Time-Lapse Map Shows NATO’s Expansion Over the Years

Over the past 75 years, NATO has broadly expanded its reach, as 32 member nations are now united for a common cause in the military alliance.

On Thursday, NATO will mark its 75th anniversary, with the organization saying that it’s celebrating several decades of “collective defense.”

“Since its creation on 4 April 1949, the transatlantic Alliance has grown from 12 founding members to 32 member countries, all working together to keep our people safe. A community of Allies bound together by common values of democracy, individual liberty, human rights and the rule of law,” the organization said in a press release.

In recent months, NATO has taken a major role in the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. NATO and its allies have repeatedly criticized Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, while also supplying Kyiv with economic and military assistance.

Newsweek has compiled a list showing how NATO has expanded over the past 75 years, dating to its origin in 1949.

Banners are pictured in front of the new NATO headquarters on April 19, 2018, during a press tour of the facilities as the organization is moving from its old headquarters to the new building in…


April 4, 1949:

  • Signing of the North Atlantic Treaty (Washington Treaty). On the date of its origin, NATO had 12 founding members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

1st Enlargement (1950s):

  • February 18, 1952: Greece, Turkey.
  • May 6, 1955: West Germany.

The Accession of Spain:

1st Wave of Post-Cold War Enlargement:

  • March 12, 1999: Czechia, Hungary, Poland (After Madrid Summit).

2nd Wave of Post-Cold War Enlargement (Largest Wave in NATO history):

  • March 29, 2004: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Accession in Late 2000s:

  • April 1, 2009: Albania, Croatia.
  • June 5, 2017: Montenegro.

Additions in 2020s:

  • March 27, 2020: North Macedonia.
  • April 4, 2023: Finland.
  • March 7, 2024: Sweden.

Both Finland and Sweden first submitted their application letters to NATO on May 18, 2022.

“At the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid on 29 June, Allied Leaders agreed to invite both countries to become members of NATO. Together with Sweden, Finland completed accession talks at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on 4 July, confirming its willingness and ability to meet the political, legal and military obligations and commitments of NATO membership,” NATO states on its website.

Over the course of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly criticized NATO.

After Finland was named a member of NATO, Putin responded, saying, “They (the West) dragged Finland into NATO. Did we have any disputes with them? All disputes, including territorial ones in the mid-20th century, have long been solved … There were no problems there, now there will be, because we will create the Leningrad military district and concentrate a certain amount of military units there,” The Moscow Times reported.

More recently, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “Today, in relations with Russia, the bloc has returned to Cold War settings,” Reuters reported this week.

Newsweek reached out to NATO via email for comment.