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Laying the Foundations: The Evolution of NATO in the 1950s

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The stunning events of 1989 evidently have brought an end to the Cold War as we have known it. What is striking about the Cold Wars end is that it is leaving a rapidly crumbling Soviet bloc facing a still united, prosperous, and secure NATO alliance. A central issue for historical scholarship is this Was this outcome -- not only the Warsaw Pacts collapse but also NATOs residual cohesion -- the result of inevitable forces of European politics Or was it a consciously engineered product of the Wests own visions and policies, one that could have turned out differently had the West behaved differently Where does the balance between these two explanations lie Was the West a passive recipient of victory or an active participant in it Where did it perform well, and where poorly And what do the answers suggest about future Western policy in Europe With the aim of answering these questions, this Note is part of a larger research project that is examining NATOs performance in shaping an effective security policy and defense effort throughout the Cold War. The Note examines NATOs evolution in the 1950s. Subsequent Notes will analyze the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The guiding hypothesis for this and later Notes is that the Wests success in the Cold War was not an accident. The West succeeded not only because it forged an alliance to contest the Soviet Union for control of Europes destiny, but also because it made NATO work. In essence, NATOs members surmounted the problems facing them sufficiently to forge and then execute a coherent grand strategy, security policy, military strategy, and force posture.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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