The Atlantic Pact of 1949 only provided for the establishment of a joint body, the North Atlantic Council (NAC). But the NAC would ensure that organizations and institutions were created so that the goals of the pact could be met. It is on the basis of these guidelines that today’s NATO and its many sub-organizations have emerged.
NATO’s organization is divided into a civilian political part and a military part. In the civilian bodies, crucial decisions are made about NATO’s policies. To help them, they have a number of NATO committees that carry out investigations into various issues. There is also a special secretariat that administers civil activities.
According to fun-wiki, NATO’s military administrative apparatus is subordinate to the civilian bodies and assists them with advice and with ensuring that political decisions are enforced militarily. The national troops of the member states are coordinated under command at different levels and in different areas (the so-called military integrated command structure). This structure includes a number of headquarters in Europe and on the North American east coast.
NATO civilian structure
The North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the Alliance’s highest decision – making body. Within the Council, member states make the overall decisions on the Alliance’s policies and military planning.
Member States meet at three different levels within the North Atlantic Council. Their permanent representatives (that is, NATO ambassadors stationed at their headquarters in Brussels) usually meet at least once a week. The member countries also meet at the level of Minister of Foreign Affairs or Minister of Defense twice a year. At the third level, the Heads of State or Government of the Member States meet. These meet at longer intervals, often every two years. Formally, the meetings, regardless of level, have the same weight.
Consultations play an important role within NATO because decisions are made unanimously. All members have the right to veto, but it is more common for any disagreements to be resolved through negotiations than by a country actually vetoing a sitting table. However, Member States have the option of reserving against decisions they dislike, and they may also refrain from participating in a particular activity decided by the NAC.
The member states formally have the same dignity in the NAC, everyone has one voice at the meetings. This also applies to countries that do not have their own military forces but are still full members of NATO, such as Iceland. However, the United States, as the most politically and militarily powerful country, has traditionally had the greatest influence. Germany, the United Kingdom and France are also, due to their economic and military resources, key countries for NATO decision – making. Under NAC there is a network of committees, which deal with proposals which are then filtered upwards in the system.
In order to give Member States greater influence over the alliance’s nuclear weapons program was established Nuclear Planning Group (Nuclear Planning Group, NPG) in 1966. The group is dealing with the planning and policy for the alliance’s nuclear weapons. Discussions range from cuts to NATO nuclear weapons to the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world. The group meets periodically at Minister of Defense level. All countries except France participate in the group that is subordinate to the North Atlantic Council.
The Secretary – General and the Civilian Staff
UN secretary-general has been in NATO, as in many other major international organizations, play a central role, but no formal powers to guide NATO policy. As chairman of most major NATO committees, including the NAC and NPG, the Secretary-General is still important. The Secretary-General, who is traditionally always European, is also a NATO spokesman in contacts with governments and the media, as well as the head of NATO’s international staff in Brussels. The office is currently held by Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian Social Democratic former prime minister, who in October 2014 succeeded the former Danish prime minister, the liberal Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
As NATO’s military resources consist almost entirely of its own defense forces, NATO’s military forces are in practice financed entirely through Member States’ individual defense budgets. The United States has by far the largest defense spending in the alliance. The US share of NATO countries’ total defense spending has fluctuated from nearly 75 percent in the 1950’s, to about 55 percent in the late 1990’s, and again to about 75 percent in 2016. Just two years later, in 2018, the U.S. share decreased to 69 percent, but nevertheless the United States’ role within NATO has thus increased purely militarily over the past 25 years.
The coordination of Member States’ defenses requires that the infrastructure (airports, ports, oil pipelines, radar and communications systems, and so on) between the countries work well. That is why NATO has a common financing program for infrastructure investments. Member States contribute to this program under a special quota system.
The civilian and military secretariats, as well as the permanent military headquarters and the various NATO Committees, are also paid from a common budget by the Member States. This includes salaries for the thousands of international officials serving at the NATO Secretariat in Brussels. Salaries and more for the officers stationed at NATO’s various headquarters are, however, paid nationally, as are the civilian diplomats who serve in the member states’ national delegations within the framework of NATO Headquarters.
For 2018, the civilian budget amounted to just over SEK 2 billion, infrastructure investments to approximately SEK 7.5 billion and the military budget to just under SEK 14 billion. The North Atlantic Council (NAC) has overall responsibility for NATO’s budgetary and economic issues.
However, the budget figures are small compared to what the NATO countries pay in total for their defense forces and correspond to only a few per thousand of the latter. By comparison, Sweden’s defense budget was just over SEK 50 billion in 2019.