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NATO: what is it and which countries are members?

The organization has existed since the end of the second world war – but who are on the team and what exactly do they do?

Russia has asked for assurances that Ukraine will not join the group’s defense alliance and has asked it not to expand further eastward.

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However, the West rejected Russia’s request, claiming that any independent country was free to join the defense alliance.

Although, Western leaders – including President Joe Biden – have launched negotiations on NATO’s positioning in Europe.

But what exactly is NATO’s purpose and which countries are members?

What is NATO?

NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization and was established after the Second World War.

The organization’s origins date back to March 1947, when France and Great Britain signed the ‘Treaty of Dunkirk’ to create an alliance in the event of a German attack by the Soviet Union.

The treaty was expanded over the next few years, eventually including more countries in the North Atlantic Treaty – also known as the Washington Treaty – signed in April 1949.

The purpose of the organization is the collective security of the member states.

This means that if a member state is threatened by an outside state, a mutual defense measure will be put in place in response.

NATO has intervened in conflicts such as those in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo and Libya.

Which countries are in NATO?

There are currently 30 member countries of NATO, with 3 aspirants.

The 12 founding nations, who signed the first treaty in 1949, were:

  • USA
  • UK
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal

Greece and Turkey joined the union in 1952, with Spain joining in 1982.

West Germany joined in 1955, with East Germany joining the union after German reunification in 1990.

Since 1997, NATO has expanded further east to include more countries such as:

  • Hungary
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland
  • Bulgarian
  • Estonian
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • Albania
  • Croatia
(Source: Mark Hall / JPIMedia)

The most recent additions to the alliance were Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020.

The three countries currently listed as ‘ambitious members’ are Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine.

While countries are only entitled to collective security under Article 5 after they have become members, the US has said it is “ready to provide different forms of security guarantees” to the two countries due to the threat it poses. threatened Russian retaliation during their application.

NATO now allows any country to join its ranks, with the bloc saying it has an “open door policy”.

The groups declare on their website: “Any European country in a position to continue to adhere to the principles of the Washington Treaty and to contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic region can become membership of the Union at the invitation of the North Atlantic Council.

“Countries that aspire to become NATO members must also meet certain political, economic, and military objectives to ensure that they become contributors to the security of the Alliance as well as those of the United States. benefit from it.”

Who is the leader of NATO?

NATO is headed by former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, who assumed the role of Secretary General in 2014.

Admiral Rob Bauer of the Royal Dutch Navy serves as the Chairman of the Nato Military Commission.

The alliance’s headquarters are based in Brussels, Belgium.

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