The Demise of NATO
TODAY NATO is floundering in a permanent state of crisis, for the two conditions on which it was built-American invulnerability and European weakness-have virtually disappeared. The nuclear stalemate has erased the significance of American atomic supremacy, while the evolution of military technology has made the United States directly vulnerable to attack. Europe, for its part, has reconstituted itself into a stable and powerful economic force, one which is eager to assert its independence and potentially capable of defending its own interests. In combination, these two changes in the world power structure have undermined NATO’s foundation and thrown its future into doubt.
In its original conception NATO was meant to be a simple guarantee pact between the United States and Europe. It held out the promise that America would intervene if necessary to prevent Western Europe from falling under Communist control. Thus it was, in effect, an extension of the Monroe Doctrine from the Western hemisphere to Europe, with a repudiation of that provision which forbade our interference in European affairs. For the Europeans, the pact with America offered the promise of a desperately needed breathing space to help them weather the early postwar period of social unrest and economic hardship. Behind the shield of NATO-and with the stimulus of the Marshall Plan-the Europeans would build up their own economies so that they might become secure from subversion within and strong enough to protect themselves from without. The alliance, then, appeared to be in everyone’s interest: it gave the Europeans an opportunity to reconstruct their economies without the burden of a large-scale arms program; and it gave America the assurance that the resources of Western Europe would not drop by default into Russian hands.
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