NATO flag

NATO flag

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949, in the early years of the Cold War, as a collective defense institution, as defined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The essence of the NATO Treaty is found in Article 5, which declares that an attack against any member of the alliance shall be considered an attack against them all, and that they may then decide to take collective action, including the use of force, in their defense against the act of aggression.

Cold War strategy and Post-Cold War changes

NATO’s strategy and tactics were geared to the assumption that a European conflict would involve a threat, or actual military attack, by the Soviet bloc upon one or more members of the alliance. With the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO remained after 1991 the only significant multilateral military organization in Europe. Since then, NATO has reconfigured itself to meet the demands of the new security situation in Europe.

NATO’s major transformation has been visible in the following areas:

  • Partnership-for-peace (PfP)

  • Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)

  • Peacekeeping and peace enforcement

  • Expansion to 28 members, including former Warsaw Pact members

  • NATO – Russia Council

NATO has used PfP and the EAPC to assist transformations in the former communist states and has included contingents from them alongside NATO forces in peacekeeping and enforcement roles in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in Kosovo.

Cooperation and shared interests

NATO has 30 member states, which are also OSCE participating States. Thus, almost half of the OSCE pS NATO members, including North Macedonia, which joined NATO after a solution was found to a dispute with Greece over its name. Moreover, 50 countries, all OSCE pS, participate in NATO’s North Atlantic Partnership Council, embracing a wide range of cooperative activities between NATO’s full members and other states in the region. Russia is not a member, but does have a special consultative relationship with NATO, defined in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security, and further institutionalized through creation of the NATO-Russia Council.

NATO and the OSCE cooperate at the operational and political levels on conflict prevention, resolution and in addressing emerging security challenges. While NATO is a defensive organization with significant military capability made available by states, it complements the OSCE’s role in fostering dialogue and acknowledges the importance of a comprehensive approach to security, which requires effective application of both civilian and military means. Practical cooperation between NATO and the OSCE illustrate the principle that peace and security can be best built when institutions specialize in doing what they can do most effectively, and include:

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)

A joint action programme was developed to support the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Agreements, including on arms control, CSBMs, and providing security for conducting elections. While NATO turned its peacekeeping mission in BiH over to the EUFOR in 2004, it continues to maintain a presence through a Military Liaison and Advisory Mission (NATO HQ Sarajevo) to assist with economic development, defense sector modernization and reform, and humanitarian assistance.


The OSCE Mission in Kosovo was established as a part of the UNMIK and maintained close relations with the NATO KFOR, which has a UN mandate to guarantee a safe working environment for the international community. 

Thematic areas of cooperation include border security, counterterrorism and on UNSCR 1325.