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From the Cold War to the Ukraine War… 75 years since NATO was founded

The day after tomorrow (Thursday), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the signing of its founding treaty in Washington, DC.

Below are some facts and figures provided by Agence France-Presse about the organization created during the Cold War and revived by Russia's war on Ukraine.

12 to 32

The 12 founding nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, along with the United States, Canada and most Western European nations, to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union, a former ally of the Soviet Union during World War II.

As NATO's first Secretary General, Lord Ismay, stated, NATO's goal was to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans defeated.”

In 1952, Turkey and Greece joined the alliance before West Germany became a member three years later.

After the end of the Cold War, NATO expanded eastward several times, increasing the length of its borders with Russia through the accession of Poland and the former Soviet Baltic states.

After Moscow invaded Ukraine in 2022, Russia's two northern neighbors retreated from their historic policies of non-alignment, bringing NATO membership to 32.

Together, NATO countries represent about one billion people and 50 percent of the world's GDP.

NATO countries have a total of 3.2 million men and women serving in their forces.

Iceland is the only country in the coalition that does not have its own army.

Collective security

NATO invoked Article 5 on collective security only once, after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

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The decision was seen as an expression of support for the military power leading the alliance and significantly different from the threat to Europe that the organization's founders had originally anticipated.

The aftermath of the September 11 attacks led to NATO's intervention in Afghanistan, where it remains until 2021.

US, French and Polish soldiers during a NATO exercise at the military field in Pimwo-Biskie, Poland May 24, 2022 (Reuters)

military spending

In response to Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, NATO allies have set a goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

This target was increased after Moscow launched a comprehensive invasion of its neighbor in 2022, making 2 percent the minimum.

Former US President Donald Trump has slammed NATO countries, saying they are not spending enough, warning that Russia is encouraging countries that don't meet their obligations to “do whatever it wants”.

By 2024, 20 NATO member states are expected to reach the 2 percent target, up from just three in 2014.


June 2024 will mark 25 years since the deployment of NATO forces in Kosovo in 1999, when Serbian forces were withdrawn after a 77-day aerial bombardment campaign.

This is the second military intervention in NATO's history, after the intervention in Bosnia in the mid-nineties of the last century.

A quarter of a century later, NATO's Kosovo Force is still in the Balkans, making it the longest-running mission in the alliance's history.

Last year's high-level tensions led to riots that left 93 NATO members injured, and the allies agreed to send an additional thousand soldiers to join the Kosovo force, bringing the total to about 4,500.

Besides the Balkans, other major NATO missions abroad include nearly two decades in Afghanistan and the 2011 bombing of Libya.

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Confirm membership

No country has ever withdrawn from NATO throughout history, but after French President Charles de Gaulle withdrew in 1966, France spent some 43 years outside the alliance's military command structure.

The decision, which moved NATO headquarters from Paris to Brussels, was not reversed until the regime of French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009.

However, relations with NATO are sometimes dominated by tension. In 2019, current French President Emmanuel Macron called the coalition “brain dead”.

Macron later said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 had woken NATO up with “bad shocks”.

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