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Greening the Alliance

The Diplomacy of NATO’s Science and Environmental Initiatives

Following the launch of Sputnik, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization became a prominent sponsor of scientific research in its member countries, a role it retained until the end of the Cold War. As NATO marks sixty years since the establishment of its Science Committee, the main organizational force promoting its science programs, Greening the Alliance is the first book to chart NATO’s scientific patronage—and the motivations behind it—from the organization’s early days to the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Drawing on previously unseen documents from NATO’s own archives, Simone Turchetti reveals how its investments were rooted in the alliance’s defense and surveillance needs, needs that led it to establish a program prioritizing environmental studies. A long-overlooked and effective diplomacy exercise, NATO’s “greening” at one point constituted the organization’s chief conduit for negotiating problematic relations between allies. But while Greening the Alliance explores this surprising coevolution of environmental monitoring and surveillance, tales of science advisers issuing instructions to bomb oil spills with napalm or Dr. Strangelove–like experts eager to divert the path of hurricanes with atomic weapons make it clear: the coexistence of these forces has not always been harmonious. Reflecting on this rich, complicated legacy in light of contemporary global challenges like climate change, Turchetti offers both an eye-opening history of international politics and environmental studies and a thoughtful assessment of NATO’s future.

256 pages | 19 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018 

History: Environmental History, History of Technology

History of Science

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations


“Turchetti shows a peculiar and little-known history: how the most effective defense alliance in history incorporated environmental concerns into its research and administration through what he terms the ‘surveillance imperative,’ or the need to capture, depict, and track the earth’s environment to plan for potential warfare in an era of nuclear weapons and catastrophic conflict. Featuring strong research into the available archival materials on NATO, a very thorough reading of the secondary literature, and a mastery of all the ins and outs of alliance politics, Greening the Alliance deepens our knowledge about the intricacies of NATO’s evolution during turbulent times. It is an important addition to the extensive literature on the alliance.”

Stephen Macekura, author of "Of Limits and Growth: The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century"

“Treating the administration of scientific affairs as an important back channel for diplomacy, which is an interesting and underexplored proposition, Greening the Alliance offers a new interpretation of the role NATO played in the history of science, especially during the years of détente. Well framed and well researched.”

Jenny Leigh Smith, author of "Works in Progress: Plans and Realities on Soviet Farms, 1930–1963"

"At its heart, Greening the Alliance is a study of NATO as an organization rather than a military alliance, with a specific focus on how science and environmental research were used in service to the goal of keeping the organization together. Much of the impetus for NATO’s scientific program came from its most powerful individual member, the United States, which had a significant vested interest in keeping its partners working together. But various factors came together to thwart US plans, and Turchetti thus demonstrates the agency that weaker NATO members exerted on the organization."

Mary Ann Heiss | H-War

"On the basis of a considerable amount of previously unexplored archival sources from different repositories, including NATO’s archive, Greening the Alliance is a successful attempt to sketch a historical framework, during the Cold War, that wishes to find an answer to a crucial question: how the most important defence alliance in history was able to bring together such different (but only at first glance) purposes, as the ‘surveillance imperative’ and environmental concerns...the work by Turchetti is undoubtedly a well-framed and well-researched contribution to environmental history as well as diplomatic history. It also offers a new and alternative viewpoint to the history of environmentalism."

Andrea Candela | Nuncius

"Turchetti’s work is more than just comprehensive. It is an excellently researched and well-argued analysis of a NATO activity which until recently remained in the sidelines. The book points to crucial changes in the contemporary international system, and raises a variety of issues which will be prominent in academic debates in the years to come."

Journal of Contemporary History

"Simone Turchetti has carried out a fine study of NATO’s science diplomacy and, later, environmental diplomacy."

Technology and Culture

"The clear structure of the book, its tight argumentation, and Turchetti’s eloquence make it a good read."

NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin (translated from German)

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
List of Archives Consulted (and Abbreviations Used to Identify Them)
Introduction: NATO’s Imperatives

1 Setting the Atmosphere
2 The Surveillance Ambitions of NATO’s Science Program
3 The Storms of Dr. Strangelove: Environmental Warfare and the Science Committee Crisis
4 Launching NATO’s Environmental Program
5 NATO’s “Greening” in the Decade of Inflation
6 Strange Bedfellows: Environmental Monitoring and Surveillance
7 Science, Stability, and Climate Change
8 Epilogue: An Evergreen Alliance?


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