North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): Origin and Mandate | UPSC

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): Origin and Mandate | UPSC

  • Context: Sweden has become the 32nd member of NATO – the U.S.-led defence alliance. The move to join the security alliance was precipitated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


  • After Finland joined last year, Sweden’s membership means all the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, except Russia, will be part of the NATO; that has led some to label the sea a “NATO Lake.”
      • The nine countries that border the Baltic are Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, and Poland. 

North Atlantic Treaty

  • Along the Baltic Sea, Russia has its own vital outpost — the exclave of Kaliningrad – an isolated western pocket of Russia well removed from the rest of the country.
      • Wedged between Poland and Lithuania, Moscow has in recent years turned the region into one of the most militarised in Europe, with nuclear-capable missiles stationed there.

Relief to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

  • NATO’s Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are particularly happy over the entry of Sweden and Finland as war planners have struggled to work out how to stop them being cut off if Russian land troops seized the 65-kilometre Suwalki Gap – the stretch of NATO territory separating Belarus (a Russian ally) from the Russian exclave Kaliningrad.

Relief to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Countries that border Russia

  • When Finland joined NATO in 2023, it almost doubled up Russia’s border with the NATO – world’s biggest security alliance.
  • Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, had adopted neutrality after its defeat by the Soviets in World War II, but alarmed by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year, it sought protection under the organisation’s security umbrella.
  • Russia is bounded to the north and east by the Arctic and Pacific oceans, and it has small frontages in the northwest on the Baltic Sea at Petersburg and at the detached Russian oblast (region) of Kaliningrad (a part of what was once East Prussia annexed in 1945), which also abuts Poland and Lithuania.
  • To the south Russia borders North Korea, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
  • To the southwest and west it borders Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as Finland and Norway.

NATO Countries that border Russia

  • At present, NATO has land borders with Russia across Finland, Norway, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

  • NATO was formed in 1949 with the signing of the Washington Treaty.
  • Its purpose was to ensure collective security of its members against the Soviet Union through political and military means.
  • At the heart of the treaty that established the alliance is Article 5, which says an attack on one NATO member will be considered by the allies as an attack on all.
  • It is a security alliance of 32 countries from North America and Europe.
      • In 1949, there were 12 founding members of the Alliance: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The other member countries are: Greece and Turkey, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, Albania and Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia (2020), Norway (2023) and Sweden (2024).
  • NATO Headquarters is the political and administrative centre of the Alliance. It is located in Brussels, Belgium.


 Practise Questions for UPSC Prelims:

Q1. Consider the following countries:

  1. Sweden
  2. Norway
  3. Finland
  4. Lithuania

How many of the above countries have NATO membership and also share a land border with Russia?

(a)       Only one             (b)       Only two

(c)       Only three          (d)       All four


Q2. With reference to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), consider the following statements:

  1. All the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, except Russia, are part of the NATO alliance.
  2. Suwalki Gap is a stretch of NATO territory that separates Belarus from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only                          (b)  2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2             (d)   Neither 1 nor 2

Practice Question for UPSC Mains

Topic: India and its Neighborhood (GS Mains Paper 2)

Q . “The era of non-alignment in our history has come to an end.” Discuss the above statement in the context of Finland and Sweden’s joining of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). (Answer in 250 words)


  • Non-alignment emerged during the Cold War as a strategy for countries to maintain sovereignty and autonomy amidst the power rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • However, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new security challenges, the relevance of non-alignment has been increasingly questioned.

Finland and Sweden’s NATO Membership:

  • The decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO marks a departure from their traditional non-aligned status.
  • Historically, both countries pursued policies of neutrality to avoid entanglement in military alliances.
  • However, changing security dynamics, including Russia’s assertive behavior in the Baltic Sea region, have led Finland and Sweden to reassess their security posture.

Rationale for Joining NATO:

  • By joining NATO, Finland and Sweden aim to enhance their security guarantees and strengthen their defense capabilities.
  • Membership in NATO provides access to collective defense mechanisms, including Article 5, which ensures mutual defense in case of an attack on any member state.
  • Moreover, NATO membership facilitates interoperability with allied forces, thereby bolstering regional stability and deterrence against potential adversaries.

Impact on Non-Alignment:

  • The decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO underscores the evolving nature of international relations, where traditional notions of non-alignment are being replaced by strategic alignments based on security imperatives.
  • While non-alignment served its purpose during the Cold War, the complex security challenges of the 21st century necessitate closer cooperation and integration within established security frameworks.


  • In conclusion, Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO signifies the end of the era of non-alignment, as countries increasingly prioritize security cooperation and alignment with established alliances to address evolving threats.
  • However, the implications of this shift extend beyond the Baltic Sea region, highlighting broader trends in global geopolitics.
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