The presentation will focus on NATO procedures during the Cold War as it sought to comprehend the dynamics of the Soviet political and economic system. It will also examine the evolution of the machinery that NATO used for this, namely, its various bodies, their composition and functions within the structure of the alliance. The regular (usually bi-annual) assessments of political and economic developments in the Soviet Union and its bloc became necessary from the early 1950s, when, in the aftermath of the Korean War, it became clear that the Cold War would be a long process in which the economic power and development of each side would play a decisive role. I shall argue that the intergovernmental nature of NATO and the rule of unanimity were crucial in determining how these bodies worked within the alliance structure. As a result, their conclusions reflected the lowest common denominator of the member-states, which meant that these bodies were not expected to make a breakthrough in their study of the opponent. As a whole, NATO analysis proved able to detect the larger, long-term trends of the Soviet economy, society and the political system, although it almost consistently failed to ‘predict’ specific Soviet political decisions, such as the developments at the Twentieth Party Congress, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis, the fall of Khrushchev and others. Thus, NATO studies provide an interesting indicator of the potential and the limits of international analysis in the contemporary era. Last but not least, departing from worldviews, fears, hopes and expectations, as these become apparent through NATO analysis, this paper will also discuss contemporary (post-Cold War) perceptions of the Cold War era and its dilemmas.
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