How NATO Works

NATO's Missions and Operations

NATO strategic training NATO strategic training
In June 2017, British and German army engineers work together during a NATO mission to construct a floating bridge in Jonava, Lithuania. NATO

NATO takes active roles in many types of operations and missions across the globe. The organization is a leader in contributing to peace and security, promoting democratic values, and resolving international disputes. It also has military capabilities to intercede — alone or with other countries — whenever and wherever necessary.

NATO currently has 20,000 military personnel working on missions around the world, including operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Mediterranean. NATO is also currently supporting allies in the African Union, and assisting with the refugee crisis in Europe. But NATO also is there when disaster strikes, helping with relief operations during natural, technological and humanitarian crises.

To ensure NATO can act on any given day to any given crisis, it maintains a modern defense plan based on an two key safeguards: cutting-edge weapons systems and forces trained to work together [source: NATO]. That means investing in the right mix of nuclear, conventional and ballistics missile defense capabilities remains core to NATO's overall strategy. And that costs big bucks — the 29 member nations spent an estimated $946 billion on defense in 2017, more than $683 billion of that was by the U.S.

So does the world still need NATO? Some, including President Trump, say its "obsolete." But during a time when there is deep uneasiness about Russia's expansionism, other nations disagree. Even before the debate over Russia's involvement in the U.S. 2016 election, there was concern over the Kremlin exerting influence on public opinion in the Baltic nations. And the Kremlin claims it was protecting the rights of ethnic Russians as its excuse for the annexation of Crimea.

So even while President Trump continues to disparage NATO, the United States military and other NATO member nations continue to devote their resources to building the agency's battle readiness, in case there is a crisis it must respond to, whether from Russia or any other aggressive neighbor.

Last editorial update on Jul 11, 2018 04:33:11 pm.

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More Great Links


  • Donald Trump. @realdonaldtrump (July 11, 2018)
  • Kottasová, Ivana. "How NATO is funded and who pays what." CNN. May 25, 2017 (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "Collective Defence - Article 5." (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "Consensus Decision Making." (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "Defence Expenditures of NATO Countries (2008-2015)." (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "Enlargement." (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "NATO Member Countries." (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "NATO Member Countries." (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "North Atlantic Council." (July 11, 2018)
  • NATO. "Wales Summit Declaration." (July 11, 2018)
  • Porter, Tom. "What is NATO and How Is it Funded?" July 11, 2018 (July 11, 2018)
  • "Remarks by President Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Bilateral Breakfast." (July 11, 2018)