The modern system of international relations is undergoing the most profound changes since the time of its birth amid the wreckage of World War II and its conclusion. The ongoing changes fundamentally affect the interests and influence of all the members of the international community, first and foremost the Russian Federation and the United States.
After the end of World War II and up to the mid-1980s, the bilateral relations of the USSR and the United States basically defined the direction and the hue of international relations. The end of wartime cooperation and alliance marked the beginning of the confrontational politics of the cold war between Washington and Moscow, which served as the basis for a prolonged conflict between the superpowers in the global arena. This period was characterized by the heated struggle between the USSR and the United States to strengthen their influence in the postwar world. This struggle between two socioeconomic, political, and ideological systems led at times to nearly disastrous crises.
The global split between two opposing poles and enemy camps represented a serious threat to the security of the planet. At the same time, however, the division of the world into two opposing camps provided a certain stability in international relations.
The period from 1945 to the mid-1980s clearly demonstrated that only through dialogue and the pursuit of constant contacts between the leaders of the superpowers--and not through the use or threat of use of force--can the problems facing both powers be solved.
However--and this we must emphasize--the possibility of a successful and effective dialogue depended directly on the level of might, influence, and authority of the superpowers. The parity of the two superpowers always served as the basis for negotiations on problems--most importantly the most dangerous and threatening ones--and for the long-term development of international relations.
The postwar period clearly demonstrated that the maintenance of peace was closely linked to the correlation of forces. Before World War II, the course of international relations was determined largely by the Western powers, and the USSR had but a minor role. But after the war, Soviet power reached parity with that of the Western powers. As a consequence of the superpower struggle, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in April 1949 between the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Luxembourg, joined later by Turkey, Greece (1952), and West Germany (1955). The NATO military bloc was created to exert military and political pressure on the Soviet Union and its partners.
NATO's Original Mission
During the formation of the Atlantic alliance, NATO leaders repeatedly emphasized the organization's "purely defensive" character, oriented toward restraining the "threat of Communist aggression."(1)
The treaty begins with the expression, "The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations."(2) Many articles of the NATO treaty refer to the UN and its charter. However, attempts at American domination over the resolution of international issues were already then distinctly evident.
Article 3 of the NATO document states that NATO members, "separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack." However, the military obligations of the member-states were defined in article 5, which grants full liberty to the United States to decide at its own discretion when to act in case of an armed conflict.(3) Dean Acheson, who was secretary of state during the creation of NATO, underscored in a radio address broadcast 18 May 1949 that the treaty "does not mean that the United States will automatically enter into an armed conflict during an attack against a NATO member-state. …