The Cold War: NATO vs. Warsaw Pact

The tensions between the East and West during the Cold War period, 1945-1960, were significantly increasing due to the formation of new military alliances. These alliances were known as NATO, a peacetime alliance of the U.S and 15 other nations; and the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance between the Soviet Union and other Eastern European nations. Differences in political and military strategies of the two alliances increased hostilities between the United States and Soviet Union during the 1950's.

What was NATO?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, commonly referred to as NATO or the Atlantic Alliance, was an alliance between fifteen Western Nations who felt threatened by the large number of Soviet Troops stationed along the Western border of Germany. The United States particularly felt threatened by the powerful influence the Soviet military had on Europe. This alliance developed shortly after the end of World War II, in 1949, because Soviet Troops still remained in Eastern Europe as occupation forces. The Soviets were pushing for the spread of communism, therefore NATO was created in hopes of halting the Soviet influence. (Hanes 263-266) These members believed that the Soviets anti-democratic ideology was proposing major threats on their ideal democratic government. The 16 nations that made up the Atlantic Alliance included: the United States, United Kingdom, West Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Luxembourg and Iceland. After the treaty was signed, the United States took all leadership roles over the other Western European nations in the alliance. Together, under NATO, these countries followed two basic policies with intentions of containing communism.
1) Maintain adequate military strength and political unity to deter aggression of military or political pressure
2)Pursue a policy aimed at a relaxation of tensions between East and West (MacClay)
Along with these policies, these nations also stated that "an armed attack against one or more of them shall be considered an attack against them all." (Chung) In order to accomplish peace they promised to go to any limits necessary, if attacked, including the use of armed force.
Other than the signing of the treaty, NATO's headquarters were also established in Paris, which was known as SHAPE. SHAPE stood for Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe and included many organizations. However, the most important organization of NATO was the Permanent Council, which was established in 1952. (Chung)
Why was the formation of NATO significant to the Cold War?
The formation of the peacetime alliance NATO severely impacted the Cold War, specifically in three main ways.
1. NATO's defensive organizations against communist aggression successfully led to European and trans-Atlantic co-operations. For example, the Berlin Blockade operation was carried through. After being blocked out of Berlin access by The Soviets, the United States supplied Berlin with such necessities through their air force. The Soviets therefore were not successful in taking control of the city, and NATO's main goal of halting communism was accomplished.
2. Becoming apart of NATO, the United States became became fully committed to a military alliance for the first time ever. Rather than staying isolated or neutral, like in previous wars, American troops were stationed in Western Europe waiting to be called on by their allies who needed military assistance. Americans were now prepared for battle at anytime to aid any of their fellow allies.
3. The formation of NATO had it's positive influences on the war, like previous examples, however it also had it's negative impacts. Due to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact which further increased tensions between the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union itself.

Why was the Warsaw Pact formed?
In 1954, the foreign ministers of U.S, France, Britain and the Soviet Union met in Berlin to discuss whether Germany should be reunified or not. None of the countries came to the same terms, and each country had differing concerns and viewpoints on how to rebuild postwar Germany. Therefore, no agreements were reached and arguments continued. For example, the Soviets were insisting on abolishing NATO and the U.S tried arguing for free elections throughout Germany. Also, the three Western allies were allowing West Germany to rearm, resulting with the joining of West Germany to NATO in 1955. The expansion of NATO sparked anger and competition within the Soviets. Consequently, the Soviets created the Warsaw Pact, a Communist counteraction to NATO in 1955. Responding with this pact set up a military alliance between the Soviet Union and Eastern European Nations. (Powaski 96, 101) The formation of NATO and the re-militarization of West Germany both posed potential threats to the Eastern countries, and were the main reasons for the creation of the Warsaw Pact.

What was the Warsaw Pact? The Warsaw Pact was the name of the military alliance between the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations. This treaty included all communist countries except Yugoslavia; Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. (Chung) The official name of the treaty is known as "The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance". (Curtis) This pact functions as part of the Soviet Ministry of Defense which keeps all of its European allies under it's political and military control. The Soviet Union has also used the Warsaw Pact as a way to develop new armies and train them under their military strategies. The Warsaw Pact was a way to direct all European eastern countries under Soviet control, and allow for Soviet defense and foreign policy to overrule any other policies. Eastern Europe was overwhelmed by the influence and presence of Soviet troops, which were now stationed everywhere. The treaty itself stated that relations among all countries who signed the treaty are based on "equality, mutual noninterference in internal affairs, and respect for national sovereignty and independence." (Curtis) It also stated that the function of the pact was to only defend themselves against any aggression that they may face.
Why was the formation of the Warsaw Pact alliance significant to the increasing Cold War tensions?The Warsaw Pact was a major factor in increasing tensions between the countries during the Cold War, because by 1955 both the Soviet Union and United Stated had opposing alliances which were both very dangerous. Both alliances were proposing ways to basically dominate the world and spread their beliefs of ideal governments. Also, this pact allowed for the Soviet Union to station troops in Eastern Europe. Allowing troops to be stationed was very dangerous because at any moment troops could attack the Western European countries. The Warsaw Pact allowed the Soviet Union to be seen as a huge militaristic threat and became a symbol of Soviet dominance in Europe. nato_warsaw_map.pngThis map is showing the different nations under NATO and Warsaw Pact control.

Is NATO still necessary today?
Watching this video will clearly give you an answer, however some may watch and disagree
NATO Conference
with their response. The video explains that NATO is no longer relevant today because the Warsaw Pact dissolved about twenty years ago. Rather than dying down, NATO is actually expanding and even absorbing nations that previously belonged to the Warsaw Pact. Approximately 150,000 NATO troops are stationed in Afghanistan today and the number is still growing. This video is basically stating that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is just an excuse to dominate the world and that it's just a tool used for military aggression. By eliminating competition with the Warsaw Pact, NATO should still not be competing for world domination especially when the money people pay is being used for missiles, bombs and tanks rather than education, housing and healthcare.

Why is NATO still around today?

Works Cited:
Chung, TK. "Cold War 1945-1960." Cold War., 2007. Web. 1 May 2011. < North Atlantic Treaty Organization>.

Curtis, Glenn. "the Warsaw Pact." The Warsaw Pact. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2011. <>.

Hanes, Sharon. Cold War. 1, 2. Farmington Hills: Thomson Gale, 2004. 263-266. Print.

MacClay, Jim. "The Purpose of NATO during the Cold War." OUR PURPOSE IN EUROPE. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr 2011. <>.

Powaski, Ronald. The Cold War. 1st. New York City: Oxford University Press, 1998. 96, 101. Print.