO’s invitation to cooperate in the ICI framework, and more specifically Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. Cooperation between NATO and countries of this framework takes place on a bilateral level and adapts on certain issues that each country chooses to contribute to, such as countering terrorism and controlling proliferation of WMD.

Partners Across the Globe.

Along with formal cooperation and synergies, NATO has developed close contacts with a number of nations which do not participate in the above structures (Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Pakistan, Mongolia, New Zealand and South Korea). NATO’s partnership with these nations concerns issues of mutual interest, such as countering common security threats. For example, as far as countering terrorism is concerned, NATO provides training support to Iraqi Armed Forces, while a Core Team has been operating in the country since the beginning of 2017. It is worth mentioning that Australia belongs to the above mentioned of NATO EOPs (Enhanced Opportunity Partners).

b) Cooperation with International Organizations

NATO and the European Union, along with 22 common member states, also share common interests, values and security challenges. Even though institutional cooperation between the two organizations dates back in 2001, there has been great momentum over the past years concerning enhancement of common initiatives.

More specifically, on July 8, 2016, at the NATO Warsaw Summit (8-9.7.2016), the Secretary General of NATO, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, signed a Joint Declaration, also known as the NATO-EU Joint Declaration, describing the main strategic areas of cooperation: a) countering hybrid threats, b) operational cooperation including maritime issues, c)cyber security and defence, d) defence capabilities, e) defence industry and research, f) exercises, g) defence and security capacity building.

Based on the aforementioned Joint Declaration, a common set of proposals of the two organizations was adopted on December 6, 2016 by the Council of the EU and the NAC. These 42 proposals are referred to specific activities in the above strategic areas of cooperation, stressing the coordination promotion and staff-to-staff cooperation, including specific actions in the field of political dialogue.

The enhancement of practical cooperation between NATO and the EU takes place according to the principles enshrined in the Conclusions of the Council of the EU in December 6, 2016 and The Statement endorsed by NATO Foreign Ministers in December 6, 2016. More specifically, in paragraph 2 of the Conclusions, it is mentioned that NATO-EU cooperation “will continue in the spirit of full openness and transparency and the outmost respect of decision-making autonomy processes of the two organizations. It will be based on principles of non-exclusivity and reciprocity, without prejudice to the specific character of security and defense policy of each Member Nation.”

In the context of the Brussels Summit (11-12.07.2018) the Secretary General of the Alliance, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission signed a new Joint Statement reaffirming their willingness to further enhance and strengthen the above mentioned cooperation in order to cope with new threats and security challenges.   

At the Foreign Ministers NATO Meeting in December 2018 and at the Council of the EU of December 2018, 32 new common proposals between NATO and the EU were adopted, aiming at the implementation of the Warsaw decisions, include military mobility facilitation in the European continent, information exchange in countering terrorism, promotion of the role of women in security and defense (based on SC 1325 Resolution).

As far as the United Nations are concerned, relations with NATO date at the beginning of the 1990s, while in 2008 the cooperation framework of the two organizations was signed and renewed in October 2018. The main areas of cooperation are countering terrorism, proliferation control of small and light weapons and WMD, NATO know-how support of UN Peacekeeping missions, human rights protection in conflict zones, as well as enhancing the role of women in peace and conflict deterrence.

With the OECD, the Alliance has been keeping the political dialogue on all levels since 1998. The issues integrated in this dialogue include countering terrorism, keeping borders safe, armaments control and disarmament, energy security, as well as the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The two organizations have also developed complementary missions in the Western Balkans, and more especially in Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Republic of North Macedonia.

3. Greece at NATO

Greece entered the Euroatlantic Alliance in 1952, at its first enlargement, along with neighbouring Turkey. The geopolitical reasons and conditions of the Cold War era highlighted the role of the two countries for the southern flank of NATO, since they both functioned as a “southern tier” for the Mediterranean and the warm seas.

However, even after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the importance of Greece was not sidelined in Euroatlantic structures. Its strategic position in south-eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, its close proximity to Northern Africa and the Middle East, renders the Greek/European borders a southern bastion of NATO and the European Union. At the same time, the (geo)political stability of Greece amidst a wider region of turmoil, political tensions, conflict, migrant mobility and climate change, makes our country an Ally of important added value for the southern flank of NATO. The initiatives undertaken by the Hellenic Diplomacy in the region of Eastern Mediterranean and notably, the launch of the cooperation frameworks of Israel – Cyprus – Greece and Egypt – Cyprus – Greece, as well as the organization the Conferences for the Security and Stability in Eastern Mediterranean, increase the political role of Greece in the aforementioned region, making it a security-provider Ally for NATO.

Moreover, Greece actively participates in the strategic planning of NATO, while promoting its national interest and fully respecting its Allies. It is worth mentioning that, at the Defense Ministers NATO Summit in February 2016, it was a common initiative of Germany, Greece and Turkey, to launch the NATO Activity, aiming at targeting the refugee and migrant crisis, as well as the protection of human lives from the smugglers. Apart from the operational planning, Greece fully abides by its commitments considering burden sharing, as it is one of the seven member states of the Alliance (United States, Greece, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK) investing at least 2% of their GDP in defense spending, according to the Defense Investment Pledge of the Wales Summit (2014). It also strives to fulfill the 20% target by 2024, given the current financial restrictions and relevant international financial obligations.  

It is a strategic decision of Greece, fully complying with NATO policy, to promote integration efforts of Western Balkans countries in the Alliance, always in respect to the principles of the latter. In this framework, as long as all criteria and all agreed conditions are met, such as the existence of democratic structures, rule of law and good neighbourly relations, Greece will continuously support Western Balkan countries’ Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Greece supports the dual approach as far as the NATO-Russia relations are concerned in order to decrease tension and maintain the dialogue in both political and military levels.

Greece is also part of the Like-Minded Group of the Steimeier initiative to re-launch Conventional Arms control in Europe and actively participates to ongoing relevant discussions in the context of OSCE.

Finally, Greece pays high attention to the cooperation between NATO and the EU, provided that this cooperation is implemented to the benefit of both sides, taking into consideration an “Organization-to-Organization” approach and each party’s autonomy, denial to any form of exclusivity, full transparency for all member nations, as well as recognition of the discrete nature of NATO and EU capabilities.

Last Updated Wednesday, 06 November 2019