Date of Award

Winter 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

David Earnest

Committee Member

Frederick Lubich


The goal of this project is to determine NATO's present and future roles as a collective security organization and as a security alliance. In the past, NATO has dealt with both objectives under different and changing conditions. This paper argues that throughout the entirety of its history, NATO worked as both collective security and collective defense organization. The theoretical assumptions made within the paper are supported by the analysis of the past behavior of the Alliance in respect to the relationship between the narrative of collective security and that of collective defense, and changes within that relationship. Four specific periods will be taken into account: the creation of NATO, the Cold War, post-Cold War to September 11th , 2001, and post-9/11 in an effort to draw applicable lessons for the future of the North Atlantic Alliance.

NATO traditionally and historically has been described as and considered to be an alliance. This project shows, however, that contrary to the common perception, the story of NATO is that of two narratives: of an alliance and a collective security arrangement. While conceptually and theoretically separate, in the case of the North Atlantic Alliance those two narratives are linked together. Through most of NATO's history, those two narratives reinforced each other to such an extent that neither would have been possible and durable without the other.

The combination of those two narratives has been dependent on the structure of the international environment. In the past twenty years, with the change of the international structure following the end of the Cold War, the relationship between the two narratives changed as well. For the past two decades, the narrative of collective security has been dominating the collective defense nature of NATO.

Ultimately, the future of NATO is based on both features, intertwined: collective security and collective defense. As the organization has managed to carry out both characteristics in the past, it now must find political will and commitment among its members to continue effectively and successfully its role as a collective security arrangement and a collective defense organization.