A selected chronology of the most important events of NATO is presented.
The English materials of the most important meetings from 1999-2021 can be found here.
4 April 1949 – the establishment of NATO. In Washington, 12 countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty. The founding countries of NATO were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The first meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) was held in Washington. Watch the videos here and here.
1951 – the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) was opened near Paris in France. Later, the SHAPE was moved to Mons, Belgium.
1952 – Greece and Turkey joined NATO.
17 & 18 June 1954 – establishment of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA).
1955 – West Germany joined NATO. To counter the accession of West Germany, the Soviet Union created the Warsaw Pact Organisation (WPO).
1967 – NATO headquarters opened in Brussels. The new strategic concept of NATO – the Flexible Response Strategy – was adopted in the same year.
1982 – Spain joins NATO. Attempts were made to improve relations between East and West.
July 1990 – London summit. The Cold War was declared to have ended. Proposals were made to develop cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries.
1991 – the Rome summit. Establishment of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). The NACC became the structure that launched the cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries. Estonia was one of the founding members of the NACC.
January 1994 – Brussels summit. The NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme was launched and Estonia also joined it.
April 1999 – Washington summit. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO. The Washington Declaration was adopted. See the Estonian text of the declaration here.
2 February 2001 – the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association (EATA) was established in Tallinn.
November 2002 – Prague summit. Estonia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia were invited to join NATO. The establishment of the NATO Response Force (NRF) was decided.
January 2003 – NATO fully takes over the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. ISAF is NATO's first operation outside the Euro-Atlantic security area.
26 March 2003 – the Protocols of Accession of seven new NATO member countries – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – which had been signed by all 19 NATO member countries, were signed in Brussels. All seven acceding countries also ratified the Washington Treaty of 1949.
29 March 2004 – Estonia became a full member of NATO. Seven new countries joined NATO – Estonia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The new members deposited the approved Treaty of Accession with the US Department of State, as the US is the depositary of the treaty under the Washington Treaty. An acceding country becomes a full member of NATO from the moment the treaties are deposited (29 March 2004.
2 April 2004 – the NATO accession ceremony of the seven new member countries is held in Brussels. The flags of seven new countries – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – were added to the members of the hitherto 19 members in front of the NATO Headquarters.
June 2005 – Istanbul summit. At the Istanbul summit, the member countries declared the ISAF operation as a topic of primary importance for NATO and analysed the situation in Afghanistan.
November 2006 – Riga summit. The 19th NATO summit was held for the first time on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia were invited to join the NATO Partnership Programme. See the declaration here.
2008 April – Bucharest summit. Albania and Croatia are invited to negotiations about their accession to NATO. Decisions on the accession of Georgia and Ukraine were postponed until December. Macedonia’s accession was postponed until the time the name dispute with Greece is resolved. The issue of cyber defence was raised at the level of NATO heads of state for the first time.
2009 April – Strasbourg/Kehl summit. The development of a new NATO Strategic Concept was announced. France rejoined the military wing of NATO. Albania and Croatia became members of NATO.
August 2009 – Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark, becomes NATO Secretary General.
April 2010 – informal meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Tallinn. The progress made in the development of NATO’s Strategic Concept, relations with partner countries, further enlargement plans and the reform of NATO headquarters were discussed. See the materials of the meeting here.
28 June to 2 July 2010 – the planning conference for the NATO Crisis Management Exercise in Tallinn that prepared the NATO Crisis Management Exercise CMX11 in the coming spring, when NATO exercised the Alliance's political, military and civilian crisis management arrangements and procedures to support NATO consultations and collective decision-making in crisis situations. The fact that the conference was held in Tallinn confirmed that Estonia was an active member of NATO. The conference, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, was attended by representatives of NATO member countries and NATO civil and military structures. The outline of the scenario for Crisis Management Exercise CMX 2011 were developed at the planning conference.
November 2010 – Lisbon summit. NATO’s new strategic concept was formally adopted. The gradual reduction of NATO’s role in Afghanistan was agreed and the first NATO-Russia Council meeting after the war in Georgia was held.
April 2011 – meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Berlin. It was decided to continue the operation in Libya until the attacks against civilians have ended. Afghanistan and NATO agreed on transition activities until 2014. The new NATO-Russia Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism was adopted.
May 2012 – Chicago summit. The roadmap for the future action plan in Afghanistan was established and it was decided to continue supporting Afghanistan also after the end of the current NATO military operation in 2014. The Baltic air-policing mission was extended indefinitely. The completion of the first stage of the NATO missile shield was announced. The share of the contribution of European countries to NATO’s defence expenditure was raised as a concern.
October 2013 – the UN Security Committee voted unanimously to extend NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan for the last time before responsibility could be handed over to the security forces of Afghanistan in late 2014.
June 2014 – Estonia urged NATO to bring a permanent presence to the Baltic States in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
September 2014 – Russia named NATO as its biggest security threat, in response to NATO strengthening the military security in Eastern Europe.
September 2014 – Wales summit. It was agreed to increase the military presence in Eastern Europe to ensure the security of the Eastern members of the Alliance in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia.
September 2014 – President Barack Obama visited Estonia to show solidarity with NATO allies.
October 2014 – former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg became NATO Secretary General, with an exceptional extension until 2022.
2014 – NATO's ISAF mission in Afghanistan ends.
January 2015 – NATO launches the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan, which focuses mainly on training, advising and assisting security-related ministries, state institutions and senior ranks of the army and police.
May 2015 – NATO launches one of its largest ever anti-submarine exercises in the North Sea.
July 2016 – Warsaw summit. One of the most important summits in the history of the Alliance. At the meeting, the decision to increase the presence of the Allies in the Baltic States and Poland was confirmed, which will significantly strengthen Estonia’s security. A battle group, which is the same size as a battalion of NATO Land Forces and has independent defence capability, will come to Estonia. The mission in Afghanistan was extended, the Alliance’s counter-terrorism and cyber defence capabilities were expanded, and a breakthrough was achieved in relations with the European Union.
May     2017 – NATO Heads of State and Government meet in Brussels. This meeting was a powerful demonstration of transatlantic unity and determination. The Allies made important decisions to better manage the fight against terrorism and to ensure that the burden between NATO Allies is more fairly shared. Montenegro joined NATO.
July    2018 – Brussels summit. The Allies reaffirmed NATO’s military, financial and political commitment to Afghanistan and agreed to maintain a presence until conditions indicate that a change is appropriate. It was agreed to extend funding for the security forces of Afghanistan until 2024, as the Afghan government makes unprecedented political efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. See more here. And on key decisions here.
December 2019 – NATO Heads of State and Government meet in London. The 70th anniversary of NATO and the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain were celebrated. The strong transatlantic bond between Europe and North America, respect for the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and the firm commitment, set forth in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, that an armed attack against one ally is treated as an attack against all member countries, were reaffirmed. It was confirmed that through the Defence Investment Pledge, defence investments will be increased in line with the 2% and 20% guidelines of the pledge, investments will be made in new capabilities and more will be contributed to missions and operations. It was pointed out that Russia’s aggressive actions threaten Euro-Atlantic security. Terrorism in all forms and manifestations is still a permanent threat. National and non-government actors are putting the rules-based international order to the test. Instability beyond NATO’s borders promoted illegal migration. Cyber and hybrid threats are being faced. The continued strengthening of cooperation with the United Nations was confirmed and the development of NATO-EU cooperation was acknowledged. Other topics included communications security, 5G, new technologies and space as a new NATO area of activity, cyber attacks, and the growing influence of China. NATO’s open door policy was reaffirmed. See thetext of the joint statement by the Heads of State and Government here. North Macedonia becomes a NATO member.
14 April 2021 – the Allies decided to start withdrawing NATO’s Resolute Support Mission by 1 May.
June 2021 – Brussels summit. NATO Heads of State and Government decided to start work on NATO’s next Strategic Concept, which will be approved at the Madrid Summit in 2022. A wide range of topics were discussed, including the key themes of the NATO 2030 initiative – how to strengthen the Alliance’s unity, a broader approach to security and contribute to the defence of a rules-based international order. Decisions were made to prepare NATO for current and future challenges, including Russia’s aggressive behaviour, terrorism, cyberattacks, world-changing technologies, the rise of China and the security implications of the climate change. In the NATO 2030 agenda, it was agreed to strengthen the Alliance. See the NATO 2030 factsheet and the communique of the Brussels summit of 2021.
Key decisions:
- deepen political consultations;
- strengthen NATO deterrence and defence capabilities;
- increase resilience;
- set up a new centre to promote technological leadership;
- establish a fund to support innovation;
- support a rules-based international order;
- step up training for partners;
- address climate change and reduce the ecological footprint of military activities;
- develop NATO’s next strategic concept;
- jointly invest more in NATO.

July 2021 – the European Parliament the resolution on EU-NATO cooperation in the area of transatlantic relations, including the joint fight against the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
September 2021 – NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is terminated early due to the situation in the country.
October 2021 – meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels. NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, the situation in Afghanistan, NATO nuclear deterrence and NATO-EU cooperation were discussed. A new defence plan was approved, cyber defence and space policy were discussed, as well as NATO’s response to the missile threat from Russia. Conclusions are still being drawn from 20 years of engagement in Afghanistan, but it was acknowledged that it had strengthened NATO’s interoperability. The Memorandum of Understanding of the NATO Innovation Fund for the establishment the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) was signed, which will create a network of technology test centres and accelerators to better harness civil innovation for guaranteeing the security of NATO. The fund is expected to invest a billion euros in innovators across the Alliance working on new and breakthrough technologies. The research and development centres of the NATO member countries will be connected with DIANA to offer better support for the technological development of NATO. It is important to Estonia that through this, we can channel innovation to address defence issues that are important to Estonia. Estonia is holding negotiations to have a part of the development centres brought to Estonia. NATO Ministers of Defence also agreed on the Alliance’s first Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which establishes standards for responsible use of AI in accordance with international law. The Ministers also met with NATO’s close partners Finland, Sweden and the European Union to discuss global challenges and how to further strengthen cooperation.
Overview of the press conference of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg here.
2021 – the Allies leave Afghanistan, the country falls under the control of Taliban.
March 2022 - Extraordinary NATO Summit.
2022 – Madrid Summit.
4.4.2023 Finland joined NATO.
2023 – Vilnius Summit.