North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance that was formed in 1949 by 12 countries. It derived the name ‘North Atlantic’ as the countries involved were located in the Northern hemisphere of the Atlantic Ocean – the United States and Canada on the western side, and France, United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Iceland on the eastern side of the ocean. After World War II, to counter the threat of attack from the Soviet Union, the western countries signed this mutual cooperation agreement for collective security. They pledged to provide aid to each other, in the event of an armed attack against any of the member nations.
Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO)
In response, the Soviet Union formed its military alliance known as the ‘Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO)’ or the Warsaw Pact in 1955, to counter NATO. The WTO consisted of the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The conflict between the United States and its allies (NATO), and the Soviet Union and its allies (WTO) led to a period of geopolitical tension referred to as the ‘Cold War’. However, with the ‘Fall of Berlin Wall’ in 1989, the cold war ended; and with the ‘Dissolution of Soviet Union’ in 1991, the Warsaw Pact also ended on February 25, 1991.
Enlargement of NATO
On December 25, 1991, when Russia was formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country was weak and left alone without the Warsaw Pact. NATO (allegedly the United States), taking advantage of the opportunity, inducted more eastern European countries as members of NATO including Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania who share borders with Russia apart from Poland and Norway. Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia are also under consideration for membership. The NATO allies have increased from 12 to 30 and the alliance has grown powerful over the year, which according to Russia is a threat to its security.
Minsk Peace Accord, 2014
This is not the first time when tensions between Ukraine and Russia have reached their boiling point. In 2014, following internal revolutions when the Pro-Russian President of Ukraine was deposed, Russia attacked Ukraine and annexed the Crimea region. Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in military fights since then. The two countries had then signed the ‘Minsk Peace Accord’ in 2014 to halt the conflict in eastern Ukraine including the Donbas region.
Ukraine’s desire for NATO
Europe consists of several small nations in a densely covered area. Individually, most nations find it difficult to defend themselves, however, together as NATO, they form a powerful allegiance against Russia. Ukraine has deep social and cultural ties with Russia, as it was part of the Soviet Union and the Russian language is widely spoken there. However, since 2014, when Russia attacked Ukraine, those relations have frayed. It realised that alone it cannot withstand powerful Russia, and it is in its best interest to join NATO, as it shares its entire eastern border with Russia has already corrupted the Donbas region. Therefore, for its national security, on December 23, 2014, Ukraine renounced its non-aligned status (not being part of any military alliance) and since then, has been progressively seeking NATO membership. In June 2021, Ukraine performed a joint naval drill with the NATO forces in the Black sea which infuriated Russia. Meanwhile, Moldova and Georgia are also seeking NATO membership.
Russia’s opposition to Ukraine’s NATO membership
When Ukraine’s NATO membership talks gained momentum in 2021, Russia began a large build-up of the military on the Ukrainian border and has been vocal about its concerns with Ukraine’s NATO membership. According to Russia, in 1991, NATO had promised to not enlarge the alliance in eastern Europe. However, it has not adhered to the same and has been expanding to cover all strategic fronts of Russia which allows the United States to build its military presence near Russian borders. If Ukraine joins NATO, it will give direct access to the United States to the Russian borders, as Ukraine shares a long border with Russia which is a direct threat to Russian security, and therefore, Russia has allegedly waged the latest war to not merely stop the same, but also to demilitarise and convert Ukraine into a Russian satellite state (formally independent but under the heavy political, economic and military control of Russia).
NATO’s response to Russian attacks
According to NATO, Ukraine is not a member and therefore, it won’t send its troops to Ukraine, however, it is extending support through the provision of military equipment, finance and necessary supplies. In 2014, when the world merely watched, Russia annexed the Crimea region. Russia has launched a full-scale war against Russia this time, and if Russia succeeds it would bring Russia right next to the European Union (EU) and therefore, the NATO allies are providing support through the backdoor.