The second part of the US strategy to rebuild Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) became synonymous with the West’s opposition to the Soviet Union. An oft repeated maxim for NATO’s purpose captures it nicely: “NATO was created to keep the Soviets out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”
Time: Early War
Removed after event: Yes
NATO is a pretty terrible event and therefore a great card to draw, given the scarcity of 4 Ops in the Early War. It’s especially nice to play as soon as possible, before Marshall Plan / Warsaw Pact are triggered, but even if you trigger the NATO event it’s still a nearly-free 4 Ops.
If you do draw it after Warsaw Pact / Marshall Plan has been activated, then you should make sure you don’t plan to Brush War Italy or play Special Relationship before playing NATO.
I have never played this card for the event as the US. The coup/realignment restrictions are pointless because DEFCON restrictions already prevent nearly all coups and realignments in Europe. Brush War immunity against Italy is sometimes nice, but most of the time you should have Spain / Greece / France anyway, which provide de facto Brush War immunity.
NATO’s only real impact comes with Special Relationship in the Optional Cards, because it gives Special Relationship a substantial boost. Even that, though, is still not worth giving up the 4 Ops.
What this really means is that you should try to play Warsaw Pact or Marshall Plan as soon as you can in the turn, so that the USSR cannot simply play NATO with impunity. They’ll still play it, of course, but at least they’ll give you the Special Relationship boost for it.