an alliance of countries- europe and north america- purpose: guarantee freedom and security to its memebrs, through political and military means 

formed in 1949- 12 founding states- derived from article 51 of UN charter- gives states the right to individual or collective defence 

article 5 - an attack against one state is an attack on all- only triggered once in response to 9/11 attacks 

decisions are taken by consensus 

its key role was to defend against the USSR + the warsaw pact 



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