NATO And Cold War Essay

The latter half of the twentieth century has been dominated by the Cold War and
the actions and events surrounding it. During this period different alliances
and treaties were formed and many of these were institutionalized. One such
alliance was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This organization
was set up by the Northern Atlantic Western Powers to combat the Eastern Soviet
threat. Today however NATO still exists and plays an active role in
international relations. The question asked then is why after the Soviet Threat
has dispersed an organization that was set up with the sole purpose of defeating
the Soviets, is still persisting. NATO was formed on the 4th of April 1949 with
an alliance of twelve independent nations committed to defence and security.

Between 1952 and 1982 four more nations joined and three more in March 1999. The
original alliance was formed with the purpose of stopping Soviet expansion in
Europe, with the United States as the main driving force. With the collapse of
the Soviet Union and the consequential end of the Cold War it may be asked why
has NATO survived and still plays an active and influential role in European
interstate politics. NATO has a definite reason for still continuing on in
Europe. According to Michael Ruhle (Senior Planning Officer, Policy Planning and
Speechwriting Section of NATO’s Political Affairs Division) NATO has changed
from a singular-purpose organization to a multi-purpose institution,
“working together to create a more benign strategic environment.” Mr.

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Ruhle argues that NATO is contributing to the “emerging Euro-Atlantic
security architecture.” It is not really an institution but an architect.

The architecture being a “series of key political processes that shape the
strategic environment, the European integration process, the evolution of
Russia, the development of transatlantic relations, and the evolution of crisis
management in the Euro-Atlantic area.” NATO can be seen to be an
institution aiming at peace and security within Europe. There are other
alliances than NATO that have become or are multi-purpose institutions. This can
be seen through the EU, with its enlargement operation and its designs for
Russia. Also the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in
defusing minority obstacles in Europe, overseeing elections in Bosnia and
working with an agreement in Kosovo. NATO, according to Mr. Ruhle is however,
unique as only it can offer coherency in bringing about these processes. The
NATO website offers an interesting perspective on the reasons for NATO’s
existence. “Today following the end of the Cold War and of the division of
Europe, the Alliance has been restructured to enable it to participate in the
development of cooperative security structures for the whole of Europe. It has
also transformed its political and military structures in order to adapt them to
peacekeeping and crisis management tasks undertaken in cooperation with
countries which are not members of the Alliance and with other international
organizations.” Its peace plans and structures includes the North Atlantic
Cooperation Council (NACC), replaced by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)
and the Partnership for Peace (PfP). However there is a different way of looking
at the persistence of on organization such as NATO in contemporary international
relations. Stephen Walt argues that alliances that persist are a result of
hegemonic leadership, preserving credibility, domestic politics and elite
manipulation, the impact of institutionalization and ideological solidarity,
shared identities and security communities. A strong driving force behind an
alliance will sustain it even after the immediate threat has gone, especially if
that force is willing to bear the costs of the alliance and its purposes. The
hegemonic power within the alliance must be strongly committed to preserving and
even expanding the relationship. They must also be stronger than any in the
alliance that may no longer wish to participate or contribute. To survive the
alliance must be a symbol of credibility and resolve. Nations may be unwilling
to pull out of an alliance in case an opponent or another ally may see this move
as a lack of resolve. Walt argues that US involvement in Bosnia was a result of
the fear that no response would create further suspicion on NATO’s role and
future, rather than a genuine care for the Bosnian people. Alliances have also
been known to survive because of groups within a state are interested in the
continuation of a particular alliance. In the case of NATO, there has been
active support for NATO enlargement by Polish-Americans. Walt argues that the
higher the level of institutionalization there is the harder it becomes to break
up an alliance. Mr. Ruhle calls this bureaucratic inertia. In a highly
bureaucratic alliance there is a group of people who obviously don’t want the
alliance to break up. NATO is a good example of this as support stems from
former NATO officials, defence intellectuals, military officers, journalists and
policy analysts. All who have addressed the issues facing Euro-Atlantic
cooperation and conflict. Coupled with this is that a highly institutionalized
organization may indeed provide the necessary capabilities, that would be useful
in the future. Especially in the area of cost. NATO can build on its foundations
of cooperation began in the cold war and encourage continued relationships in
the Contemporary International System. When two nations share common political
and social values and objectives, an alliance may be easier to persist, even
after the original rationale is gone. Karl Deutsch “argued that forming a
security community rested on compatible values, expectations of economic gain, a
wide range of mutual transactions, broad elite networks and high levels of
social communication.” As a summary, the reasons NATO still exists differ
according to perceptions. According to NATO, it is continued because of its
ability to contribute to the emerging Euro-Atlantic security architecture.

However, it can be argued that NATO persists because of its nature as an
organization. Organizations are not easy to break up especially one as large and
influential as NATO, plus it does provide a system of communication that can
encourage further cooperation and peace within Europe.


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