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Major non-NATO ally

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  United States
  Major non-NATO allies
  Former major non-NATO allies (Afghanistan)

A major non-NATO ally (MNNA) is a designation given by the United States government to countries that have strategic working relationships with the U.S. Armed Forces while not being members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While the status does not automatically constitute a mutual defense pact (as would be the case through NATO membership) with the United States, it does confer a variety of military and financial advantages that are otherwise unobtainable by non-NATO countries. There are currently 19 major non-NATO allies across four continents: 11 in Asia, 4 in Africa, 3 in South America, and 2 in Oceania.


MNNA status was first created in 1987,[1] when Congress added section 2350a — otherwise known as the Sam Nunn Amendment — to Title 10 of the United States Code.[2] It stipulated that cooperative research and development agreements could be enacted with non-NATO allies by the Secretary of Defense with the concurrence of the Secretary of State. The initial MNNAs were Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.[1] In 1996, major non-NATO allies received additional military and financial benefits when section 2321k was added to Title 22 of the United States Code (also known as section 517 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961), which added MNNAs to many of the same exemptions from the Arms Export Control Act that were enjoyed by NATO members. It also authorized the President to designate a country as an MNNA thirty days after notifying Congress.[3] When enacted, the statute designated the initial five countries as major non-NATO allies and added Jordan and New Zealand to the list.

New Zealand[edit]

U.S.–New Zealand strategic and military cooperation suffered a setback after the breakdown of the ANZUS Treaty in 1984, triggered by disagreements over nuclear ship entry.[4] The designation of New Zealand as an MNNA in 1997 reflected the warming of bilateral relations between the two countries.[5] In June 2012, New Zealand signed a partnership arrangement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), further strengthening and consolidating relations with the United States.[6]


In 1998, President Bill Clinton named Argentina as an MNNA for the "Argentine compromise and contribution to international peace and security" that was materialized in its participation in the Gulf War (Argentina was the only South American country to join the coalition's fight against Iraq), and for its continuing support for United Nations peacekeeping missions.[7][8]


When Congress enacted the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY 2003 on September 30, 2002, it required that Taiwan be "treated as though it were designated a major non-NATO ally."[9] Despite some initial misgivings about Congress's perceived intrusion into the President's foreign affairs authority, the Bush administration subsequently submitted a letter to Congress on August 29, 2003, designating Taiwan as a de facto MNNA.[9]

Thailand, Philippines, and Singapore[edit]

Around the same time as Taiwan's admission, invitations were sent to Thailand and the Philippines, both of which accepted the offer.

Singapore, a long-term host of a U.S. Air Force training squadron and a major U.S. Navy non-home port, was reportedly offered a similar arrangement as the Philippines and Thailand, but turned down the offer to allay concerns of its neighbors of strong Singaporean military ties with Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Israel.[10][11] However, in October 2003, President George W. Bush and his Singaporean counterpart Goh Chok Tong announced their intention to conclude a major bilateral Strategic Framework Agreement for a Closer Cooperation Partnership in Defence and Security (SFA), the details of which remained secret; it was signed on July 12, 2005.[10][12]


The designation of certain countries as MNNAs has not been without controversy, as has been the case with Pakistan, which was designated as an MNNA by President George W. Bush in 2004.[13][14] In 2017, Ted Poe (RTX) and Rick Nolan (DMN) from the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 3000; a bill to revoke Pakistan's position as an MNNA, citing inadequate counterterrorism efforts, the harboring of Osama bin Laden, and consistent Pakistani support for the Taliban.[15] The bill never received a vote, but in 2021, U.S. Representative Andy Biggs introduced H.R. 35 — another version of the legislation.

In 2017, Joseph Dunford, erstwhile chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence of having ties to terrorist groups.[16] Reuters reported that "possible Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally."[17] In January 2023, Biggs introduced a bill to remove Pakistan's MNNA status.[18]


In May 2015, President Barack Obama declared his intention to designate Tunisia as an MNNA while hosting his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi at the White House.[19][20]


In 2019, President Donald Trump designated Brazil as an MNNA[21] for "Brazil's recent commitments to increase defense cooperation with the United States" after receiving a working visit from his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.[22]

NSA Bahrain base is home to US Naval Forces Central Command and US Fifth Fleet
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during a meeting held at the Pentagon, April 5, 2017


On January 31, 2022, President Joe Biden announced that Qatar would be designated as an MNNA, citing its assistance during the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.[23] "This past year, our partnership with Qatar has been central to many of our most vital interests," Biden commented. "I'm notifying Congress that I will designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally to reflect the importance of our relationship; I think it's long overdue." This relationship serves as a major upgrade for the relations between the U.S. and Qatar. It is the third country in the Gulf region to become a major non-NATO ally after Bahrain and Kuwait.[24][25]


In March 2022, President Joe Biden designated Colombia as an MNNA, stating: "I've said for a long time Colombia is a keystone to our shared efforts to build a hemisphere as prosperous, secure and democratic ... Today I'm proud to announce that I intend to designate Colombia a major non-NATO ally because that's exactly what you are. A major, Major non-NATO ally."[26]


On 23 May 2024, President Joe Biden announced that Kenya would be granted MNNA status as the 19th nation, in recognition of its willingness to lead an intervention in Haiti.[27]

Potential MNNAs[edit]

Some countries might be close to a designation:[28]


Though Armenia is currently a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is headed by Russia, there have been calls for the country to withdraw from the alliance and realign its security needs with NATO.[29][30] Several politicians and political parties have called on the Armenian government to either seek full membership in NATO or become an MNNA.[31] The European Party of Armenia and the National Democratic Pole have campaigned in favor of Armenia's membership in NATO, while the Armenian National Movement Party calls for developing deeper relations with NATO.[32][33][34][35] The Helsinki Citizens' Assembly presented a document of recommendations to American politician Nancy Pelosi during her visit to Yerevan in September 2022; one of the recommendations was to provide MNNA status to Armenia.[36] Some American politicians, such as Sam Brownback, have also campaigned for Armenia to be granted MNNA status. On 21 June 2023, Brownback stated: "Armenia is a natural long-term ally of the United States. Armenia must be given major non-NATO ally status of the U.S."[37][38]

On 3 September 2023, during an interview, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that it was a strategic mistake for Armenia to solely rely on Russia to guarantee its security. Pashinyan stated, "Moscow has been unable to deliver and is in the process of winding down its role in the wider South Caucasus region" and "the Russian Federation cannot meet Armenia's security needs. This example should demonstrate to us that dependence on just one partner in security matters is a strategic mistake." Pashinyan accused Russian peacekeepers deployed to uphold the ceasefire deal of failing to do their job. Pashinyan confirmed that Armenia is trying to diversify its security arrangements, most notably with the European Union and the United States.[39] On 23 February 2024, Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, confirmed that Armenia has frozen its participation in the CSTO. Pashinyan stated, "We have now in practical terms frozen our participation in this treaty" and "membership of the CSTO was under review" during a live broadcast interview.[40] On 28 February 2024, during a speech made in the National Assembly, Pashinyan further stated that the CSTO is "a threat to the national security of Armenia".[41]

Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova[edit]

In 2014, after Russia's annexation of Crimea formally triggered the Russo-Ukrainian War, a bill was introduced to Congress to grant MNNA status to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.[42] Russia has been occupying parts of Georgia since the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, and Russian troops have also stationed in Moldova's breakaway state of Transnistria since the 1990s. In May 2019, a bill to designate Ukraine as an MNNA was introduced into the House of Representatives.[43] As of 2023, these changes have not been made, despite support from the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[44]

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Oman[edit]

During a 2015 summit at Camp David with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Obama administration considered designating Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar as MNNAs.[45] Qatar was later designated a MNNA by the Biden administration in 2022.


Since 2008, Iraq and the United States have a strategic partnership that was formalized in their Strategic Framework Agreement. It covers a range of areas, including security, economics, and culture. The United States has provided military and economic aid to Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Following the rise of the Islamic State in the mid-2010s, American troops were again deployed to Iraq in order to support the Iraqi military in their fight against the militant group. Although most American troops withdrew from Iraq in 2021, the United States has continued to provide military and economic assistance to the Iraqi government.[46]


Countries designated as MNNAs are eligible for the following benefits:[47]

Major partners[edit]

Israel as a major strategic partner[edit]

The House of Representatives passed the United States–Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 in December of that year.[48] This new category would have placed Israel one notch above the MNNA classification and would have added additional support for defense and energy infrastructure, in addition to strengthened cooperation through business and academics.[49] The bill additionally called for the increasing of American war reserve stock in Israel to US$1.8 billion.[49] The bill did not reach a vote, and thus did not pass or become law.

India as a major defense partner[edit]

In 2016, the United States recognized India as a "major defense partner"; this occurred less than a month after the House of Representatives passed the India Defense Technology and Partnership Act.[50] This allowed India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies on par with those of the United States' closest allies and partners.[51] The United States has four "foundational agreements" signed with India: the 2016 logistics agreement, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) in 2020, and the pre-existing General Security of Military Information Agreement signed in 2002 that was further augmented by the Industrial Security Annex, signed in 2019.[52]

In June 2019, American lawmakers provided for enhancements to the strategic status of India, though this fell short of designating the country as an MNNA.[53][54]

List of MNNAs[edit]

South Korean soldiers and a US Army officer monitor the Korean Demilitarized Zone in 2008
Australian Defence Force, New Zealand Defence Force, and US Army personnel conduct medevac training exercises at Camp Taji, Iraq, in 2018
An Egyptian F-16C Block 40 with a USN F/A-18 Hornet and a USAF F-15 Eagle during Bright Star 05

Current MNNAs[edit]

The following countries are listed in chronological order of their designation as MNNAs by the United States government. In addition, an act provides that Taiwan shall be treated as a MNNA, without formal designation as such:[55][56][57][58]

President Country Year Note
Ronald Reagan  Australia 1987 [1]
 South Korea
Bill Clinton  Jordan 1996 [59]
 New Zealand 1997 [3]
 Argentina 1998 [60]
George W. Bush  Bahrain 2002 [61]
 Philippines 2003 [62]
 Thailand [63]
 Taiwan [9]
 Kuwait 2004 [64]
 Morocco [65]
 Pakistan [13]
Barack Obama  Tunisia 2015 [66]
Donald Trump  Brazil 2019 [67][68]
Joe Biden  Qatar 2022 [69][70]
 Colombia [26][71]
 Kenya 2024 (planned) [72]

Former MNNA[edit]

See also[edit]


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