Study title
Crisis? What Crisis? The Debate on the Future of NATO, 1963-66
Ref study 8784
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Aussenpolitik
  • Sicherheitspolitik
  • Institutionen
  • Kalter Krieg
  • NATO
  • Allianzen
  • Warschauer Pakt
  • Persönlichkeiten
Geographical space
Europa und Nordamerika
NATO experienced a severe internal crisis in the mid-1960s, a crisis that had manifold reasons and affected politics as well as institutional and military matters. In this PhD project, these years are approached as perceived by contemporary NATO politicians, officials, and commentators. Arguably, consecutive political events in January 1963 marked the beginning of a period of increased alliance introspection that resulted in an awareness of "criticality" of NATO affairs among policy-makers and observers. The sources bring to light a continuous debate on the value, the role and the perspectives of the Western alliance; this debate was accentuated by the (alleged) threat entailed in article 13 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which allowed the withdrawal from the alliance within a year's notice after 1969. One important dimension of the debate was a crisis talk or discourse, which in many ways anticipated the "real" crisis of March 1966 when France announced its withdrawal from NATO's integrated military command. The period between 1963 and 1966 reveals an explicit political awareness of NATO at crossroads that exceeded technical disagreement and the question of President de Gaulle's intentions with respect to the French role in NATO. Rather, the search for a new NATO meaning in an era of reduced East-West tensions, renewed European strength and "out-of-area" commitments of individual allies resulted in an overall intra-alliance bargaining in a period of transition. The study addresses the different alliance notions and policies of selected NATO states and the influence of small allies on the re-orientation of NATO.
Drawing on newly declassified sources from the NATO archives in Brussels and archives in the United States, Canada, Britain, Germnay, Belgium and the Netherlands, this study examines which actors felt and declared NATO to be in crisis, and why; it also investigates the political initiatives actors took based on this assessment. This approach yields insights into how NATO's mid-1960s crisis emerged both through discourse and politics, and how the crisis in-fluenced the interpretation of alliance politics in turn. The latter is of particular interest in view of the fact that the Atlantic alliance was almost permanently perceived as being troubled since the mid-1950s.
Abgabe 8/3/2006, Verteidigung 12/4/2006
Methods (description)
Multiperspektivische internationale Zeitgeschichte, in Verbindung mit ideen- und kommunikationsgeschichtlichen Ansätzen; auf der Grundlage von Text- und Audioquellen und Zeitzeugeninterviews Archivarbeit in den USA, Kanada, Grossbritannien, Deutschland, Belgien, den Niederlanden und im NATO-Archiv (Brüssel)

Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
  • Wenger, Andreas; Nuenlist, Christian; Locher, Anna . 2007. Transforming NATO in the Cold War. London: Routledge, 2007.
  • Nuenlist, Christian; Locher, Anna . 2006. Transatlantic Relations at Stake: Aspects of NATO, 1956-72. Zurich: Center for Security Studies, Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 78, 2006. Online:
  • Locher, Anna ; Nuenlist, Christian. 2004. What Role for NATO? Conflicting Western Perceptions of Détente, 1962-66. In: Journal of Transatlantic Studies 2, no. 2 (Autumn 2004), pp. 185-208.
  • Locher, Anna ; Nuenlist, Christian. 2003. Reinventing NATO: Canada, Détente, and the Future of NATO, 1962-66. In: International Journal (Toronto) 58, no. 2 (Spring 2003), pp. 283-302.
  • Locher, Anna . 2007. A Crisis Foretold: NATO and France, 1963-66. In: Wenger, A.; et al., "Transforming NATO in the Cold War". London: Routledge, 107-127.
  • Locher, Anna ; Wenger, Andreas; Nuenlist, Christian. 2007. New Perspectives on NATO History. In: Wenger, A.; et al., "Transforming NATO in the Cold War". London: Routledge, 3-12.
  • Locher, Anna ; Nuenlist, Christian. 2006. Drifting Apart? Restoring the NATO Consensus, 1956-1972. In: Nuenlist, Christian; Locher, Anna (eds.), "Transatlantic Relations at Stake". Zurich: Center for Security Studies, Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 78, 2006, 9-19. Online:
  • Locher, Anna . 2002. Shaping the Policies of the Alliance: The Warsaw Pact Committee of Foreign Ministers, 1976-1991. In: Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact, (, 2002. Online:
  • Nuenlist, Christian; Locher, Anna ; Martin, Garret . 2008. Globalizing de Gaulle: International Perspectives on French Foreign Policies, 1958-1969. Lanham: Lexington Books, 338 p.
  • Locher, Anna ; Nuenlist, Christian. 2008. Containing the French Malaise? The Role of NATO's Secretary General, 1958-66. In: Papacosma, S. V. et al. (eds.), "NATO and the Warsaw Pact: Intrabloc Conflicts". Kent, OH: Kent UP, 2008.
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 31.01.2007
Date modified 31.01.2007
Start - End date 01.10.2001 - 28.06.2006