Transformation of NATO Through The Friend-Enemy Difference

22.03.2024

In his work titled “The Catiline Conspiracy” written by the Roman historian Sallustius, Cato the Younger addressed the Senate as follows: “There were some values that made our ancestors great, but we did not have them and have forgotten them. These; “A competent administration at home and a fair administration abroad, decisions we make in consultation with each other, free from all ambition and with our completely free will.” (Warner, 2014:65). While the Alliance was looking for a slogan to reflect the understanding of partnership and friendship in December 1959, Sallustius’s words “to consult with free will” – animus in consulendo liber – were brought to the agenda and accepted. The slogan is currently displayed on the wall of the main council chamber at NATO headquarters in Brussels, behind the President’s chair, and continues to emphasize the organisation’s bonds of partnership (NATO Unclassified, 1976:18).

Although the perception of actual partnership is important, to examine how the awareness of partnership is established in an intellectual sense; The history of NATO is extremely important in understanding how it brings together various countries with different concerns and goals. Ultimately, NATO, as a political and military organization, must be able to establish partnership awareness on an existential basis. This existential basis gains meaning with the distinction of “friend-enemy”. As a political-military alliance, NATO bears the responsibility of identifying its foe before its friend in order to concretely demonstrate its reason for existence. The organizational structure, which creates another for itself by drawing the enemy line, creates the opportunity to attract its friends to its ranks. The organization added a legal framework and binding force to the distinction between friend and enemy with Article 5 in its founding agreement.

“Each Member State undertakes to consider an armed attack against one of its Member States in the areas defined by Article 6 as an attack against all of them. In the event of such an attack, each member state must assist “by taking whatever action it deems necessary to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area, including the use of armed forces” ( The North Atlantic Treaty , 1949).

The distinction between friend and enemy, which will be discussed in this study, is not only a distinction between good and evil, but it does not show an unchangeable rigidity. As a matter of fact, this study will analyze how the perception of the enemy can transform in different periods in NATO’s 75-year history. In the first part of the study, the Cold War period will be discussed, and in the second part, how the order formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union transformed NATO. In the third part, the ineffective side of this transformation through Türkiye will be discussed.

Cold War: Construction of The Enemy (1949-1989)

With the end of World War II, Europe became a ruin. The major European actors of the pre-war period had to cede the stage to the two victorious powers, the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It was immediately understood that these two powers would soon engage in a struggle to determine the future of the old continent. As a matter of fact, after the victory in Europe, a conference was planned in Potsdam between the three leaders of the victorious side – Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman. However, in the weeks before the conference, Prime Minister Churchill and President Truman met several times to discuss their approaches to the “rising threat from the east.” Although President Truman was aware of this threat, he refrained from making an early move against Stalin (Kissinger, 1995: 434-436). Although the perception of the Soviets in the eyes of the USA began to take shape while the war was still ongoing. William Averell Harriman, ambassador to Moscow at the time (1943-1946), wrote in his notes: “We must clearly recognize that the Soviet program was the establishment of totalitarianism – in Eastern Europe – and the end of personal freedom and democracy as we know and respect them.” Additionally, Harriman said, “It must be understood that the Soviets will not abide by the general rules of international politics, so caution must be exercised when working together.” (McCullough, 1993: 372) and stated the potential of his enemy.

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