NATO open door policy

In the context of the enlargement of NATO, Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty is the origin for the April 1999 statement of a "NATO open door policy".[1][2]


George W. Bush's March 2004 speech (mentions NATO open door at 7:03)

Following the Eastern European Revolutions in the autumn of 1989, countries from the former Eastern bloc became interested in joining NATO, in case of something would happen to them again in the future. During a March 1992 visit to Warsaw, NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner said that the "doors to NATO are open".[3] During the December 1994 OSSE conference in Budapest, the USA and its NATO allies had insisted that no European countries should be prevented from joining the alliance.[4]

On 12 March 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO as the first former Eastern Bloc states, beginning the expansion of NATO eastwards. When NATO was expanded further with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia on 29 March 2004, President George W. Bush of the USA prepared for even further expansion of the alliance. During the welcoming ceremony held the same day, he said:

The door to NATO will remain open until the whole of Europe is united in freedom and in peace

— George W. Bush, 29 March 2004 [5]

The April 2008 Bucharest Summit communiqué re-affirmed the NATO allies' "commitment to keeping NATO's door open to any European democracy willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, in accordance with Article 10 of the Washington Treaty."[6] At that summit, Ukraine was invited to join the Alliance.[7]

In a 2 December 2015 "Statement by NATO Foreign Ministers on Open Door Policy" Montenegro was invited to join the alliance, and the signatories encouraged "Georgia to continue making full use of all the opportunities for coming closer to the Alliance." They remained "committed to the Open Door Policy, a founding principle of the Washington Treaty" and encouraged "partners to continue to implement the necessary reforms and decisions to prepare for membership," while they "will continue to offer political and practical support to the efforts" of the partners.[8]

At the end of November 2020, it became known that the NATO Summit in 2021 will consider a return to the "NATO open door policy", including the issue of providing Georgia with a Membership Action Plan (MAP).[9]

On 9 February 2021 the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, stated that he hoped that Ukraine would be able to receive an action plan for NATO membership at the same time as Georgia.[10] In response, the NATO Secretary-General confirmed during Shmyhal's visit to Brussels that Ukraine is a candidate for NATO membership.[11]

On 14 June 2021, a communiqué issued at 2021 Brussels summit reaffirmed commitment to the Open Door Policy, as well as "all elements" of the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO.[12]

On 7 January 2022, ahead of a bilateral meeting with Russia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that "Russia's unprovoked and unjustified military buildup in and around Ukraine” has serious implications for European security and stability and that Russian forces are only strengthening a noose around Ukraine. A Ukrainian official said at the time that “There should not be any compromise with Russia... They recognize only force. Weakness will provoke them... NATO must show that doors are open and promises kept.” Stoltenberg said that “The Russian military buildup has not stopped. It continues and [is] gradually building up with more forces, more capabilities,” whereupon he described armored units, artillery, combat-ready troops, electronic warfare equipment, and other military capabilities. Stoltenberg was clear that the alliance would not heed Russia's demand to withdraw the invitation for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO—or for any country to pursue the path of its choosing.[7]

On 28 January 2022 an op-ed was published by the New York University School of Law in which the author disclosed that in two drafts of a 2021 NATO-Russia treaty, "Moscow placed the onus of averting an expanded conflict in Ukraine on the West broadly, NATO particularly, and the United States specifically. Among other stipulations, Moscow insisted that NATO's open door to new members be shut."[13]

In the wake of the 24 February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 30 NATO Heads of State held a meeting on 24 March in Brussels and one result was a statement, which read in part:[14]

Massive sanctions and heavy political costs have been imposed on Russia to bring an end to this war. We remain determined to maintain coordinated international pressure on Russia... We remain committed to the foundational principles underpinning European and global security, including that each nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements free from outside interference. We reaffirm our commitment to NATO's Open Door Policy under Article 10 of the Washington Treaty... We will continue to take all necessary steps to protect and defend the security of our Allied populations and every inch of Allied territory... We are also establishing four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia... President Putin's choice to attack Ukraine is a strategic mistake, with grave consequences also for Russia and the Russian people.


  1. ^ "NATO's Open Door Policy" (PDF). NATO. April 1999.
  2. ^ "Enlargement and Article 10". NATO. 3 May 2022.
  3. ^ Grzegorz Kozłowski (22 April 2019). "Yesterday". International Centre for Defence and Security. Retrieved 19 November 2022.
  4. ^ Elaine Sciolino (6 December 1994). "Yeltsin Says NATO is Trying to Split Continent Again". New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2022.
  5. ^ Thomas E. Ricks (30 March 2004). "7 Former Communist Countries Join NATO". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  6. ^ "NATO decisions on open-door policy". NATO. 3 April 2008.
  7. ^ a b Mahshie, Abraham (7 January 2022). "Stoltenberg: NATO's Open-Door Policy Must Stay; Risk of Conflict in Europe 'Is Real'". Air & Space Forces Association. Air Force Magazine.
  8. ^ "Statement by NATO Foreign Ministers on Open Door Policy". NATO. 2 December 2015.
  9. ^ "У 2021 році НАТО розгляне питання ПДЧ для Грузії".
  10. ^ "Україна хоче отримати ПДЧ разом із Грузією – Шмигаль" [Ukraine wants to get a MAP together with Georgia – Shmyhal]. Українська правда.
  11. ^ "Кабінет Міністрів України – Прем'єр-міністр та Генсек НАТО обговорили подальші кроки на шляху євроатлантичної інтеграції України" [Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General discuss further steps towards Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration].
  12. ^ "Brussels Summit Communiqué". NATO. 14 June 2021. paras. 66, 68, 69.
  13. ^ Keil, Steven (28 January 2022). "Putin's Coercion on NATO Goes Beyond Its Open Door Policy". Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law. Just Security.
  14. ^ "Statement by NATO Heads of State and Government". NATO. 24 March 2022.
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