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Which European countries are not in NATO?

The meeting of the military alliance in Madrid coincides with the imminent accession of Finland and Sweden to the group, but many nations are not members.

NATO heads of states and governments pose for a photo during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

For many European countries, the question of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership is again firmly under the spotlight. Russia’s reckless attack upon Ukraine, neither being members, has caused a huge swing in support of the alliance. This has led to formal applications to join the alliance from Sweden and Finland, the details of which will be discussed at the meeting of the alliance in Madrid in June.

NATO used to be much smaller, and it is only since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the break up of the Warsaw pact, the communist equivalent to NATO, that the organisation swelled its ranks. Currently, NATO has 30 member states.

Which European nations are not in NATO?

  • Andorra
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Cyprus
  • Finland
  • Georgia
  • Ireland
  • Kosovo
  • Liechtenstein
  • Malta
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Russia
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • Vatican City

While Sweden and Finland feature on this list for now, it is only a matter of time before both are accepted into NATO. An agreement has been struck between the two nations and Turkey, which had been vetoing their membership due to Sweden’s links to Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Sweden is host to 100,000 Kurdish refugees and Turkey wants those linked to its proscribed terror groups to be sent to Turkey. Many of these groups were leading figures in the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq such as the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said on Tuesday evening, “I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.”

How can the other nations be categorised?

The largest group of European nations are those that profess their neutrality. Including nations such as Austria, Ireland, and Switzerland, some have military neutrality enshrined in their constitutions, or because of previous dealings with the great powers.

Some European nations have close cultural and economic ties to Russia, which usually keeps them out of NATO. Examples include countries like Armenia and Belarus, parts of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine can be counted among this group until recently; although not a member, is considered a strategic partner by NATO due to its proximity to Russia - one of the prime reasons for Moscow’s insistence that the country be denied full membership.

Kosovo is Europe’s newest nation, formed from a war in Serbia in 2008. NATO was and is instrumental in keeping the peace, meaning the alliance and Kosovo share a unique relationship. It is not a member, but has made overtures to NATO in recent years about becoming a full member, including a request in February 2022 for a US military base in the country.

Cyprus is in a difficult position. It has professed its desire to join NATO, but the northern half of the country is occupied by Turkish-backed separatist rebels. Turkey, being a NATO member, is unlikely to allow Cyprus’ accession without a resolution to the stalemate.