North Atlantic Treaty Organization on European Security Concerns Integration

North Atlantic Treaty Organization on European Security Concerns Integration

            Security concerns among nations had become a major issue in almost every diplomatic circle. Such was the result of aggravated conditions on the issue of terrorism, internal and regional conflicts and other military engagements between states or among dissident forces within a state. Though these conflicts have not yet escalated into a global scale like the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War, these political instabilities have caused much stirring in bilateral, multi-lateral and regional security alliances.

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            One notable security alliance is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which at present plays a major role in the security concerns of Europe. It must be duly manifested that the intensification of security measures in the continent was brought about by the emergence of a greater European community in which economic, social and political matters have been given with much consideration. Not to mention the global anti-terrorism hysteria that had left no state alarmed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States which is a major NATO power holder.

            This paper aims to present the rationale behind NATO’s role as the main organization for integrating security concerns of both Western and Eastern Europe. Reviewing through the historical context of the alliance’s formation, this essay will likewise attempt to present an acceptable reason for justifying NATO’s expansion of its regulatory and monitoring functions in Europe at large. Hence, the historical relevance of the alliance will be reevaluated in order to find a justifiable reason for maintaining NATO as a key apparatus in assessing and sanctioning the conduct of possible diplomatic or military actions on certain priority concerns. Criticisms on the alliance’s present status will be similarly viewed to aide our understanding of international bodies such as this on its performance as key player in the international security agenda[1].

            After the Second World War, Europe was divided into two hostile camps: the Socialist east and the American-capitalist influenced west. The economic and political divisions caused both camps to form their own security strategy fearing that an attack might commence from either side. The non-socialist block was troubled by the military might of the Soviet Union and its satellite republics so an alliance was formed to daunt possible military aggressions from the Socialist block. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was convened through the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on April 4, 1949 in Washington D.C. in accordance with the guiding principles of the United Nations with a clear statute on the alliance’s formation that the member countries were:

…Determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.

Not only did the alliance aim to deter Soviet attacks but also positioned to maintain peace among past adversaries in the Second World War. The European member countries were aware of the United States’ vast nuclear arsenal so in order to intimidate the Communist East a provision was inserted stating that a state would consider an attack to other member states as an aggression on the same. The provision took advantage of the perception that with the United State’s advanced warfare technology the Soviet Union would have second thoughts on its military movement.

            With the strong military opposition presented by NATO against the East, the Soviet Union likewise formed a military alliance called the Warsaw Pact in 1955. It was a response to the potential threat that the western countries held against the East. Hence, the hostilities escalated into what we know as the Cold War – an espionage and counter espionage, military positioning and repositioning and arms race between the two leading superpowers of the 20th century (United States and the Soviet Union)[2].

            From 1949 until the collapse of the Soviet block and consequently the Warsaw Pact, NATO had been able to perform its main duty that is to safeguard Western Europe from the military threat posed by the Communists. Nuclear arms race was the most critical concern at that time. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have considerable nuclear arsenals which were positioned in strategic points all over Europe that in case of a heated confrontation, these weapons were at the disposal of the two contending powers with such tactical flexibility. NATO was also tried to be convinced by US officials that the only choice it had was to maintain a nuclear armory to be able to provide ample deterrent against possible attacks from the members of the Warsaw Pact. It was essentially a stalemate between the two forces. Some European countries have opposed nuclear warfare and had grown suspicious of the United States’ willingness to retaliate with nuclear weapons because of equally powerful Soviet nuclear arms. Only Great Britain and France heeded the Americans’ advice and commenced their nuclear arms program[3].

            Hence, it had been one of NATO’s thrusts that proliferation of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction be prevented and in such cases that were actual proliferation to reverse the program through diplomacy. To strengthen the campaign against nuclear warfare, NATO also worked to prepare the civilian population in the event that chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attacks would be instigated. The Soviet break-up in the 1990’s posed the gravest threat to NATO and its existence was questioned when the members of the Warsaw Pact have severed its ties with the socialist power. A continent now free of a formidable threat had seen the necessity to dissolve the anti-Soviet security alliance. When the Cold War was ended, NATO’s reason for existence must be remodeled of else total abolition of the alliance would be at hand[4].

            The dilemma emerged after the former socialist states were presented with a proposal by some NATO leaders to join the alliance. Some analysts feared that accepting former Warsaw Pact members would stir instability and disapproval among the original NATO members and render the alliance meaningless. The exclusion of Russia which had registered its succession to the Soviet power was feared to possibly start a bitter relationship between NATO and Russia. Finally, to resolve the issue of security cooperation in the continent regardless of a nation’s socialist background was reconciled through the Partnership for Peace Program in 1994 which gave the former Soviet satellites the privilege to join discussions and policy making but not full membership to the alliance[5]. With that development, NATO had slowly regained its course in shaping European security policies and obtained a new identity.

The significance of 1989…marks…a truly pan-European era both economically and militarily…European security has been assumed to be a collective matter, but now for the first time the collectivity in question is all of Europe[6].

            Developments in the region since the revolution in 1989 had resulted to a shift of

The performance of NATO during the Post-Cold War years in various events in Europe had been the new characterization of the alliance. From being a counter-communist block of the West it also served in the resolution of disputes within the former Soviet satellites, hence integrating the security concerns of the West to that of the East as a single political community and assumed its new function as a security alliance of both East and West European states. NATO’s security

agenda has dramatically shifted from a nuclear standoff during the Cold War to revived conflicts over wealth, nationhood and populations which have again transformed Europe into a fresh battlefield. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, suppressed nationalist aspirations and other political interests evolved into long standing crises. The alliance faced a realistic war with actual casualties from ethnic disputes and interstate rivalries.

…Large organizations will still fight for their own existence…and…to change the policy of a large organization it takes more than a change of positions among a majority of its members…in line with the first, NATO takes on new functions in relation to the states in the east –through the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) and the CSCE which may define the mandate for peace-keeping operations…the second..NATO holds onto force postures and doctrines that were taken by events now long past[7].

            In mid-1990’s, NATO performed its very first security function after the Cold War when it decided to intervene and take military action against Bosnian Serbs. The long standing ethnic and religious conflict in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina had escalated into a civil war and NATO member countries were anxious that the conflict might spill over to neighboring countries. This action caused a diplomatic strain between NATO and Russia which was on the Serbian side in the civil war but was finally settled when the Serbian forces and Bosnian Government reached a peace accord in 1995. NATO as a peacekeeping force in Bosnia and replacing the United Nations was a start of a newly defined North Atlantic Treaty Organization. With that, NATO’s presence in conflict hotspots has increased in the succeeding years as its mandate was reconfigured to provide an adapted security orientation both in the east and west Europe.

            NATO’s function has been analyzed as one which is a response to an economic situation in Europe. The economic cooperation was not just among the western NATO member states but has expanded to include even those who were formerly on the eastern block to create a larger community in terms of economically and politically sound policies. Hence, a complex function and authority has integrated the alliance in the modern European security affairs[8]. New economic climate provides a politically vibrant atmosphere wherein new possible conflicts may be developed. Confrontations between bigger political powers were less likely to occur but these conflicts may eventually occur with a new reason at hand. Sverre Lodgaard explains the three main conflicts that would be faced by a reinvigorated post-Cold War Europe:

First, there is considerable bloodshed linked to the process of integration and fragmentation. Secondly, new conflicts are emerging related to the increasingly unequal distribution of material wealth; and thirdly, environmental conflicts are becoming more urgent…with two categories… human being against human being –a question of sustainability; and human against humans –a question of development[9].

            The London Summit of July 1990 provided the shift of NATO goals from collective defense to a cooperative security following an internal an external transformation of the alliance. It has also reconsidered its military structures to a strategy that would fit aligned and non-aligned states[10]. The security concerns therefore, which have risen since Russia was declared to be NATO’s non-adversary have changed from a security concern posed within Europe to that of a security threat, real or perceived, from outside the continent and may well include the whole region in case of an attack, weapons of mass destruction in particular[11]. To include that from the attention of the security concerns in the past decades from the major powers was refocused to smaller states with more realistic and actual conflict situations would definitely justify NATO’s position to broaden its scope.

            To be able to analyze NATO’s integration of security concerns of both east and west, the current security concerns of each region must will be presented in order to find a common ground where NATO had been able to set it foot and derived the momentum to take such role. Historically, east and west Europe do share a commonality but also had outstanding differentiation on historical patterns. With this historical background, the political tendencies of old and newly established states could be recognized hence provide our analysis of an in depth understanding of the origins of the conflicts.

            While both east and west have experienced political turmoil on occasional basis and shifts of power were constantly renewing the borders and political influence of major political players, there is a certain level or severity of experiences regarding nationhood and self-determination which could have been one of the main reasons why the West has been able to maintain a relatively more stable statehood than that of their eastern counterparts.   Though the east have been subjected to annexation by a non-European power, the Ottoman Empire; the west was preoccupied with cross border aggressions with varied reasons such as annexation or consequential expansion or reduction of territories brought by political upheavals. The emergence of a socialist Russia intensified polarization of the smaller states hence an Iron Curtain was finally draped over the continent to isolate eastern socialists from the western capitalists – economically, politically and socially.

            NATO’s came forward to integrate and treat the security issues of both east and west after it had reestablished that the concerns of the continent – both internal and external – must be dealt with the maximum participation of all stakeholders. The alliance have triumphed in this assertive position because of the fact that unlike other security alliances, it does not only present diplomatic alternatives to the resolution of conflicts, humanitarian actions and cross border peace missions, but also provides the military capability to strike and preempt further escalation of the conflict. Crisis management and peacekeeping functions dominated NATO’s security plans.

Collective defense remains the core of the Alliance. Nevertheless, NATO member-states quickly realized after the end of the Cold War, that collective defense could not be the principal focus of NATO’s activities in the foreseeable future. NATO’s day-to-day activities have shifted from collective defense to “cooperative security” – in essence non-Article V activities have achieved a new prominence. Certainly the best examples of this “new Alliance” have been the NATO-led missions [Implementation Force (IFOR) and Stabilization Force (SFOR)], to implement the military aspects of the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia[12].

            The strategic plan of integrating the security concerns of west and east Europe was still centered on the interests of the western members and of the Americans. Without the alliance, the United States would not be able to have a direct control on the military situation in Europe. Germany was always seen as a potential military threat to US interests in the continent so NATO’s presence to check the security risk provided by former enemies in the west will be monitored closely by the United States. The first Secretary-General of NATO, Lord Ismay, had put this in a very precise terminology “the Alliance’s responsibility of keeping the “Russians Out,” but also highlighted the intra-Alliance function of “keeping the Germans down, and the Americans in.”

After the former Warsaw Pact members dissolved the communist military alliance, the United States and other western powers saw it as an opportunity to close into their positions against Russia, posed as a security threat to the west and the United States. So essentially, the integration of east and west concerns is a necessary part of maintaining hegemony in European relations. With NATO acting as an arbitrator as well as instigator of conflicts, western states have effectively controlled the political climate in the former soviet republics and provide a justified reason for maintaining NATO forces. Communist or not, Russia is still a potential opponent for the United States and that must be guarded with all possible means. Hence, NATO’s integration of the eastern issues was a subtle way to assure that while Russian defenses are down the alliance advances its military prowess nearer to the target[13].

            The transition from bipolar Europe to a multi polar environment in terms of the economic and military concerns under the hegemony of the United States and the Soviet Union on the opposite started the full employment of NATO’s integration process. This normalization in the East-West relations after the events of 1992 also brought the isolated east to a greater community of security related policy making body. Aside from the cessation of military hostilities, NATO has also pushed for the democratization of the former socialist states. These developments were seen as an evolution of European affairs from a hostile and divided Europe to a more cooperative and secured participation from former adversaries. NATO’s role became even more evident when the two major powers started their troop pull-out in occupied territories and military bases scattered all over Europe[14].

            Integration of security concerns not only includes military aspects but also environment and migration problems. Thus, the expansion of concerns comes into play. The European Community which has evolved into the European Union with NATO as its military arm has pervasively taken hold of the security scenario not only within the European continent but also global concerns that may put North Atlantic interests at risk.

There are some criticisms however on the aspect of NATO’s expansion and integration of eastern security interests to that of the west. Undeniably, the specific differences of the political framework in the east is much backward than that of the west and because of that, it would be leading to a western monopoly of policy making authority over the eastern states concerned; that possibility would undermine the determinant positions of the middle players such that the course of security policies will be commanded by American and western delegations.

             Some critics see NATO as an organization somewhat lacking in some considerable aspects. NATO is a geographically bound alliances, which means that the treaty that was responsible for the creation of the alliance confined the security concerns in a limited area which the North Atlantic. Though that may have been the case, NATO had still participated in various military engagements for the past decades like the first Gulf War in 1990, missions in Africa and the Afghan and Iraq invasions. These had demonstrated that the role of the alliances was becoming more and more arbitrary[15].

            On the concerns of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the imminent threat that North Atlantic and European states face, NATO had been caught in the middle of debates between member countries that had varied positions on the issues such as the Iraq war and North Korean nuclear stand-off. Hence, the alliance has proven itself also to be an apparatus of aggression against non-European states which in essence, undermined the character of the alliance itself which was to deter Soviet aggression during the Cold war[16].

            It has become a major organization in integrating security concerns because of its historical value in the peace process. The present status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization still hangs in the balance. With its expanding position in the continent and other points in the globe, the alliance has found its new identity which is very detached from its Cold War position. One important value which NATO has presented was that in order to attain security a more unified base has to be assured hence destroy the division between the east and west and compliment openness with cooperative approaches that would further strengthen security in a wider scale.


ASMUS, R., KUGLER, R., and LARRABEE, S., ‘NATO Enlargement: A Framework for Analysis’, in Philip Gordon (ed.), NATO’s Transformation – The Changing Shape of the Atlantic Alliance (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1997), 96.

DEAN, JONATHAN, ‘Losing Russia or Keeping NATO: Must we Choose? ‘ Arms Control Today,  (1995).

HUNTINGTON, SAMUEL, ‘The West Unique, Not Universal’, Foreign Affairs, 75/6 (1996), 44-46.

LODGAARD, SVERRE, ‘Competing Schemes for Europe: The CSCE, NATO and the European Union’, Security Dialogue (23: Sage Publications, 1992), 57-68.

MANDELBAUM, MICHAEL, ‘Preserving the New Peace – The Case Against NATO Expansion’, Foreign Affairs, 74/3 (May/June 1995 1995), 11.

MOÏSE, D. and MERTES, M., ‘Europe’s Map, Compass and Horizon’, Foreign Affairs, 73/1 (1995), 125.

PELLERIN, ALAIN, ‘NATO Enlargement – Where We Came From and Where it Leaves Us’, Canadian Council for International Peace and Security,  (1997).

PENTLAND, CC, ‘European Security after the Cold War, Issues and Institutions’, in David Dewitt, David Hanglung, and John Kirton (eds.), Building a New Global Order,Emerging Trends in International Security (London: Oxford University Press, 1993).

STUART, DOUGLAS T., ‘Symbol and (Very Little) Substance in the US Debate over NATO Enlargement’, in David G. Haglund (ed.), Will NATO Go East? The Debate Over Enlarging The Atlantic Alliance (Kingston Ontario: Queen’s University Centre for International Affairs, 1996), 118.

ZELIKOW, PHILIP, ‘The Masque of Institutions’, in Philip Gordon (ed.), NATO’s Transformation – The Changing Shape of the Atlantic Alliance (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1997), 84.

[1]              Samuel Huntington, “The West Unique, Not Universal,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 75, no. 6, (Nov/Dec 1996), pp. 44.
[2]              Ibid, 45.
[3]              Ibid 46.
[4]              Philip Zelikow, “The Masque of Institutions,” NATO’s Transformation – The Changing Shape of the Atlantic Alliance, Philip Gordon, ed. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Maryland, 1997, p. 84.
[5]              D. Moïse and, M. Mertes, “Europe’s Map, Compass and Horizon,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 73, no. 1, (Jan/Feb 1995), p. 125.
[6]              CC Pentland, ‘European Security after the Cold War, Issues and Institutions’, in David Dewitt, David Hanglung, and John Kirton (eds.), Building a New Global Order,Emerging Trends in International Security Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, p. 61.
[7]              Sverre Lodgaard, ‘Competing Schemes for Europe: The CSCE, NATO and the European Union’, Security Dialogue, 23, Sage Publications, 1992, p. 66.
[8]              R. Asmus, R. Kugler, S. Larrabee, ‘NATO Enlargement: A Framework for Analysis’, in Philip Gordon (ed.), NATO’s Transformation – The Changing Shape of the Atlantic Alliance, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham,  Maryland Publishers, 1997,  p. 96.
[9]              Ibid, 64
[10]             Alain Pellerin, ‘NATO Enlargement – Where We Came From and Where it Leaves Us’, Canadian Council for International Peace and Security, 1997
[11]             Jonathan Dean, ‘Losing Russia or Keeping NATO: Must we choose?  ‘Arms Control Today, 1995.

[12]             CC Pentland, ‘European Security after the Cold War, Issues and Institutions’, in David Dewitt, David Hanglung, and John Kirton (eds.), Building a New Global Order,Emerging Trends in International Security Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, p. 58.

[13]             Douglas T. Stuart, “Symbol and (Very Little) Substance in the US Debate over NATO Enlargement,” Will NATO Go East? The Debate Over Enlarging The Atlantic Alliance, ed. David G. Haglund, Queen’s University Centre for International Affairs, Kingston Ontario, 1996, p. 118.

[14]             Ibid.
[15]             Michael Mandelbaum, “Preserving the New Peace – The Case Against NATO Expansion,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 74, no. 3, (May/June 1995), p. 11.
[16]             Ibid.

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