North Atlantic Treaty Organization

(NATO)
   Established on 4 April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a collective security arrangement backed by the United States and its allies. Its principal function is to provide mutual defense if any member state is attacked by a third party. The treaty is a vestige of the Cold War, and was originally established to protect Canada, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Italy, France, Denmark, Great Britain, and the Benelux countries from Soviet invasion; in 1952, Greece and Turkey joined. After West Germany was admitted in 1955, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) created the Warsaw Pact to provide common defense against any potential offensive action by NATO.
   After the breakup of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, a number of former Soviet allies moved toward joining the union, beginning with East Germany in 1990. The Russian Federation and many members of the Commonwealth of Independent States joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program during the 1990s in an effort to reduce the threat of military confrontation in northern Eurasia. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary were admitted in 1999, and plans were announced around the same time for the inclusion of the Baltic States into the group. Boris Yeltsin’s government, which had been growing increasingly anti-American after the perceived failure of its early 1990s Atlanticist orientation, condemned the new direction of the organization as inherently hostile to Russia and its interests. Disputes between NATO and the Kremlin during the breakup of Yugoslavia— particularly the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999—further hampered relations.
   However, in 2002, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) was established to provide an opportunity for cooperation and partnership between the 28 members of the treaty and the Russian Federation. The NRC builds on bilateral ties established by the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. Vladimir Putin, who had established closer relations with the U.S. and NATO, particularly on counterterrorism, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, reluctantly acceded to the admission of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 2004, alongside the other post-Communist states of Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. However, during the second Putin administration, relations with NATO cooled over the U.S. plan to incorporate two members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Georgia and Ukraine, into the organization.
   The crisis reached its peak during the 2008 South Ossetian War when Russia condemned the deployment of NATO vessels in the Black Sea. Relations were strained during the waning days of George W. Bush’s administration over the issue of missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in response to veiled threats from Russia against these states. In 2008, the North Atlantic Council, the highest governing body within NATO, criticized Dmitry Medvyedev’s recognition of the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as a violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity and dangerous to the stability of the Caucasus. In March 2008, NATO - Russian relations were normalized after more than six months of heated exchanges, despite the Kremlin’s obdurate position against Ukrainian or Georgian admission to the treaty. The rapprochement was short-lived, however, as NATO announced its plans to expel two Russian diplomats from its Brussels headquarters due to suspicion of espionage. Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, promised retaliatory actions to the “provocation.”

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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