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NATO's mandate has changed a lot over the years. As one of Winston Churchill's advisors put it - NATO was formed to "keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down."
See, in the late Forties, the Second World War had ended. But a lot of countries were afraid Germany would re-arm, and the Soviet Union would invade Western Europe. So in 1949, twelve countries including France, Britain, Canada and the US formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Over the next forty years, it was NATO and democracy on one side, and the Soviets and communism on the other.
Then in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed, the cold war was over - and NATO had to change to suit the times. An example of that came in 1999. NATO carried out an eleven-week bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia to end Serb attacks on Albanians in Kosovo.
Today, NATO has twenty-eight member countries, and since 9/11, its main focus has been Afghanistan. The guy who runs NATO is secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, but the guy who manages its image is a Canadian - James Appathurai. As NATO spokesperson, he has to know everything that happens in the organization, so he can deal with media outlets around the world.