|North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
NATO is an organization that includes countries in Europe and North America. The major reason for the formation of NATO was that the countries involved wanted a mutual defense alliance so that if one of them were attacked all of the other countries in NATO would come to their aide.
Along with helping European nations with defense, since the western European nations were economically in shambles at the end of WWII, the agreement also helped them with economic aide under the Marshall Plan. This would be done as long as the countries agreed to cooperate with each other. This would help them rebuild more quickly and get them on good terms.
Up until 1950 NATO was somewhat of an agreement for the U.S. to protect other members. At this time there were no military or administrative structures. The beginning of the Korean war initiated the creation of a military command system along with an expansion of the organization.
As the western powers' relationship with the Soviet Union worsened NATO's importance grew. Some of the reasons that the Western leaders felt threatened by the Soviet Union were the installation of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, their increasing territorial demands, and their support for guerrilla warfare in Greece.
Another major threat felt by European countries was when the Soviet Union's military capability began to reach that of the Western Powers. Some of the European members began to doubt that the U.S. would honor the agreement to protect them. The events in Czechoslovakia in 1968 changed the minds of the Europeans, and NATO was then viewed as a source for security by them. America's involvement in Vietnam, though, brought down Europe's confidence in the U.S.'s capabilities. While this was occuring the Soviets continued to build up their arsenal. NATO began a new program in 1979 which would help build up defense, as well as new efforts toward stopping the Soviet Union from building up their nuclear weapons.
The 1980's began with an ever-worsening crisis between the east and west. European cities were somewhat protected in 1983 with the development of intermediate-range ballistic missiles which were designed to ward off Soviet attacks. With the signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Treaty in 1987 began the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact. NATO seemed to have overcome the challenge provided by the Communist bloc by the end of that decade.