By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
NATO was formed in 1949 by a dozen European and North American countries. Since then, its numbers have grown to a total of 30 nations. NATO also helps non-member nations.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) came into existence after World War II, when its dozen member nations banded together in response to the rising threat of the Soviet Union. NATO serves as a collective security for each of its member nations. Since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disbanded, NATO has remained. It now counts 30 countries in its ranks, with many more on the way.
You may have noticed that NATO has been in the news much more this year, ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. NATO recently vowed to continue helping Ukraine “as long as it takes” to defend against Russian invasion.
How does NATO help Ukraine? In his video series A History of Eastern Europe, Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Lindsay Young Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers historical insight that shows NATO’s functions.
Eastern Europe and NATO
“Many Eastern European countries sought entry into NATO and the European Union as a way of escaping their status on the margins of a zone of security, and instead wanted to associate themselves with the West that they’d been disconnected from during the Cold War,” Dr. Liulevicius said.
NATO engaged in its first active warfare in 1999 against the former Yugoslavia. They committed air strikes on Serbian military positions in Kosovo in response to ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Serbian forces, though it was hobbled by mishaps, including the bombing of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Since then, the question has been posed: Was the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia justified?
“In a series of waves, Eastern European countries applied for NATO membership and were added,” Dr. Liulevicius said. “The first addition actually was the territory of East Germany, when Germany was reunified. Then, in 1999, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic became NATO members.”
In 2004, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania became NATO members, as well. They were followed by Croatia and Albania in 2009.
NATO, Russia, and Ukraine
According to NATO’s official website, “Individual NATO member countries are sending weapons, ammunition, and many types of light and heavy military equipment, including anti-tank and air defense systems, howitzers, and drones.” Aid has totaled in the billions of Euros.
Part of the reason NATO has rushed to aid Ukraine is because of its invader, Russia, who has been watched closely by the rest of the world for decades, especially since Russian leadership transferred in 1999 to ex-KGB lieutenant colonel Vladimir Putin.
“Putin declared that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century,” Dr. Liulevicius said. “Reflecting on the notorious Nazi-Soviet Pact, Putin’s views have been ambivalent or evolving. Putin condemned the pact in 2009, but by 2014, he suggested that the pact was not bad, and added that perhaps it was all Britain’s fault when you really get down to it.”
A History of Eastern Europe is now available to stream on Wondrium.