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The Power of NATO's military

Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe is marking its 70th anniversary this year and we are celebrating with an in-depth look into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).  We will journey back in time to the very beginning of the Alliance and week-by-week give you a new window into this Transatlantic-multinational organisation.


The Power of NATO


The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is known throughout the globe as the world's strongest and most powerful Alliance; but where does NATO's power come from? Does the organisation have its own military forces or NATO troops? Simply put, no and yes. The Alliance counts on the military might of its 30 Allied and partner nations to support missions and operations around the world.

NATO doesn't have its own armed forces, but it has a permanent, integrated military command structure, comprised of both military and civilian personnel, from all member states. These staffs work collectively to achieve the same objectives.

While we may not have a NATO military, the Alliance benefits from being able to count on the military capabilities and expertise of each member country. Every nation brings something to the table including personnel, but also tanks, submarines even fighter jets.

Since 1949, NATO has increased its collective military power. Today it has the capability to count on nearly 3.5-million personnel, troops and civilian combined. Each member state agrees to contribute with different strategic weight and influence.

Allied Command Operations (ACO) led by Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), is responsible for executing all NATO operations and missions, Deputy SACEUR coordinates troop contributions. When an operation or mission ends, multinational forces return to their respective countries.

When the North Atlantic Council (NAC) decides to carry out an operation, mission or exercise, NATO's military authorities propose a draft concept of operations (called CONOPS) that presents the minimum request of forces they are demanding in terms of equipment, work force and resources. This process is called force generation.

The force generation process follows a standard procedure; this task involves Allied Command Operations, Force Generation Branch and National Military Representatives (NMRs). According to this procedure every Ally allocates the personnel and equipment necessary to carry out NAC approved operations and missions. National availability of founding is the final deciding factor on whether a nation will contribute or not.

Member countries make direct and indirect contributions to the costs of running NATO and implementing its policies and activities. One critical part of these contributions is indirect and comes through the Allies' participation in NATO-led operations.

Member countries cover the costs involved whenever they volunteer forces to participate in a NATO operation. For example, the cost for providing a fighter jet lies with the nation that makes it available. Allies in accordance with an agreed cost-sharing formula based on relative Gross National Income make direct contributions to NATO's common budgets. These contributions finance the costs of NATO's integrated structures, collectively owned equipment, such as the Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS).

A recent statistic shows the number of NATO military personnel involved in operations and missions around the world: approximately 20,000 managing often complex ground, air and naval operations in a myriad of environments. NATO is leading operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, the Mediterranean and more.

The Alliance is also ensuring a strong-cohesive battle with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by transporting medical personnel and critical supplies, helping with construction of field hospitals to host patients affected by COVID and providing support for local authorities where NATO troops are deployed. NATO is always on the first line in response to global crises and disasters.

This is episode four of the SHAPE Public Affairs' series, "Knowing NATO". Following highlights will introduce NATO-owned assets and the intricacies of NATO exercises. 

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