What Is NATO?

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In addition to the United States and Canada, the countries that became part of NATO in 1949 were Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.

Since then, 19 more European states have joined: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Turkey, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

Finland became NATO’s 31st member state last year, having abandoned a longstanding policy of military nonalignment. That added one of Western Europe’s most potent militaries to the alliance while at the same time extending NATO’s commitment to collective defense to a country that shares an 830-mile border with Russia.

Membership in NATO has long been considered a cheap benefit, given the American nuclear umbrella and the principle of collective defense. But the alliance also has extensive requirements of its members — not just spending goals for the military, but specific demands from each country for certain capabilities, armaments, troop strengths and infrastructure.

NATO has since 2014 been led by Jens Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway.

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What Is NATO?

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