The Atlantic Alliance is about to welcome its 30th Member State. With the name dispute with Greece resolved, North Macedonia’s path to NATO membership was finally cleared, and an accession protocol was signed in February 2019. Once ratification is complete, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will have enlarged once more.

Want to learn more about NATO enlargement? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

NATO was founded in 1949 with twelve members. It was originally seen as a bulwark against Soviet and Communist expansion into Europe, and became synonymous with the “Western allies” during the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO expanded to included several former Warsaw Pact countries (something the Kremlin believed, and still believes, was an attempt to undermine Russian security).

There are still more countries eager to join NATO, including Georgia and Ukraine. However, these are countries right on Russia’s border that have been directly (or indirectly) involved in conflicts with Russia or its proxies. So, with North Macedonia, has NATO finally reached the limits of sensible expansion?

What do our readers think? We had a comment from EU Reform, who thinks the EU and NATO already have too many members, and risk becoming mere talking shops. Has NATO grown too big to be effective?

To get a response, we spoke to Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom, a retired Royal Netherlands Navy officer who is a former Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy. What would he say?

I think these concerns are valid. We started in NATO with twelve founder nations in 1949, and now with North Macedonia joining it will be 30. I’ve been in NATO working for almost 40 years, and I saw it growing with these numbers, and it’s a matter of how to mitigate the challenge of how to govern, and I think NATO has been successful in that case.

It’s more that you also have to mitigate the internal assurance that Article 5 – which is the most important article, that one NATO country that is attacked will be defended by all – will stick when you enlarge. And that is under pressure. We had a review a year ago where people were asked what they would do if a NATO country were attacked – would you accept that your own soldiers would fight for that – and the results were, in a sense, worrying because for some countries it was around 50%. So, I think his worry is genuine and we have to work on it very hard. But, in the end, it should not prevent us from enlarging, it should encourage us to mitigate that type of risk.

Next up, we had a comment sent in from Dobromir, who is worried that enlarging NATO will actually make us less safe. He fears Russia will view the accession of North Macedonia to NATO as a threat, potentially further destabilising relations with Moscow.

To get a response, we spoke to Stevo Pendarovski, President of the Republic of North Macedonia. How would he respond?

Finally, we had a comment from Chris who thinks North Macedonia should join the EU but not NATO. What exactly are the benefits of joining NATO for North Macedonia, especially as the EU already has a mutual defence clause in its treaties?

How large should NATO get? Is the organisation growing too big to be effective? Could Russia view adding further members as a threat? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – palinchak; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Borsboom (c) Ernie Miga



81 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Dan

    As large as the number “zero”

  2. avatar
    David

    As large as possible so that they can defend the poor of each country from the corrupt polititions of each country that never do anything to help their own.

  3. avatar
    Mathias

    Nato has played out its role. We need a common european defence

  4. avatar
    Artur

    It should accept the membership of the Western Balkans’ countries which want to join.

  5. avatar
    Pedro

    NATO is good as it is…except that part of depending to much from US

  6. avatar
    Tim

    We need a strong EU military, not Nato, at least not run by America

  7. avatar
    Αντωνιος

    Nato was useful during the cold war.Even though it was never really used ,its first millitary operation happened few years after the cold war ended.Now its just used for americans and british to bring european countries to battlefields in the other side of the world for their own means.I say thats enough.We dont need nato anymore.A common european army or at least a common european defence alliance to serve only european interests and protect europes independence

  8. avatar
    Aris

    After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO serves only the American and British interests. Those two countries intervene in every part of the World and then call NATO for support. Also, “NATO” is a bad brand name all over the World since many people when they listen to the word “NATO” the first thing which comes in their mind is illegal wars and interventions.
    A European Army is what Europe needs this Era since the European members have the same interests and face the same threats. Europe’s soft power proved useless and this is why we have regional Leaders who blackmail and threat Europe or certain European members on various issues.

  9. avatar
    Max

    Not about size so much as quality. Lots of free-riders. Some of them are openly non-democracies. My tax-money is being spent on military defense of corrupt non-democracies. UNACCEPTABLE!!

  10. avatar
    Ludwig

    Whatever happens, the next major military conflict between the so-called “superpower” is the fatal end

  11. avatar
    Betti

    NATO should be replaced by a European military. Europe needs an independent military.

    • avatar
      Zoltan

      Any western military alliance that does not include America is basically just a girl guide troop.

  12. avatar
    Manuel

    Worldwide to end all wars…

  13. avatar
    Mag. Gunther Fehlinger

    #Nato34 in 2020 with Ukraine, Georgia and Bosnia and Moldova
    #Nato36 in 2024 with Serbia and Republic of Kosovo as result of Peace Treaty
    #Nato42 by including the 6 EU Neutrals Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Finland, Malta and Cyprus

    • avatar
      Mag. Gunther Fehlinger

      The Neutrals can as well join by 2024 so #Nato42by2024 is fully possible and that is what I recommend

    • avatar
      EU Reform- Proactive

      Dear Gunther!

      Sorry, but “your recommendations”- re Austria #NATO 42- is misplaced & illegal!
      Other neutral countries have different histories, national laws or political desires.

      E.g. Austria’s “enforced perpetual neutrality” is rooted in its military non- alignment declaration (WWII-1955-“Austrian State Treaty”) & a breach would amount to a serious international transgression!

      All those sacrifice to please the EU27 in:

      • Support of an ever power hungry growing political & militant EU policy- not based on economical reasons anymore.

      • The creation of an EU or EU/NATO army, manned by Austrian “virtual soldiers” from an ever declining pool of nationals due to its declining birth rate? Its workforce already heavily reliant on migrant labor & immigration, its nationals then called upon to create an “illegal EU/NATO army”- without proper funding? Absurd!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_State_Treaty

      https://www.iipvienna.com/new-blog/2018/11/27/austrian-neutrality-as-a-model-for-the-new-eastern-europe

      You may be advised to rather follow Univ.-Prof. Dr. Heinz Gärtner- not EU’s “mischievous” brain washing!

      https://homepage.univie.ac.at/heinz.gaertner/?page_id=2

  14. avatar
    Enric

    We don,t need NATO enlarged because every country has its own army. Besides, which of our neighbours will atack us?

    • avatar
      Luc

      only the US wants to sell us F35 migs at 150 miljon $ per plane, and it don’t work…. its disasterplane…

    • avatar
      Enric

      Luc in this debate one thing is missing…the €€€€€€$$$$$$ comission.

  15. avatar
    Ingrida

    The bigger, the better. Just Europe should have an alternative for Nato. On the case of unpredicted scenario 😊 Maybe some kind of PEACE army ready to solve unpredicted violations

  16. avatar
    Wolteche

    Before enlarging Nato lets remove Turkey !!!

  17. avatar
    Asawa

    We missed the chance to dissolve NATO when the cold war ended.

  18. avatar
    Emmanuel

    not an inch to the East of Germany

  19. avatar
    Siva

    What does Europe stand for in Spacetime Continuum comprising Universe, Humanity and Jesus?

  20. avatar
    Johan

    Since europa is not paying for nato or not enough i doubt its a matter we need to discuss

  21. avatar
    Владимир

    It’s too big already, the EU deserves its own army. Cooperation with the USA and it’s NATO members is fine by me but I don’t like them meddling in European affairs. We should be able to make dealings with Russia and other non-NATO states without American interference.

    • avatar
      Zoltan

      Putin couldn’t have put it better himself.

  22. avatar
    Jacques

    La belgique hors de l otan et l otan hors de belgique

  23. avatar
    Frédéric

    Remplacer cette association de malfaiteurs qu’est l’OTAN (1) par une armée européenne est une excellente idée… à condition que cette armée inclue des contingents russes.
    1 – Organisation Terroriste de l’Amérique du Nord.

  24. avatar
    randomguy2019

    Nato should be disbanded.
    And before you ask, not a Russian though the tinfoilers might quickly think so.

    A certain French leader and general a few decades ago had the right idea.
    Shame the big wigs in Europe ignored him (although the Americans possibly never gave Europe the option).

  25. avatar
    Noni

    Should they fight the Turks for stealing natural resources from Cyprus, Greece and the EU? Don’t forget that Greece and Cyprus are part of the EU while Turkey is not! Greece and Cyprus contribute to financial prosperity and stability for the EU while Turkey does not!

  26. avatar
    Bernard

    Why should Russia have a say in what other sovereign states do?

  27. avatar
    Marius

    Enlargement is a NATO issue. It does not involve Russia.

  28. avatar
    Γεώργιος

    It has no cause of existence at all

    • avatar
      Gerhard

      Does you horizon only include your own country? oO
      Of course it has.

    • avatar
      Γεώργιος

      What’s your countrg?NATO had principles universal not regional

    • avatar
      Gerhard

      One does not need to be of country X to understand this:
      Until we have a common European army Nato is nescessary. Especially for Poland and the Baltics.

  29. avatar
    Franck

    NATO is just US+vassals states

  30. avatar
    Γεώργιος

    You don’t need a reason for that.Just for fun,?????

  31. avatar
    Olivier

    Should not provoke Russia…

  32. avatar
    Peter

    NATO is about to collapse. US has abandoned it, Russia managed to pull out some members

  33. avatar
    Manuel

    NATO should finish its operations

  34. avatar
    Ivan

    If NATO accept turkey make problem to greece Then i Think soon Will be shorter ,members that attack or make problems to other members must be out of NATO !!!

  35. avatar
    Erjon

    you know Turkey is member of Nato, right?

  36. avatar
    Paschalis

    why don’t you read his comment again, it seems you don’t understand it

  37. avatar
    Calin

    As long as it provides peace between and/or to its members it isn’t significant how large it is.

  38. avatar
    Христо

    It should also include Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Malta, Cyprus, Andorra, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.

    • avatar
      Władysław

      Half of those are not even in Europe

    • avatar
      Christos

      why not Austria ?

    • avatar
      Христо

      Because together with Switzerland they are military neutral states and should remain so.

    • avatar
      Christos

      Ireland wants to remain neutral too. And Sweden!!

  39. avatar
    Maria

    Large enough to include Russia. There is a battle between atheism and Christianity.

    • avatar
      David

      All these atheist countries starting wars around the world need to be STOPPED!

  40. avatar
    Mario

    Let me see…
    N = North
    A = Atlantic
    I don’t know… but take a wild guess.

    • avatar
      Peter

      Brasil, Mexico, Australia and Japan then?

  41. avatar
    Marcus

    Well, it should include those who can pull their weight also, meaning not certain european nations who allocate under 2% of GDP for defence. Also clearly not Canada, too much state medicine and other socialist programs clogs up the finances of a state.

    • avatar
      Mario

      “too much state medicine and other socialist programs”
      You just qualified for a Nobel in political science AND economics at the same time.

    • avatar
      Marcus

      Then how do you see the role of the state, as an overbearing institution that redistributes all the GDP according to Lenin’s wet dreams?

    • avatar
      Mario

      Could be Keynes’ wet dreams
      Roosevelt’s wet dreams
      Olaf Palmer’s wet dreams
      And you meant Marx, not Lenin. But of course, Pavlov prevents you from perceiving the distinction. You hear the bell and all you can do is droll. Whether there is meat, hard bread… or nothing at all.

    • avatar
      Meelis

      shh. nobody tell him that european nations are also having various programs to ensure their peoples health and well-being (you know, social programs)

  42. avatar
    Enric

    NATO should be closed because Europe is not in danger. Befriend Russia and help to reinforce our southeast borders.

  43. avatar
    Panayiotis

    The bigest enemy of NATO is inside and name turkey, Russia is not enemy from all points of view, so take turkey out and make embarko in weapon, by this you will help not only Greece and Cyprus but also turkish people from the nationalist islamic egime

  44. avatar
    Cãlin

    If it would cover most of the world just to make sure there won’t be any other war among allies, why not make it that big…?

    • avatar
      Vivian

      if only it were that simple. Greece and Turkey are NATO allies.

  45. avatar
    Olivier

    Ukraine should not enter Nato. It would be a provocation

  46. avatar
    Христо

    The countries that have to be in NATO are the current NATO members + Ireland, Argentina, Cyprus, Malta, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Japan.

    • avatar
      Alekos

      Cyprus? No way.

    • avatar
      Antonis

      I am actually surprised Cyprus isn’t in the NATO

  47. avatar
    Julia

    Get rid of Turkey. Turkey invaded Cyprus and is occupying it. Turkey is trying to steal Greece’s seas and Cyprus’ seas because they have gas resources. Why are invaders, thieves and dictators in NATO anyway? Turkey is the enemy NATO needs to be protecting us from.

  48. avatar
    George

    Whom is NATO fighting?
    … the Russians? China? the Marsians?

    • avatar
      Franco

      Russia of course since the WW II and now Kina.

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