NATO, the world largest military-political bloc, which Ukraine wants to join, is 70 years old today. It was founded by12 countries to protect Europe from the influence of the Soviet Union. The first members of the North Atlantic alliance were Belgium, the UK, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the US, and France.
According to the treaty concluded in 1949, the goal of NATO is to strengthen stability and improve well-being in the North Atlantic region. Thus, the members of the Alliance united to create a collective defense and preserve peace and security. The three most important tasks of NATO are collective defense, crisis management, and security through cooperation.
Few unions have lived such a long life: external threats change, national interests diverge, membership conditions or expenses become too burdensome. A 2010 study by the Brookings Institution counted 63 large military alliances over the previous five centuries: 10 of them lasted longer than 40 years, and the average duration was 15 years.
How does NATO manage to stay afloat for so long? There is no unequivocal answer to this question. The fact is that with all its apparent conservatism, NATO does not stand still. The world is changing, the Alliance is changing too. The future is engaged in the strategic center of ACT (Allied Command Transformation) in the United States, in which they rely on new technologies and their maximum introduction into the army. The NATO Center for Strategic Communications is located in Latvia because it is more expensive to underestimate the information war.
How it all began
The beginning of the design of NATO was the creation of the "Western European Union:" in March 1948, Belgium, the UK, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France concluded the Brussels Pact, which formed the basis of the Union. In parallel with this, secret negotiations were conducted by the UK, Canada, and the United States; they intended to create an alliance, the basis of which would be civilized unity. After that, European countries joined in negotiations with Canada and the United States, and their completion marked the signing of twelve countries on April 4, 1949, by the North Atlantic Treaty. He created a collective security system and obliged its members to protect each other in the event of an attack.
Throughout its entire seventy-year history, the Alliance expanded seven times: in 1952, Greece and Turkey joined the Alliance, Germany became its member in 1955, Spain – in 1982, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic – in 1999, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Estonia – in 2004, Croatia and Albania – in 2009, and Montenegro did it in 2017.
In 1966, France left NATO, although it remained a member of the political structure. Moreover, in 1999, France took an active part in the military operation against Yugoslavia. France returned to all NATO structures only in 2009.
Greece also withdrew from the Alliance, in 1974, but returned in 1981.
The application for membership in NATO was filed by the Soviet Union in 1954, but it was rejected.
The contribution of each NATO member country at different times varied depending on the threats that have appeared in the world. During the Cold War, in the late 70s, the Allies had to increase their military spending by no less than 3% annually. At that time, only five of the 16 states managed the task - the USA, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, and Spain.
After the end of the Cold War and the end of the confrontation between NATO and the Soviet Union, the requirement for an annual increase in expenditures was abandoned, that is why in the 1990s members of the Alliance reduced defense budgets.
However, as early as 1999, NATO returned to increasing its defense potential, primarily due to the spread of international terrorism. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York, strengthened the confidence of Alliance members in the need to strengthen their positions, and in 2006 NATO agreed to allocate 2% of GDP for defense. However, not all countries comply with this agreement. In 2018, only six countries out of 26 adhered to the established norm: Bulgaria – 2.3%, the UK – 2.4%, Greece – 2.8%, USA – 4.1%, Turkey – 2.2%, and France – 2,5%. Moreover, some countries periodically reduced defense spending, for example, Germany, Italy, Portugal. Allocations were also reduced by the United States, but they never fell below 2%. Therefore, in 2017, America accounted for 71.7% of NATO’s total defense spending. Therefore, it is not surprising that it was US President Donald Trump who in 2018 demanded that the rest of the Alliance members increase defense spending, threatening to withdraw their country from NATO. The allies had nothing to do but to agree, although there was some discontent.
In addition, since 2014, NATO members should also allocate 20% of their defense expenditures for the purchase of new weapons. The norm is also not fulfilled by all member countries of the Alliance.
Ukraine has been cooperating with the Alliance since 1991 when the country joined the North Atlantic Partnership Council. In 1994, Ukraine joined the Partnership for Peace program, and in 2002, the Individual Partnership Plan with NATO followed.
In 2005, cooperation with NATO moved to the format of the "Accelerated Dialogue," it was supposed to be the first step for Ukraine to join the Alliance. In 2008, a letter was sent to NATO asking for the country's accession to the "NATO Membership Action Plan," but at the April 2008 summit, Ukraine was refused because of the position of Germany and France.
After President Viktor Yanukovych came to power in 2010, the question of Ukraine’s joining the Alliance was unmoving, and later even secured at the level of the law “On the foundations of domestic and foreign policy” (which was later canceled in 2014). Nevertheless, in 2013, Ukraine joined the NATO operation on countering piracy “Ocean Shield.”
After the change of power in 2014, Ukraine resumed and deepened cooperation with NATO. But, despite repeated statements by NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, that the doors of the Alliance are open for Ukraine, he will not offer Ukraine participation in the enhanced opportunities program yet. At the same time, Ukraine-NATO cooperation is conducted in formats related to Donbas conflict and the need for reforms – the country needs to “reach out” to the standards of the Alliance.
But Ukraine is serious and decisive: on February 21, 2019, the document amending the Constitution, which enshrined the strategic course for obtaining full membership of Ukraine in the European Union and NATO, came into force.
Read the original text at 112.ua.