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Explained: Who are the Bucharest Nine, countries on NATO’s eastern flank?

The "Bucharest Nine" is a group of nine NATO countries in Eastern Europe that became part of the US-led military alliance after the end of the Cold War.

Image from the Bucharest Nine Summit held in Warsaw in February.(Photo: Twitter/@PLPermRepEU)

The envoys to India of nine Eastern European countries jointly wrote an article in The Indian Express on March 25 to “acquaint the Indian public with the basic facts on the ground” about the “premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

The “Bucharest Nine” is a group of nine NATO countries in Eastern Europe that became part of the US-led military alliance after the end of the Cold War. In the article, the envoys rejected the Russian claim (which has been amplified by the Chinese) about the eastward “expansion” of NATO, and “underlined that NATO is not an organisation that “expanded” to the east”, rather, “It was we, the independent European states, that decided on our own to go west.”

Organisation

The Bucharest Nine or Bucharest Format, often abbreviated as the B9, was founded on November 4, 2015, and takes its name from Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

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The group was created on the initiative of Klaus Iohannis, who has been President of Romania since 2014, and Andrzej Duda, who became President of Poland in August 2015, at the High-Level Meeting of the States from Central and Eastern Europe in Bucharest.

According to a 2018 release from the office of the Romanian President, “the Bucharest Format (B9) offers a platform for deepening the dialogue and consultation among the participant allied states, in order to articulate their specific contribution to the ongoing processes across the North-Atlantic Alliance, in total compliance with the principles of solidarity and indivisibility of the security of the NATO Member States.”

Composition

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The B9 are, apart from Romania and Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. All nine countries were once closely associated with the now dissolved Soviet Union, but later chose the path of democracy. Romania, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria are former signatories of the now dissolved Warsaw Pact military alliance led by the Soviet Union. (The other Warsaw Pact countries were the erstwhile Czechoslovakia and East Germany, and Albania.) Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

All members of the B9 are part of the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Opposition to Putin

The B9 countries have been critical of President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine since 2014, when the war in the Donbas started and Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

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At a virtual summit of the B9 in May 2021, which US President Joe Biden also joined, President Iohannis said: “As allies on the Eastern flank, we need to continue consolidating deterrence and defence. We all recently witnessed the worrying military build-up by Russia in our close neighbourhood, in the Black Sea, in and around Ukraine… This is why I have argued, including in discussions with President Biden, for an increase of allied military presence in Romania and…the south of the Eastern flank.”

In a statement, the White House press office said at the time: “President Biden expressed his support for enhancing NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, as well as the importance of Allies increasing their resilience against harmful economic and political actions by our strategic competitors.”

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After the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the B9 met in Warsaw, and their meeting was joined by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

On February 25, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted on Twitter: “…Appealed to the Bucharest Nine for defense aid, sanctions, pressure on the aggressor. Together we have to put at the negotiating table. We need anti-war coalition.”

First published on: 25-03-2022 at 05:56:30 pm
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