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NATO: Overview and Founding Principles

NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; it has 29 member countries from Europe, Eurasia, and North America. 

Key Elements of NATO

  • Collective Defense: This alliance was founded mainly on the principles of what NATO calls collective defense. These countries should be defending each other when needed, but the relationship goes deeper than that. We’ll find out how later. 
  • Openness:  NATO says it’s open to new European members just as long as they further the principles of this treaty and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.

BRICS: Overview and Group Formation

BRICS stands for the nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa; it used to be just BRIC until South Africa came to the group in 2010 and pluralized the group. 

How do NATO and the BRICS compare?

One is a giant, and the other is relatively small, if not growing fast. Well, this is a comparison just to help you learn more about both organizations, and we shouldn’t really be thinking about it as some literal match-up.

NATO: Membership and Influence

Let’s start with what NATO is. We’ll list the 29 countries in the order that they joined, bearing in mind that 12 countries founded NATO in 1949. These were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Greece and Turkey came next in 1952, and West Germany in 1955, but when Germany was reunited in 1990, what had been East Germany joined the group.

Next, over many years, came Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, and Croatia, and the last to join was Montenegro in 2017.

The 12 founding countries of NATO in 1949 were:

  1. Belgium
  2. Canada
  3. Denmark
  4. France
  5. Iceland
  6. Italy
  7. Luxembourg
  8. The Netherlands
  9. Norway
  10. Portugal
  11. The United Kingdom
  12. The United States

Timeline of NATO Membership

YearCountries Joined
1949Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States
1952Greece, Turkey
1955West Germany
1990East Germany (via reunification)

It took longer for some countries to join because they were aligned with the Warsaw Pact or, in the case of a country such as Montenegro, because it was part of the former Yugoslavia. 

Why is Serbia not a member? According to NATO, unlike other Western Balkan partners, Serbia does not aspire to join the alliance. 

It does, however, want to stay friendly. Countries such as Australia are allies of NATO; they are friendly but not members of the group. It’s the same with New Zealand.

Turkey is the only nation in the group, which is a transcontinental nation, often called Eurasian, as it’s mostly in Asia but partly in Europe. 

NATO’s Role and Influence

So was NATO all about protecting each member and not starting another war? Kind of, and also an extension of the Marshall Plan to build trade between nations and also get them on one side against America’s big bad wolf at the door, Communism.

You can also find plenty of articles and research out there that discuss the economic effects of being a NATO member. 

Most analysts agree that getting into the group can not only bolster a country’s economy but also help education, innovation, and entrepreneurship. So that’s NATO in a nutshell. 

Delving into BRICS

What about BRICS? This collaboration started in 2006, when the first BRIC meeting was held. The group’s raison d’être was, like NATO, to help its members.  But there is less emphasis on defense.

Key Areas of Collaboration in BRICS

  • Economy
  • Business and Trade
  • Education
  • Agriculture
  • Health
  • Technology
  • Science
  • Arts

Economic Influence of the BRICS

Of course, defense matters are also economic matters, so the two meet occasionally. The International Monetary Fund says these BRICS countries together control about 22% of the world’s GDP.

Population: BRICS vs NATO

In terms of population, these five countries make up around 42.58% of the world’s population, or 3 billion people. 

As for NATO, well, it’s much smaller in terms of population at around 800 million people, but the nations of China and India, according to the UN, are going to explode over the next 40-odd years, while Nigeria will take over the United States in terms of population. 

Regarding the number of people, BRICS is going to be more like a stone wall casting a shadow over the fence of NATO. 

Industry and innovation 

BRICS nations are said to be more developing than some of the more developed economic powerhouses of NATO, nations that have been rich and powerful for a long time and have wielded imperial military might all over the world for many years, often in a bloodthirsty manner, we might add. 

But this has given them much power and improved industry and innovation. According to a NATO report, the GDP of every NATO country is almost $38 trillion. The USA makes up a large chunk of this, with Germany, France, and the UK also having strong economies. 


The BRICS have a total GDP of around $17 trillion, with China leading the way. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen to these economies over the next 15 or 20 years, and most economists don’t see the BRICS slowing down. 

Many people think that by 2030, China’s economy will be bigger than the USA’s, while India won’t be far behind in third place. 

Russia, Japan, and Indonesia will be grouped behind India, so we are told, but with much smaller economies. 

While Brazil will also be a top 10 nation, so will Germany, the UK, and France. Well, that’s the prediction. 

This is in spite of many articles telling us over the last few years that the BRICS bubble had burst, with China seeing some economic slowdown and Russia and Brazil feeling the sting of recession. 

The Guardian referred to this, stating, “Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa seem to be failing to justify predictions of 21st-century domination. Time will tell. 

Comparison AspectNATOBRICS
Population800 millionOver 3 billion
GDPAlmost $38 trillionAround $17 trillion


Another problem the BRICS faces is endemic corruption, which is generally not seen as good for social and economic progress. 

Even while the middle class grows, BRICS countries still have plenty of abject poverty. India, for instance, according to the recent book ‘India Conquered the Chaos of Empire,’ still has an oppressive caste system and often ensconces its wealth far away from a poverty it would rather not know exists. This is generally seen as stifling social mobility. 

By the way, the book takes a very dim view of empire but does say India’s class system is a major problem as India tries to develop. 

One economics analyst at the University of Cambridge recently stated, though, that there is progress, writing, “Despite these obstacles, evidence from surveys of nationally representative samples indicates that there has been a convergence between the upper caste and the lower caste on education and occupations over the past decades.” 

We should also state here that Britain’s class system still exists, food banks are common, and the poor often live in towns full of charity shops, discount grocery stores, and betting establishments for their fix of hope. 

The USA, meanwhile, is said to contain a third world within its highly developed nation. Still, overall, in the latter countries, there is more opportunity for the average person and a much firmer safety net in place for the vulnerable.

Military Power

In terms of the military, you’ll know from our long list of shows that NATO is the most powerful, mostly because the USA spends so much on defense. 

NATO writes that total defense spending for all its members in 2017 was almost $946 billion. That is a huge sum. 

BRICS, in total, has a defense budget of $286.4 billion. There is no way we can list how strong each country is individually, but we know from our other shows that Russia is very strong in defense. India and China are both increasing their military strength at a rapid pace. 

We also know the USA won’t stop spending, while the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Turkey also have strong militaries. 

Comparison AspectNATOBRICS
Defense budgetAlmost $946 billion (2017)$286.4 billion

Nuclear Strength

As for nuclear strength, that’s shared between Russia and the USA for the most part, and the outcome of that battle would likely be the end of us all. 

So, what are your thoughts about all this? Will the BRICS take over NATO in terms of collective power, or does it still lack certain advancements? Let us know in the comments.

George N.