Foreign ministers from countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are gathering in Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of the military alliance.

NATO is one of the oldest common defense alliances of its kind, and one of the most successful. The group includes Britain, France and Germany, but also has added countries such as Turkey and Greece that are not near the Atlantic Ocean.

NATO was formed to be an alliance of Western nations that would balance the military power of the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe. After the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, some experts questioned what part the alliance would play in international security.

Since that time, NATO members have taken part in conflicts in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO also has expanded to include countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Poland and Romania were formerly allied to the Soviet Union.

Criticisms of NATO

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized the group, both as a presidential candidate and after taking office in 2017. Trump has said that many NATO members do not spend enough on defense to meet their commitments fully under the agreement.

He suggested that NATO may no longer be useful. He once called it “obsolete.”

Trump’s criticism of the alliance has concerned European allies.

However, some U.S. officials have also been frustrated over European positions on some security issues affecting NATO. For example, Germany has planned an undersea gas pipeline with Russia. In addition, the U.S. is worried about Europeans' apparent lack of concern over security threats presented by China.

However, most foreign policy experts say NATO is a success.

Mark Simakovsky is with the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington. He told VOA that NATO “has showcased an ability to adapt to change in the past” and it is dealing with issues like cyber warfare and spending more on defense.

Defense spending

Trump is not the first U.S. leader to call for NATO members to do more to defend their countries. President Barack Obama also pressed allies to spend more on defense. Other presidents have done so as well.

Kurt Volker is director of the McCain Institute in Washington. He also served as the U.S. ambassador to NATO. Volker said defense spending shows a country’s commitment to its own security. He said such spending gives other NATO members confidence that the group can help defend that country.

Recently, a group of eight former British military and intelligence chiefs warned that Britain could drop from being a top military power unless it does more for its defense.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.


bloc (n.) - a group of countries connected by a treaty or agreement

obsolete (adj.) - no longer used

adapt (v.) - to change in order to operate better or to be better able to meet needs

cyber (adj.) - related to computers and computer networks

confidence (n.) - the belief that someone has the ability to succeed at something

frustration (n.) - a feeling of annoyance at not being able to or being prevented from reaching some outcome



Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

  1. What is NATO?
  2. How many years does it exist?
  3. Why was it founded?
  4. What did Trump say about the NATO?


Exercise 3


Please give your opinion on the following statement and give your reasons behind it.

  • NATO has lost its purpose when Warsaw pact dissolved


Exercise 4 


Have a discussion on following questions.

  1. Is your country a member of any military alliances?
  2. Is military service mandatory in your country?
  3. Is it good to be a member of a military alliance?
  4. Would you like to join the military?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA Learning English.