Term Paper: Security Explain the Endurance of NATO

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¶ … security explain the endurance of NATO since the end of the Cold War?

NATO continuous survival after the end of the Cold War still remains a mystery for the academic environment, for scholars, and politicians alike. There have been numerous theoretical debates on the necessity, reasons for being and possible means to influence world politics and international conflicts. In this sense, the main directions of analysis tried to explain NATO from the neorealist, institutionalist, and social constructivism perspectives. However, it can be said that all these three approaches were viable at a certain time in the history of post Cold War NATO.

From its very inception, NATO was built in terms of the realist perspective of the post World War experience. In traditional terms, realism is a power oriented theory which addresses the issue of international power as the final goal of the state (Morgenthau, 1978). More precisely, he considered states to be inevitably heading towards a continuous conflicting state of being, power being the ultimate goal. The distribution of power in the realist terms was the deciding element for the structure and configuration of the international system. Therefore, following the Second World War, it was relatively clear that the U.S.S.R. would soon become an important poll of power, one that would challenge the security perspective of the international system. In this context, NATO was established in order to give security assurances and, at the same time, as a sign of power and domination. Its mirror image, the Warsaw Pact would play a similar role for the Eastern block and the U.S.S.R.

It can be said that at the very beginnings, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was first and foremost a political tool rather than a military one. Indeed, it cannot be denied the fact that its merits allowed it to be an essential actor in the power struggle of the Cold War, yet soon after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact it was considered that the reason for being of NATO did no longer exist. In this sense, "when the cold war ended in Europe, many observers expected that NATO's demise would soon follow" (Duffield, 1994-5). There were also less negative scenarios which considered that the very existence of NATO was reminiscent of the Cold War and in a New World Order, in which the bipolar system was no longer a reality, the idea behind NATO would in time become dissolute (Kissinger, 1995). The major explanations revolve around the idea that "with the loss of its enemy, the very purpose of the organization, the basis of its legitimacy and the glue that kept the allied states together were also gone" (Sjursen, 2004).

The end of the Cold War brought along a series of changes in the wider view of the international system as well. Following the Second World War, the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. became fierce enemies not so much in direct military confrontations but rather in a war of interpretations and expectations (Nye, 2005). In this sense, the world order that was created at the time did not revolve around the idea of explicit contact, but on mutual expectations which drove world politics forward. There was no clear verbal determination at the official level of the actual state of affairs in terms of declaring the existence of a "cold war" between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. Still, the actions one political block took as reactions to the actions taken by the other side were implicit communication means and constituted in fact the norms of the system, adjusted the behavior of states without actual diplomatic or military contact between the two powers.

NATO's actions during the Cold War represented in this sense the military channel through which the Western part could send across messages. The main aim of the organization was to restrain the Russian influence in the world (Van Ham, 2001) However, once its counterpart the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, it was believed, and expected that a similar situation would await NATO. However, "despite predictions of fragmentation from within or supercession from above, the Alliance has emerged as a -- perhaps the -- dominant institution in contemporary security relations" (Williams and Neumann, 2000). This evolution is analyzed for much of the 1990s from various perspectives in an attempt to find justification for NATO's existence and possible means to establish its role in the security framework of the 21st century.

There have been various theories discussing the issue of international organizations and regimes, most importantly from a security perspective due to the fact that the actual existence of the state relies in its ability to ensure a secure environment for the exercise of power, internally and externally (Nye, 2005). The realist perspective of international relations completely rejects the idea of cooperation as discussed in Wilsonian terms. On the other hand, it accepts alliances as a means of establishing and maintaining the balance of power (Kapstein and Mastanduno, 1999). NATO was the result of this line of thought. However, subsequent theories questioned some premises from which realists depart in their discussion. In this sense, neorealists believed that the balance of power can be struck by the use of structural constraints (Waltz, 1979). More precisely, although there is no denial of the state of anarchy as presented by the realists and the security dilemma still existed in their perspective, neorealists argue that the main goal of the state is in fact the survival, and not so much the supremacy of the world. However, in this context, the role if alliances and of NATO stops in the moment when the threat is gone (McCalla, 2006), because the alliances are created as a result of a threat or menace (Katzenstein, 1996).

The neorealist theory was the first to consider the future of NATO from the end of the Cold War through the perspective of alliance making. Although this issue was not of extensive interest to realists and neorealists (McCalla, 2006), they considered that alliances, although may survive a sudden change in the international system, in the end their role and scope would diminish to dissolution. However, their perspectives on the institutions and on NATO in particular, are strongly connected with their beliefs on the international society. Therefore, Kenneth Waltz, as one of the most important neorealist voices, contends that states are constantly faced with security issues and dilemmas and there is nothing in the evolution of international politics that would determine the belief that war would eventually be averted (Waltz, 1979). In this sense, alliances are a necessary element in the construct of the international political scene.

This perspective has been invoked by neorealist to consider the eventual need of NATO or a structure similar in terms of general lines. It has been considered, immediately following the Cold War that "institutions are easier to adapt once in place than to build from scratch" (Lepgold, 1998). Up to that point, realists did not believe in the possibility of actually changing the system, as they considered the status-quo a constant reality. Therefore, it was argued that "in neorealism, however, the role of practice in shaping the character of anarchy is substantially reduced, and so there is less about which to argue: self-help and competitive power politics are simply given exogenously by the structure of the state system" (Wendt, 1992). This is why realists and neorealists failed to predict the fall of the U.S.S.R. (Hyland, 1990; Lebow and Risse-Kappen, 1996).

The necessity of institutions and of NATO in particular was given a simple explanation. Thus, "neorealists argue that institutions matter to the extent that they cause states to behave in ways they otherwise would not behave-for example, foregoing short-term, self-interest in favor of long-term community goals" (Schweller and Priess, 1997). However, as John J. Mearsheimer suggests in his views on the institutional framework, alliances and institutionalized relations cannot ensure that war is averted; on his radical stand, he suggests that institutions in fact offer a false hope of peace for its member states (1994-5). Moreover, he goes on saying that "realists maintain that institutions are basically a reflection of the distribution of power in the world. They are based on the self-interested calculations of the great powers, and they have no independent effect on state behavior" (Mearsheimer, 1994-5), therefore their presence would ultimately be dissolute.

The change of NATO was imminent at the end of the Cold War. This was due to the fact that "the NATO of the Cold War was a single threat, single role organization. Although NATO always had other purposes, in particular providing the context for post-war reconstruction in western Europe and helping to integrate West Germany back into the community of states, it was created in response to the perceived threat posed by the Soviet Union and its central purpose was the organization of defense and deterrence vis-a-vis the Soviet Union" (Cottey, 2004). Therefore, a new perspective had to be developed if the organization were to continue to exist. Neorealists believed that because war was to continue even after… [END OF PREVIEW]

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