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Map of Europe's member states

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With Ukraine’s recent bid to join the European Union (EU), the current status of Europe’s member states is back in the fray.
The European member states are countries mainly in Europe, and three outside, that are part of one or more of the four major treaty groups, namely the European Union (EU), NATO, Schengen, and eurozone.
Each of these institutions governs a different aspect of the region’s infrastructure.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political union between 27 European countries.
First created as the European Economic Community in the aftermath of WW2, the organization’s main focus was to foster economic cooperation. The idea was simple: countries that trade with one another and become economically interdependent are more likely to avoid conflict.
Beginning with six countries in 1958, the European Economic Community has since added 21 more countries (the UK left the EU in 2020), with a primary focus on single or internal markets.
Here are the countries that comprise the European Union:

Number Countries Year of Accession
1 🇦🇹 Austria 1995
2 🇧🇪 Belgium Founder
3 🇧🇬 Bulgaria 2007
4 🇭🇷 Croatia 2013
5 🇨🇾 Cyprus 2004
6 🇨🇿 Czech Republic 2004
7 🇩🇰 Denmark 1973
8 🇪🇪 Estonia 2004
9 🇫🇮 Finland 1995
10 🇫🇷 France Founder
11 🇩🇪 Germany Founder
12 🇬🇷 Greece 1981
13 🇭🇺 Hungary 2004
14 🇮🇪 Ireland 1973
15 🇮🇹 Italy Founder
16 🇱🇻 Latvia 2004
17 🇱🇹 Lithuania 2004
18 🇱🇺 Luxembourg Founder
19 🇲🇹 Malta 2004
20 🇳🇱 Netherlands Founder
21 🇵🇱 Poland 2004
22 🇵🇹 Portugal 1986
23 🇷🇴 Romania 2007
24 🇸🇰 Slovakia 2004
25 🇸🇮 Slovenia 2004
26 🇪🇸 Spain 1986
27 🇸🇪 Sweden 1995

What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organization pioneering the development of many different policy areas. A name change from the European Economic Community to the European Union in 1993 reflected this.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exists for the sole purpose of facilitating a political and military alliance between its 30 member countries.
Established in 1949 in response to post-WW2 Soviet aggression, NATO exists for the collective defense and security of the group. Members share few laws and regulations. An attack on one constitutes an attack on all, and member states are obligated to defend one another.
The chronological timeline of NATO’s expansion since its establishment paints a fascinating picture.
Timeline of NATO expansion since establishment.
As of 2021, NATO officially recognizes three aspiring NATO members: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine. Ukraine has voiced its desire to join NATO since 2014 but hasn’t met its political and military criteria.
The eurozone is a geographic and economic region that consists of countries that have adopted the euro as their national currency. Approximately 340 million people live in the euro area.
Today, the eurozone consists of 19 countries of the European Union. Here they are:

Number Countries Year of Adoption
1 🇦🇹 Austria 1999
2 🇧🇪 Belgium 1999
3 🇨🇾 Cyprus 2008
4 🇪🇪 Estonia 2011
5 🇫🇮 Finland 1999
6 🇫🇷 France 1999
7 🇩🇪 Germany 1999
8 🇬🇷 Greece 2001
9 🇮🇪 Ireland 1999
10 🇮🇹 Italy 1999
11 🇱🇻 Latvia 2014
12 🇱🇹 Lithuania 2015
13 🇱🇺 Luxembourg 1999
14 🇲🇹 Malta 2008
15 🇳🇱 Netherlands 1999
16 🇵🇹 Portugal 1999
17 🇸🇰 Slovakia 2009
18 🇸🇮 Slovenia 2007
19 🇪🇸 Spain 1999

European Union nations that decide to participate in the eurozone must meet a multitude of financial requirements. They include price stability, sound public finances, the durability of convergence, and exchange rate stability.
Not all countries have to adopt the currency, though. For example, Denmark has a special opt-out clause to use its own currency and maintain its financial independence.
The Schengen Area comprises 26 European countries that agreed to create common entry and exit requirements to remove the need for internal borders. This allows travellers up to 90 days of visa-free travel to any of the countries in the Schengen Area.
The border-free Schengen Area guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, along with non-EU nationals living in the EU or visiting as tourists, exchange students, or for business purposes.
Here’s a list of the 26 countries that are a part of the Schengen Area:

Number Countries Year of Implementation
1 🇦🇹 Austria 1997
2 🇧🇪 Belgium 1995
3 🇨🇿 Czech Republic 2007
4 🇩🇰 Denmark 2001
5 🇪🇪 Estonia 2007
6 🇫🇮 Finland 2001
7 🇫🇷 France 1995
8 🇩🇪 Germany 1995
9 🇬🇷 Greece 2000
10 🇭🇺 Hungary 2007
11 🇮🇸 Iceland 2001
12 🇮🇹 Italy 1997
13 🇱🇻 Latvia 2007
14 🇱🇮 Liechtenstein 2011
15 🇱🇹 Lithuania 2007
16 🇱🇺 Luxembourg 1995
17 🇲🇹 Malta 2007
18 🇳🇱 Netherlands 1995
19 🇳🇴 Norway 2001
20 🇵🇱 Poland 2007
21 🇵🇹 Portugal 1995
22 🇸🇰 Slovakia 2007
23 🇸🇮 Slovenia 2007
24 🇪🇸 Spain 1995
25 🇸🇪 Sweden 2001
26 🇨🇭 Switzerland 2008

Monaco, Vatican City, and San Marino also have open borders with Schengen area countries even though they aren’t part of the treaty.
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Nine countries currently possess all the world’s nuclear warheads. This animation visualizes how the global nuclear arsenal has changed since 1945.
Despite significant progress in reducing nuclear weapon arsenals since the Cold War, the world’s combined inventory of warheads remains at an uncomfortably high level.
Towards the late 1980s, the world reached its peak of stockpiled warheads, numbering over 64,000. In modern times, nine countries—the U.S., Russia, France, China, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea—are estimated to possess roughly 12,700 nuclear warheads.
The animated chart above by creator James Eagle shows the military stockpile of nuclear warheads that each country has possessed since 1945.
The signing of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) brought about a rapid disarmament of nuclear warheads. Though not immediately successful in stopping nuclear proliferation, it eventually led to countries retiring most of their nuclear arsenals.
As of 2022, about 12,700 nuclear warheads are still estimated to be in use, of which more than 9,400 are in military stockpiles for use by missiles, aircraft, ships and submarines.
Here’s a look at the nine nations that currently have nuclear warheads in their arsenal:
The U.S. and Russia are by far the two countries with the most nuclear warheads in military stockpiles, with each having close to 4,000 in possession.
At the dawn of the nuclear age, the U.S. hoped to maintain a monopoly on nuclear weapons, but the secret technology and methodology for building the atomic bomb soon spread. Only 10 countries have since possessed or deployed any nuclear weapons.
Here are a few key dates in the timeline of the nuclear arms race from 1945 to 2022:
The U.S. drops two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, decimating the cities and forcing the country’s surrender, ending the Second World War.
The Soviet Union tests its first nuclear bomb, code-named First Lightning in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. It becomes the second country to develop and successfully test a nuclear device.
The UK conducts its first nuclear test at Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia, and later additional tests at Maralinga and Emu Fields in South Australia.
France explodes its first atomic bomb in the Sahara Desert, with a yield of 60–70 kilotons. It moves further nuclear tests to the South Pacific, which continue up until 1996.
A tense stand-off known as the Cuban Missile Crisis begins when the U.S. discovers Soviet missiles in Cuba. The U.S. intiaties a naval blockade of the island, with the crisis bringing the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war.
China becomes the fifth country to test an atomic bomb in 1964, code-named Project 596. The country would conduct an additional 45 atomic bomb tests at the Lop Nor testing site in Sinkiang Province through 1996.
The NPT opens for signatures. Under the treaty, non-nuclear-weapon states agree to never acquire nuclear weapons, and nuclear powers must make a legal undertaking to disarm.
India conducts an underground nuclear test at Pokhran in the Rajasthan desert, code-named the Smiling Buddha. Since conducting its first nuclear test, India has refused to sign the NPT or any subsequent treaties.
Through the information provided by Israeli whistleblower and nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, The Sunday Times publishes a story that leads experts to conclude that Israel may have up to 200 nuclear weapons.
After previously signing onto the NPT, North Korea breaks from the treaty and begins testing nuclear weapons in 2006. It has since gathered 20 nuclear warheads, though the actual number and their efficacy are unknown.
Though the threat of nuclear weapons never left, the latest growing tensions in Ukraine have brought the topic back into focus. Even as work towards disarmament continues, many of the top nuclear states hesitate to fully reduce their arsenals to zero.
Russia faces a multitude of U.S. sanctions for its participation in global conflicts. This infographic lists who and what has been impacted.
When a direct military confrontation is off the table, how should countries respond to acts of foreign aggression?
One tactic is sanctioning, which applies economic restrictions on a country’s government, businesses, and even individual citizens. In theory, these penalties create enough impact to dissuade further hostility.
Today, the U.S. maintains more sanctions than any other country, and one of its most comprehensive programs is aimed at Russia. To learn more, we’ve compiled an overview of these sanctions using data from the Congressional Research Service and U.S. Treasury.
Sanctions are often introduced after a President issues an executive order (EO) that declares a national emergency. This provides special powers to regulate commerce with an aggressor nation.
Our starting point will be Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, as this is where a majority of ongoing sanctions have originated.
On March 18, 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. This was denounced by the U.S. and its allies, leading them to impose wide-reaching sanctions. President Obama’s EOs are listed below.
Altogether, these sanctions affect 480 entities (includes businesses and government agencies), 253 individuals, 7 vessels, and 3 aircraft.
Sanctions against ships and planes may seem odd, but these assets are often owned by sanctioned entities. For example, in February 2022, France seized a cargo ship belonging to a sanctioned Russian bank.
The Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have all imposed sanctions against Russia for its malicious cyber activities.
Altogether, these sanctions affect 106 entites, 136 individuals, 6 aircraft, and 2 vessels. A critical target is the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company notorious for its online influence operations.
Prior to the 2016 election, 3,000 IRA-sponsored ads reached up to 10 million Americans on Facebook. This problem escalated in the run-up to the 2020 election, with 140 million Americans being exposed to propaganda on a monthly basis.
The U.S. maintains various sanctions designed to counteract Russian influence in Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea.
*These are recent sanctions pursuant to EOs that were issued many years prior. For example, EO 13582 was introduced in August 2011.
These sanctions impact 23 entities, 17 individuals, and 7 vessels. Specific entities include Rosoboronexport, a state-owned arms exporter which was sanctioned for supplying the Syrian government.
As of December 2020, Syria’s government was responsible for the deaths of 156,329 people (civilians and combatants) in the civil war.
The Russian government has been accused of poisoning two individuals in recent years.
The first incident involved Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who was allegedly poisoned in March 2018 on UK soil. The second, Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, was allegedly poisoned in August 2020.
The Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) allows sanctions against foreign governments that use chemical weapons. Nine individuals and five entities were sanctioned as a result of the two cases.
The U.S. has introduced many more sanctions in response to Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine.
EO 14024, which was issued in February 2022, targets Russia’s major financial institutions and their subsidiaries (83 entities in total). Included in this list are the country’s two largest banks, Sberbank and VTB Bank. Together, they hold more than half of all Russian banking assets.
Also targeted are 13 private and state-owned companies deemed to be critical to the Russian economy. Included in this 13 are Rostelecom, Russia’s largest digital services provider, and Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company.
Proving that a sanction was solely responsible for an outcome is impossible, though there have been successes in the past. For example, many agree that sanctions played an important role in ending Libya’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
Critics of sanctions argue that imposing economic distress on a country can lead to unintended consequences. One of these is a shift away from the U.S. financial system.
There is no alternative to the dollar and no export market as attractive as the United States. But if Washington continues to force other nations to go along with policies that they consider both illegal and unwise … they are likely to shift away from the United States’ economy and financial system.
Jacob J. Lew, Former Secretary of the Treasury
In other words, sanctions can create an impact as long as the U.S. dollar continues to reign supreme.
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