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Nato and the UN

A Peculiar Relationship

Lawrence S. Kaplan

Publication Year: 2010

When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed just four years after the United Nations, it provided its members with a measure of security in the face of the Soviet Union’s veto power in the senior organization’s Security Council, as well as a means of coping with Communist expansion. Ever since then, the two institutions have been competitors in maintaining peace in the postwar world. Occasionally they have cooperated; more often they have not.
            In NATO and the UN, Lawrence Kaplan, one of the leading experts on NATO, examines the intimate and often contentious relations between the two and describes how this relationship has changed over the course of two generations. Kaplan documents the many interactions between them throughout their interconnected history, focusing on the major flashpoints where either NATO clashed with UN leadership, the United States and the Soviet Union confronted each other directly, or fissures within the Atlantic alliance were dramatized in UN sessions. He draws on the organizations’ records as well as unpublished files from the National Archives and its counterparts in Britain, France, and Germany to provide the best account yet of working relations between the two organizations. By examining their complex connection with regard to such conflicts as the Balkan wars, Kaplan enhances our understanding of both institutions.
            Crisis management has been a source of conflict between the two in the past but has also served as an incentive for collaboration, and Kaplan shows how this peculiar but persistent relationship has functioned. Although the Cold War years are gone, the UN remains the setting where NATO problems have played out, as they have in Iraq during recent decades. And it is to NATO that the UN has turned for military power to face crises in the Balkans, Middle East, and South Asia.
Kaplan stresses the importance of both organizations in the twenty-first century, recognizing their potential to advance global peace and security while showing how their tangled history explains the obstacles that stand in the way. His work offers significant findings that will especially impact our understanding of NATO while filling a sizable gap in our understanding of post-World War II diplomacy.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: The Nature of the Relationship

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pp. 1-5

There is no more contentious subject in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) than its relationship with the United Nations (UN). Granted, NATO’s efforts were devoted primarily to coping with the Soviet empire and communist expansion during the Cold War. Involvement with the UN was not the focus of NATO’s or the United States’ attention in those years. Although ...

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1. Treaty versus Charter, 1949

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pp. 6-25

Like the League of Nations Covenant, the United Nations Charter rested on the assumption that its purpose was to create a new world order. The UN’s goal in a sense was less ambitious; it had no illusions about banishing warfare in the future. But like its ill-fated predecessor, the UN was based on a putative consensus among the great powers that would assure the collective security of all its mem-...

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2. The Suez Crisis, 1956

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pp. 26-48

No matter how intense the arguments over the conformity of the treaty with the charter, they had a limited shelf life. Soviet diplomats and U.S. senators may have clashed with the U.S. State department spokesmen in the UN General Assembly and on the Senate floor, but the weight of public opinion in the United States and in the West’s built-in majority in the UN had made the issue a dead let-...

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3. The Congo Crisis, 1960

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pp. 49-70

Superficially, the turmoil in the former Belgian Congo resembled the Suez crisis of 1956. There were abundant similarities in the two cases, including the scene in Africa, the decolonization process, the threat of Soviet intervention, the division within NATO, and the United Nations’ role as potential deus ex machina. There were other similarities as well. The American fear of alienating the African-Asian ...

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4. The Vietnam War, 1961–1965

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pp. 71-90

Problems between the United Nations and NATO members continued to be a staple of the Cold War, with the Soviet bloc eager to complicate the relation-ship at every opportunity. The Anglo-French intervention in Egypt in 1956 drove a schism in the alliance, with the United States and most of the smaller allies separating from their major partners. The Congo crisis of 1960 drove a wedge ...

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5. The Afghanistan War, 1980

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pp. 91-113

Two crises in the final twenty years of the Cold War marked the continuation of conflicts within NATO that were manifested in the UN arena. Both of them involved the United States and the Soviet Union as central figures. Arguably the more bitter, if not the more significant, was the Yom Kippur War of 1973 in which the Soviet Union was a key partisan of the Arab cause, anxious to replace ...

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6. The Persian Gulf War, 1990–1991

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pp. 114-132

The sudden termination of the Cold War in 1991 offered an opportunity for the United Nations to redefine its role as the leading actor in maintaining peaceful relations in the world. The steps taken by Mikhail Gorbachev to relax controls over the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact partners as it reduced the size of its nuclear arsenal prefigured the dissolution of the Soviet empire in that year. The resulting ...

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7. The Balkan Wars: Bosnia, 1992–1995

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pp. 133-156

The sudden end of the Cold War did not bring an equally sudden end to the distant relationship between NATO and the UN, but it did remove the impasse between the United States and the Soviet Union on the UN Security Council. After the implosion of the Soviet empire in 1991, a weakened Russia was unable to resist the power of the West in the UN. The Gulf War demonstrated that the ...

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8. The Balkan Wars: To Kosovo, 1995–1999

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pp. 157-185

When Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali reluctantly turned over responsibility to NATO for military action against the Bosnian Serbs in August 1995, he appeared to be doing more than simply turning over the key to NATO supreme commander George Joulwan for NATO’s airpower to bring the aggressors to the peace table. The UN action symbolized both the inability of the UN ...

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9. After 9/11: Afghanistan and Iraq

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pp. 186-210

In many ways the direction of NATO-UN relations was only a deepening, both in friction and in collaboration, of a pattern that had been set in the 1990s. The abrupt end of the Cold War lessened the likelihood of vetoes on the part of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. It also fostered a partner-ship of sorts between NATO and the UN through crisis management in the ...

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10. Summation

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pp. 211-216

The perceptive dutch scholar dick Leurdijk observed in 1994 that, “in the good old days of the Cold War,” the UN and NATO co-existed but “lived apart,” linked merely by mutual references in official texts. he judged that the “two organizations represented rather different worlds, political cultures and schools of thought.”1 Only after the end of the Cold War did problems of crisis manage-...

Appendix A: UN Charter

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pp. 217-224

Appendix B: NATO Charter

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pp. 225-228


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pp. 229-256


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pp. 257-264


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pp. 265-281

About the Author

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pp. 282-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272171
E-ISBN-10: 0826272177
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218957
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218954

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1