The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a political and military alliance of North American and European countries that was forged after World War II in hopes of avoiding future bloodshed and hostilities between nations.
The organization is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium and its current Secretary General is Jens Stoltenberg.
Its 30 member states are obliged by the North Atlantic Treaty of April 4, 1949 to come to the aid of any other signatory state should it be attacked by a foreign power.
In her own words: “NATO is committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to conduct crisis management operations.”
Originally spawned from the Treaty of Dunkirk signed by Britain and France on March 4, 1947, intended to prevent future military aggression by a revived Germany or the Soviet Union, the agreement was soon extended to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and then to the United States , Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
The alliance, which endured throughout the Cold War, was revived with the collapse of the USSR in 1989, gradually adding former Soviet satellites to its ranks: first the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999, and then Bulgaria and Estonia , Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004.
The youngest member of the alliance was North Macedonia in 2020.
Joining Nato gives smaller countries the assurance of military protection from the broader alliance, which is why countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and most notably Ukraine are trying to join the collective, and why Russian President Vladimir Putin is so reluctant to grant access to the latter in particular .
Mr Putin has bitterly denounced NATO in the past, falsely claiming that former Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev was assured in the early 1990s that the alliance would not seek to expand its influence east of Germany, only to then break those so-called promises first 1999 and then again in 2004.
In December 2021, prior to his February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Mr Putin had built up Russian forces on the country’s border with its western neighbor and countered Western calls for his troops to withdraw by demanding that NATO commit to Ukraine to refuse admission to their ranks and that the alliance halt and cease its activities in the eastern member states.
The Russian president insists that Russia and Ukraine are truly one nation and appears to be trying to reintegrate the country into what he sees as the motherland, just as he annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
Ukraine, for its part, wants the alliance’s defensive protection as part of Kiev’s quest for recognition as a free Western democracy, shielded from the malevolent influence of Moscow.
Without Ukraine’s NATO membership, the alliance’s member states, including Britain and the US, are under no obligation to send in troops or provide military assistance.
However, a number of British troops are currently stationed in the organisation’s peacekeeping missions in the other signatory states, Estonia and Poland, and the UK has conducted extensive military training with the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2015 and has pledged to continue to supply arms to Kyiv to counter Russian attacks during the current conflict.
NATO’s official position is that membership is “open to any other European state capable of promoting the principles of the treaty and contributing to the security of the North Atlantic”.
The current concern of the alliance is that if Russia manages to capture Ukraine, it could continue its westward expansion and perhaps grab other outliers like Georgia and actually set a precedent for other global superpowers to follow, which China might do encouraged to take Taiwan. for example.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/nato-list-of-countries-sweden-finland-why-b2078214.html What is NATO and when was it founded?