Enlargement of NATO

Enlargement of NATO
Map of NATO countries chronological membership.

Enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the process of including new member states in NATO. NATO is a military alliance of states in Europe and North America whose organization constitutes a system of collective defence. The process of joining the alliance is governed by Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty and by subsequent agreements. Countries wishing to join have to meet certain requirements and complete a multi-step process involving political dialogue and military integration. The accession process is overseen by the North Atlantic Council, NATO's governing body.

After its formation in 1949, NATO grew by including Greece and Turkey in 1952 and West Germany in 1955, and then later Spain in 1982. After the Cold War ended, and Germany reunited in 1990, there was a debate in NATO about continued expansion eastward. In 1999, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were added to the organization, amid much debate within the organisation and Russian opposition.[1][2] Another expansion came with the accession of seven Northern European and Eastern European countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. These nations were first invited to start talks of membership during the 2002 Prague summit, and joined NATO on March 29, 2004, shortly before the 2004 Istanbul summit. Most recently, Albania and Croatia joined on April 1, 2009, shortly before the 2009 Strasbourg–Kehl summit.

Future expansion is currently a topic of debate in many countries. Cyprus and Macedonia are stalled from accession by, respectively, Turkey and Greece, pending the resolution of disputes between them. Other countries which have a stated goal of eventually joining include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Georgia. The incorporation of former Warsaw Pact countries has been a cause of increased tension between NATO countries and Russia. Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly agreed to allow German reunification within NATO after being promised that NATO would not expand "one inch to the east."[3]


Historical enlargements

NATO has added new members six times since its founding in 1949, and NATO comprises twenty-eight 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 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 communist 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. Albania and Croatia joined in the sixth enlargement in 2009.

Date Country Enlargement Map of NATO expansion since 1949
February 18, 1952  Greece First
May 9, 1955  West Germany Second
May 30, 1982  Spain Third
March 12, 1999  Czech Republic Fourth
March 29, 2004  Bulgaria Fifth
April 1, 2009  Albania Sixth

Criteria and process

Article 10

Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty describes how non-member states may join NATO:

The Parties may by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty. Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America. The Government of the United States of America will inform each of the Parties of the deposit of each such instrument of accession.[4]

This article poses two general limits to non-member states. European states are eligible for membership and these states need the approval of all the existing member states. The second criterion means that every member state can put some criteria forward that have to be attained. In practice, NATO formulates in most cases a common set of criteria, but for instance in the case of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey blocks its membership as long as the Cyprus dispute is not resolved. Greece opposes Turkey's admission to the European Union for the same reason.[5] Greece also blocks former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's accession to NATO, due to the disagreement over the use of the name Macedonia.

Individual Partnership Action Plan

NATO began the Individual Partnership Action Plans programme at the 2002 Prague Summit, as a mechanism to tailor relations with specific countries, which may include eventual membership. The programme is also used for countries not intending to join NATO, but that require the additional diplomatic resources. Plans have so far only been implemented with countries already members of the NATO-organized Partnership for Peace. As of 2009, Individual Partnership Action Plans are in implementation with eight countries: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Montenegro, and Serbia. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Serbia and Kazakhstan have stated they have no desire to join NATO. Georgia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand, are actively working towards future NATO membership.

Intensified Dialogue

Intensified Dialogue is viewed as an additional stage before being invited to enter the alliance Membership Action Plan (MAP), that may compliment that country's Individual Partnership Action Plan. As of 2010, Georgia and Ukraine are engaged in an Intensified Dialogue with NATO. In Spring 2008 both were promised to get Membership Action Plans at later stage, but in 2010 Ukraine has announced that it no longer has NATO membership as a goal. Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina participate in Intensified Dialogue, but have also received Membership Action Plans in addition. Serbia was also offered an Intensified Dialogue program on 3 April 2008, but made no response to accept the offer.[6]

Countries not intending to join NATO
Country Partnership for Peace Individual Partnership Action Plan Intensified Dialogue
 Ukraine 1994-02 February 1994 2002-11 November 2002[9] 2005-04 April 2005
 Azerbaijan 1994-05 May 1994 2005-05 May 2005[10]  
 Armenia 1994-10 October 1994 2005-12 December 2005[11]  
 Kazakhstan 1994-05 May 1994 2006-01 January 2006  
 Moldova 1994-05 May 1994 2006-05 May 2006  
 Belarus 2006-12 January 11, 1995    
 Serbia 2006-12 December 2006    

Membership Action Plan

The Membership Action Plan (MAP) mechanism is the stage in the procedure for nations wishing to join where their formal applications are reviewed by the current members. The mechanism was approved in the 1999 Washington summit. A country's participation in MAP entails the annual presentation of reports concerning its progress on five different measures:[12]

  • Willingness to settle international, ethnic or external territorial disputes by peaceful means, commitment to the rule of law and human rights, and democratic control of armed forces
  • Ability to contribute to the organization's defence and missions
  • Devotion of sufficient resources to armed forces to be able to meet the commitments of membership
  • Security of sensitive information, and safeguards ensuring it
  • Compatibility of domestic legislation with NATO cooperation

NATO provides feedback as well as technical advice to each country and evaluates its progress on an individual basis.[13] Once a country is agreed to meet the requirements, NATO can issue that country an invitation to begin accession talks. As of April 2010, three countries have a Membership Action Plan:[14]

Georgia has expressed interest in receiving a MAP. Ukraine had expressed interest in receiving a MAP before June 2010, when it announced a policy change of not seeking NATO membership. Former MAP participants were Albania and Croatia between May 2002 and April 2009, when they joined NATO. The final accession process, once invited, involves five steps leading up to the signing of the accession protocols and the acceptance and ratification of those protocols by the governments of the current NATO members.[15]

Future enlargement

Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are currently the only countries with a Membership Action Plan. In 2008, Greece blocked an invitation to its northern neighbor, pending resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute.[16] Macedonia was part of the Vilnius group, and had formed the Adriatic Charter with Croatia and Albania in 2003 to better coordinate NATO accession.[17]

NATO is unlikely to invite countries such as Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland, where the policy of neutrality is protected by current legislation and the popularity of non-alignment holds sway.[citation needed]

Countries where current policy favors NATO membership
Country Partnership for Peace Individual Partnership Action Plan Intensified Dialogue Membership Action Plan
 Macedonia 1995-11 November 1995     1999-04 April 1999
 Montenegro 2006-12 December 2006 June 2008 2008-04 April 2008[18] 2010-04December 2009[19]
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 2006-12 December 2006 2008-01 January 2008[20] 2008-04 April 2008 2010-04 April 2010[21]
 Georgia 1994-03 March 1994 2004-10 October 2004 2006-09 September 2006[22] 2008-12

Bosnia and Herzegovina

NATO led IFOR peacekeepers patrolled Bosnia and Herzegovina under Operation Joint Endeavour

The 1995 NATO bombing of Bosnia and Herzegovina targeted the Bosnian Serb Army and together with international pressure led to the resolution of the Bosnian War and the signing of the Dayton Agreement in 1995. Since then, NATO has led the Implementation Force and Stabilization Force, and other peacekeeping efforts in the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Partnership for Peace in 2006, and signed an agreement on security cooperation in March 2007.[23] The nation began further cooperation with NATO within their Individual Partnership Action Plan in January 2008.[20] Bosnia then started the process of Intensified Dialogue at the 2008 Bucharest summit.[24] The country was invited to join the Adriatic Charter of NATO aspirants on September 25, 2008.[17] Then in November 2008, a joint announcement from the Defence Minister and NATO Mission Office in Sarajevo suggested that Bosnia and Herzegovina could join NATO by 2011 if it continues with the reforms made in the defence-area so far.[25]

In January 2009, Defence Minister Selmo Cikotić again confirmed Bosnia's interest in seeking a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the 2009 summit, with membership by 2012 at the latest.[26] In February 2009 The Defence Minister of BiH Selmo Cikotic presented some poll numbers on NATO-membership: 70% of the country supports NATO-membership; However while 89% of the Federation Entity supports NATO-membership, only in 35% RS-entity did.[citation needed] While the country did not receive an MAP at the April 2009 summit in Strasbourg–Kehl, Stuart Jones, an official of the US State Department, said on a September 2009 visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina that NATO was going to look at the possibilities for them to receive one in a December 2009 summit, repeating strong US support for the possibility. Then on October 2, 2009, Haris Silajdžić, the Bosniak Member of the Presidency, announced official application for Membership Action Plan. On April 22, 2010, NATO agreed to launch the Membership Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but with certain conditions attached.[21] Turkey is thought to be the biggest supporter of Bosnian membership, and heavily influenced the decision.[27]


An October 2007 sign in downtown Tbilisi promoting eventual integration with NATO

Georgia has moved quickly following the Rose Revolution in 2003 to seek closer ties with and eventual membership of NATO. Georgia's powerful northern neighbor, Russia, has opposed the closer ties, including those expressed at the 2008 Bucharest summit where NATO members promised that Georgia would eventually join the organization.

Complications in the relationship between NATO and Georgia includes presence of Russian forces in internationally-recognized Georgian territory as a result of multiple recent conflicts, like the 2008 South Ossetia war, over the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are home to a large number of citizens of the Russian Federation. A nonbinding referendum in 2008 resulted in 77% of voters supporting NATO accession.[28]


NATO's invitation to Macedonia was blocked by Greece at the 2008 Bucharest summit. NATO nations agreed that the country would receive an invitation upon resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute.[16] Greece believes that its neighbor's constitutional name implies territorial aspirations against its own region of Greek Macedonia. After the veto, Greece was sued in the International Court of Justice, over the use of "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" as an acceptable option to enter NATO with. Greece may also block Macedonia's accession to the European Union over the naming dispute.[29]

At the 2008 Bucharest summit, Macedonia was given an invitation conditional on the resolution of their naming dispute.

A poll following the summit showed that 82.5% of citizens surveyed opposed changing the constitutional name in order to join NATO.[30] NATO membership in general is supported by 85.2% of the population.[31] Elections were called following the 2008 summit, resulting in further support for the center-right pro-NATO party, VMRO–DPMNE. The elections were marred by violence that was criticized by NATO members.[32]

The country joined the Partnership for Peace in 1995, and commenced its Membership Action Plan in 1999, at the same time as Albania. Participating in the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo, it received aid from NATO in dealing with refugees fleeing from Kosovo. In August 2001, NATO intervened in the 2001 insurgency, during which a rebel Albanian group, the National Liberation Army, fought government forces. In Operation Essential Harvest, NATO troops joined with the Macedonian military to disarm rebel forces following a cease-fire agreement.[33]


In 2005 the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro had paved its way for NATO membership by adopting a Resolution in favor for it. Montenegro declared independence from its State Union with Serbia on June 3, 2006. The new country subsequently joined the Partnership for Peace programme at the 2006 Riga summit. In November 2007, Montenegro signed a transit agreement with NATO, allowing the alliance's troops to move across the country.[34] Montenegro then signed an agreement with the United States, in which Montenegro will destroy its outdated weaponry as a precondition for NATO membership.[35] In late 2007, Montenegro's Defence Minister Boro Vučinić said that Montenegro would intensify its accession to the alliance after the 2008 Bucharest summit.[36] Montenegro has received support for its membership from many NATO countries, including Romania and Turkey.[37][38] Montenegro adopted an Individual Partnership Action Plan in June 2008 and was invited to join the Adriatic Charter of NATO aspirants on September 25, 2008.[17][39] The country applied for a Membership Action Plan on November 5, 2008 with support of Prime Minister Milo Đukanović,[40] which was granted in December 2009.[19]

The present political climate in dubious on Montenegro's potential membership in the NATO. According to the October of 2009 poll, only 31.2% of Montenegro's populace is in support of NATO membership, while 44% is opposed.[41] The memory of NATO's 1999 bombing campaign of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its destruction and civilian casualties thereof form a crucial part of the dominating opposition to NATO membership in Montenegro, although NATO's role and approach to the Kosovo problem have further considerably aided the objection. Serbia's recent declared "military neutrality" has also influenced on Montenegro's non-decisive position on the question of NATO membership. Montenegro has begun to contribute to NATO military missions. The country plans to deploy 40 soldiers, a three member military medical team, and two officers under German command to Afghanistan in 2010. Montenegrin peacekeepers will also be deployed to Liberia and Somalia.[42]

Relations with other countries

Map of NATO in Europe
  Members of NATO
  Membership Action Plan


Armenia has signed up for the Partnership for Peace programme and the Individual Partnership Action Plan,[43] but Armenia is unlikely to join NATO as its policies often align it closer with Russia, and it remains a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Armenia pulled out of its participation in NATO military exercises in Georgia on May 8, 2009, because of NATO's Secretary-General's alleged support of Azerbaijan, possibly making it even less likely that Armenia will eventually join NATO.[44]


According to a NATO diplomatic source in August 2009 some key officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels were pushing hard for engaging Azerbaijan on the membership question. "Turkey, Romania, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the Baltic states" are among the members backing a fast track for Azerbaijan's NATO membership. While President Ilham Aliyev has generally supported neutrality since his rise to power in 2003, Azerbaijan has however hosted NATO military exercises and high-profile meetings in 2009.[45] The unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh would present a major roadblock to membership.[citation needed]


Finland participates in nearly all sub-areas of the Partnership for Peace programme, and has provided peacekeeping forces to both the Afghanistan and Kosovo missions. However, a 2005 poll indicated that the public was strongly against NATO membership.[46] The possibility of Finland's membership in NATO was one of the most important issues debated in relation to the Finnish presidential election of 2006.[47]

The main opposition candidate in the 2006 election, Sauli Niinistö of the National Coalition Party, supported Finland joining a "more European" NATO.[47] Fellow right-winger Henrik Lax of the Swedish People's Party likewise supported the concept. On the other side, president Tarja Halonen of the Social Democratic Party opposed changing the status quo, as did most other candidates in the election. Her victory and re-election to the post of president has currently put the issue of a NATO membership for Finland on hold for at least the duration of her term. Finland could however change its official position on NATO membership after the new EU treaty clarifies if there will be any new EU-level defence deal, but in the meantime Finnish Defence Forces are making technical preparations for membership, stating that it would increase Finland's security.[48] Currently no political party explicitly supports NATO membership.

Other political figures of Finland who have weighed in with opinions include former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari who has argued that Finland should join all the organizations supported by other Western democracies in order "to shrug off once and for all the burden of Finlandization".[49] Another ex-president, Mauno Koivisto, opposes the idea, arguing that NATO membership would ruin Finland's relations with Russia. Finland has received some very critical feedback from Russia for even considering the possibility of joining NATO,[50] with a 2009 study suggesting this could have repercussions for Russia's relations with the EU and NATO as a whole.[51] In October 2009, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen reiterated that Finland had no plans to join NATO, and stated that the main lesson of the 2008 South Ossetia war was the need for closer ties to Russia.[52]


Moldovan stamp commemorating Snegur and Wörner signing Moldova's Partnership for Peace agreement in 1994

Moldova does not currently have plans to join NATO. It has participated in the Partnership for Peace programme and the Individual Partnership Action Plan. The former communist government was seen as more allied with Russia and is already a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In April 2009 Moldova announced it would not participate in the June NATO military exercises.[53][54] The new ruling party, the Alliance for European Integration, elected in the Moldovan parliamentary election, July 2009, has declined to so far take any action to either move it toward membership, or withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States, and denies plans to do either.[55] Moldova also has an ongoing internal conflict with the territory of Transnistria.


In April 2009, the Polish Foreign Minister, Radosław Sikorski, suggested including Russia in NATO. In March 2010 this suggestion was repeated in an open letter co-written by German defense experts General Klaus Naumann, Frank Elbe, Ulrich Weisser, and former German Defense Minister Volker Rühe. In the letter it was suggested that Russia was needed in the wake of an emerging multi-polar world in order for NATO to counterbalance emerging Asian powers.[56] However Russian leadership has made it clear that Russia does not plan to join the alliance, preferring to keep cooperation on a lower level. The Russian envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, is quoted as saying "Great powers don't join coalitions, they create coalitions. Russia considers itself a great power," although he said that Russia did not rule out membership at some point in the future.[57]


Anti-NATO graffiti in Belgrade in 2007

Serbia originally determined in 2005, as Serbia and Montenegro, to join NATO.[citation needed] The subsequent independence of Montenegro and Kosovo have strained relations between Serbia and NATO. Serbia however joined the Partnership for Peace programme during the 2006 Riga Summit. While this programme is sometimes the first step towards full NATO membership, it is uncertain whether Serbia perceives it as signaling an intent to join the alliance. NATO historically fought Bosnian-Serbian forces during the Bosnia war and Serbia during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.[58]

Following NATO's open support to Kosovo's declaration of independence in January 2008, support for NATO integration greatly dropped. An earlier poll in September 2007 had showed that 28% of Serbian citizens supported NATO membership, with 58% supporting the Partnership for Peace.[59] The only political parties which currently support NATO integration are the minor opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Serbian Renewal Movement. The Democratic Party abandoned its pro-NATO attitude, claiming the Partnership for Peace is enough.

Although current Serbian priorities do not include NATO membership, the Alliance has offered Serbia an invitation to enter the intensified dialogue programme whenever the country is ready.[60] On October 1, 2008, Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Šutanovac signed the Information Exchange Agreement with the NATO, one of the prerequisites for fuller membership in the Partnership for Peace programme.[61]


In 1949 Sweden chose not to join NATO and declared a security policy aiming for non-alignment in peace and neutrality in war. A modified version now qualifies non-alignment in peace for possible neutrality in war.[citation needed] As such, the Swedish government decided not to participate in the membership of NATO because they wanted to remain neutral in a potential war. This position was maintained without much discussion during the Cold War. Since the 1990s however there has been an active debate in Sweden on the question of NATO membership in the post–Cold War world.[citation needed] These ideological divides were visible again in November 2006 when Sweden could either buy two new transport planes or join NATO's plane pool, and in December 2006, when Sweden was invited to join the NATO Response Force.[62][63] While the governing parties in Sweden have opposed membership, they have participated in NATO-led missions in Bosnia (IFOR and SFOR), Kosovo (KFOR) and Afghanistan (ISAF).[64][65][66]

The Swedish Centre Party and Social Democratic party have remained in favor of non-alignment.[67][68] This preference is shared by the Green party, Left party and the Christian Democrats.[69][70][71] The right wing Moderate Party as well as the Liberal party are the only parties with representation in the parliament today that are in favor of NATO membership.[72][73] Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt stated on September 18, 2007 that Swedish membership in NATO would require a "very wide" majority in Parliament, including the social democrats, and coordination with Finland.[74] A 2005 poll indicated that 46% of Swedes were opposed to NATO membership, with 22% supporting it.[75] Another poll in May 2008 showed that 37% of the Swedes are in favor of membership, while 41% are against. Support for NATO membership though, has risen dramatically since March 2008, when only 29% were in favor.[76]


At the beginning of 2008, the Ukrainian President, Prime Minister and head of parliament sent an official letter to apply for the Membership Action Plan. The idea of Ukrainian membership in NATO has gained support from a number of NATO leaders.[77] At the 2008 Bucharest summit, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer declared in a press conference that Georgia and Ukraine will join NATO. Within the NATO-Ukraine working commission, NATO officials reassured Ukraine officials that they are willing to invite their country to join the Alliance. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Alexander Grushko, announced that NATO membership for Ukraine was not in Russia's best interests and wouldn't help the relations of the two countries.[78]

Anti-NATO signs in Feodosiya in 2006

According to numerous independent polls conducted since 2002, Ukrainian public opinion on NATO membership is split, with the majority of those polled against joining the military alliance and many identifying it as a threat.[79][80] According to the FOM-Ukraine pollster, as of April 2009, 57% of Ukrainians polled were against joining the alliance, while 21% were in favor.[81] A Gallup poll conducted in October 2008 showed that 45% associated NATO as a threat to their country, while only 15% associated it with protection.[82]

Protests, such as the Crimean anti-NATO protests of 2006, have taken place by opposition blocs against the idea, and petitions signed urging the end of relations with NATO. Influential Ukrainian politicians like Yuriy Yekhanurov and Yulia Tymoshenko have stated Ukraine will not join NATO as long as the public continues opposing the move.[83] This was also confirmed by a March 6, 2008 agreement between the parliamentary coalition and opposition parties which says that any international agreements regarding Ukraine’s entry to NATO must be decided by referendum. Recently the Ukrainian government started an information campaign, aimed at informing the Ukrainian people about the consequences of membership.[79][84]

The 2010 election returned Viktor Yanukovych as Ukrainian President and marked a turnaround in Ukraine's relations with NATO. In February 2010, he stated that Ukraine's relations with NATO were currently "well-defined", and that there was "no question of Ukraine joining NATO". He said the issue of Ukrainian membership of NATO might "emerge at some point, but we will not see it in the immediate future."[85] While visiting Brussels in March 2010, he further stated that there would be no change to Ukraine's status as a member of the alliance's outreach program.[86] He later reiterated during a trip to Moscow that Ukraine would remain a "European, non-aligned state."[87][88] Then, on June 3, 2010 the Ukrainian parliament voted to exclude the goal of "integration into Euro-Atlantic security and NATO membership" from the country's national security strategy in a bill drafted by Yanukovych himself.[89] The bill forbids Ukraine's membership of any military bloc, but allows for co-operation with alliances such as NATO.[90] "European integration" is still part of Ukraine's national security strategy.[89]


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