House of Lords Library

NATO: 70th Anniversary

Published Friday, February 15, 2019

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was founded on 4 April 1949. A debate on this subject is due to take place in the House of Lords on 2 April 2019 on a motion moved by Earl Howe (Conservative) ‘that this House takes note of the seventieth anniversary of the founding of NATO and its continuing role in the United Kingdom's defence and security’.

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NATO is an inter-governmental military alliance of 29 countries in Europe and North America. Its mission is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members by political and military means. The UK was a founder member of NATO and played a prominent role in its formation. Since being founded by twelve countries in 1949, NATO membership has increased through several waves of enlargement.   

NATO currently has approximately 20,000 troops deployed in operations across the world. While Afghanistan remains its primary operational theatre, NATO continues to conduct missions in Kosovo, Iraq, the Mediterranean, and policing of airspace in eastern Europe following Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014. NATO has a funding target whereby members should commit a minimum of 2 percent of their GDP on defence spending. In 2018, the UK was one of five NATO members to meet the target (2.1%).   

This briefing provides a summary of recent developments concerning NATO, the UK’s commitment to the organisation, and the potential impact of Brexit. This is followed by a historical overview of NATO’s founding and subsequent enlargement. 

Lords Library notes LLN-2019-0020

Author: James Goddard

Topics: EU defence policy, NATO

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The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.