The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a political and military alliance whose aim is to guarantee the freedom and security of its 30 member states through political and military means.
On the eve of its 70th anniversary, NATO has reaffirmed its importance as the cornerstone of the transatlantic bond and as an effective alliance capable of providing coherent, credible and enhanced deterrence and defence.
Decisions in the Alliance are taken by consensus, with NATO promoting democratic values and encouraging member states to consult and cooperate on defence and security issues to resolve problems, build trust and prevent conflict in the long term.
The 2010 Strategic Concept sets out NATO's three main tasks:
- collective defence;
- crisis management;
- security through cooperation.
If diplomatic efforts fail, NATO has the military power to undertake crisis management operations. These are carried out according to the principle of collective defence enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, or under a UN mandate, alone or in cooperation with other states and international organisations. According to Article 5, an attack against one or more of the Member States is considered an attack against all. So far, it has been activated once - in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US in 2001.
The Alliance has developed a wide range of means to cooperate with partner countries through policies, programmes, action plans and others. Some 40 non-NATO countries work with the organisation on a wide range of policy and security issues. These countries conduct dialogue and practical cooperation with the Alliance, and many contribute to NATO-led operations and missions. In addition, NATO develops relations and cooperates with various international organisations.
NATO maintains an open-door policy regarding the enlargement of the organisation. Any European country that is able to affirm the principles of the Washington Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area can become a member of the Alliance upon invitation by the North Atlantic Council.
In response to the ever-changing security environment, NATO is adapting to ensure that the organisation's policies, capabilities and structures are responsive to current and future threats.
- At the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, member leaders adopted a Readiness Action Plan aimed at increasing the Alliance's level of preparedness to address threats emanating from NATO's eastern and southern flank. These measures are defined by the countries as defensive, proportionate and in line with NATO's international obligations. The Plan contains two main types of measures to achieve its strategic objectives: (1) Security Enhancement Measures, consisting of increasing the level of troop presence on the Alliance's eastern flank, and 2) Measures to Adapt to the New Security Environment, linked to NATO's long-term vision of military capability development. These measures continue to underpin NATO's force adaptation process.
- In 2016, at the Warsaw Summit, member leaders built on the successes of the Readiness Action Plan by deciding to establish an Enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. It consists of a multinational force deployed on a rotational basis in four battle groups. Another important decision of the meeting is the establishment of the Tailored Forward Presence in the south-east of the Alliance. It is based on an increased presence of NATO forces at the headquarters of the multinational Southeast Division, deployed in Romania. The expanded NATO presence in the Black Sea region is a clear demonstration of NATO's allied solidarity and resolve.
- At the last summit, in Brussels in 2018, the leaders of the member states decided to end the negative trend after years of declining spending and to allocate more resources to defence. The summit decided to improve NATO's command structure and create two new commands to help move forces more quickly across the Atlantic and logistically secure and move forces and assets across Europe. The allies agreed on the decision to build counter-hybrid threat teams to support work in a number of areas, including cyber defence, energy security and countering disinformation, if requested by a member state. Another important decision relates to NATO's cooperation with the European Union, which is deepening and taking on new dimensions, particularly in the areas of military mobility, counter-terrorism, illegal migration and hybrid threats. A wide range of political and practical initiatives are included in the so-called South Package, which aims to strengthen defence against threats emanating from NATO's southern flank.
Bulgaria's membership of NATO is a major guarantor of the country's territorial integrity, political independence and security. As a reliable ally, Bulgaria has consistently fulfilled its commitments to strengthen the Alliance's defence and deterrence capabilities.
Bulgaria is a consistent supporter of NATO's "open door" policy. Our country is guided by the conviction that Euro-Atlantic integration is an important incentive to promote democratic values, establish the rule of law and implement reforms in the candidate countries.
Bulgaria participates in the NATO Resolute Support non-combat mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces and institutions. In 2020, Bulgaria's contribution to the mission totals approximately 120 troops and includes financial support to the Afghan Security and Defence Forces.
Bulgaria also participates in the NATO non-combat mission in Iraq, aimed at stabilising the country by providing expert assistance and training to the armed forces.