NATO's mission is to "safeguard the freedom and security of its member countries" and to "deter and defend against any threat of aggression against any of them" (www.nato.int 17 April 2002). NATO began in 1949 at the onset of the Cold War. Its original purpose was to form a defensive alliance against superpower Russia. However, with the Cold War over, its goals have been to promote democratization in Central Europe. With NATO's newest additions, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland, the alliance is comprised of nineteen nations. NATO believes that expansion to include other countries will greatly assist the need of peace in Central Europe. Resistance to NATO expansion is encouraged on several different levels of analysis: the threat of the destruction of the balance of power in the international scope, the strict qualifications of NATO membership for individual states, and heads of NATO insisting on democracy. However, the qualifying criterion for individual states seems to be the most influential factor in NATO expansion posing a threat to world peace.
NATO's requirements for admission are shaping the political structures in Central Europe. Some of the criteria for NATO membership are "democratization, civilian control over the military, and the resolution of all border disputes and frictions with neighbors over ethnic minority issues" (Kydd 801). By holding this standard to any country interested in NATO's security, the alliance is setting a norm for political peace in Central Europe. NATO believes that any country interested in peace will want NATO's security, and therefore transform their politics to fit the mold which NATO approves. Any country that does not take up NATO's offer is clearly not interested in peace and is thus identified as an entity to mistrust. NATO's requirements for admission helps to differentiate between states that are willing to cooperate for aspirations of peace from those states which are not likely to cooperate.