IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


17th November, 2022 International Relations

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Context:  NATO, the Western defensive military alliance led by the United States, is in the eye of the storm after one of its member nations said that a Russian missile killed two of its citizens. Poland initially claimed that the missile was Russian-made, but later back-tracked, saying that the incident appears to be an “unfortunate accident” and not an “intentional attack.”


  • In the initial reactions, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said that the country was considering whether it should launch NATO’s Article 4 procedure. Any attack on Poland, a NATO member, could drag the 30-nation strong alliance into the Russia-Ukraine conflict, risking a full-fledged nuclear war.

What is NATO?

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation came into being after World War II as a counter to the Soviet Union’s possible expansion attempts in Europe.
  • Then-US President Harry S Truman signed the 12-member treaty on April 4, 1949. After the collapse of USSR in 1991, several eastern European nations previously members of the Soviet Union joined NATO.
  • As of now, NATO comprise 30 members — Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.
  • Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership and were invited to join the collective by 28 of the 30 members, with Turkey and Hungary being notable exceptions.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia have expressed interest in joining the collective as well.


NATO’s core duties:

  • The NATO works on a collective defense principle and routinely undertakes exercises to strengthen their territorial, naval, and air forces.
  • NATO members also arm themselves to face evolving methods of attacks like cybercrimes, and have participated in military operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosova, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, among others.
  • Article 4 of the treaty mandates that the member nations consult each other when faced with threat. “The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened,” it reads.
  • Meanwhile, Article 5 spells out the ‘one-for-all, all-for-one’ nature of the treaty.


Rivalry that goes way back:

  • NATO and Russia have always been at odds with each other, since the treaty was signed to keep Russian expansionism at bay.
  • When NATO came into existence, Soviet Union had sought to counter this Western alliance with a defence collective of its own and signed the Warsaw Pact with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, and Romania during the Cold War.
  • However, this pact was gradually dissolved after the war ended and its existing member nations eventually joined the NATO.
  • The expansion of NATO from 12 to 30 members has been a source of tension between Russia and the West for years.
  • In Europe, Russia shares a border with Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia. Of this, apart from Belarus and Ukraine, the others have either joined NATO or are in queue for a membership.
  • Russia sees the presence of Western military and nuclear bases in its neighbourhood as a threat.
  • Ukraine plays an important role in Russia’s economic plans as well. Its warm water ports like the Port of Sevastopol and the Port of Novorossiysk, which remain navigable year-round, unlike the Port of Vladivostok in eastern Russia, are crucial for Russian commerce. If Ukraine were to join the NATO, that would cut of Russia’s access to the Black Sea and the trading opportunities it offers.