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What does NATO stand for and what is its purpose?

Finland and Sweden submitted formal applications to join NATO after Russia waged war on Ukraine last year. What does it mean to join this military alliance?

Update:
Finland and Sweden submitted formal applications to join NATO after Russia waged war on Ukraine last year. What does it mean to join this military alliance?
YVES HERMANREUTERS

Finland and Sweden submitted formal applications to join NATO after Russia waged war on Ukraine last year, with the former gaining entry in April this year. After months of resistance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, paving the way for the country to be the organization’s 32nd ally.

What does NATO stand for and what is its purpose?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO came into being in 1949, four years after the end of the Second World War, with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington D.C. NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance formed by several countries from North America and Europe. The primary purpose of NATO is to promote peace and security among its member states through collective defense and cooperation.

Signatories to the treaty promised to “safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of the peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” The treaty came in the aftermath of WWII, with a potential Soviet attack on Western powers in mind.

Twelve countries signed the agreement: Belgium (where NATO is now headquartered), Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the US. As such, these are now considered the founding nations of NATO.

READ ALSO: Which European countries are not part of NATO?

How many countries are NATO members?

NATO membership now stands at 31 states, the most recent of which was Finland, which became a member in April of this year. The bulk of the alliance is made up of European Union member states, with Turkey, which, courtesy of the Montreux Convention of 1936, controls the Black Sea and therefore the Russian Navy’s access to the high seas through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits.

NATO is a collective security defensive alliance, with all member states duty-bound to come to the defense of any member state whose “territorial integrity, political independence, or security” is threatened.”

This was the case in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when NATO immediately moved to strengthen its eastern flank. The organization sent alliance troops to member states bordering Russia (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia) in a move described by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as enabling NATO “to deploy capabilities and forces, including the NATO Response Force [which consists of land, air, sea and special operations forces].”

READ ALSO: The differences between NATO, the UN and the EU

Here is the list of NATO member countries.

  1. Albania 2009
  2. Belgium 1949
  3. Bulgaria 2004
  4. Canada 1949
  5. Croatia 2009
  6. Czechia 1999
  7. Denmark 1949
  8. Estonia 2004
  9. Finland 2023
  10. France 1949
  11. Germany 1955
  12. Greece 1952
  13. Hungary 1999
  14. Iceland 1949
  15. Italy 1949
  16. Latvia 2004
  17. Lithuania 2004
  18. Luxembourg 1949
  19. Montenegro 2017
  20. Netherlands 1949
  21. North Macedonia 2020
  22. Norway 1949
  23. Poland 1999
  24. Portugal 1949
  25. Romania 2004
  26. Slovakia 2004
  27. Slovenia 2004
  28. Spain 1982
  29. Türkiye 1952
  30. United Kingdom 1949
  31. United States 1949