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Arguing about AlliancesThe Art of Agreement in Military-Pact Negotiations$
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Paul Poast

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501740244

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501740244.001.0001

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An Important Agreement

An Important Agreement

The 1948–49 North Atlantic Treaty Negotiations

(p.135) 5 An Important Agreement
Arguing about Alliances

Paul Poast

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies the 1948–49 negotiations that produced the North Atlantic Treaty. This case is useful to explore because previous scholarship on these negotiations emphasized the need to overcome entrapment concerns. However, by drawing on a host of sources, the chapter demonstrates that entrapment concerns were not more important than the parties' efforts to overcome incompatibilities in the strategic component of their ideal plans, namely, the geographic scope of the treaty. The parties agreed that the Soviet Union constituted a threat, but they disagreed on the geographic reach of that threat. The French were gravely concerned about Soviet influence in southern Europe, especially the possibility that Italy could enter the communist bloc. For the British and Americans, the primary concern was coercive Soviet threats toward states in northern Europe, especially Norway. The United States had a viable outside option of unilateral action and, therefore, could afford to walk away. Whether France or any other participant perceived itself as also having an attractive outside option is less clear. What is clear is that the participants were unwilling to test this possibility: France's threats to walk away induced its negotiation partners, believing that France had an attractive outside option, to concede to its demands.

Keywords:   North Atlantic Treaty negotiations, North Atlantic Treaty, strategic compatibility, Soviet Union, France, Europe, United States, Soviet threats, outside option

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