Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the world’s most powerful military alliance, met on Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium Discuss Russia’s military buildup along the Ukrainian border.
Eight years after seizing the Crimea peninsula from neighbors, Moscow has deployed about 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border in recent months, Washington and Kiev said.
On Thursday, the NATO-Russia Council will hold further talks with Russia and members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna.
So, who are these organizations and what do they do?
NATO, OSCE and EU members
NATO consists of 30 countries.
Their main role is to protect their member countries through political and military means. The alliance allows European and North American members to discuss security issues.
All NATO members are also part of the OSCE.
The 57 OSCE states are spread across North America, Europe, the Caucasus and Asia. It is the largest regional security agency and a forum for discussing security issues such as arms control and “terrorism”.
Six European Union (EU) members, 27 of which are not NATO members – Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden.
NATO History and Expansion
NATO was established in 1949 by 12 member countries – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States. Its purpose was to contain Soviet expansion and encourage political integration in Europe.
In recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought assurances from NATO to halt expansion and end military cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia.
In 2004, seven Eastern European countries joined the alliance.
NATO allows member states to admit new countries by consensus. Of the countries that joined in 2004, all but Slovenia are part of the Warsaw Pact — a defense treaty established in 1955 between the Soviet Union and seven satellite states.
In 2020, North Macedonia became the latest member of the agreement.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine have expressed their desire to join NATO.
NATO military operations
Article 5 of the NATO Treaty states that the principle of collective defense is at the heart of the original NATO treaty. This clause means that an attack on one ally is considered an attack on all members.
NATO’s military operations began with naval blockades and air campaigns during the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995.
In 1999, NATO launched an airstrike that forced Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo and end the conflict there.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, NATO invoked Article 5 and joined US and British forces in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. During a 20-year war, 50 NATO and partner nations have contributed to the Afghan mission. At its peak in 2011, nearly 140,000 U.S. and allied troops were stationed in the country.
NATO military spending
With $778 billion in military spending in 2020, the United States is the world’s largest military spender, accounting for 3.7 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Among NATO members, the UK is the second-highest military spender, spending $59.2 billion in 2020, or 2.2% of its GDP.
Iceland does not have its own army, so its military expenditure is zero.
The 2022 NATO military budget is USD 1.77 billion (EUR 1.56 billion). Member States contribute to the budget according to a cost-sharing formula derived from each country’s GNI.
The U.S. and Germany contributed the highest proportions, totaling more than 30 percent of the military budget.