The organisation of post-war defence in Europe (1948–1954)


This subject file examines Western Europe’s early efforts to establish a common defence. Since the end of the Second World War, people had been living in constant fear of renewed German aggression and the Soviet grip on Central and Eastern Europe fuelled a sense of anxiety. In this tense international atmosphere, Western Europe was increasingly aware of the pressing need for a system of collective defence to counter any external threat.

From 1948 to 1954, several military cooperations and alliances were formed, including Western Union (WU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Western European Union (WEU). Barely five years after the end of the Second World War, some European countries even considered setting up a European army within the framework of a European Defence Community (EDC).

Published in May 2013, this subject file is based on material previously contained in the European NAvigator digital library (

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