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NATO-North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was established in 1949, when the 12 countries signed the treaty on April 4, 1949.

The founding members of NATO were:

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France (withdrew from the integrated military command structure in 1966)
  • Iceland (no longer maintains an armed force)
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • the Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • the United Kingdom
  • the United States

These twelve countries originally formed the Alliance to counter the perceived threat from the Soviet Union and to promote collective defense and security in the North Atlantic region.

Over the years, other countries have joined NATO: Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

NATO has recently grown to 31 countries, with Finland joining in April 2023, and may now grow to 32 with the addition of Sweden, which is currently under discussion.

NATO has 31 member countries (highlighted in dark blue) and is expected to admit Sweden (in light blue) to the alliance.

NATO & it’s Actions:

As members of NATO, the nations “agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America will be considered an attack against them all,” the treaty states.

The group was formed in part to counter a possible threat from the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO began to form alliances with many former Soviet members that became independent countries.

In addition to being allies in defense, the countries make decisions on a wide range of issues and cooperate in crisis management operations and preventing future threats. in 1995, NATO deployed its Implementation Force to Bosnia and Herzegovina, launching its first major crisis response operation. In 2001, following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11(9/11), 2001, NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time.

NATO’s Membership Criteria:

NATO pursues an “open-door policy” and says membership is “open to “any other European State capable of promoting the principles of this Treaty and contributing to the security of the North Atlantic area.”

Any country in the Euro-Atlantic area that has a “functioning democratic system, fair treatment of minorities and a willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations” can join, according to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, a NATO founding member.

The requirements are listed in Article 10 of the founding treaty. NATO ensures that its enlargement “shall not constitute a threat to any country” and “shall aim to promote stability and cooperation with a view to building a Europe whole and free, united in peace, democracy and common values”

All decisions, including on new members, are made by consensus, meaning members discuss issues and then decide together how to deal with them. They do not vote but make decisions together that sometimes lead to agreeing to disagree.

NATO has held discussions with several countries that have expressed a desire to join, and in 2008 decided that both Ukraine and Georgia would join at some point in the future.

Both Finland and Sweden asked to join NATO in 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After accession talks with NATO, Finland’s accession was approved in April.

Sweden was accepted as a host country and was able to attend NATO meetings. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was opposed to Sweden’s accession – until he agreed to join this week.

Hungary was also opposed to Swedish membership ratification, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he believes the issue will be resolved after Turkey agrees, as Hungary has said it will not be the last country to grant ratification.

NATO & EU Countries:

NATO and the European Union share 22 member countries and are partners, which means that the EU can access the planning capabilities of NATO for its own military operations, according to NATO.

Similar to NATO, EU members signed a treaty in 1951 that “created “interdependence in coal and steel, so that one country could no longer mobilize its armed forces without the others knowing about it.” They signed several other treaties to better manage their working relationships.

The EU has 27 members. The members that are not part of NATO are: Austria, Cyprus, Ireland and Malta. Sweden is also a member of the EU, but not yet a member of NATO, but this is expected to change soon.

NATO members that are not part of the EU are: Albania, Canada, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA.

NATO & Ukraine:  

During the latest summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, NATO members have focused on the threat posed by Russia, which continues its war with Ukraine.

NATO is not at war with Russia but has increased its troop presence in eastern Europe and supports Ukraine’s right to self-defence. Its task is to prevent the conflict from spreading to its member states, “because that would be even more devastating and dangerous”

NATO states that its official policy is not to seek confrontation with Russia or to threaten Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has complained about NATO ‘s expansion into Eastern Europe, but NATO says NATO never vowed not to expand.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made it clear that he wants his country to be part of NATO. He said that if his country had been part of the group “before the war, there would have been no war”

Ahead of this year’s summit, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, said in an interview that Ukraine is preparing for membership in NATO.

However, NATO members have decided not to admit Ukraine yet. The concern is that they are obligated to defend each other, and since Ukraine is currently at war, they would have to enter the war with Russia.

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