The rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine have shed light on the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the region.
NATO, a European and US defence alliance headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, was founded in 1949 to ‘promote peace and stability and protect its members’ during the Cold War.
Another goal of the US-led NATO was to protect Western European countries from the threat posed by the Soviet Union and to counter the spread of Communism after World War II.
Here’s what CNN has to know about NATO:
Which NATO member states?
Twelve constituent countries — the United States, Canada, Britain and France — signed the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, pledging to protect each other through political and military means.
NATO has since grown to include a total of 30 members.
These countries are; Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and usa.
Does NATO have a special army?
No. NATO relies on its member states to contribute to their forces, that is, basically as strong as the individual forces of each nation. It is in the interest of all members to ensure that each country devotes sufficient resources to its defense.
This has been one of the main points of congestion in the alliance, with the United States and Britain frequently criticizing other member states for not contributing fairly to NATO.
Since nato’s founding in 1949, US military spending has always eclipsed the budgets of other allies. That gap grew when the U.S. increased spending after the 9/11 attacks.
According to NATO guidelines, each country must spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, but most countries do not achieve this goal.
Former US President Donald Trump has been particularly outspoken on the issue, urging European countries to do more and asking them to pay their fair share of NATO, which the US has heavily subsidised.
According to nato’s latest forecasts, the seven member states– Greece, the United States, Croatia, Britain, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Romania and France — reached their 2 percent target in 2021.
In 2014, only the UNITED States, Britain and Greece spent more than 2 percent. At that time, all other member states committed to increasing military spending within 10 years, and most countries kept their promises.
How has NATO’s jurisdiction changed over time?
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, NATO developed and expanded.
NATO members have since served as peacekeepers in Bosnia, fought against human trafficking and been deployed to block refugees in the Mediterranean.
The Alliance is also responding to new ways in which conflicts can arise, such as establishing a cyber defense centre in Estonia and recognising space as a new area in 2019.
What’s he doing about the Ukraine crisis?
Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine in recent weeks, while NATO has sought to increase its presence in member states in eastern Europe.
According to NATO, there are four multinational battle groups the size of battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
These war groups are led by Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States. NATO announced on January 7th that they are robust and combat-ready forces.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is ready to rapidly strengthen this presence by sending additional forces and capabilities to the region.
The Biden administration has put up to 8,500 U.S. troops on alert for a possible deployment to eastern Europe.
Some NATO countries have also begun sending weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.
The United States has sent two arms shipments to Ukraine, including 300 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 800 bunker-piercing bombs and hundreds of thousands of munitions.
Britain has supplied Ukraine with new light anti-tank weapons, and the Czech government has agreed to send more than 4,000 152-millimeter-caliber artillery shells.
NATO has no troops in Ukraine, and plans to send troops from the alliance to the country have not been announced.
But while Ukraine is not a NATO member, the alliance also gives strategic advice to the country, describing the relationship as ‘one of NATO’s most important partnerships’.
Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, NATO has launched a series of projects to support Ukraine’s capacity building in key areas, including cyber defense, logistics and the modernization of the country’s command and control. It has also increased its presence in the member states closest to Russia.
Why is Germany criticized?
Berlin has recently been the target of criticism for its policy of not exporting weapons to crisis zones.
Germany has so far refused to send weapons to Ukraine and instead promised to send a field hospital, medical training and 5,000 military helmets to Kiev.
Because of Germany’s complicated history, governments are always wary of military spending, and the idea of being directly involved in a conflict is not accepted.
Germany, along with other countries, has been criticized for failing to meet its target of spending 2 percent of its GDP.
Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is already the third largest spender on NATO.
It comes after Germany, which allocated an estimated $64 billion to defense in 2021, Britain, which spent $72 billion on its defense, and the United States, which spent $811 billion.
U.S. defense spending is more than double the total amount spent by all NATO countries.
The new German government has committed to further increasing spending to meet NATO’s 2 percent target, but has remained committed to arms exports.
German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said yesterday, “The German government has decided not to send lethal weapons to crisis areas because we do not want to further inflame the situation. We want to offer support in other ways.”
Germany is home to more than 30,000 US military forces and their families. It is also one of the few NATO countries hosting US nuclear weapons.
British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said his country did not judge Germany for its decision, adding, “The advantage of being in NATO is that you have 30 allies, so we can all help Ukraine our way. Obviously, The UK believes that ukrainians need lethal weapons assistance, which is a tactical defense, but we do not judge other countries for their decision.”