NATO, or The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, was founded in 1949 after the Second World War, with the purpose to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. This was through promoting cooperation and security within members, and guarding their freedoms. It was signed in Washington by the founding members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The security of members is linked to that of its member countries, ensuring the members engage in democracy, individual liberty, and rule of law, along with peaceful resolutions of disputes; setting out the promotion of collective defence through Article 5, or in other words, an attack against one member is considered an attack against all members of NATO. This ideology is reinforced in the quote:
“The most important players in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are the member countries themselves.”
NATOs Use of Article 5 and Previous Implications
Article 5, beginning with:
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…”,
has only been evoked in the repercussion of the September 11th, 2001 terror attack on the United States, more commonly known as 9/11, initially implementing its members to stand by the United States in its response to the attacks.
October 2nd, 2001, Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary-General, led a conference between members to discuss the events from the 9/11 attacks, and ensured safety against international terrorism to the current 18 members;
“The commitment to collective self defence embodied in the Washington Treaty was entered into in circumstances very different from those that exist now, but it remains no less valid and no less essential today, in a world subject to the scourge of international terrorism.”
Along with this, NATO’s response to the 9/11 attacks included NATO aircraft helping patrol the skies over the US for several months between 2001 and 2002, known as Operation Eagle Assist, and NATO naval forces sent out to execute counterterrorist activities, such as work on protecting civilian populations against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) attacks, also known as Operation Alice Endeavour, which began October 2001, did not conclude until 2016.
Contemporary Times and NATOs Opinion
While NATO has expressed “in the strongest possible terms” complete disapproval of Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine, it is not sending troops to help Ukraine, as it is not a NATO member, so the alliance is not obliged to come to the country’s defence. The members fear that confrontation from them may cause an all out conflict between Russia and the West.
While members are “determined to do all we can to support Ukraine,” they do not want to escalate the war past the Ukrainian borders, which is why NATO rejected the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, meaning the rejection of sending NATO fighter planes into Ukrainian airspace, and shooting down Russian planes in this zone.
No-fly zones are designed to stop aircraft from entering banned airspace, usually for the prevention of attacks or surveillance. However, approval has been passed to set up four new multinational battle groups in Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania- increasing NATO’s residence in the region.
Russia’s opposition to NATO stemmed from NATO offering Ukraine to join in 2008 yet joining was made a prime concern after Russia invading Crimea in 2014, however it had not yet happened due to Russia’s opposition. Prior to the invasion, Russia had demanded that Ukraine must not be allowed to join- this was refused by NATO.
This demand had derived from Russia’s beliefs that NATO was intruding on its political influence via taking on members from Eastern Europe, and allowing Ukraine to join NATO would bring these threats too close to home. However, Ukraine’s President Zelensky has accepted the situation at present saying:
“It is clear that Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We understand this.”
List of NATO Members to Date and Year of Joining
- ALBANIA (2009)
- BELGIUM (1949)
- BULGARIA (2004)
- CANADA (1949)
- CROATIA (2009)
- CZECH REPUBLIC (1999)
- DENMARK (1949)
- ESTONIA (2004)
- FRANCE (1949)
- GERMANY (1955)
- GREECE (1952)
- HUNGARY (1999)
- ICELAND (1949)
- ITALY (1949)
- LATVIA (2004)
- LITHUANIA (2004)
- LUXEMBOURG (1949)
- MONTENEGRO (2017)
- NETHERLANDS (1949)
- NORTH MACEDONIA (2020)
- NORWAY (1949)
- POLAND (1999)
- PORTUGAL (1949)
- ROMANIA (2004)
- SLOVAKIA (2004)
- SLOVENIA (2004)
- SPAIN (1982)
- TURKEY (1952)
- THE UNITED KINGDOM (1949)
- THE UNITED STATES (1949)
Official Nato website, Nato Website [website],2022, < https://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/index.htl, accessed 30 April 2022
What Is NATO’s Article 5?, History [website],March 14 2022, <https://www.history.com/news/nato-article-5-meaning-history-world-war-2>, accessed 30 April 2022
NATO's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Nato Website [website], April 8 2022, <https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_192648.htm>, accessed 30 April 2022
Ukraine conflict: What is Nato and how has it responded to Russia's invasion?, BBC [website], May 3 2022,
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18023383>, accessed 3 May 2022