The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has had a nuclear capability since its creation through the contribution of the various nuclear forces of the United States. This has been supplemented by the British nuclear force, which has been under NATO direction since 1963, as well as by the independent French nuclear force, which would probably be available in a war with the Soviet Union. The possession and planned use of this NATO nuclear capability has had, and continues to have, a major impact on arms control efforts in the European theater as well as at the strategic level.
These arms control efforts constitute an integral part of NATO's overall nuclear strategy. Not only does NATO attempt to develop and deploy nuclear and conventional forces designed to provide a deterrent, but it also wishes, at the same time, to limit Soviet and Warsaw Pact deployments of new weapons which might threaten to overwhelm NATO defenses.
NATO was founded in 1949 to counter the threat of expansion into Western Europe by the Soviet Union. This followed the consolidation of the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe, the coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948, and the growing tension between the USSR and the Western allies as illustrated by, among other examples, the Berlin airlift. This threat was perceived as one which was beyond the defensive capabilities of the Europeans themselves and which could only be balanced with the addition of American military forces. The willingness of the United States to enter a peacetime alliance in Europe marked a dramatic reversal of its traditional diplomatic posture and its recognition that it could no longer exist in isolation from the rest of the world.
With the United States as a founding member, NATO had a nuclear capability from the beginning because the United States extended its strategic nuclear umbrella to cover Europe. Later, the United States introduced theater nuclear forces in Europe in order to enhance its deterrent capability in the area. These theater