NATOs expansion mapped: How NATO has grown closer to Russia since 1949

Ukraine: Russia's stance on NATO discussed by Stewart

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Russian troops spilt over the shared border with Ukraine on Monday night, hours after Mr Putin delivered a national address questioning the country’s sovereignty. Analysts have since accused him of attempting to build a new Soviet Union – although he argues troops have entered two separatist zones he recognised as independent from Ukraine for “peacekeeping” duties. NATO denied it was the aggressor in the latest round of tensions, and committed to defending Ukraine rather than attacking Russia, but maps show how far east it has spread.

When the organisation’s founding members finalised the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, they did so as an assurance of support against any future attacks from Germany or the Soviet Union.

At the time, NATO included the Western Union (France, England and the Benelux countries), the US, Canada, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.

Over the last few decades, the organisation has grown to incorporate 30 fighting nations, each pooling military capabilities with a policy of mutual assistance.

From 1949 to 2022, NATO countries bordering Russia has grown from one to four, and now includes a series of former Soviet states.

In 1952, Greece and Turkey joined NATO ranks, followed by Germany – then split between east and west – in 1955.

After a brief lull in membership numbers, Spain joined in 1982 ahead of a host of former Soviet satellites.

In 1999, NATO welcomed the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, giving the organisation 19 members before the new millennium.

Russia, at the time, had just welcomed then-fledgling President Vladimir Putin for his first term in office.

He came to the position when NATO was sidling up to Russia’s westernmost border.

Since he has clung to power, another 11 members have joined.

Among the first nations to join in the 21st century were three former Russian allies.

They were Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of whom joined in 2004 with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

After 2004, the numbers joining NATO ranks slowed to a trickle, as only four have joined since then.

Albania and Croatia became members in 2009, followed by Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia and 2020.

A few nations are aspiring members, meaning NATO recognises them as potential partners in the future.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine have all declared aspirations to join the alliance.

While some have criticised NATO as a vehicle for expansion, it is a voluntary network that functions on applications.

Russia claimed that NATO used countries close to its borders to host missile defence threatens its borders.

The organisation disagreed and argued that extending missile defence was “not directed against Russia and cannot undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence capabilities”.

NATO added that Russian statements “threatening to target Allies because of NATO’s ballistic missile defence” are “unacceptable and counterproductive”.

The organisation has also rejected claims that it is confrontational.

Official policy states that it “does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia”.

NATO also stated that it has reached out to Russia “consistently and publicly” in the last three decades.

At the same time, however, it stated that it couldn’t ignore the country “breaking international rules, undermining our stability and security”.

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