It cannot be gainsaid that NATO is still a viable organization in the role of maintaining the security of European countries from the aggression of terrorist funded by the Islamic fundamentalists from the east, and nuclear attack from socialist countries like the Northern Korea. This paper looks into the veracity of the above statement, the history of NATO, its success and the role it plays to combat contemporary terrorism. To better prop this argument, we refer to among others, Sandler and Hartley in their book The Political of Economy NATO pp24, which provides the history of the organization and the reasons that drove to its formation. We also refer to the works of Kaplan in American Historians and the Atlantic Alliance, 53, which underscores the attempts of NATO fight down nuclear aggression during the cold war.
North Atlantic alliance Treaty: A Brief History
The end of the Second World War was the ushered into the history of the world an occasion where the world was under the rule of two super powers. Each super power differed from the other on the basis of ideological pursuit.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed with states in the western countries which shared the same ideological pursuits. This was the ideology of capitalism. The main reason behind the formation of NATO was to counter the spread of socialism into Europe. It is important to take into account that since the world was under the dominion of two super powers, this made the world to be polarized due to the sharply contrasting ideologies.
The two super powers, the United States in the western hemisphere and the Soviet Union in the east, sought to consolidate their strength over the other by drawing to their side as many allies as possible. This could only be achieved through military and economic support to other lesser powerful states. The in return to this support those respective states bought the ideology of their benefactor as instruments of political and economic change.
Evidently, there was danger in any of the super powers to rise above the other. Each super power sought to have an edge over the other. They both set out to building up their military power by setting up nuclear arsenals. This danger was heightened by the fact that the two super powers planned to annihilate the other with their military strength.
Apparently, the Soviet Union was making significant moves into Europe, the more reason the capitalist wets had to be jittery. In that vein, NATO was born to impede the influence of the Soviet Union into Europe.
As demonstration of the ambition to make its military presence and might in Europe the Soviet had erected numerous satellites in a number of countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Far from that, the Soviet had even begun its march to the West Berlin in June 1948. This was reason enough for the countries of Western Europe to be alarmed, together with the United States and Canada: countries that embraced capitalism and sought to make it as the world’s economic and political order. This threat came out jarringly clear when the Soviet Union went ahead and made political and territorial demand on Turkey and Norway. (Sandler and Hartley, NATO Burden Sharing and Related Issues, The Political of Economy NATO, 24)
Immediate action had to be taken by the countries of Western Europe, the United States and Canada. This culminated into negotiations by these countries in early December that very year. The negotiations were held in Washington. The sole aim of the negotiation was to come up with a treaty which would bring together all the participants into a mutual defense alliance. These initial negotiations included delegations from the Brussels Treaty Powers which consisted of Belgium, France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom; other delegates were from the United States and Canada. At the end of the day, the negotiation resulted into the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty. (Sandler and Hartley, NATO Burden Sharing and Related Issues, The Political of Economy NATO, 24)
Later on, other countries like Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal were invited into the negotiations of the North Atlantic Treaty in early March 1949. At the end of this meeting was the establishment of NATO in early April that same year. By then there were already twelve countries in NATO. (Sandler and Hartley, NATO Burdens Sharing and Related Issues, The Political Economy of NATO, 25)
However, it was until August 24 that year that the treaty was enforced after all the twelve countries ratified it. The Brussels Treaty Powers alliance was merged into the Western Union, which later became the Western Europe Union (WEU). The WEU is a subordinate organization to NATO with the mandate of the security of Europe. (Sandler and Hartley, NATO Burdens Sharing and Related Issues, The Political Economy of NATO, 25)
The Successes of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
The formation of NATO and its subsequent enforcement had two ends to it. As a matter of fact, it brought about both political and economic development and stability; worth noting this that these positive implications of the existence of NATO have gone a long way in ensuring a peaceful and developing world at large.
One of the area in which NATO has scored well is promoting the security of Western Europe. If anything, security was the motive behind the formation of NATO. The first steps towards enforcement of security were the adoption of a common strategic concept. This was achieved through the formulation of the Defense Committee Paper Number 6. The paper was originally drafted by a committee composed of the American military officers. After it was slightly amended by the U.S. States Department, the DC-6 was approved by other NATO countries without any other changes being made. In essence the DC-6 was in totality an American product. (Kaplan, American Historians and the Atlantic Aliance, 53).
The DC-6 gave the United States the prerogative in planning and the preparation of strategic bombing. It also gave the United States and the United Kingdom the joint responsibility for organization and control of ocean lines of communication. On the other hand it gave the responsibility to provide military troupes and the bulk of the tactical air support and air defense. In this way, the great power, the United States extended protection to lesser powers according to their strategic location: for protection and money, the United States expected troupes. (Kaplan, American Historians and the Atlantic Alliance, 53).
In 1954, the NATO council adopted a new strategic concept which was embodied in Military Committee Paper Number 48, otherwise known as MC-48. The new strategy took the United States to the task of defending the client states’ frontiers with its own forces at any cost. Apart from that the strategy implied that the United States would assume the responsibility for the implementation of that strategy because it was assumed that at that moment the numerical superiority of the Eastern bloc was to be offset by Western nuclear weapons. (Kaplan, American Historians and the Atlantic Alliance, 53).
Sandler and Hartley also allude to the fact that NATO has remained a viable institution since its formation. This is made evident by the affirmation which experts have poured on NATO, crediting it for maintaining peace in Europe especially during the Cold War era and playing a crucial role in the subsequent demise of the Cold War which saw the countries allied to the organization emerging as the victors. (22)
They also point out that for now over fifty years, NATO has endured and even responded effectively to the changes in strategic doctrines, alterations in economic conditions, advancements in weapon capabilities, and the emergence of political contingencies while at the same time it sought to deter Soviet aggression in Western Europe. (22)
NATO played a very instrumental role in countering the proliferation of nuclear arms during the cold war era. The Theater Nuclear Forces (TFN) grew rapidly in early sixties. It is estimated that by 1968, there were7000 nuclear bombs and it was not greatly reduced until the early 1980s. (Smith, NATO in the First Decade After the Cold War, NATO and Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, 25)
During cold war, NATO deployed security forces in all its allies and particularly so in the nuclear sphere given to the vast American preponderance in nuclear weapon systems as compared to its allies. The United States nuclear deployment was regarded by most NATO governments as an assurance that the US would come in handy to whenever need arose.
In that way a nuclear attack on the NATO states was insured because it was apparent that that the Soviet could not overlook the United States commitment to live up to its pledges; The tricky question about this deterrence quest was the West European countries struggling to resolve the dilemma of wanting the Soviet to believe that nuclear weapons would be used in order bolster deterrence but without bearing the consequences of such use themselves. (Smith, NATO in the First Decade After the Cold War, NATO and Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, 25)
One of the event in which NATO took part, which eventually speeded up the demise of cold war was its involvement in the Gulf War. It was noted that the Soviet Union reluctantly acquiesced in the United Nations Security Council to the Gulf War, which began in the 1991, after the aggressive Iraq occupied the neighboring Kuwait. However the United Nations had no position to use the Military Staff Committee even with the support of the United States. (Kaplan, NATO Divided, NATO United, 110)
Kaplan mentions that it later became evident that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was the only organization that could manage a successful military action in the oil resources of the Middle East and in particular the security of Saudi Arabia. This was because NATO had its forces centered in Europe and it also had interests in the Middle East. (110)
After a meeting in Brussels in December 1990, both the North Atlantic Council’s Defense Planning Committee and its foreign ministers applauded the UN resolution that demanded Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait. The committee called for NATO states to further support the resolution as per the requirements of its implementation. The recommendation for each member to provide support didn’t however mean that the American led war against Iraq was a NATO effort rather than a UN operation. The NATO intervention made the Gulf War possible and the subsequent defeat of Iraq in the war was a precursor to the end of the cold war. (Kaplan, NATO Divided, NATO United, 110)
To add on the NATO provided a forum where the members were allies sharing a common interest in peace and international stability and also created healthy rivalry between the allies who sought to limit their share of collective burden in order to free resources with which to satisfy the many and varied demands made of domestic welfare states. Consequently, they sought both the vigorous collective action on behalf of interests held in common and a systematic sharing of burdens and responsibilities. (Thies, Friendly Rivals: Bargaining and Burden- Shifting in NATO (2002), 262)
NATO’s Composition and Expansion.
The question of NATO’s expansion is today a moot point, since the organization itself is argued as to have outlived its own purpose. Many arguments have come up either for and against the organization’s expansion and sustainability.
On one hand a particular group of analysts posited that NATO’ expansion is worthwhile since it presents the potential of fostering collective defense capabilities; it also works to improve the military and economic burden sharing amongst the member states, imposing affordable costs. In addition, NATO’s expansion helps not only to spread but also bolster the democratic ideology in Europe; this in turn brings about both political and economical stability and adapts the NATO states to post-cold war environment.
In contrast, another school of thought argued that NATO’s expansion would isolate Russia. The back side of this would be that the cohesiveness of NATO states would be limited. Besides, the treaties formulated and ratified before, with the aim of reducing arms would in the long run be in danger: there would emerge the likelihood of the signatory countries to go back to their promises because their safety would have been jeopardized in the first place. Eventually, such a fall out will result into a hefty financial burden on NATO allies, apart from exposing the organization to new risks. (Sandler and Hartley, The Political Economy of NATO: Past, Present, and Into the 21ST Century, 58)
According to, Neglected Military- Strategic Implications of NATO Enlargement written by Phillip Borinski and published in the book, NATO Looks East edited by Dutkiewiez and Jackson, the debate for expansion has been exclusively carried out at the level of foreign and security policy, which in essence is a grand strategy. On the other hand, the level of theater strategy and arms control, which was previously held important, has eventually suffered neglect. This is surprising in the view of the fact that the majority of the proponents NATO enlargement emanate from what has come to be referred to as the classical realist camp. This camp has up to now tended to place prime significance to military balance of power and strict security related categories, for instance geopolitics and in the case of Europe, the obviously irremediable nature of Russian expansionism.(Chapter Five)
Despite contrasting in thoughts, adds Borinski, the realists and the non-realists tend to be uniform in the language he defines as liberal internationalism, whose main tone gives the message that the NATO enlargement would serve to extend the Western community of values; help to stabilize the fledging democratic states in the East, and in conjunction with a special treaty arrangement for Russia, it will go a long towards establishing a European security architecture, thereby deserving of that name. Therefore, enlargement would even benefit Russian interests. (Chapter Five)
Another paper written by Martin Kahl, titled NATO Enlargement and Security In A Transforming Eastern Europe: The Question of Adequacy, demonstrates there came a time when joining NATO became the guiding principle in the foreign and security policies of the countries in the East and Central Europe. The leaders of these states were calling for admission to NATO because in their opinion the complex problem of political and economic transformation could not be solved in a ‘political vacuum’. They feared that such a vacuum would cause the rekindling of nationalism and ethnic conflict, which would in turn spill over onto their territories as well as the revival of old pattern of geopolitical competition. Such countries were also afraid of being treated by Russia as a buffer zone or an area of Russian security interest. (Chapter Three)
Kahl mentions that this fear amongst these states arose from the possibility of the power in Russia being taken by the advocates of the neo-imperial, militaristic, or nationalistic policies and that in the long term could make Russia return to a threatening military posture. (Chapter Three)
After the NATO countries won the cold war it was apparent that it had achieved the principle goal that had drove its formulation. The question that came up was what was the role of NATO in a world where communism no longer existed? If anything, that was the time that the organization could have faced its demise. However, its member countries set out to enlarge its numbers. In fact, some states, having noted and even admired the strength of NATO which had sprung from the strength of numbers, now hankered to find themselves in the fold of the organization.
The end of cold war saw President Bill Clinton taking the highest office in the United States. Rather than back track from NATO, the United States strengthened its commitment to and engagement in Europe. The US administration set out to extend the NATO’s umbrella beyond Central and Eastern Europe. This began with countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland being the target; then the efforts would be to reach out all the countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea. This would help to build a new cooperative relationship with Russia, the organization’s prior adversary. (Asmus, Opening NATO’S Door: How the Alliance Remade Itself for a New Era, 18)
This expansion, Asmus points out, demonstrated the fact that the organization was adapting to the new changes that the changing times warranted. Eventually, the organization that was initially created between North America and Western Europe to keep the Soviet Union in check, NATO was going through a metamorphosis into a formidable body that was committed to building an undivided, democratic and secure Europe and protecting its member countries from the new threats of the post cold war era. (19)
But before this massive expansion could be put on track, the NATO allies up dated its mission allowing it to accommodate of the European continent as a whole together with the need to address the new threats that could come from countries beyond the borders of the member states. After that was achieved, the process of enlarging NATO’s membership and mission culminated at the organization’s fiftieth anniversary summit in the spring of 1999. (19)
Then in March that very year, the former Warsaw Pact countries, for instance the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary found their way into the organization. However, recasting NATO involved major and even dramatic fights and negotiations with Russians, European allies and within the United States where it brought forth a fierce debate on what the organization was standing for in that era of post cold war. (Asmus, Opening NATO’S Door: How the Alliance Remade Itself for a New Era, 19)
The Relevance of NATO Today
The threat to the security of European nations did not end with the demise of the cold war. Even up to date, the West is still facing hostility from modern terrorism, which has emerged as a subtle super power in itself.
Some of the new or rather remaining threats to the NATO allies after the end of the cold war are military in nature: they include local strife in the NATO allies, civil wars and internal violence in general. The other one is the world wide potential threat with a military dimension: the multiplication of nuclear weapon states especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union and problems with the physical security of nuclear weapons and the maintenance of command and control in the former Soviet Union. There’s also the smuggling of fissile material, uncontrolled flow of arms and the increasing commercially available technologies with potentially significant military applications. (Dutkiewiez and Jackson, NATO Looks East, 16)
The consequences of military conflict that bear world wide effect are another threat to the security of the allies of NATO. This involves the export hostilities by terrorists aimed at the enemies on the third territory; environmental damage, especially if the nuclear weapons are used or nuclear rectors are damaged; the flow of refugees and disruption of supply lines for strategic goods, raw materials and fuels. Besides, there are also nonmilitary threats which do have a security dimension: this includes environmental damage caused by reactor catastrophes, organized transitional crime or other such like causes. (Dutkiewiez and Jackson, NATO Looks East, 16)
It due to this increasingly important need of beefing up security all round the world, that NATO today has developed its infrastructure of dealing with security threats. It has for instance, formed an agency called the NATO C3 Agency. This agency has got various departments, which enable its efficiency. This consists of the Information and Communication System, the operation research, Command and Control System, Acquisition, Resources and the Integrated Programs Team and Resource Center. (www.nc3a.nato.int)
From the argument raised herein, beefed up by various points of views from scholars it is prudent to conclude that NATO is an organization that this world will require for all times. It has hardly outlived its purpose just because it has long achieved the goals under which it was created.
This is because, the tension that used to hold sway during the cold war years has now mutated into something else. Whereas during the cold war years, the socialism from the East was at loggerheads with the capitalism from the West, in the contemporary world terrorism from East, propagated by Islamic Fundamentalism. These terrorists confront capitalism with bombs, causing large scale murder and destruction in a bid to impede what they term as Western imperialism.
There are incidents in the recent past when such aggressions have been committed against Western Capitalism. A case in point is the September 11, 2001 attack by terrorists to the World Trade center and the London bombing of an underground Railway Terminal. Besides, some of the states who still hold socialist ideologies, the like of North Korea, have been openly hinting the possibility of hitting the West with their nuclear weapons.
Such examples are a testament of how the world is still at a threat of a possible nuclear attack. It is thus important to note that the same kind of unity amongst nations, which worked to effectively relegate socialism to the periphery and give victory to the allied states of NATO; such unity is still needed counter the enemy of today’s capitalism. All countries that enjoy the stability that come with capitalism have a duty of defending capitalism against any aggression.
Therefore, should the countries allied to NATO set out to dismantle the organization; such a move would only jeopardize the security and welfare of the West but also the world at large.
Sandler and Hartley, NATO Burden Sharing and Related Issues, The Political of
Economy NATO, 24, 25.
Kaplan, American Historians and the Atlantic Aliance, 53.
Smith, NATO in the First Decade After the Cold War, NATO and Nuclear Weapons in
the Cold War, 25
Kaplan, NATO Divided, NATO United, 110)
Thies, (2002), Friendly Rivals: Bargaining and Burden- Shifting in NATO, 262)
Sandler and Hartley, The Political Economy of NATO: Past, Present, and Into the 21ST
Asmus, Opening NATO’S Door: How the Alliance Remade Itself for a New Era, 18.
Dutkiewiez and Jackson, NATO Looks East, 16.