Cold-War NATO has been described as a Grossraum, a political-military union of states that, in the final analysis, was unified and disciplined not only by a Soviet threat and by a Western political idea, but also by an informal political–military community, veto force, an element of a superstate, that guaranteed a relatively unified policy within the NATO area. In other words, NATO is believed to be neither an alliance of sovereign states nor a superstate but something in between – with aspects of both.
Democratic nation-states in Western Europe adapted to a unified Western structure born out of the external Soviet threat, but developed an internal coherence that survived this threat. Despite the theoretical encouragement the hypothesis received from representatives of the neo-realist school, NATO did not fall apart after the Soviet collapse in 1991. Instead, NATO was reorganized in the 1990s to intervene in peripheral conflicts and to adapt to an emerging ‘out-of-area’ instability, with its general structure kept intact. Despite negative prognosis, coming often from both critics and supporters, NATO kept its role as the primary political–military unifier of the Euro–Atlantic area.
This project received funding from the Norwegian Research Council for January 1999–June 2000. Two articles have already been published and a book manuscript will be finalized in the year 2000.