This is the VOA Special English program In The News.
NATO had to deal this week with a serious disagreement that led to questions about the future of the North Atlantic alliance. At issue was the United States' request for NATO to begin planning to defend Turkey in case of war with Iraq. Three other members -- France, Germany and Belgium -- moved to block that request.
As a result, Turkey called on other members to honor Article Four of the North Atlantic Treaty. Turkey borders Iraq. Article Four requires alliance members to meet if any member feels threatened. Emergency meetings took place at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Nineteen nations belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That treaty says an armed attack against one or more member nations will be considered an attack against them all.
After World War Two, the nations of western Europe could not defend themselves. The Soviet Union had seized control of countries in the east. People feared that the Soviets might use force to gain control of western Europe as well.
Twelve nations came together. They signed the North Atlantic Treaty in nineteen-forty-nine. Among these were Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and Iceland. So were Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States.
Greece and Turkey signed the treaty in nineteen-fifty-one. West Germany signed in nineteen-fifty-four, then Spain in nineteen-eighty-two.
A united Germany replaced West Germany in nineteen-ninety. And, NATO got its newest members in nineteen-ninety-nine: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
New governments came to power in eastern Europe during the nineteen-eighties. In nineteen-ninety, the leaders of NATO and the Communist nations of the Warsaw Pact agreed not to use military force against each other. The next year the Warsaw Pact broke up. So did the Soviet Union.
A short time later, NATO created the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. It included members of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact alliance. NATO military training and planning operations now include several non-NATO countries.
In the nineteen-nineties, NATO signed security cooperation agreements with twenty-six non-NATO countries. This program is known as the Partnership for Peace. It is supervised by the nations of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The members of this council include Russia and Ukraine. In the past few years, NATO has developed independent cooperative relations with both of them.
NATO officials say the goal of NATO has changed over the years. What started as a defensive alliance has become an organization aimed at supporting increased cooperation among nations. But some national leaders question this now, in light of the divisions over military aid to Turkey.
This In the News program was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.