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What country left NATO recently?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance between 28 European countries, Canada and the United States. It was established after World War II as a system of collective security against the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has expanded its membership and shifted its focus from being primarily a military alliance to include crisis management and peacekeeping. Despite some internal tensions, NATO remains the strongest and most expansive military alliance in the world.

NATO Membership Over Time

NATO was founded in 1949 with 12 original member states – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Over the decades, membership expanded as more countries joined the alliance:

  • 1952 – Greece and Turkey
  • 1955 – West Germany
  • 1982 – Spain
  • 1999 – Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland
  • 2004 – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia
  • 2009 – Albania and Croatia
  • 2017 – Montenegro
  • 2020 – North Macedonia

This brought NATO membership to 30 European and North American countries by 2020. All member states agreed to a principle of collective defense, in which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all.

Recent Exits From NATO

No member state has ever withdrawn from NATO since its founding in 1949. All current 29 member countries remain in the alliance as of October 2023. However, one NATO member announced its intention to leave in 2020:

  • France: France withdrew from NATO’s integrated military command structure in 1966 but remained a member of the alliance itself. In 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron publicly questioned the effectiveness of NATO and called for a renewed strategic dialogue among members. However, France did not formally announce any plans to leave NATO.

While France has had an ambivalent relationship with NATO at times, it remains a full member and has contributed to recent NATO operations, including leadership of the NATO mission in Afghanistan from 2009-2012. France’s criticism sparked debate about NATO’s future, but did not lead to French withdrawal.

Why Countries Join and Leave NATO

NATO membership provides a number of benefits:

  • Collective defense and security guarantees under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty
  • Standardization of military equipment, policies and procedures among allies
  • Ability to influence NATO policies and direction
  • Prestige of belonging to the world’s most powerful military alliance

However, NATO also involves commitments and obligations, like contributing troops to NATO missions. Membership can sometimes mean supporting allies in conflicts a country would otherwise avoid. There are also costs related to modernizing militaries to NATO standards.

Reasons a country might leave NATO include:

  • Desire for more independence in defense and foreign policy
  • Unwillingness to support allies in potential conflicts
  • Disagreements with NATO leadership and decision-making
  • Costs related to meeting membership obligations

However, despite some internal divisions at times, no NATO member has ever felt the negatives outweighed the benefits enough to actually withdraw from the alliance.

The Future of NATO Membership

NATO remains open to new members, as evidenced by North Macedonia joining in 2020. Several countries have expressed interest in joining, including Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Finland and Sweden. However, new members require unanimous approval by current members – a hurdle that has blocked potential new countries in the past. Russia strongly opposes further NATO expansion close to its borders.

While France raised concerns about NATO’s effectiveness in 2020, most experts believe NATO retains strong value for European security, especially against threats from Russia. Renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2022 further galvanized NATO resolve. There are ongoing debates about NATO’s strategy and purpose in the 21st century, but little genuine support for membership exits. For now, NATO continues to focus on strengthening coordination and deterrence, while hoping to avoid direct conflict with Russia.


No member country has withdrawn from NATO since it was founded in 1949. France questioned NATO’s effectiveness in 2020 and previously withdrew from integrated military structures in 1966, but remains a full member. All current 29 member countries see more benefit than cost in remaining part of NATO. While NATO may evolve to address new security realities, its foundational role in transatlantic security persists. Any member exit is unlikely barring major geopolitical realignments on a scale not seen since World War II. NATO’s next evolution will focus on strategic adaptation, not the withdrawal of existing cornerstone members.