Article

A Continent Bristling With Arms: Continuity and Change In Western European Security Policies After the Second World War

Leopoldo Nuti

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199560981.013.0017

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 A Continent Bristling With Arms: Continuity and Change In Western European Security Policies After the Second World War

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Since the end of World War II, Europe has known an unprecedented period of peace that has profoundly altered the political landscape of the continent. Yet at the same time, for much of the postwar period, this peace has been accompanied by frightening preparations for a global nuclear war – in the 1960s, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) planned to deploy in Western Europe 7,000 tactical atomic warheads of different yields – and by a number of recurrent crises that repeatedly threatened the stability of the postwar order. Nor should one neglect the fact that two European powers – France and Britain – still field the third and fifth largest nuclear arsenals in the whole world respectively. This article explores the post World War II evolution of defence and security policies in Western Europe, as well as the role of nuclear weapons in European security and the shifting perceptions of war in European public opinion and mentality. After considering colonial empires, decolonisation and nuclear issues, it discusses the last years of the Cold War.

Keywords: postwar period; World War II; Western Europe; nuclear weapons; colonial empires; decolonisation; Cold War; NATO; security policies; defence

Article.  8600 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; Cold War

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