What is NATO?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, alternately known as NATO, is a military alliance between countries in North America and Europe. NATO was formed in the aftermath of World War II to preserve peace in Europe and protect democratic nations from potential attacks by the Soviet Union (which exists today as the Russian Federation). NATO’s website states that NATO's founding treaty "commits the Allies to democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, as well as to peaceful resolution of disputes. Importantly, the treaty sets out the idea of collective defense, meaning that an attack against one Ally is considered an attack against all Allies." As of February 2022, NATO has 30 members in total.
Current NATO Countries and the Years They Joined:
Note: * indicates a founding member
The 12 founding member countries of NATO are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. NATO also has a list of aspiring members, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Ukraine, which may one day become full NATO members.
Is Ukraine part of NATO?
Not yet, but it is in the process of joining. Ukraine joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program in 1994 and applied to join the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2008. The 2010 presidential election of Viktor Yanukovych, who wanted to keep the country non-aligned, delayed Ukraine's progress toward U.N. membership. However, after two important events in 2014—Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and a national election—Ukraine's new government renewed and prioritized efforts to join NATO. According to a 2017 poll, 69% of Ukrainians support joining NATO. Ukraine became a NATO aspiring member in 2018. On February 7, 2019, the Ukrainian parliament voted to change its constitution to affirm its intention to join NATO and the European Union.
Is Russia part of NATO?
No, Russia is not part of NATO. In fact, the Russian government's perceived aggressiveness is the main issue NATO was founded to counteract. Despite this, Russia has historically at least given the appearance of cooperation with NATO. Russia and NATO established the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1991, and Russia joined the Partnership for Peace program in 1994. The establishment of the Russia-NATO Council to address security issues and collaborate on joint projects followed in 2002. NATO suspended cooperation with Russia in 2014 following Russia's invasion of Crimea, not including the NATO-Russia Council. Russia and NATO have held several meetings since 2017, and NATO states that an improvement in their relationship with Russia is dependent on Russia's compliance with international law and their commitments. In October 2021, NATO expelled eight Russians from its Brussels, Belgium headquarters amid concerns that they were undeclared intelligence agents. Russia responded by suspending relations with NATO.
Future members and the Partnership for Peace program
Twenty countries are members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, which is designed to build trust between the organization and states in Europe and the former Soviet Union. Perhaps ironically, Russia itself is a member of the Partnership for Peace program, though its invasions of Georgia (2008), Crimea (2014) and the Ukraine (2022) call the country's commitment to peace into question.
Members of NATO's Partnerships for Peace program:
|Armenia - 1994||Ireland - 1999||Sweden - 1994|
|Austria - 1995||Kazakhstan - 1994||Switzerland - 1994|
|Azerbaijan - 1994||Kyrgyzstan - 1994||Tajikistan - 2002|
|Belarus - 1995||Malta - 2008||Turkmenistan - 1994|
|Bosnia and Herzegovnia - 2006||Moldova - 1994||Ukraine - 1994|
|Finland - 1994||Russia - 1994||Uzbekistan - 1994|
|Georgia - 1994||Serbia - 2006|
Members of the Partnership for Peace program include former republics of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, as well as Yugoslavia's former republics Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. European Union members of the program include Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden. Finally, the European Free Trade Association member Switzerland is also part of the Partnership for Peace program.