Foreign relations of NATO
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) maintains foreign relations with many non-member countries across the globe. NATO runs a number of programs which provide a framework for the partnerships between itself and these non-member nations, typically based on that countries location. These include the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace.
Five EU member states, all who have declared their non-alignment with military alliances, are not NATO members: Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden. Switzerland, which is surrounded by the EU, has also maintained their neutrality by staying out of the bloc.
Armenia has signed up for the Partnership for Peace programme and the Individual Partnership Action Plan, 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 8 May 2009, because of NATO's Secretary-General's alleged support of Azerbaijan, possibly making it even less likely that Armenia will eventually join NATO.
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 non-belligerency (though not neutrality due to the unresolved conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh) since his rise to power in 2003, Azerbaijan has hosted NATO military exercises and high-profile meetings in 2009. The unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh would present a major roadblock to membership. Azerbaijan made its policy of not being aligned with a geopolitical/military structure official when it became a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2011.
Cyprus is the only EU member states that is neither a NATO member state nor a member of the PfP program. The Parliament of Cyprus voted in February 2011 to apply for membership in the program, but President Demetris Christofias vetoed the decision as it would hamper his attempts to negotiate an end to the nation's dispute with the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and demilitarize the island. Turkey, a full member of NATO, is likely to veto any attempt by Cyprus to engage with NATO until the dispute is resolved. The winner of Cyprus' presidential election in February 2013, Nicos Anastasiades, has stated that he intends to apply for membership in the PfP program soon after taking over.
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. 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.
The main opposition candidate in the 2006 election, Sauli Niinistö of the National Coalition Party, supported Finland joining a "more European" NATO. 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. 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". 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, with a 2009 study suggesting this could have repercussions for Russia's relations with the EU and NATO as a whole. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Serbia originally determined in 2005, as Serbia and Montenegro, to join NATO. 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.
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. 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. 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 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, Left party and the Christian Democrats. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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 continues opposing the move. This was also confirmed by a 6 March 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. In 2008 the Ukrainian government started an information campaign, aimed at informing the Ukrainian people about the consequences of membership.
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. "European integration" is still part of Ukraine's national security strategy.
In 2006, the now United States Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder together with James Goldgeier conceived the term "Global NATO". Subsequently ideas for membership of various states were floated: Brazil, South Africa, Singapore, India, Israel, and most frequently of Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Colombia. The idea is to transform the Cold War institution into a "Global alliance of democracies".
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Colombia has always been a strong supporter of the NATO and its actions. In 2009, the Colombian Government asked to be part of the ISAF and work with the Spanish contingent in the mine detection operations, but this didn't materialize due to the internal conflict that Colombia faced. However, In April 2012, Colombia was amended into the NATO ATP-56(B) which gave Colombia the "associate" status and to re-establish air to air fuel with NATO member countries.
In June 2013, the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos announced that Colombia will be signing a Cooperation Agreement with the NATO in hopes of joining the military alliance. He also stated that "If we can achieve peace, the army will be in a place where it will be able to distinguish itself internationally as well. We are already doing it on many fronts."
In September 2011, The NATO alliance invited India to be a partner in its ballistic missile defence (BMD). According to the reports a TOP NATO official stated addressing Indian representatives, "You have a missile threat that confronts you. We have a missile threat that confronts us. It’s a different one, but our ability to defend against it could be the same. We have cooperation on those kind of issues. [..]Democracies face challenges that are common. We need to work together and resolve. We need to cooperate, because individually we cannot deal with such threats. It is better to deal with such issues commonly than deal with them individually" V. K Saraswat, the architect of Indian BMD program, subsequently informed, "We are analysing the report. It is under consideration."
U.S. NATO Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder has suggested that India should turn away from its non-aligned role and join NATO. Voice of Russia analyst quoted Robert Pshel, head of NATO’s Information Office in Moscow as saying "I agree with Mr Daalder that many modern threats are global, and tackling them without emerging powers like India is hardly possible." Daalder further stated, “The dialogue should be on how India's concept of its own security and of international security fits in with NATO's concept of international security and how NATO as an actor and India as a country can work together to promote security,”
According to some reports The United States and India have already studied the possibility of a joint missile defence system, albeit former Defence Secretary Robert Gates stated that "talks were only in their early stages." There were some doubts regarding Indian Armed Forces's level of participation in case an NATO-sponsored war breaks out in Asia. Boris Volkonsky of the Russian Strategic Research Institute was quoted as saying, "an ally like India would strengthen Washington’s hand in South and Southwest Asia and other world areas." Some reports purported that there is one ulterior motive which is a common Indian and American fear of the "rising dragon of China".
And while most members of the Indian strategic community readily admit that NATO’s Afghanistan mission coincides with India’s own strategic interest in stabilising that country, they do not necessarily conclude from this that India and NATO should develop closer cooperation. It is believed that many Indian analysts harbour doubts about the possible implications for their country’s international position should it develop closer ties with NATO. In a report published by NATO review it said, “The choice should be clear: exploiting NATO’s potential as a forum for consultation and cooperation is a 'win-win' situation, both for India and for the Alliance.”
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NATO-Mongolia Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme was approved on 19 March 2012 and it's the first application of the new policy for flexible partnerships with global partners.
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