NATO and the Trans-Atlantic Bargain


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) continued relevance has been enabled by its adaptability to changing threats facing its members and the ability of the organization to manage challenges it faces. This paper highlights how NATO has adapted to changing security threats and managed challenges it has faced over time. The Trans-Atlantic bargain still provides the foundation and center of the European security framework since it enables members to share responsibility of defending themselves from universal threats. Although, such responsibility sharing has been challenged by unequal contribution of member states, NATO has been able to overcome such challenges by redefining how members contribute to its missions e.g. by considering each member’s GDP to determine the contribution by such a member. Additionally, NATO has established transparent decision-making approaches thus alleviating cases where member countries become dissatisfied with any of the mission undertaken. Although the initial threat that NATO was set to safeguard against was alleviated with dissolution of Soviet Union and end of cold war, current threats to members such as terrorism that require concerted efforts make NATO a relevant outfit even in future.

Keywords. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, Trans-Atlantic bargain


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance of European countries founded on the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty of April 4th, 1949. It is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium and currently has a membership of 28 countries (Howorth & Keeler, 2004). The alliance integrates resources from each member state to provide and guarantee collective defense in case any member country faces an external aggression. Initially, NATO’s primary objective was to defend its members against the Soviet Union and its satellites (Reid, 2004). It was the tool that was used to implement the historic post-war transatlantic bargain. In the pact, the U.S would offer member European countries with security assurance from the Soviet Union threat through deployment of a significant number of forces on European territory and, more significantly, through the nuclear parasol in return for comparatively reasonable support and input by European States in the Cold War (Howorth & Keeler, 2004). Through the organization, the U.S also got veto power in internal affairs of the European subcontinent, in exchange for financial support to these countries to facilitate their economic growth. The bargain created a win-win situation; the U.S got allies in the systemic fight against Communist socialism and anchored herself definitely in Europe, her geo-strategic target. On the other hand, the Europeans were shielded from the consequences and threats of the Warsaw Pact and aggression, and were thus capable of channeling significant resources (that could have alternatively be expended on defense) to address domestic issues and problems thus placating their war-ravaged countries (Reid, 2004).

The collapse of the Soviet Union and end of cold war ended NATO’s initial defense role but the alliance has assumed other roles in the modern era. Security threats to NATO members in the modern era range from terrorism, through cyber-crimes to the propagation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Moreover, NATO is occasionally enlisted in the support of other forces to defend civilians from tyranny and oppression from dictatorial regimes (Ivanov, 2011). Over the six decades of NATO’s existent, cynics have highlighted a number of external threats and internal difficulties, among them structural challenges that could result into the dissolution of NATO. Some of these challenges were, typically, inadequate defense investments, an increasing gap between capabilities of the US and NATO members, and swerving threat views among NATO member countries (Kaplan, 2004). Although these challenges are of considerable concern for the Alliance, they have not turned out terminal for NATO. For six decades, the Alliance has managed these problems and continue to be relevant to its founding member states and appealing for prospective states due to new threats that the members and the global world faces. The challenges have not undermined the NATO Alliance since they, eventually, are not significantly ample to rescind the grandiose strategic bargain that is the pillar of the organization. NATO has adjusted to threats from without and pressures from within since inception, largely because of its integral self-healing features: an alliance of democracies sharing similar values, de-facto shared evaluation and requisite implicit approval of every member state’s foreign affairs, remarkable transparency of affairs, and capacity for divergence without fearing retaliation from sturdier members (Ivanov, 2011). This paper assesses how NATO managed challenges that it experienced throughout the cold war period and how it has survived in modern era by continually adapting to changing threats that its member countries face.

Go to part 2 here.

find the cost of your paper