STOCKHOLM — Finland and Sweden are nearing decisions on whether to ditch their long-standing policy of military nonalignment and join NATO in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
They would become the 31st and 32nd members of the trans-Atlantic alliance, which was founded by the U.S. and 11 other countries following World War II. Here's a timeline showing key developments in NATO's history.
1949: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is founded to deter Soviet expansion and a revival of European militarism. The 12 original members are the United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.
1952: Greece and Turkey join in the alliance's first expansion.
1955: West Germany joins NATO. In response, the Soviet Union and seven countries in Eastern Europe form the eight-nation Warsaw Pact.
1982: Spain becomes the 16th member of NATO.
1991: The Soviet Union collapses and the Warsaw Pact is dissolved.
1994: Finland and Sweden join NATO's Partnership for Peace program. The following year they join the European Union, effectively ceasing to be neutral, but remaining military nonaligned.
1999: Three former Warsaw Pact nations — the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland — join NATO.
2001: Article 5 in the NATO treaty, which stipulates that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all, is triggered for the first time after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
2002: The NATO-Russia Council is formed to help NATO members and Russia to work together on security issues.
2003: NATO takes command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF).
2004: The biggest NATO expansion to date as seven countries become members: Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The latter three are the only former Soviet republics to have joined the alliance.
2008: NATO countries welcome Ukraine and Georgia's aspirations to join the alliance, angering Russia. In August, Russia wins a short war with Georgia over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow recognizes as independent states.
2009: Croatia and Albania become NATO members.
2011: NATO enforces a no-fly zone over Libya. Sweden takes part with fighter jets on reconnaissance missions.
2014: NATO suspends most cooperation with Russia after its annexation of Crimea.
2015: NATO ends the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The alliance remains in Afghanistan to train local security forces until the Taliban takeover in 2021.
2017: Montenegro joins NATO.
2020: North Macedonia becomes NATO's 30th member.
2022: Sweden and Finland explore the possibility of NATO membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.