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How NATO Expanded Eastwards

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Katharina Buchholz

As the U.S. placed 8,500 troops on alert for a possible deployment to Ukraine Monday, fears of a new major conflict arising in Europe are abound. Russia has been causing the heightened security concerns as it has placed as many 100,000 troops along the border of its Western neighbor, causing concerns the country will invade – something that Russia has denied.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly brought up the topic of NATO, the European-North American military alliance, in connection with Ukraine. The country is currently one of three nations with a declared aspiration to join the treaty, something that Russia vehemently opposes. Russia continues to see Ukraine as an important part of its sphere of influence. Similar to Belarus, Ukraine holds geopolitical significance for Russia as a buffer state to the West, but it also regards the country as a major cultural and historical ally.

Ukraine’s declaration concerning NATO dates back as far as 2008 and is not expected to be acted upon anytime soon, but the greater context of the treaty’s expansion eastwards has been a thorn in Putin’s side for a long time. In December, he blasted the organization at his annual end-of-year press conference. “Any further NATO movement to the east is unacceptable", Putin was quoted. He has repeated his call for a ban of NATO expansions since, but to no avail. NATO’s declared open door policy included in its founding treaty is generally making membership an option for sovereign nations. The organization that started out in 1949 among 12 nations has since then attracted new members, especially in the past two decades, from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

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