The Ambiguous Alliance, 1989–1997

  • Sten Rynning


NATO won the Cold War but still the security policies of the allies were challenged. The political vacuum created by a vanishing enemy eroded the security and comfort of the political status quo and also invited national considerations of how to capitalize on the potential for change. What followed for NATO as a whole was a period during which allies searched for a new alliance design to enhance national prestige and influence, with some of these inevitably clashing. Notoriously, the United States and France led the debate on Atlanticism versus Europeanism. But other issues were also prevalent: the regional as opposed to the global scope of the Alliance as well as its military as opposed to political role. The principle question was not so much one of whether NATO had a future as an alliance or was about to unravel but one of transformation. Would NATO remain an alliance or become something else? NATO governments failed to provide a clear answer and may indeed have been unaware of the stakes. I argue in this chapter that a political blend of conservatism and anxiety produced an untenable position for NATO, one in which NATO had the potential to become the ideal type “collective security” organization presented in chapter 1 but in which NATO allies remained wedded to the “alliance” design that previously had been so fitting for NATO. At stake were conflicting views of the security environment. If residual threats were out there, then it made sense, arguably, to continue to stand united as an alliance. If there were no clear threats, and if democracy spread to all of Europe, then it made sense to think of “unity” at a European level and, effectively, begin NATO’s transformation into a collective security organization.


European Union United Nations Security Council Collective Security German Unification 
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© Sten Rynning 2005

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  • Sten Rynning

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