Let’s not forget why Eastern Europian nations want the safety net of NATO.
The Soviet Union raped and pillaged it’s way through Eastern Europe in the name of anti-fascism. The Berlin Wall was called by the Soviet apparatchiks who built it, the “anti-fascist rampart.”
In the early 60s, via the Kremlin, that wall spilt Europe in two. The Bolshevik empire on one side, free independent states on the other.
Eastern Europeans haven’t forgotten their suffering. As such, for many of these small nations NATO is a defensive, not offensive deterrent against history repeating itself.
We hear a lot from Putin demanding understanding on NATO, while he neither offers recognition nor understanding about the pain these nations suffered, first, at the hands of the Red Army, and second under 50+ years of vicious, Russian Communist rule.
This is another reason why saluting Putin’s NATO justifications for invading Ukraine isn’t just myopic, it’s pig ignorant.
As I’ve argued here, I’m convinced, based on the (somewhat anti-American) manoeuvring of France (et al) that NATO will one day be defunct. It is very likely that NATO will be replaced with an EU standing army.
Footnote: in many respects NATO is as archaic as Putin’s Cold War thinking.