NATO expansion: stages and prerequisites

The North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) has undergone several stages of expansion and repeated changes in the concept of activity on the way of its development. The problem of NATO enlargement has become acute for Russia as it moves the organization to the East, to the borders of the Russian Federation.

NATO expansion briefly

The historical background of the creation of NATO

The need to create all kinds of alliances appeared on the fragments of the old world after the Second World War. Post-war reconstruction, assistance to the affected countries, improving the welfare of the member states of the Union, development of cooperation, ensuring peace and security - all these have become the main reasons for the intensification of integration processes in Europe.

The contours of the UN were outlined in 1945, the Western European Union became the forerunner of the modern EU, the Council of Europe - the same age as NATO - was formed in 1949. The ideas of unifying Europe have been in the air since the 1920s, but before the end of the large-scale war it was not possible to create an alliance . And the first attempts at integration also did not succeed: organizations created in the first post-war years were largely fragmented and short-lived.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Starting Point

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the North Atlantic Alliance) was founded in 1949. The main tasks of the military-political union were declared the preservation of peace, assistance to the affected states and the development of cooperation. The hidden motives for creating NATO are opposition to the influence of the USSR in Europe.

NATO expansion

The first members of the North Atlantic Alliance were 12 states. At present, NATO unites 28 countries. The organization’s military spending accounts for 70% of the global budget.

NATO Global Program: Thesis on the objectives of the military alliance

The main objective of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as enshrined in the said document, is to maintain and maintain peace and security in Europe and other countries - members of the Union (USA and Canada). Initially, the bloc was formed to contain the influence of the USSR; by 2015, NATO had come up with a modified concept - the main threat is now considering a possible Russian attack.

The intermediate stage (beginning of the XXI century) provided for the introduction of crisis management and the expansion of the European Union. The NATO Global Program “Active Participation, Modern Defense” then became the organization’s main instrument in the international arena. Currently, security is maintained mainly through the deployment of military facilities on the territory of the participating countries and the presence of NATO military contingent.

The main stages of expansion of the military alliance

NATO expansion briefly fits into several stages. The first three waves occurred even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1952, 1955 and 1982. Further expansion of NATO was characterized by rather aggressive actions against Russia and its advance into Eastern Europe. The largest expansion took place in 2004, so far eight states are candidates for joining the North Atlantic Alliance. All these are countries of Eastern Europe, the Balkan Peninsula and even Transcaucasia.

NATO expansion east

The reasons for NATO expansion are very clear. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization spreads its influence and strengthens its presence in Eastern Europe in order to suppress Russia's alleged aggression.

First expansion wave: Greece and Turkey

The first expansion of NATO included Greece and Turkey as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The number of member countries of the military bloc first increased in February 1952. Later, Greece for some time (1974-1980) did not participate in NATO due to tensions with Turkey.

West Germany, Spain and the failed member of the union

The second and third enlargement of NATO was marked by the accession of Germany (from the beginning of October 1990 - a united Germany) exactly ten years after the legendary Victory and Spain parade (in 1982). Spain will later withdraw from NATO military bodies but remain a member of the organization.

In 1954, the alliance offered to join the North Atlantic Treaty and the Soviet Union, however, the USSR expectedly refused.

Accession of the Visegrad Group countries

The first truly sensitive blow was the expansion of NATO to the East in 1999. Then the alliance was joined by three of the four states of the Visegrad Four, which united in 1991 several countries of Eastern Europe. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined the North Atlantic Treaty.

The biggest expansion: the path to the East

The fifth expansion of NATO included seven countries of Eastern and Northern Europe into the alliance: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Slovenia. A little later , the US Secretary of Defense said that Russia was "on the verge of NATO." This once again provoked an increase in the alliance's presence in the countries of Eastern Europe and responded with a change in the concept of organizing the North American Treaty towards protection from possible aggression of Russia.

Russia NATO expansion

Sixth stage of expansion: a clear threat

The last stage of expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance to date occurred in 2009. Then Albania and Croatia, located on the Balkan Peninsula, joined NATO.

NATO Membership Criteria: List of Obligations

Not every state that has expressed a desire to become a member of the North Atlantic Alliance can join NATO. The organization puts forward a number of requirements for potential participants. Among these membership criteria, the fundamental requirements adopted in 1949 are:

  • the location of a potential NATO member in Europe;

  • consent of all members of the alliance to the entry of the state.

There were precedents with the last paragraph. Greece, for example, prevents Macedonia from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the reason that the conflict over the name of Macedonia has not yet been resolved.

In 1999, the list of obligations of NATO members was supplemented by several more items. Now a potential member of the alliance must:

  • resolve international disputes exclusively by peaceful means;

  • settlement of ethnic, domestic, territorial and political disputes in accordance with the principles of the OSCE;

  • Respect human rights and the rule of law;

  • organize control over the armed forces of the state;

  • if necessary, freely provide information on the economic condition of the country;

  • take part in NATO missions.

NATO expansion problem
What is interesting: the list of obligations is somewhat incorrect, as it includes, among other things, non-fulfillment of certain points. Ignoring a potential member of the alliance of certain points affects the final decision on admission to NATO, but is not critical.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Partnership Programs

The military alliance has developed several cooperation programs that facilitate the entry into NATO of other states and provide a wide geography of influence. The main programs are as follows:

  1. Partnership for Peace. To date, 22 states are participating in the program, there are thirteen former participants: 12 of them are already full members of the alliance, Russia, the remaining former participant in the partnership program, withdrew from PfP in 2008. The only EU member that does not participate in PfP is Cyprus. Turkey is preventing the state from joining NATO, citing an unresolved conflict between the Turkish and Greek parts of Cyprus.

  2. Individual affiliate plan. Participants at the moment are eight states.

  3. "Accelerated dialogue." It involves Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Georgia.

  4. Membership Action Plan. It was developed for three states, two of which were previously participants in the expedited dialogue program: Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 1999, Macedonia has also been participating in the program.

The Seventh Wave of Enlargement: Who Will Join NATO Next?

Partnership programs suggest which states will become the next alliance members. However, one cannot speak clearly about the timing of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For example, Macedonia has been conducting an accelerated dialogue with NATO since 1999. Whereas from the moment of signing the PfP program to the direct entry into the ranks of the member states of the alliance, ten years have passed for Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, only five for Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, and 15 for Albania.

EU enlargement global nato program

Partnership for Peace: NATO and Russia

NATO enlargement contributed to increased tensions over the alliance’s future actions. Russia participated in the Partnership for Peace program, but further conflicts regarding NATO’s eastward expansion, even if Russia was against it, left no choice. The Russian Federation was forced to cease its participation in the program and begin to develop a response.

Since 1996, Russia's national interests have become more specific and clearly defined, but the problem of NATO’s eastward expansion has become more acute. At the same time, Moscow began to advance the idea that the main guarantee of security in Europe should not be a military bloc, but the OSCE - an organization for security and cooperation in Europe. A new stage in relations between Moscow and NATO was legally enshrined in 2002, when the declaration "Russia-NATO Relations: A New Quality" was signed in Rome.

the problem of NATO expansion east

Despite a brief easing of tension, Moscow’s negative attitude toward the military alliance only worsened. The instability of relations between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance continues to be demonstrated during the organization’s military operations in Libya (in 2011) and Syria.

Conflict issue

The expansion of NATO to the East (briefly: the process has been going on since 1999, when Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary joined the alliance to this day) is a serious reason for the exhaustion of the credit of trust in the organization of the North Atlantic Treaty. The fact is that the problem of strengthening its presence at the borders of Russia is compounded by the issue of the existence of agreements on non-expansion of NATO to the East.

During the negotiations between the USSR and the USA, an agreement was reached on non-expansion of NATO to the East. Opinions differ on this issue. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke out about receiving guarantees about NATO’s non-expansion to the borders of modern Russia verbally, representatives of the alliance claim that no promise was made.

In many respects, the misunderstanding of the speech of the German Foreign Minister in 1990 contributed to the emergence of discrepancies in the promise of non-expansion. He called on the alliance to declare that there would be no advance towards the borders of the Soviet Union. But are such assurances a form of promise? This dispute has not yet been resolved. But confirmation of the promise of non-expansion of the alliance to the East could become a trump card in the hands of the Russian Federation in the international arena.


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