Ukrainians prepare for an invasion even though they don’t think it’s imminent

German troops arrive at Kaunas airport in Lithuania on February 14 as part of a NATO reinforcement operation.
German troops arrive as part of NATO reinforcements at Kaunas airport in Lithuania on February 14. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

As tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine, the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the region has come into focus.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is NATO? It is a European and North American defense alliance established to promote peace and stability as well as protect the security of its members. It was created as the Cold War escalated and is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.

The purpose of the coalition led by the United States was to protect the countries of Western Europe from the threat posed by the Soviet Union and against the spread of Communism after World War II.

Which countries are in NATO?: The twelve founding nations – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and eight other European nations – signed the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, pledging to defend each other by political means and military.

In the decades since, the alliance has grown to include a total of 30 members.

In alphabetical order, they are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, UK and USA.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but has long hoped to join the alliance. This is a sore point for Russia, which sees NATO as a threat and vehemently opposes the move.

Against the backdrop of recent tensions with the West, Russia has requested guaranteed by iron that the alliance would not expand further east – especially into Ukraine.

But the US and NATO have rejected those requests. The Union has always had an “open door policy”, which stipulates that any European country willing and willing to fulfill the commitments and obligations of membership is welcome to apply to become a member. pellets. Any decision on alliance expansion must be unanimous.

After the end of the Cold War, NATO explicitly stated that it would welcome expansion to the east, and in 1997 the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were invited to begin accession negotiations.

Since then, more than a dozen countries from the former Eastern bloc, including three former Soviet republics, have joined the alliance.

Despite the major geopolitical changes since the creation of NATO, NATO’s stated purpose has remained unchanged. The basic principle underpinning the alliance is one of collective defense: “An armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be regarded as an attack against all back.”

What does that mean in practice? The principle of collective defense is enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. It ensures that the resources of the whole alliance can be used to protect any member state. This is very important for many smaller countries, which would not be able to defend themselves without their allies. Iceland, for example, does not have a standing army.

Since the US is the largest and most powerful NATO member, any country in the alliance is effectively protected by the US.

Read more about NATO and its role here.

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