Most Countries Fail To Spend 2% GDP For Defense Plus More Facts About NATO

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If a NATO country is attacked, the entire organization responds. And for this reason, a lot of countries that aren’t members would like to be. This is especially true after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While many NATO countries have provided supplies and arms to Ukraine, they have not intervened militarily. Here are some more interesting facts about the organization.

NATO was created soon after World War II ended

The formation of NATO occurred shortly after World War II in 1949
The formation of NATO occurred shortly after World War II in 1949 (AFP/AFP via Getty Images)

Following the devastating second World War, the world’s biggest powers were focused on making sure that nothing like that ever happened again. The best way of doing so, they thought, was to create an incredibly powerful alliance.

The original 12 countries to form NATO were the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, and the United States.

Membership ranks swelled over the years

NATO has added a number of member countries since its founding
NATO has added a number of member countries since its founding (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

While the organization initially had only 12 members, NATO has grown over time. The next 18 countries to join were: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.

It is expected that more may join as well.

One of NATO’s main roles today is combating terrorism

NATO has trained Iraqi troops to better fight ISIS
NATO has trained Iraqi troops to better fight ISIS (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images)

Terrorism is a major problem in many areas around the world. The nations of NATO have teamed together to pool information and resources to defeat terrorist groups.

In addition to sharing information, NATO has also worked to better prepare the Iraqis to defeat ISIS. The organization set up a hub in Naples, Italy to aid the Allies. NATO is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

One of the member nations doesn’t have an army

The nation of Iceland does not keep an Army but has a full Coast Guard
The nation of Iceland does not keep an Army but has a full Coast Guard (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

NATO’s member countries come in all shapes and sizes. Of course, there are giant superpowers like France, the UK and the United States. But there are also smaller countries involved, like Latvia, Montenegro and Estonia.

Iceland would also count as one of those smaller countries. The nation is actually the least populated country in all of Europe. As a result, they never formed a formal army. Iceland, though, does have a coast guard that is fully militarized.

Most member countries don’t fulfill their monetary obligation

NATO member countries are supposed to spend 2% of their budget on defense
NATO member countries are supposed to spend 2% of their budget on defense (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As part of their obligation to NATO, member countries are supposed to spend at least 2% of the GDP on defense. At the moment, only eight members meet this goal. Greece is the alliance’s biggest spender at 3.59%, followed by the US (3.57%), Poland, (2.34%) Croatia, Estonia and Latvia (2.16%), and Lithuania (2.03%).

The organization has pressed the nations not meeting the obligation to do so as soon as possible. NATO projects that by the year 2024, 15 countries will meet the goal.

The organization owns very little of its own equipment

NATO relies on its members to provide troops and equipment, but is developing their own surveillance drones
NATO relies on its members to provide troops and equipment, but is developing their own surveillance drones (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

When troops or equipment are needed for an operation, NATO relies on its member countries to provide the troops and equipment. NATO does operate an airborne early warning and control system. The AEW&C is a radar system used to monitor incoming ships, missiles, and planes.

There is also a new addition coming to NATO. According to their website, “NATO is also developing a capability for Global Hawk surveillance drone.”

All European countries are eligible for membership

Volodmyr Zelensky and Ukraine would very much like to join NATO
Volodmyr Zelensky and Ukraine would very much like to join NATO (Photo by Stefanie Loos-Pool/Getty Images)

Entry to the organization is open to all European nations via an open door policy. The latest country to join was North Macedonia in 2020. The decision on whether or not a country could join is determined by the North Atlantic Council.

The current countries hoping to join include Bosnia–Herzegovina, Georgia, and the aforementioned Ukraine.

NATO has two strategic commands

The NATO Strategic Command Center in 1957
The NATO Strategic Command Center in 1957 (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

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There are so many countries and soldiers associated with NATO that it can be difficult to keep everything in order. The organization puts a big emphasis on the chain of command.

NATO has two top-level strategic command centers. The Allied Command Operations is based out of Mons, Belgium. There is also an Allied Command Transformation which is located in Norfolk, Virginia.