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Good Question: What Is NATO?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Soon, the United States will turn over the lead role in operations against Libya to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. So, what is NATO and does the U.S. really control the organization?

NATO was founded in 1949 to counteract the post war military might of the Soviet Union. The main theory of the alliance of 12 countries was that if there were an attack on one country, the others treated it like they were being attacked.

Today, NATO has grown to 28 countries: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, UK and the U.S.

Twelve countries joined the alliance after 1999.

So, what about Libya?

According to the Pentagon, the U.S. has spent $550 million bombing Libya. The U.K. has spent $55 million.

That is expected to change when NATO takes the lead role. After that, the U.S. will spend $40 million a month.

Typically, the U.S. provides 22 percent of the budget for NATO, according to the Associated Press, which is almost as much as the next two funders, Britain and France, combined.

A Canadian three-star general is running the operation in Libya, but his boss is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, James Stavridis, who is an American.

Still, decisions are made with the consultation of the whole group, which gives the United States political cover. It also gives countries that are skeptical of the attack on Libya, like Turkey and Germany, the ability to say they had a voice.

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