Laying the Foundations

The Evolution of NATO in the 1950s

by Richard L. Kugler

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Part of a project to examine NATO's performance in shaping a security policy and establishing its defense throughout the Cold War, this Note seeks to determine whether the successful resolution of the Cold War in 1989 and 1990 was a consequence of inevitable forces or of NATO's own vision and actions. The guiding hypothesis for the study is that NATO's members overcame great obstacles to design and execute a coherent grand strategy, security policy, military strategy, and force posture. As the 1950s unfolded, NATO moved from a relatively frail condition to a growing conventional force structure, then shifted to an emphasis on nuclear deterrence, witnessed the rearmament of West Germany and the alienation of France, and performed best in response to crisis and when under strong U.S. leadership. Overall, the 1950s may be seen as a period when NATO created a firm foundation that foreshadowed its later stunning success.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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