NATO and The Warsaw Pact

After the crisis of the Berlin Blockade in 1948-49, Europe became divided into two opposing armed camps: the US-backed NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) countries on one side, and the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe and the USSR on the other.

A map of Europe showing the countries that joined NATO and those who were members of the Warsaw Pact
NATOThe Warsaw Pact
FormedApril 19491955
AimsTo resist an attack by the USSR on the USA or its Allies in Western Europe based on the principle that an armed attack on one of its members was an attack on them all.To resist an attack on the Soviet bloc by the USA or its NATO allies.
MembersOriginal members; USA, UK, Canada, Portugal, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway. West Germany joined in 1955, this prompted Russia to create the Warsaw Pact.USSR, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany (GDR), Albania.

Clearly, by 1959 a large proportion of the world had been divided along ideological lines – with one side aligned with the USA and the other with the Soviet Union. While these alliances were not specifically in conflict with one another, it was clear that a spat between any two members of opposing alliances could easily escalate into a much larger conflict.