News Background: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
2022-05-19: [Article Link]
At an online video ceremony held at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden to NATO formally submitted their applications for NATO membership to the Secretary-General of the Organization, Stoltenberg.
NATO is a military-political bloc formed by the United States in 1949 to contain the Soviet Union after World War II. Its purpose is to work together in collective defence and the maintenance of peace and security, to promote democracy, the rule of law and the welfare of the Euro-Atlantic region through political and military means, and to safeguard the freedom and security of its members. During the cold war, NATO was antagonized by the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WAC), which was formed in 1955 between the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries. NATO was founded with 12 member States from the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom. During the period against the Soviet Union and the China Pact, NATO expanded three times: in February 1952, Turkey and Greece joined; in May 1955, the Federal Republic of Germany joined; and in May 1982, Spain joined. In the second half of the twentieth century, with the upheavals in Eastern Europe, the dissolution of the Treaty, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, NATO embarked on a “one-size-fits-all crisis strategy” and embarked on the process of expansion through its involvement in the crisis in the region of the former Yugoslavia and the implementation of the Partnership for Peace initiative.
Since 1992, European countries such as Poland have made successive requests to join NATO, and in September 1995 NATO officially published the Expanded East Report. In July 1997, the NATO Madrid Summit formally decided to admit Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to membership in NATO; in March 1999, the three countries formally joined NATO, bringing the membership of NATO to 19. At its summit in Prague in November 2002, NATO decided to invite Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria to join. In March 2004, the seven countries formally joined NATO, bringing the number of NATO members to 26.
Following a series of negotiations and corresponding procedures, Albania and Croatia joined NATO in April 2009. Montenegro became a member of NATO in June 2017 and Northern Macedonia formally joined NATO in March 2020. Application for membership in NATO is subject to certain conditions. Under article 10 of the North Atlantic Convention, any European country that is in a position to advance the principles of the Convention and can contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic region may accept an invitation from NATO to become a member of the group. NATO’s expansion policy is not static, but is constantly undergoing adjustments. The three expansions during the cold war were largely driven by strategic considerations. After the Cold War, NATO faced confusion as to whether it should continue to expand. To that end, NATO undertook a special study, which ultimately determined that countries applying for membership must meet certain political, economic, and military criteria to ensure that they are not only the beneficiaries of the group, but also contributors. According to NATO, these include the establishment of an effective democratic political system based on a market economy, fair treatment of minorities, a commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, a willingness and ability to contribute to NATO military operations, and a commitment to democratic civil-military relations and institutional structures.
NATO has a complex process for the admission of new members, with a total of seven steps. The first step is to negotiate accession. The formal invitation by NATO to the applicant State to negotiate was seen as a first step in the process of accession and the second step was the submission of a letter of intent. The Foreign Ministers of the invited countries wrote to the Secretary-General of NATO in the form of a letter of intent confirming the acceptance of the obligations of the member States and the fulfilment of their commitments, together with a timetable for the completion of the reform. The third step is the signing of the Protocol, which NATO prepares for each new member, and which all NATO members sign. The fourth step is ratification of the Protocol, which all Governments of NATO member States are required to ratify in accordance with their domestic requirements and procedures. The fifth step is the invitation to enter into the Treaty, and the Secretary-General of NATO will issue an invitation to the invited countries to join NATO once all NATO member States have ratified the Protocol and notified the United States Government. The sixth step is to accede to the treaty, and upon being invited to accede to the new treaty in accordance with national procedures. NATO, a military and political group, has not dismantled its mission since the end of the cold war, but has continued to expand its geographical boundaries and activities.