Over the last 70 years, NATO has grown to encompass 30 countries. Members can ask other European countries to join.
Potential members must adhere to democratic values and contribute to Euro-Atlantic security.
Invitees receive a membership action plan that will guide them through the process of becoming a member. Accession talks will follow.
In order for a country to join NATO, it must first sign an accession protocol to the treaty. All NATO members must sign unanimously.
At the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, the alliance supported Ukraine and Georgia’s bids for membership. It agreed that “these countries will become members.”
NATO countries stated that they would engage “to address the questions still outstanding” on the applications. However, the countries were not handed membership action plans.
“There’s been no movement towards even that in the intervening nearly 14 years,” Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation said of the action plans.
Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s then-Moscow-friendly president, stated there was no need for the country to join NATO. Parliament voted in 2010 to give the country non-aligned status.
Following Yanukovych’s ouster and Putin’s invasion of Crimea, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated that Ukraine‘s attitude toward NATO membership has shifted.
In 2017, the Ukrainian Parliament passed legislation reaffirming membership as the country’s goal, with subsequent Constitutional modifications.
In 2020, Ukraine was designated as an enhanced opportunity, allowing for increased information sharing and participation in NATO exercises.
“Finland also has that status, and it’s probably the most capable and significant non-member partner of the alliance,” Charap said.