- Formed in 1949 with the signing of the Washington Treaty, NATO is a security alliance of 30 countries from North America and Europe.
- Established in the Cold War as a bulwark against Soviet aggression, NATO’s fundamental goal is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means.
- Article 5 of the Washington Treaty states that an attack against one Ally is an attack against all — is at the core of the Alliance, a promise of collective defence.
- Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO history. It happened after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, which led the alliance into Afghanistan.
- A “NATO decision” is the expression of the collective will of all 30 member countries since all decisions are taken by consensus.
- At present, NATO has 31 members. In 1949, there were 12 founding members of the Alliance: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The other member countries are: Greece and Turkey (1952), Germany (1955), Spain (1982), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009), Montenegro (2017), North Macedonia (2020) and Finland (2023).
- NATO’s Headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium.
- Finland has become the 31st member of NATO recently, in a historic strategic shift provoked by Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
- Finland shares a 1,340km long border with Russia and during the Soviet days, both countries signed a “friendship agreement,” in which Finland agreed to be a neutral country.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year prompted Finland and its neighbor Sweden to drop decades of military non-alignment.
- While Finland and Sweden applied together for membership in NATO, only Finland joined the military alliance as both countries faced certain hurdles in their bid for membership.
Implications for India
- The fall of the Soviet Union with the end of the Cold War, the rise of India and China, the deepening of the India-US relationship and the war on Ukraine have profoundly affected India-Russia relations.
- India has not joined the US in supporting sanctions against Russia, showing that it follows an independent foreign policy. It has imported oil from Russia at a lesser rate and has engaged in dialogues and discussions at various summits and meetings.
- Even though India has not supported any sanctions against Russia, it has, along with the US, Japan, and Australia, formed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), which is also said as the alternative to NATO in the Asian region.
- India engages with NATO in terms of strategic dialogues as it states that it wants to engage with everyone who takes part actively in issues affecting globally. The organisation welcomes countries of South and South East Asia, including India and China, to take part in dialogues and discussions actively.
- However, India pursues its foreign policy by taking into consideration its interests first which are, respecting the sovereignty of nations, maintaining goodwill with all, and not taking any sides as we witnessed during the cold war but openly supporting and articulating diplomacy and peace to resolve issues rather than war.
- The international scenario is changing with new partnerships entering into global forums. The world is witnessing the rise of several powers capable of forming or entering into alliances to counter the more extensive forces.
- Amid all these events, India continues to follow its independent foreign policy by giving primacy to diplomacy and peace, which shows that no matter who is on the other side, India will always aim for peace and diplomacy, along with the safety and security of itself.