Which European countries are not part of NATO? Updated list of members and non-members
Sweden is set to become the latest nation invited to the Trans-Atlantic alliance after the Hungarian parliament voted in favor of its accession.
NATO membership is a top priority for several European countries. The 2022 attack by Russia on Ukraine, despite neither country being a member, caused a significant shift in support for the alliance. As a result, Sweden and Finland submitted formal applications to join. On 4 April, 2023, Finland became the 31st official member of NATO, while Sweden crossed the final hurdle today with an invite to be sent this week.
NATO used to be much smaller, and it was only after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the break up of the Warsaw Pact, the communist equivalent to NATO, that the organization swelled to its current 31 member states.
NATO and other European nations
The largest group of European nations not in NATO 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 could have been counted among this group until last year’s war. Although not a member, it 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 was previously 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 one, 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.
Is Israel a Member of NATO?
No. There are many reasons, but the first is geographic: Israel isn’t in Europe and it isn’t in the “North Atlantic” as NATO’s name states. Another reason is that it’s unique location makes it prone to armed conflict with its neighbors. NATO is direct contact with Israel and as a partner nation the Middle East country provides updates and overviews of its defense strategy with the US and other member countries.
Israel is a major strategic partner of NATO, which has strengthened cooperation and increased defense support and infrastructures in the Middle East country. Israel is an active partner with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in 2017 established a permanent and official mission to NATO headquarters.