On April 4, NATO will mark 70 years since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty by its 12 founding nations. The treaty, which established the alliance, is sometimes called the Washington Treaty.
Other member nations are also marking significant anniversaries this year, NATO’s secretary general said in Brussels during a discussion of the alliance’s future.
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO 20 years ago.
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia became members 15 years ago.
Albania and Croatia joined in 2009.
And North Macedonia is on its way to completing the accession process and becoming the alliance’s 30th member.
"NATO enlargement is not a provocation," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said today. "We respect the right of every sovereign nation to decide their own destiny ... We believe in a world without spheres of influence."
NATO’s founding treaty states that membership is open to any "European state in a position to further the principles of this treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area."
The alliance grew out of the experiences of the early 20th century. The World Wars were born out of conflicts that had been nearly constant on the continent for hundreds of years, "For most of Europe’s history, conflict was our constant companion," Stoltenberg said. "The last 70 years have been the exception. And we should not take peace for granted."