John R. Schmidt
(De ingenomen standpunten zijn niet die van Vrede vzw.)
When NATO leaders meet at the Riga summit in late November 2006, they will confront a far different security landscape than the one faced by the founding fathers of the alliance. Those leaders established NATO in 1949 to defend Western Europe against the clear and present danger posed by Soviet military power. The United States, as the most powerful member of the alliance by far, came to dominate the transatlantic relationship, both politically and militarily. Despite some bumps along the road, notable among them French withdrawal from the integrated military structure and the U.S.-Soviet Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty controversy, NATO managed to maintain its cohesion and solidarity through the darkest days of the Cold War. Yet, when the Soviet Union unexpectedly collapsed, NATO did not follow its old nemesis into the ash heap of history. The instability generated in central and eastern Europe by the Soviet collapse reminded European allies of the importance of maintaining the transatlantic alliance as a hedge against an uncertain future. The United States, for its part, had no desire to abandon the primary instrument through which it exercised influence in Europe, which remained vital to its long-term security interests.