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Mar 12 2024

On this day 25 years ago, Czechia, Hungary and Poland joined NATO

RAMSTEIN, Germany – During the first wave of post-Cold War enlargement of NATO, Czechia, Hungary and Poland were invited to begin accession talks at the Alliance's Madrid Summit in 1997 and on March 12, 1999 they became the first former members of the Warsaw Pact to join the Alliance. 

Members of the air forces were successively included in NATO’s Integrated Command structure. At Allied Air Command Czech, Hungarian and Polish staff members joined Headquarters divisions during the years to follows pioneering in many ways and areas.

Czech, Hungarian and Polish air forces were successively included in NATO’s Integrated Command structure pioneering in many ways and areas

The air forces of Czechia, Hungary and Poland have also joined Allied missions. Most importantly, they became part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence system with their Control and Reporting Centres, Air Operations Centres and fighter jet squadrons

Czech Air Force JAS-39 Gripen during the third deployment under the NATO Air Surveillance Mission in Iceland. Photo by Jan Kouba. 

Hungarian Air Force JAS-39 Gripen during aerial manouevures in the airspace above the Baltic States. Photo  by Topidoc. 

Poland has a fleet of F-16 fighter jets that are well integrated in Alliance air operations at home and abroad. Photo courtesy Polish Air Force. 
Under NATO Air Policing – besides safeguarding their own home skies – the three Allies have also been contributing to Air Policing missions abroad. Like all other Allies, they share the responsibility of conducting NATO deterrence and defence activities along the eastern flank since 2022 and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Poland was the first of them to support Baltic Air Policing in 2005 and has since been contributing to that mission twelve times with MiG-29 and F-16 fighter jets. In 2021, Polish F-16 deployed to Iceland for the NATO Air Surveillance Mission in the High North. Since 2014, Poland has also received Allied fighter detachments at its air bases under enhanced Air Policing following Russian illegal annexation of Crimea.

The Czech Air Force supported Baltic Air Policing in 2009, 2012, 2019 and 2022 and deployed their JAS-39 to Iceland in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Hungary participated in the Baltic Air Policing mission with their JAS-39 Gripen in 2015, 2019 and 2022. Both Allies regularly host Gripen-user exercise Lion Effort underlining their integration among each other and with the latest NATO Member, Sweden, also flying the Gripen.

For nearly 75 years, NATO – the most successful collective security Alliance – and its 32 members have worked towards peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area protecting almost 1 billion people. Created by 12 countries from Europe and North America on April 4, 1949 the Alliance has seen 20 more countries joining through 10 rounds of enlargement.

Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty sets out how countries can join the Alliance, stating that membership is open to any "European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area". Any decision to invite a country to join the Alliance is taken by the North Atlantic Council, NATO's principal political decision-making body, based on consensus among all Allies.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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