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What is NATO? What does N.A.T.O. Stand for

24 May 2022

NATO has been at the centre of global politics once again with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The security alliance, which came into existence after the Second World War, has been a key entity in shaping and influencing various geopolitical incidents. 

Here is a detailed look at this global security alliance in the backdrop of tensions due to NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe and subsequent Russian aggression in Ukraine. 

What is NATO? 

NATO or North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is an alliance of 30 countries, including the US, Canada, and their European allies. It was established after the Second World War to maintain peace along with political and economic cooperation among member countries. 

It originated with the signing of the Treaty of Dunkirk in March 1947 between France and the UK. This treaty was signed as a security pact to counter an attack from East Germany. This treaty later expanded in the upcoming years to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on April 4, 1949. 

The primary purpose of this alliance is to provide collective security to all member states. So, in the event of an attack on any member, the other members would retaliate.  

NATO has been a key facilitator in resolving conflicts in Libya, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Member Countries

As of now, there are 30 member countries in NATO. However, it began with just 12 nations when it came into existence back in 1949. These are the founding member countries: 

  • United States of America
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • France
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Luxembourg

More countries joined this alliance over the years. While Turkey and Greece joined in 1952, West Germany became a member in 1955. East Germany joined NATO in 1990 with the fall of the Soviet Union. 

Much to Russia’s concern, NATO has significantly expanded itself in Eastern Europe. These nations entered this alliance in 1997:  

  • Romania
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria 
  • Albania
  • Croatia
  • Slovenia

The most recent inclusions include Montenegro and North Macedonia in 2017 and 2020, respectively. 

In addition, there are three aspiring members: Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ukraine. 

NATO comes with an ‘open door policy’ allowing any country to join this alliance. However, each nation has to meet certain political, economic and military goals. 

Also Read: Economic Impact of Russia Ukraine Crisis

A Brief History of NATO

The idea of NATO was born during the Bretton Woods Conference. This organisation worked in collaboration with the World Bank, United Nations, and the IMF. Its immediate objective was to provide security to member nations from the aggression of communist countries in Europe. 

It also aimed at generating political union in Europe, thereby leading to the formation of the European Union. With West Germany’s entry into NATO, communist nations signed the Warsaw Pact. As a response, NATO formulated ‘Massive Retaliation’ policy that guaranteed the use of nuclear weapons in case of an attack on any member state. 

The fall of Soviet Russia thawed US-Russia relationships. The NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 fostered bilateral cooperation. The NATO-Russia Council of 2002 was created for partnering on different security issues. 

Also Read; Why did Russia Invade Ukraine

How Does NATO Work? 

NATO works to protect its member states and foster stability in the region. The targets of this alliance include weapons of mass destruction, cyber-attacks, and terrorism. However, NATO would not intervene in case of internal issues, civil wars, or coups. It will only intervene and respond in case of external aggressions. 

This security alliance runs on funding from member states. The US contributes around three-fourths of NATO’s entire budget. 

Final Word

NATO focuses on fostering transatlantic peace. It is actively involved in both peacemaking and peacekeeping. With increasing conflicts and polarisation taking place around the world, the importance of peacekeeping has become all the more prominent. Security alliances like NATO play a vital role in maintaining global peace and stability.

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