As the WWII drew to a close in 1945, European countries involved in the war were left with debilitated lands, economies, armies, and in some cases, even governments. Two world wars had been fought within a 30-year period, and the human, economic, and environmental costs were devastating. In an attempt to prevent another world war, the United Nations was formed in 1945. Fifty-one countries joined this international organization in the hopes that the UN would be able to uphold certain rules among all its members and be able to help nations solve problems peacefully. It soon became apparent, however, that the United Nations alone would not be able to provide peace and stability throughout the world. One reason for this was that the UN did not have enough power. It could not force a nation to do something it did not want to do. In part, this was because the United Nations did not have its own free-standing army. As events of the Cold War evolved, bringing the world close to nuclear war, the shortcomings of the United Nations became of greater concern to the world community.
NATO came into existence during a turbulent period of history. As the Second World War ended, the Cold War began. The term Cold War refers to a period when serious political tension existed between the world's two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Although Russia was an ally of the United States during the war, a period of suspicion, arguing, spying, and competition began between the two countries and their allies, following the defeat of Nazi Germany.
One reason tensions existed between the Soviet Union and the United States was that the East, the Soviet Union principally, was communist, and the West (Canada, the United States, Britain, and their allies) was capitalist "two opposing economic systems seeking global dominance. In addition, the Soviets were afraid that their borders were at risk from a Western invasion, and the United States and its allies were afraid that communism would spread throughout Europe.