This article is about the composition of NATO. For historical and future expansion of NATO, see Enlargement of NATO.
NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is an international alliance that consists of 29 member states from North America and Europe. It was established at the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949. Article Five of the treaty states that if an armed attack occurs against one of the member states, it should be considered an attack against all members, and other members shall assist the attacked member, with armed forces if necessary.
Of the 29 member countries, two are located in North America (Canada and the United States) and 27 are European countries while Turkey is in Eurasia. All members have militaries, except for Iceland which does not have a typical army (but does, however, have a coast guard and a small unit of civilian specialists for NATO operations). Three of NATO’s members are nuclear weapons states: France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. NATO has 12 original founding member nation states, and from 18 February 1952 to 6 May 1955, it added three more member nations, and a fourth on 30 May 1982. After the end of the Cold War, NATO added 13 more member nations (10 former Warsaw Pact members and three former Yugoslav republics) from 12 March 1999 to 5 June 2017.
NATO has added new members seven times since its founding in 1949, and since 2017 NATO has had 29 members. Twelve countries were part of the founding of NATO: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1952, Greece and Turkey became members of the Alliance, joined later by West Germany (in 1955) and Spain (in 1982). In 1990, with the reunification of Germany, NATO grew to include the former country of East Germany. Between 1994 and 1997, wider forums for regional cooperation between NATO and its neighbors were set up, including the Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. In 1997, three former Warsaw Pact countries, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland, were invited to join NATO. After this fourth enlargement in 1999, the Vilnius group of the Baltics and seven East European countries formed in May 2000 to cooperate and lobby for further NATO membership. Seven of these countries joined in the fifth enlargement in 2004. The Adriatic States Albania and Croatia joined in the sixth enlargement in 2009, Montenegro in 2017.
United States President Donald Trump expressed interest in withdrawing from the organization during his 2016 presidential campaign, and only recently stated the United States would protect allies in the event that Article V is invoked.
The United States has a larger defense expenditure than all other members combined. Criticism of the organization by then newly elected US President Donald Trump caused various reactions from American and European political figures, ranging from ridicule to panic. Pew Research Center’s 2016 survey among its member states showed that while most countries viewed NATO positively, most NATO members preferred keeping their military spending the same. The response to whether their country should militarily aid another NATO country if it were to get into a serious military conflict with Russia was also mixed. Only in the US and Canada did more than 50% of the people answer that they should.
Population data from CIA World FactbookGDP data from IMFExpenditure data (except Iceland) from SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, Icelandic data (2013) from Statistics IcelandMilitary personnel data from NATOa Iceland has no armed forces.b 2015 data.
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