Introduction: Western European developments
Sheltering behind the American nuclear umbrella, Western Europe was also largely satisfied about its security. The establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949 provided it with a collective defence system and valuable experience in collaborative security. The gradual thaw in the cold war and the new interest in detente that emerged after the mid-1950s did not seem to undermine the essential bipolarity of the Continent. While Western European governments welcomed any improvement in superpower relations, fearing that the Continent would be the major military arena in any future war, they continued to regard the American presence in Europe as the fundamental guarantee of their own freedom.