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North Atlantic Treaty Organization: History

The picture represents a board consisting of country leaders signing a North Atlantic Treaty in April 1949 and creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – a war alliance against a pending threat of the Soviet Union (“NATO Pact Signed” 2017). The round table, at which they all sit, reminds of the tales about King Arthur and his knights. Unlike the knights, the leaders had an unequal share of power at their command but what they all agreed to that day seemed to mutually benefit them. The arrangement that lasts until the present day states that if any member of the organization will be subject to a foreign threat other countries will join forces to aid them in defense (“1949-1952: Creating a Command Structure for NATO” 2017). After the end of the Cold War with the USSR due to the dissolution of the latter, the alliance continues to exist as a military union, which, however, was transformed into another kind of European and world peace-keeping organization while the initial agreement still stood.

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In the 1950-the 90s, the alliance has gradually increased its military power that was largely due to expanding the US presence on the territory of Central and Eastern Europe (Njølstad 2004). Americans created military bases and gathered arms including nuclear ones. Several attempts to announce the non-proliferation of nuclear weaponry were made, but in fact, the rivals continued to build up strength. The Cuban Crisis was peacefully resolved, but the lessons seemed not learned. The 1980s were the years of most tense rivalry in the history of the Cold War as the both US and USSR continued to increase their nuclear power and created one destructive innovation after another making them even deadlier. In the 1990s, after the threat of Soviet expansion dwindled and the USSR ceased to exist NATO became the major military alliance in the world. The structure of their forces has undergone some reformation and optimization. NATO first demonstrated its war power helping end the hostilities in Bosnia and Kosovo (Zenko 2010). Both interventions were criticized for the heavy casualties among civilians (“World: Europe Civilian deaths ‘necessary price’” 2017).

After September 11, 2001, the world faced a new threat – global terrorism. Since that time, NATO has been actively taking part in various anti-terrorist missions around the world. After 9/11, the allied countries took part in Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq hostilities. The use of force in those cases was often authorized by NATO and UN officials and supported by public opinion as it was often presented as anti-terrorist, peacekeeping, and democracy-upholding missions (Ringsmose and Børgesen 2017).

The abilities of NATO to uphold peace and maintain stability are often questioned by the public and other politicians. The fact is, however, that it is the largest and most powerful military alliance in the world that can significantly influence the world’s geopolitics. The effectiveness of the peacekeeping missions remains questionable as after Bosnia and Iraq were Kosovo and ISIL. It poses the issue of whether the bombs can keep stability at all at least in the Muslim Countries where unrests and hostilities are still ongoing due to religious and national reasons. The answer to it can be different depending on the political position, but when the influence of NATO is concerned, it can be said that it was and still is a considerable military force and an effective instrument of political struggle from the day it was founded.


“1949-1952: Creating a Command Structure for NATO.” Web.

“NATO Pact Signed.” Web.

“World: Europe Civilian deaths ‘necessary price’” BBC News. Web.

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Njølstad, Olav, ed. The Last Decade of the Cold War: From Conflict Escalation to Conflict Transformation. London: Psychology Press, 2004.

Ringsmose, Jens, and Berit Kaja Børgesen. “Shaping Public Attitudes towards the Deployment of Military Power: NATO, Afghanistan and the Use of Strategic Narratives,” European Security 20, no. 4 (2017): 505-528.

Zenko, Micah. Between Threats And War. Stanford: Stanford Security Series, 2010.

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