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How a Country Joins NATO (and Why Putin Cares)

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s massing of troops on Ukraine’s border has sparked a standoff with the West and raised fears of an invasion. At the heart of the dispute are Russian concerns about the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the security alliance founded in 1949 to protect Europe against Soviet attack during the Cold War. Of the 14 countries bordering Russia, five are in NATO, and Ukraine is among the countries also hoping to get in. But that’s not as fast or easy as it sounds.

Yes. Ukraine applied to join in 2008. That was just before a summit in Bucharest, when NATO said that Ukraine and Georgia would join the alliance -- but without setting a specific date. Georgia has also applied for admission. So has Bosnia-Herzegovina, though there is too much domestic division there to make this a realistic prospect in the near future.