Enlargement of NATO
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 joined the organization, amid much debate within the organization and Russian opposition. Another expansion came with the accession of seven Central 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 29 March 2004, shortly before the 2004 Istanbul summit. Most recently, Albania and Croatia joined on 1 April 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, and Georgia. The incorporation of countries formerly in the Soviet sphere of influence has been a cause of increased tension between NATO countries and Russia.
- 1 Past enlargements
- 2 Criteria and process
- 3 Current status
- 4 Membership debates
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
NATO has added new members six times since its founding in 1949 to comprise 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. The early years of the Cold War saw a stark divide between Capitalist ideologies, backed by NATO, and Communist satellite states of the Soviet Union. This divide encouraged the anti-Communist governments of Greece and Turkey to join NATO in 1952. Greece would suspend its membership in 1974, over the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, but rejoined in 1980 with Turkey's cooperation. The Bonn–Paris conventions ended the allies occupation of West Germany, and were ratified in part on the basis that West Germany join NATO, which it did in 1955. Though initially isolationist, Spain under Francisco Franco was heavily anti-Communist, and bound by regular defense agreements with NATO countries. After its transition to democracy, Spain came under pressure to normalize its European relations, including joining NATO, which it did in 1982. A referendum in 1986 confirmed popular support for this.
The first post-Cold War expansion of NATO came with German reunification on 3 October 1990, when the former East Germany became part of the Federal Republic of Germany and the alliance. This had been agreed in the Two Plus Four Treaty earlier in the year. To secure Soviet approval of a united Germany remaining in NATO, it was agreed that foreign troops and nuclear weapons would not be stationed in the east, and there are diverging view on whether negotiators gave commitments regarding further NATO expansion east. Jack Matlock, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union during its final years, said that the West gave a "clear commitment" not to expand, and declassified documents indicate that Soviet negotiators were given the impression that NATO membership was off the table for countries such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, or Poland. In 1996, Gorbachev wrote in his Memoirs, that "during the negotiations on the unification of Germany they gave assurances that NATO would not extend its zone of operation to the east," and repeated this view in an interview in 2008. According to Robert Zoellick, a State Department official involved in the Two Plus Four negotiating process, this appears to be a misperception, and no formal commitment regarding enlargement was made.
In February 1991, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia (as Czechoslovakia) formed the Visegrád Group to push for European integration under the European Union and NATO, as well as to conduct military reforms in line with NATO standards. NATO's reaction to enlargement of former Warsaw Pact countries was initially negative, but by the 1991 Rome summit in November, members agreed to a series of goals that could lead to accession, such as market and democratic liberalization, and that NATO should be a partner in these efforts. In subsequent years, wider forums for regional cooperation between NATO and its eastern neighbors were set up, including the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (later the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) and the Partnership for Peace. While the other Visegrád members were invited to join NATO at its 1997 Madrid summit, Slovakia was excluded based on what some countries considered undemocratic actions by nationalist Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. Romania and Slovenia were both considered for invitation in 1997, and each had the backing of a prominent NATO member, France and Italy respectively, but support for enlargement was not unanimous, particularly in the U.S. Congress. In an open letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton, more than forty foreign policy experts including Bill Bradley, Sam Nunn, Gary Hart, Paul Nitze, and Robert McNamara expressed their concerns about this expansion as both expensive and unnecessary given the lack of an external threat from Russia at that time.
Domestic politics in Eastern European countries continued to push for more enlargement, and political parties reluctant to move on NATO membership, such as the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Slovak HZDS, were voted out of office. At the 1999 summit, where Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic officially joined, NATO also issued new guidelines for membership with individualized "Membership Action Plans" for Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In May 2000, these countries joined with Croatia to form the Vilnius group in order to cooperate and lobby for common NATO membership, and by the 2002 Prague summit seven were invited for membership, which took place at the 2004 Istanbul summit. Croatia also started a Membership Action Plan at the 2002 summit, and together with Albania, was invited to join NATO at the 2008 Bucharest summit and they did just prior to the 2009 Strasbourg–Kehl summit.
|18 February 1952||Greece||First|
|9 May 1955||West Germany||Second|
|30 May 1982||Spain||Third|
|3 October 1990||German reunification|
|12 March 1999||Czech Republic||Fourth|
|29 March 2004||Bulgaria||Fifth|
|1 April 2009||Albania||Sixth|
Criteria and process
|This article is outdated. (September 2014)|
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.
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 Greece blocks the Republic of Macedonia's accession to NATO, due to the disagreement over the use of the name Macedonia. Turkey similarly opposes the participation of the Republic of Cyprus with NATO institutions as long as the Cyprus dispute is not resolved.
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 seven countries: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Montenegro. In April 2011 Serbia's request for an IPAP was approved, and the agreement is currently under negotiations.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Serbia 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 is viewed as an additional stage before being invited to enter the alliance Membership Action Plan (MAP), that may complement that country's Individual Partnership Action Plan. As of 2010, Georgia was engaged in an Intensified Dialogue with NATO after being promised a Membership Action Plan in the spring of 2008. Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina participate in Intensified Dialogue and have also received Membership Action Plans. Serbia was offered an Intensified Dialogue program on 3 April 2008, but it has not responded to the offer.
In the 2000s, the government of Ukraine was leaning towards NATO membership, and a deeper cooperation with the alliance was set by the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan signed in 2002. It was later agreed that the question of joining NATO should be answered by a national referendum at some point in the future. In April 2005, Ukraine entered into Intensified Dialogue with NATO, and during the 2008 Bucharest summit NATO declared that Ukraine could become a member of NATO when it wants to join and meets the criteria for accession. However, by 2010 Ukraine had announced that it no longer had NATO membership as a goal under the foreign policy of President Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine has a close relationship with NATO, and it is the most active member of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.
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:
- 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. Once a country is agreed to meet the requirements, NATO can issue that country an invitation to begin accession talks. Currently, three countries have a Membership Action Plan: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro.
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.[needs update] Previously, at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, both countries had not received MAPs but instead a vague promise to be admitted to NATO at some point; however, Georgia's war with Russia later that year crippled its military and revealed how contentious their prospective membership was. 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. Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina were designated as "aspirant countries" at the North Atlantic Council meeting on 7 December 2011.
Four states currently have an advanced partnership with NATO but have not expressed a desire for membership. In addition, Serbia is currently negotiating an IPAP, but does not wish to become a full member of NATO.
|Country||Partnership for Peace||Individual Partnership Action Plan||Intensified Dialogue|
|Azerbaijan||May 1994||May 2005|
|Armenia||October 1994||December 2005|
|Kazakhstan||May 1994||January 2006|
|Moldova||May 1994||May 2006|
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. Macedonia was part of the Vilnius group, and had formed the Adriatic Charter with Croatia and Albania in 2003 to better coordinate NATO accession.
|Country||Partnership for Peace||Individual Partnership Action Plan||Intensified Dialogue||Membership Action Plan|
|Macedonia||November 1995||April 1999|
|Montenegro||December 2006||June 2008||April 2008||December 2009|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||December 2006||January 2008||April 2008||[Note 1]April 2010|
|Ukraine||February 1994||[Note 2]||April 2005|
|Georgia||March 1994||October 2004||September 2006|
- Invited to join the MAP, but no Annual National Programme will be launched until one of the conditions for the OHR closure – the transfer of control of immovable defence property to the central Bosnian authorities from the two regional political entities – is fulfilled.
- NATO-Ukraine Action Plan adopted on 22 November 2002.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Partnership for Peace in 2006, and signed an agreement on security cooperation in March 2007. The nation began further cooperation with NATO within their Individual Partnership Action Plan in January 2008. Bosnia then started the process of Intensified Dialogue at the 2008 Bucharest summit. The country was invited to join the Adriatic Charter of NATO aspirants on 25 September 2008. 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.
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. 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 2 October 2009, Haris Silajdžić, the Bosniak Member of the Presidency, announced official application for Membership Action Plan. On 22 April 2010, NATO agreed to launch the Membership Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but with certain conditions attached. Turkey is thought to be the biggest supporter of Bosnian membership, and heavily influenced the decision.
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's chances of joining NATO may depend on Serbia's attitude towards the alliance, since the leadership of Republika Srpska might be reluctant to go against Serbian interests. An August 2010 poll showed that 70% of the country supports NATO-membership, but results were very different in the two constituent entities. While 90% of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina supported NATO-membership, only 33% in Republika Srpska did.
Georgia moved quickly following the Rose Revolution in 2003 to seek closer ties with NATO. Georgia's northern neighbor, Russia, 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. On 21 November 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev while addressing soldiers in Vladikavkaz near the Georgian border stated that the 2008 invasion had prevented any further NATO enlargement into the former Soviet sphere.
A nonbinding referendum in 2008 resulted in 77% of voters supporting NATO accession. In May 2013, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili stated that his goal is to get a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for his country from NATO in 2014. In June 2014, diplomats from NATO suggested that while a MAP was unlikely, a package of "reinforced cooperation" agreements was a possible compromise. Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed that this could include the building of military capabilities and armed forces training.
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. 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. The ICJ ruled in December 2011 that Greece was wrong to have blocked its neighbor's bid. Greece may also block Macedonia's accession to the European Union over the naming dispute.
A poll following the summit showed that 82.5% of citizens surveyed opposed changing the constitutional name in order to join NATO. NATO membership in general is supported by 85.2% of the population. 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.
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.
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 3 June 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. Montenegro then signed an agreement with the United States, in which Montenegro will destroy its outdated weaponry as a precondition for NATO membership. In late 2007, Montenegro's Defence Minister Boro Vučinić said that Montenegro would intensify its accession to the alliance after the 2008 Bucharest summit. Montenegro has received support for its membership from many NATO countries, including Romania and Turkey. Montenegro adopted an Individual Partnership Action Plan in June 2008 and was invited to join the Adriatic Charter of NATO aspirants on 25 September 2008.
The country applied for a Membership Action Plan on 5 November 2008 with support of Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, which was granted in December 2009. Đukanović reiterated his support after the 2014 Crimean crisis, and in May 2014, Đukanović said that he hoped an invitation would come at the 2014 NATO summit in September. Russian MP Mikhail Degtyarev of the Nationalist LDPR responded by saying that NATO membership would make Montenegro "a legitimate target of Russian missiles." However in June 2014, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen suggested that NATO would instead open "intensified talks" with the aim of inviting Montenegro to join the allience by the end of 2015.
The memory of NATO's 1999 bombing campaign of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and resulting civilian casualties form a crucial part of the opposition to NATO membership in Montenegro. Despite these past events, the Montenegrin military has been contributing to NATO military missions. The country has been participating in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan since 2010. Montenegrin peacekeepers have also been deployed in Liberia and Somalia among other assignments. According to the March 2014 poll, 46% of Montenegro's populace supported NATO membership, while 42% opposed it.
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. 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, and continues to be a prominent issue in Finland politics. Finland has made various technical preparations for membership, and in April 2014, announced they would sign a "Memorandum of Understanding" with NATO on Finland's readiness to receive military assistance and to aid NATO in equipment maintenance. Finnish Defense Minister Carl Haglund also emphasized that this memorandum was not a step towards membership.
Currently no political party supports NATO membership as part of their platform, though a number of members of the National Coalition Party have expressed individual support, including the current President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, as well as former President 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." Two other ex-presidents from the Social Democratic Party, Tarja Halonen and Mauno Koivisto, have publicly opposed 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, with a 2009 study suggesting this could have repercussions for Russia's relations with the EU and NATO as a whole. Following the 2008 South Ossetia war, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen reiterated that Finland had no plans to join NATO, and stated that the main lesson of the war was the need for closer ties to Russia. In a June 2014 interview in the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, Vladimir Putin’s personal envoy Sergey Alexandrovich Markov accused Finland of extreme "Russophobia" and suggested that Finland joining NATO could start World War III.
A survey conducted by pollster Taloustutkimus for YLE in June 2013 found that 52 percent of Finns opposed membership of NATO, while 29 percent supported and 19 percent were undecided. In March 2014, during the 2014 Crimean crisis, one survey showed only 22 percent supporting membership, though a second showed that 53 percent would support membership if Finnish leadership recommended it. Support for a military alliance with neighbor Sweden was also high, at 54 percent, and Finland could possibly seek an enlarged role for NORDEFCO. Finnish Minister of Defence Carl Haglund suggested that a referendum on NATO membership could be held sometime after the next Finnish parliamentary election.
A new survey published on 10 September 2014 concluded that 26 percent of respondents now support joining NATO, however 57 percent still does not support the idea, with 17 percent undecided.
The Republic of Kosovo[a] aspires to join NATO. Enver Hoxhaj, Kosovo's Minister of Foreign Affairs, has stated that the country's goal is to be a NATO member state by 2022. However, four NATO member states, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia, do not recognize Kosovo's independence. United Nations membership, which Kosovo does not have, is considered to be necessary for NATO membership.
Moldova is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace. Moldova's constitution forbids the country from joining a military alliance, but some Moldovans, such as Moldovan Minister of Defense Vitalie Marinuţa, have suggested joining NATO. Moldova could also effectively join NATO by unifying with Romania. Following the 2014 Crimean Crisis, NATO officials warned that Russia might seek to annex Transnistria, a breakaway Moldovan region. The separatist issue, along with NATO's fears of upsetting Russia, could preclude Moldova from joining NATO.
The NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992 and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 resulted in strained relations between Serbia and NATO. Relations were further strained following Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 while a protectorate of NATO. However, Serbia was invited and joined the Partnership for Peace programme during the 2006 Riga Summit.
Although NATO membership is not a stated goal, the Alliance has offered Serbia an invitation to enter the intensified dialogue programme whenever the country is ready. In 2007, Serbia's Parliament passed a resolution which declared their military neutrality until such time as a referendum was held on the issue. On 1 October 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. In April 2011 Serbia's request for an IPAP was approved by NATO, and the agreement is currently under negotiations. Serbia submitted a draft IPAP in May 2013.
A poll in September 2007 indicated that 28% of Serbian citizens supported NATO membership, with 58% supporting membership in the Partnership for Peace program. A recent poll in July 2013 indicated that support for NATO membership had dropped to 13%. The minor Liberal Democratic Party and Serbian Renewal Movement remain the most vocal political parties in favor of NATO membership. Although Serbia aspires to join the European Union, Serbia may seek to maintain military neutrality, joining neither NATO nor the CSTO.
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. 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. 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. While the governing parties in Sweden have opposed membership, they have participated in NATO-led missions in Bosnia (IFOR and SFOR), Kosovo (KFOR), Afghanistan (ISAF) and Libya (Operation Unified Protector).
The Swedish Centre Party and Social Democratic party have remained in favor of non-alignment. This preference is shared by the Green party and the Left party. 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. During the 2014 Crimean Crisis, some Swedish leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Jan Björklund of the Liberal People's Party and Göran Hägglund, the leader of the Christian Democratic party, suggested that the country should consider joining NATO. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt stated on 18 September 2007 that Swedish membership in NATO would require a "very wide" majority in Parliament, including the social democrats, and coordination with Finland. A 2005 poll indicated that 46% of Swedes were opposed to NATO membership, with 22% supporting it. 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. Support dipped again in 2011 to 23%, before rising to 32% in May 2013. In March 2014, a poll showed 31% in favor and 50% opposed.
Ukraine's present and future relationship with NATO has been politically divisive, and is part of a larger debate between Ukraine's political and cultural ties to both the European Union and Russia. It established ties to the alliance with a NATO-Ukraine Action Plan on 22 November 2002, and became the first CIS country to join NATO's Partnership for Peace initiative in February 2005. Then in April 2005, Ukraine entered into the Intensified Dialogue programme with NATO.
In March 2008, under Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine sent an official letter of application a Membership Action Plan (MAP), the first step in joining NATO. These leaders however guaranteed their opposition that membership in any military alliance would not pass without public approval in a referendum. This idea had gained support from a number of NATO leaders, particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe. Russian leaders like Prime Minister and President-Elect Dmitri Medvedev made clear their opposition to Ukraine membership, and leading up to the April 2008 Bucharest summit their emissary actively lobbied against a Ukrainian MAP. After some debate among members at the summit, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer declared in a press conference that Ukraine, together with Georgia, would someday join NATO, but neither would begin Membership Action Plans. At this summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his last international speech before switching jobs with Medvedev, listed his grievances with NATO, and called Ukrainian membership "a direct threat" to his country.
According to numerous independent polls conducted since 2002, Ukrainian public opinion on NATO membership is split, with the majority of those polled generally against joining the military alliance and many identifying it as a threat. According to the FOM-Ukraine pollster, as of April 2009, 57% of Ukrainians polled were against joining the alliance, while 21% were in favor. 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. And a Pew Research Center poll in March 2010 further showed the opposition was particularly high, at 74%, among ethnic Russians. Protests, such as the 2006 anti-NATO protests in Feodosiya, 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 opposed the move.
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." 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. He later reiterated during a trip to Moscow that Ukraine would remain a "European, non-aligned state." Then, on 3 June 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. The bill forbids Ukraine's membership of any military bloc, but allows for co-operation with alliances such as NATO.
Following months of "Euromaidan" street protests that began because of his refusal to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of deals from Russia, President Yanukovych fled Kiev in February 2014, ultimately to Russia, and parliament voted to remove him from his post. This brought another possible change in direction of Ukraine's association with Europe and by extension NATO, and protests in ethnically Russian areas led to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March. As part of an effort to assuage concerned groups, newly installed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk addressed the topic in a Russian language speech on 18 March 2014, emphasizing that Ukraine is not seeking NATO membership. U.S. President Barack Obama echoed this position the following week, while however calling for greater NATO presence in Eastern Europe. Professor Edward W. Walker of UC Berkeley's Program in Eurasian and East European Studies proposed a trilateral treaty between the US, Russia, and Ukraine that would permanently cement Ukraine's neutrality. However, NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that NATO membership is still an option for Ukraine, and subsequent polling showed a sharp decline in opposition to membership.
In response to growing Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and the alleged deployment of around 1,000 Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, the Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced his intentions to resume the bid for NATO integration on 29 August 2014.
Ireland, Austria, and Switzerland are all members of the Partnership for Peace, and all border NATO member states. Malta is also a member of the Partnership for Peace and the European Union. However, each country has a long-standing policy of neutrality. Cyprus is the only European United Nations member state that is not a member of the Partnership for Peace, with any treaty blocked by Turkey's concerns regarding the Cyprus dispute. In 2009, Russian envoy Dmitry Rogozin did not rule out joining NATO at some point, but stated that Russia was currently more interested in leading a coalition as a great power. Russia, Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, an alternative military alliance. Azerbaijan has committed to a policy of neutrality, but has not ruled out eventually joining NATO or the CSTO.
Some have proposed expanding NATO outside of Europe, which would require amending Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Christopher Sands of the Hudson Institute proposed Mexican membership of NATO in order to enhance NATO cooperation with Mexico and develop a "North American pillar" for regional security. In June 2013, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated his hope that Colombia's cooperation with NATO could result in NATO membership, though his Foreign Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon, quickly clarified that Colombia is not actively seeking NATO membership. Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier proposed a "global NATO" that would incorporate democratic states from around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, and India. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani suggested expanding NATO to include Singapore, Israel, Australia, India, and Japan.
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