Russia-Ukraine: Is Ukraine a member of NATO? What does NATO stand for? A detailed map of countries that are part of the alliance

NATO has been an established organisation since 1947, at the end of the Second World War - but is Ukraine a member and what exactly do they do?

For decades, NATO has been at the heart of world politics, particularly right now as Russia has launched a ‘full scale invasion’ of Ukraine.

Russia has requested that Ukraine would not join the group’s defence alliance and has asked that they do not expand any further east.

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However, the West has rejected Russia’s demand, stating that any independent country is free to join the defence alliance.

A Ukrainian soldier. (Pic credit: Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images)A Ukrainian soldier. (Pic credit: Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images)
A Ukrainian soldier. (Pic credit: Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images)

But western leaders - including President Joe Biden - did suggest negotiations on NATO’s position within Europe.

What does NATO do and which countries are member states of the organisation?

What is NATO and what does it stand for?

NATO is a treaty organisation which dates back to March 1947, when France and the UK signed the ‘Treaty of Dunkirk’ to form an alliance in the event that Germany, which was part of the Soviet Union, should attack.

A map of NATO member states.A map of NATO member states.
A map of NATO member states.
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NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and was established in the aftermath of the Second World War.

This treaty was expanded over the next few years, involving more countries over time in the North Atlantic Treaty, which was also known as the Washington Treaty, signed in April 1949.

The purpose of the organisation is to form a collective security to its member states in the event of conflict; this means that if a member state is threatened by an external country, a mutual defence will be given in response.

NATO has intervened in conflicts such as that seen in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo and Libya.

Which countries are members of NATO?

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There are currently 30 member states of NATO, with three aspiring states.

The 12 founding states, who signed the initial treaty in 1947, are:

- US

- UK

- Belgium

- Canada

- Denmark

- France

- Iceland

- Italy

- Luxembourg

- The Netherlands

- Norway

- Portugal

Greece and Turkey joined the alliance in 1952, with Spain joining 30 years later.

West Germany joined three years after Greece and Turkey and East Germany assimilated into the alliance upon the reunion of Germany in 1990.

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Since 1997, NATO has expanded east to include the following countries:

- Hungary

- Czech Republic

- Poland

- Bulgaria

- Estonia

- Latvia

- Lithuania

- Romania

- Slovenia

- Albania

- Croatia

The most recent additions to the alliance are Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020.

NATO currently allows any country to join its treaty, with the organisations stating that they have an “open door policy”.

On the official website, it said: “Any European country in a position to further the principles of the Washington Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area can become a member of the Alliance at the invitation of the North Atlantic Council.

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“Countries aspiring for NATO membership are also expected to meet certain political, economic and military goals in order to ensure that they will become contributors to Alliance security as well as beneficiaries of it.”

Is Ukraine a member of NATO?

The three countries who are currently awaiting confirmation to become members of NATO are Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine.

Ukraine has been formally working with the defence alliance since 2008 on a Membership Action Plan (MAP), with intentions of eventually joining the group.

However, Russia has been openly against this, saying that NATO should not expand any further eastwards.

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Russian troops were initially sent to the Ukrainian border in November 2021 as the Kremlin stated that the possible membership caused “security issues”.

NATO has been adamant that Russia will have no say in Ukraine’s membership and despite the conflict, Ukraine has insisted that they will continue to fight for membership of the group.

Who is the leader of NATO?

The NATO organisation is led by former Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, who took the role of secretary general in 2014.

Admiral Rob Bauer from the Royal Netherlands Navy serves as the chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

The alliance’s headquarters are based in Brussels, Belgium.

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