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Fifty-years ago the Soviet Union loomed over Europe and the world as a threat to democracy To safeguard themselves against Communist Russia the leaders of Western Europe the United States and Canada established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization When the Warsaw Pact dissolved and Russias unified Socialist government was dismantled NATO claimed victory In a war it is commonplace for the victors to divide the plunder and go back to their homes but the Cold War was a different kind of war and NATO is a different kind of military alliance As an alliance founded on the ideal of a collective defense it remains today and is larger than ever with the ascension of three new member nations this past year Yet NATOs future remains uncertain Some argue it should spread throughout Europe and include former Warsaw Pact nations other proponents feel NATOs existence is crucial to European security but membership should be frozen at its current number Isolationists in the United States and Europeans fed up with American interference in European affairs believe an organization like the European Union EU or Western European Union WEU should shoulder many of the burdens the United States-led NATO currently carries A more extreme opinion holds the position that NATO is no longer needed and should be entirely disbanded The future of NATO cannot be mandated as simply as any of these propositions but with the compromise of several of the more moderate ideas NATO will prove to be as successful for the next fifty-years as it was during its first fifty-years The North Atlantic Treaty drafted on April 4 1949 never included in its original language that the organizations intent was to thwart Russian attempts to spread communism It stated the member nations were determined to safeguard the freedom common heritage and civilisation of their peoples founded on the principles of democracy individual liberty and the rule of law NATO Handbook 395 However taking into account the
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