Members of the world’s most powerful military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), met in Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday to discuss Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border.
Washington and Kyiv say Moscow has deployed an estimated 100,000 soldiers near the Ukraine border in recent months, eight years after it seized the Crimean Peninsula from its neighbour.
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The NATO-Russia Council will be followed by further talks between Russia and members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday.
So, which are these organisations and what do they do?
Members of NATO, OSCE and EU
NATO comprises 30 nations.
Their primary role is to protect its member states by political and military means. The alliance allows European and North American members to discuss security concerns.
All NATO members are also part of the OSCE.
OSCE’s 57 states are spread across North America, Europe, the Caucasus and Asia. It is the largest regional security body and serves as a forum for discussing security issues such as arms control and “terrorism”.
Six European Union (EU) members, of which there are 27 countries, are not NATO members – Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden.
NATO history and expansion
NATO was founded in 1949 by 12 member states – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Its aim was to curb Soviet expansion and encourage political integration in Europe.
In recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been seeking guarantees from NATO that it will halt its expansion and end military cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia.
In 2004, seven Eastern European states joined the alliance.
NATO allows member states to admit new countries by consensus. Of those which joined in 2004, all but Slovenia were part of the Warsaw Pact – a defence treaty created in 1955 between the Soviet Union and seven satellite states.
In 2020, North Macedonia became the latest member of the pact.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine have stated their wishes to join NATO.
NATO military operations
Article 5 of the NATO treaty states the principle of collective defence as being at the core of NATO’s initial pact. This clause means that an attack against one ally is considered an attack against all members.
NATO’s military operations started with a naval blockade and air campaign during the Bosnian war which lasted from 1992 to 1995.
In 1999, NATO launched an air campaign to compel Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to pull his forces out of Kosovo and end the conflict there.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, NATO invoked Article 5 and joined US and UK forces to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. Over the 20-year war, 50 NATO and partner nations contributed forces to the missions in Afghanistan. At its peak in 2011, nearly 140,000 US and allied forces were in the country.
NATO’s military expenditure
In 2020, the US spent $778bn on its military – the largest military spender in the world – according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), accounting for 3.7 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
Among NATO members, the UK is the second-highest military spender with $59.2bn spent on its military in 2020, accounting for 2.2 percent of its GDP.
Iceland does not have a military of its own and so its military expenditure is zero.
For 2022, NATO’s military budget is set at $1.77bn (1.56 billion euros). Member countries contribute to the budget based upon a cost-sharing formula derived from the gross national income of each country.
The US and Germany equally contribute the highest percentage, totalling more than 30 percent of the military budget.