NATO: APUSH Topics to Study for Test Day

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a mutual defense alliance of nations in North America and Europe. NATO was formed in response to the global Soviet threat in the aftermath of World War II. NATO APUSH questions will require you to understand the purpose of the organization as well as the political climate in which it was formed.

What is NATO?



The flag of Nato

After World War II, Europe lay in shambles, its infrastructure and economies ruined. Meanwhile, the U.S.S.R began to expand its power and influence across Eastern Europe. A Soviet coup in and the Soviet Blockade against West Berlin contributed to America’s concerns that Europe wasn’t strong enough to stave off the spread of communism, and the Truman administration sought a way to create an alliance of nations to meet the Soviet threat.

In Europe, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg had entered into a treaty of collective military defense called the Brussels Treaty. In America, the Truman administration worked to convince a Republican Congress that a treaty with Western Europe was necessary. A resolution was passed to form an alliance with Europe and negotiations soon began with those interested countries. On April 4, 1949, the treaty was signed by Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom in Europe; and by the United States and Canada in North America. The treaty formed an alliance of mutual defense, with the guiding philosophy that an attack on any one of these nations was an attack on all.

Important years to note for NATO:

1949: The alliance is formed with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Why is NATO so important?

NATO marked a departure from America’s staunch isolationist foreign policy, becoming the nation’s first peacetime military alliance with states outside of the Americas. While the treaty did provide security for Western Europe, it also shaped the political landscape of the Cold War. When West Germany entered NATO in 1955, the Soviets responded with the Warsaw Pact, an alliance of the U.S.S.R and seven of its Satellite states. With Europe firmly divided between these two opposing treaties, the decades-long political impasse was set.

What are some historical people related to NATO?

Harry S. Truman: President who established a foreign policy with the goal of stopping Soviet expansion after World War II.

What example question about NATO might come up on the APUSH exam?

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
-Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, 1949 (Source)

NATO was primarily established to
A) prevent another world war.
B) stop the spread of communism.
C) suppress Germany’s military resurgence.
D) counter the Soviet Warsaw Pact.


The correct answer is (B). After World War II, Western Europe was left in a weakened political state due to the destruction of its infrastructure and the draining of its economies. The fear in the region, as well as in North America, was that this weakened condition left Europe vulnerable to Soviet influence and takeover. NATO was formed to create a mutual defense alliance aimed at protecting the recovering nations and stopping the spread of communism.

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  • Sarah Bradstreet

    Sarah is an educator and writer with a Master’s degree in education from Syracuse University who has helped students succeed on standardized tests since 2008. She loves reading, theater, and chasing around her two kids.

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