In addition to its Member States, NATO also cooperates closely with its partner countries and via many other partnerships.
The partner countries of NATO are:
Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kirghiz Republic, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. (The NATO–Russia partnership formats are on hold at the end of 2021 due to the political situation.)
The cooperation between NATO and the European Union is a natural process by today. The NATO-EU cooperation formally began in 2002, when the NATO-EU Declaration on a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) confirmed that the European Union would have access to NATO planning capabilities for the European Union’s own military operations. The cooperation between the two organisations is a strategic partnership. Political consultations are held, cooperation is pursued in crisis regulation, capacity development, cyber defence, hybrid threats and many other areas. The President of the Council of the European Union, the President of the European Commission and the Secretary General of NATO agreed at the Warsaw Summit of 2016 on cooperation between NATO and the European Union, and in December of the same year, the specific courses of action were outlined at the Brussels meeting of foreign ministers. Seven areas and more than 40 cooperation points were highlighted in total, including cooperation in the areas of hybrid threats and cyber defence, maritime operational cooperation, development of defence capabilities, exercises, defence industry and development, etc. Read more about NATO-EU relations here.
In 2021, NATO and the EU are cooperating on more than seventy actions, approved by NATO and EU ministers.
• measures to increase resistance to hybrid threats, from countering disinformation to civil preparedness;
• operational cooperation, including in maritime affairs. Military mobility cooperation to ensure that NATO troops can cross borders more rapidly and easily when needed;
• cooperation to ensure that our capability development efforts are coherent and mutually strengthening;
• exchanging information on cyber threats and sharing cyber security best practices;
• parallel and coordinated exercises;
• efforts to improve the local capability of partner states in the security and defence sector;
• promoting the role of women in maintaining peace and security.
The NATO Secretary General and the EU High Representative regularly report to NATO Allies and EU Member States on the significant progress made in cooperation.
For further information on NATO-EU cooperation, read the NATO factsheet.
The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)
After the end of the Cold War, NATO started moving towards closer cooperation and dialogue with non-allied countries in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus and Central Asia. The North Atlantic Cooperation Council (where Estonia is one of the founding members) was established in 1991 and developed further into the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) at the 1997 NATO Madrid Summit, which made this security forum broader and deeper for the participating countries. Today, 50 countries sit around the EAPC table, 30 of which are NATO members alongside 20 partner countries.
Partnership for Peace (PfP)
The Partnership for Peace is the partnership programme of NATO aimed at practical cooperation, which was established in 1994 to help Central and Eastern European countries participating in the programme to develop democracy, reorganise and rebuild their national military structures and participate in NATO-led peace operations. The PfP also provides partner countries with the opportunity to develop its cooperation with NATO in line with its national priorities.
Mediterranean Dialogue (MD)
The Mediterranean Dialogue was launched by the North Atlantic Council with the Brussels Summit Declaration of January 1994, in which NATO Heads of State and Government referred to the positive results of the Middle East peace process. As declared – these results “created opportunities for dialogue, understanding and trust between the countries of the region” and encouraged “all efforts leading to the strengthening of regional stability”.
At the meeting held in December 1994, NATO foreign ministers declared their readiness to intensify contacts between the Alliance and Mediterranean countries. In February 1995, Egypt, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia were invited to participate in a dialogue with NATO. The invitation was extended to Jordan in November 1995 and to Algeria in February 2000. The purpose of the dialogue is to contribute to stability and security in the Mediterranean region, to achieve a better mutual understanding and to dispel public misconceptions about NATO in the Mediterranean Dialogue countries. It is based on the understanding that European security is closely linked to security and stability in the Mediterranean and that the Mediterranean dimension is a component of European security.
Individual Partnership Cooperation Programmes
The Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme (IPCP) replaces the previous Individual Cooperation Programme (ICP) framework document. Its purpose is to enhance bilateral political dialogue and adapt cooperation with NATO according to the key national security needs, by developing the cooperation between NATO and the Mediterranean Dialogue partner countries more strategically. The IPCP is the main instrument of focused cooperation between NATO and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries.
Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI)
The framework for cooperation was established at NATO's Istanbul Summit in 2004 with the aim of contributing to regional security in the Middle East region. Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have joined the initiative. The countries cooperate on defence reforms and defence planning, military exercises and training, counter-terrorism and prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and civilian crisis management.
NATO and Ukraine have developed very close cooperation and partnership relations, which are based on the Charter for a Distinctive Partnership signed at the Madrid Summit in 1997 that established a permanent NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC), which meets at least twice a year. The Committee assesses the implementation of the Charter and makes proposals on how to improve and further develop cooperation. The NATO Information and Documentation Centre was opened in Kiev in May 1997, which was the first of its kind to be established by NATO in a partner country. As a partner country, Ukraine has made a significant contribution to peace-building and peacekeeping, participating in all NATO peace support operations to date.
As the situation in Ukraine was still very bad in 2021, the security situation in and around Ukraine was discussed at the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels in April. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba briefed allies on the latest developments in the region. NATO Allies reaffirmed NATO's unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. They expressed concern about Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine, as well as the ongoing ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed militants.
NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC)
Georgia has been an active partner of NATO since 1992 (EAPC, PfP). In 2002, Georgia formally announced its wish to become a full member of NATO and began implementing the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) in 2004, which provides practical assistance for making democratic, institutional and defence reforms in the country. In early 2008 Georgia announced its wish to start with the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), the NATO summit in Bucharest did not make a positive decision on granting the MAP, but it was decided that Georgia would become a NATO member. An Intensified Dialogue was then launched with Georgia. The NATO-Georgia Commission was set up in September 2008, largely as a result of the Russian-Georgian conflict in August, in order to maintain structural cooperation and dialogue with the applicant country.
Georgia took part in NATO peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
NATO-Russia Council (NRC)
NATO-Russian relations date back to 1991 when Russia became a member of the NATO Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Council (now the EAPC), with the aim of developing an open dialogue and a relationship of trust with Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security (NATO-Russia Founding Act) was signed in 1997 – by the end of the 1990s, NATO-Russia relations had improved significantly and practical cooperation was gaining momentum. 2002 saw the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council, which was the permanent cooperation forum for dialogue on topical security policy issues and the development of practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
The relations between NATO and Russia cooled significantly following the Russia-Georgia conflict in August 2008. However, NATO-Russia cooperation has been completely suspended to date, due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine since March 2014 (in particular with regard to the annexation of Crimea) and the blatant violation of the international treaties that preceded and accompanied this, including the 1997 Founding Act. The irregular meetings of ambassadors in the framework of the NRC, notably on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, are the only options. The strategic concept of NATO affirms the strategic importance of NATO-Russia cooperation in the common space of peace, stability and security. Therefore, NATO still tries to continue to pursue a genuine partnership with Russia, but whether and when this becomes possible it depends first and foremost on Russia. The Wales Summit set clear preconditions for the development of relations. The state of relations is reviewed on an ongoing basis.
NATOP global partnership
NATO has nine ‘global partners’ with whom the alliance cooperates individually. NATO’s global partners include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. The new framework for partnership with Afghanistan is not clear, as control of the country passed to the Taliban in autumn 2021, following the departure of NATO and Allied Forces. NATO's cooperation with global partners is becoming increasingly important in a complex security environment, where many of the challenges facing the Alliance are global and not limited to a geographical area. Global Partners cooperate with NATO in areas of mutual interest, including the solution of emerging security challenges, and some partners also actively contribute to NATO operations, either in military terms or otherwise.