Ukraine Crisis: What is NATO, What does it stand for, which countries are member states, are Ukraine and Russia members and has President Putin declared war on Ukraine?

NATO was established at the end of the Second World War - but what is and who is involved?

Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 2:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th February 2022, 10:02 am

As tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine, NATO has become the centre of world politics once again.

President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine this morning in a televised address as Russian troops invaded the country.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press briefing following a extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine commission about the situation between Ukraine and Russia, at NATO headquarters in Brussels on February 22, 2022.

Since the address, explosions have been heard across Ukraine including blasts in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

But what is NATO and is Ukraine a member of the alliance?

Here is everything you need to know:

What is NATO?

NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and it was established at the end of World War II.

The origins of NATO trace back to March 1947, which is when France and the UK signed the 'Treaty of Dunkirk'.

The treaty was signed to form an alliance against a possible German attack in the aftermath of the second world war.

The treaty expanded over the years which led to the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed in April 1949.

NATO's purpose is to act as a form of collective security for its member states.

This means that if one of these states is under attack by an external country, a mutual defence response will be given.

Since NATO was established, the organisation has intervened with conflicts in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo and Libya.

Which countries are member states?

There are currently 30 member states and 3 aspiring states of NATO.

When the initial treaty was signed in 1949, 12 states joined the organisation.

These include:

-United Kingdom

-United States








-The Netherlands



Turkey and Greece joined NATO in 1952, with Spain joining the alliance in 1982.

West Germany joined in 1955 and East Germany became a member in 1990.

Since 1997, NATO has expanded to include more countries in the east including:


-Czech Republic










The most recent joining members include Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020.

Countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ukraine and Georgia are currently classed as 'aspiring members' of NATO.

The alliance allows any country to join the organisation as long as they meet certain political, economic and military goals.

Who is the leader of NATO?

The leader of the alliance is Jens Stoltenberg.

The former Norwegian Prime Minister took over the role of secretary general in 2014.

Mircea Geoană is the deputy secretary general of NATO and Admiral Rob Bauer of the Royal Netherlands Navy is the chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

Each member state is represented on the Northern Atlantic Council by an ambassador or representative.

The current British NATO ambassador is Dame Sarah MacIntosh DCMG.

Where are the NATO headquarters?

The NATO headquarters are located at Boulevard Leopold III in Brussels, Belgium.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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