The international environment since the development of nation-states has always been influenced by the rise and fall of numerous actors which the change in their power not only has effected other states, but also the international environment.
Obviously, states are still influential actors in the international system, which by developing norms and criteria try to order and shape their international arena.
Although the international conditions at the end of the cold war facilitated the process for the nongovernmental actors, most traditional duties of the states were transferred to these actors.
In the framework of this argument, NATO has emerged as the main militarysecurity structure through the cold war period and today, behaves as an influential actor in international politics, so that its alternation with the United Nations is sometimes discussed.
This means the NATOs influential role playing as the most active transnational organization with a worldwide range and its military and security background.
Through studying the history, we would find out that the main idea for the NATOs formation was developed during Winston Churchill's famous lecture in West Minister University, March, 5th, 1945. In this lecture, the term "Iron Curtain" was first discussed. Churchill declared:" from Statin to tryst in Adriatic, there is an iron curtain along the continent.
The iron curtain was the starting point for the NATOs formation. After the World War II, the Europe was divided to two parts based on political and ideological criteria and Eastern Europe was dominated by the Soviet Union.
The North Atlantic Treaty was founded in 1949 by 12 member countries to conquer the pervasive threat of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe to its western part.
During this period, the Marshal plan was functioning as an economical stabilizing tool in Western Europe. The purpose was to maintain collective security and a safe place to develop democracy and Western Europe economic growth.
Basically, their goal was to confront communism in Western Europe. Anyway, the U.S. presence at this treaty was synonymous with the Soviets defeat in Europe, for which they would use even violence and coercion to conquer the West. It is considerable that the resulting security could provide the economical convergence basis throughout the Europe.
Controlling the Soviets threat during the cold war period was NATO countries strategic goal. NATO would utilize a combination of regular and atomic forces to confront the Soviets.
Thus, NATO chose the reflexive response option which resulted to the placement of the U.S nuclear arms in Europe and the solidarity of their nuclear strategy. Therefore, this organization benefits both from its nuclear capability and military forces to confront the Soviets. These forces were useful for the first strike following any attack by the Soviets.
Despite their increasing environmental dangers, NATO would keep an eye on resolving the issues inside the treaty. Regarding this, the western Germany issue was important.
First, because of the partnership of its forces and then because without interacting with this country, utilizing regular forces was not possible for the NATO members. To do this, despite the fact that for the European countries the fear of the Germanys armament was as great as the Soviets, in 1955 the Western Europe gained the right to have an army as an independent state under NATOs observation.
Using solid military and political mechanism, transnational politics and developing democratization processes were not much related to the Soviets threat, but was a result of NATO members' smart goals to stop the destabilizing cycles of insecurity among members which could end to war in Europe, as a result of unilateral military policies or distrust.
Thus, the NATO presented a more comprehensive definition of the threat which would result to its responsibility against internal security crisis and also strengthen the member countries ties.
Certainly, it's notable that the article 5 of the Washington treaty is the NATOs natural principle of collective defense, according to which attacking a NATO member in Europe or northern America means attacking all NATO members.
Thus, each member separately or accompanied by others has the right to defend the others by military power. According to this treaty, NATOs operational field is limited to Europe and North America.
It is remarkable that the expansion of the member cooperation into military and security areas and accumulation of experiences and activities is not equal to passivity. During the cold war, and regarding the membership of powerful western countries in this structure, this organization behaved as an influential political player at this area.
During the cold war, NATO expanded the principles as political negotiation, decision making and solid military planning regionally and declared the Europe's security issues as controlling defensive policies, fear and uncertainty.
Up to the end of the cold war, the focus on the Soviets Threats and military tasks were discussed as the main policies of the treaty and this organizations task was to provide security for the Euro-Atlantic region.
By the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO faced so many threats, regarding its aims, duties and natures. The Soviet Union was divided to independent states.
On the other hand, the existence of NATO without its traditional enemy was meaningless. Thus, the NATO suggested a new security order to manage the changes following the end of cold war and considered the issues as the remained nukes from the Soviet Union and the possibility of its transfer to other states, distrust to the future of Russia, fearing from Islam and the expanding power of china besides the Europe's disability in management of its internal crisis.
This means continuing the presence of NATO in the world. In the post cold war world, the collective defense principle did not change as the nature of this organization and NATO coordinated itself with the new circumstances. Its new tasks were cooperating in the security of the Europe, solving the destabilizations following the Europe's regional conflicts and also threats coming beyond the region as terrorism.
Thus, NATO along with expanding its tasks expanded its operational field from Europe toward the outside world through a worldwide structural evolution.
Considering the wide range of the duties, and along with effective opposition against the threats and to strengthen the security in the variable environment of the 21st century, NATO regarded the cooperation with the Russia and other European states.
The London manifest in1990 declared that the NATO does not consider the Soviet Union and the Warsaw treaty as its enemy and invite them to create ties.
Thus, both sides signed a treaty in November 1990 on regular forces in Europe along with a statement of non aggression.
The NATO in Rome meeting (1991) redefined the threats and declared that there are new threats endangering the states, which is the result of problematic social, economical and political structures.
In the post cold war world, despite the decrease in military dangers, the
instabilities increased and the NATO in the framework of collective defense provided collective security for the members through expansion of political and military cooperation with other countries, of many workgroups with their former enemies, the conformity of military structures and defensive capabilities to fulfill their new tasks.
By: Fatima Alishah
NATO in 21st century
Wallander, A. NATO after the Cold War, pp. 705-714.
Aybet, G. NATO’s new mission.
Op. cit., NATO in 21st century