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Unification of Europe: Post War Foundations: NATO- Part I

Unification of Europe: Post War Foundations: NATO- Part I

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty.
  • Its headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.
  • It has 29 member states across North America and Europe, the newest of which is Montenegro.
    • 12 of these 29 are original members who joined in 1949, while the other 17 joined in enlargement rounds.
    • An additional 21 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
  • The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70 percent of the global total.
    • Members’ defence spending is supposed to amount to 2 percent of GDP.
    • The United States account for around three fourths of NATO defence spending.
  • NATO’s essential and enduring purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means.
    • Collective defence is at the heart of the Alliance.
    • The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.
    • Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, in which the signatory members agree that
      • an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all;
      • and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
    • NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in 2001, after 9/11 terrorist attack in the USA.
  • NATO strives to secure a lasting peace in Europe, based on common values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
    • Since the outbreak of crises and conflicts beyond the borders of NATO member countries can jeopardize this objective, the Alliance also contributes to peace and stability through crisis management operations and partnerships.
    • NATO not only helps to defend the territory of its members, but engages where possible and when necessary to project its values further afield, prevent crises, manage crises, stabilize post-conflict situations and support reconstruction.
    • NATO also embodies the transatlantic link by which the security of North America is tied to the security of Europe.
  • During the Cold War, NATO focused on collective defence and the protection of its members from potential threats emanating from the Soviet Union.
    • With the collapse of the Soviet Union, along with the rise of non-state actors affecting international security, many new security threats emerged.
    • NATO now focuses on countering these threats by utilizing collective defence, managing crisis situations and encouraging cooperative security, as outlined in the 2010 Strategic Concept.

Beginnings and formation of NATO

  • The formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took place after signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C. on 4 April 1949.
  • In a few short months after the World War, any remaining illusions that the war-time alliance with the Soviet Union would be translated into peacetime cooperation, had been destroyed by the conferences of Yalta and Potsdam in the spring and summer of 1945 and the wave of Soviet expansionism that followed.
  • The West European countries were fearful for their security which led to first the Brussels Treaty in 1948 and then the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949.
  • The Berlin blockade by Soviet Union showed the West’s military unreadiness and frightened them into making definite preparations.
  • The Brussels Treaty / Brussels Defence Treaty:
    • The Brussels Treaty of 17 March 1948 was signed originally by five countries (France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom) in Western Europe after World War II had weakened much of the military power of these countries.
    • Brussels Treaty Organisation (BTO) as a European military alliance was established in September 1948 in order to implement the Treaty of Brussels.
    • Its aim was to set out terms for economic, social and cultural cooperation, and especially, collective self-defence.
    • The Brussels Treaty represented the first step in the post-war reconstruction of Western European security and the development of common defence structures.
    • This treaty is considered the precursor to the NATO agreement.
    • However, participation of the United States was thought necessary both to counter the military power of the USSR and to prevent the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe, so talks for a new military alliance began resulting in the North Atlantic Treaty.
  • Formation of NATO:
    • The Brussels Treaty was the first step in the process leading to the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty (Washington Treaty) in 1949 and NATO with headquarters in Brussels, formed for defense against Soviet Union.
    • Five additional European nations would later join the signatories of the Brussels Treaty as the original signatories of the Washington Treaty. They were Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Portugal. In North America, Canada and the United States would also sign the Washington Treaty.
    • The process of formation of NATO had got accelerated after Stalin and the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia which was an act perceived by the West as a direct USSR’s challenge to European security.
    • All signed the North Atlantic Treaty agreed to regard an attack on any one of them as an attack on them all.
      • They agreed that, if an armed attack occurred, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence, would assist the member being attacked, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
      • They agreed for placing their defence forces under a joint NATO command organization which would co-ordinate the defence of the west.
    • This was a highly significant development:
      • Americans had abandoned their traditional policy of ‘no entangling alliances’ and for the first time had pledged themselves in advance to military action.
      • Predictably Stalin took it as a challenge, and tensions remained high.
    • The first NATO Secretary General, Lord Ismay, stated in 1949 that the organization’s goal was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”
    • The creation of NATO can be seen as the primary institutional consequence of a school of thought called Atlanticism which stressed the importance of trans-Atlantic cooperation.
    • The treaty does not require members to respond with military action against an aggressor. Although obliged to respond, they maintain the freedom to choose the method by which they do so. This differs from Article IV of the Treaty of Brussels, which clearly states that the response will be military in nature.
    • The creation of NATO brought about some standardization of allied military terminology, procedures, and technology, which in many cases meant European countries adopting US practices.
  • Brussels Treaty paved the way for the formation of NATO:
    • The Brussels Treaty has been accepted as an historical document that led to increased European cooperation and shared military strength.
      • This led to further cooperation with the participation of more European countries and two non-European powers (the USA and Canada) in the form of NATO.
    • The signature of the Brussels Treaty and the embryonic military structure it brought into being, provided the evidence needed by the United States and Canada, that the European powers had both the intention and the determination to reestablish a basis for their common defence and to prevent further Soviet domination.
      • Hence the USA and Canada became ready to be part of NATO in spite of the USA foreign policy of not being under any international security obligation.
    • The Brussels Treaty’s provision of Collective Self Defence was that if any of signatories was attacked in Europe all other signatories would provide all military aid and other assistance. This treaty created the Brussels’ Treaty organiza­tion. These provisions also became basis of North Atlantic Treaty.
  • NATO in many ways symbolized the key role that the United States had come to play in Europe:
    • The formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Orga­nization came after a year of Marshal Plan. In many ways symbolized the key role that the United States had come to play in Europe.
    • The policy of the communist containment mainly started with the Truman doctrine, in which the United States had shown determination to help regimes threatened by the communism.
      • The next step was Marshal Plan (European Recovery Program) to provide USA economic aid to European countries with one of the aims of containing communism.
      • Both, Truman doctrine and Marshal Plan had committed the United States as leader of Western World in containing communism.
    • The culmination of the communist containment came a year after Marshal Plan.
      • The Berlin blockade by the USSR had shown the West’s military unreadiness and frightened them into making definite preparations.
      • On 4 April 1948, the United States, Canada and ten West European countries formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after signing the North Atlantic Treaty, agreeing to regard an attack on any one of them as an attack in them all, and placing their defence forces under a joint NATO command organization.
    • The adherence of the United States of America to NATO was part of Truman doctrine and supplement to the Marshall Plan.
    • NATO was a highly significant development, giving key role to the United States in Europe:
      • The Americans had abandoned their traditional policy of no entangling alliances and for the first time pledged themselves in advance to military action.
      • NATO became an institutional structure linking the United States with Europe permanently. And being the largest military and economic power among NATO members, the United States had to play key role in Europe.
      • NATO gave the United States a legitimate umbrella it was seeking to establish her military hegemony over Europe and then over world by establishing military bases, exporting arms, deploying missiles.
      • By NATO the United States also aimed to defend the massive capital investments it had made in Europe and to keep its economic strong hold over Europe intact.

The Soviet Union responded to NATO with their own rival alliance: Warsha Pact

  • The Soviet Union and its affiliated Communist nations in Eastern Europe founded a rival alliance, the Warsaw Pact, in May 1955.
  • It was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland among the Soviet Union and seven Soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
  • The alignment of nearly every European nation into one of the two opposing camps formalized the political division of the European continent that had taken place since World War II. This alignment provided the framework for the military standoff that continued throughout the Cold War (1945-91).
  • The formation of the Warsaw Pact was in some ways a response to the creation of NATO, although it did not occur until six years after the Western alliance came into being.
    • It was more directly inspired by the rearming of West Germany and its admission into NATO in 1955.
    • In the aftermath of the World War I and World War II, Soviet leaders felt very apprehensive about Germany once again becoming a military power.
    • In the mid-1950s, however, the U.S. and a number of other NATO members began to advocate making West Germany part of the alliance and allowing it to form an army under tight restrictions.
    • The Soviets warned that such a provocative action would force them to make new security arrangements in their own sphere of influence.
    • West Germany formally joined NATO on May 5, 1955, and the Warsaw Pact was signed less than two weeks later, on May 14.
  • Joining the USSR in the alliance of Warsha Pact were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland and Romania. This lineup remained constant until the Cold War ended with the dismantling of all the Communist governments in Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990.
  • Like NATO, the Warsaw Pact focused on the objective of creating a coordinated defense among its member nations in order to deter an enemy attack.
  • There was also an internal security component to the agreement that proved useful to the USSR.
  • The alliance provided a mechanism for the Soviets to exercise even tighter control over the other Communist states in Eastern Europe and deter pact members from seeking greater autonomy.
  • When Soviet leaders found it necessary to use military force to put down revolts in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, for example, they presented the action as being carried out by the Warsaw Pact rather than by the USSR alone.
    • The Warsaw Pact, particularly its provision for the garrisoning of Soviet troops in satellite territory, became a target of nationalist hostility in Poland and Hungary during the uprisings in those two countries in 1956.
    • The Soviet Union invoked the treaty when it decided to move Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia in August 1968 to bring the Czechoslovak regime back into the fold after it had begun lifting restraints on freedom of expression and had sought closer relations with the West. (Only Albania and Romania refused to join in the Czechoslovak repression.)
  • After the democratic revolutions of 1989 in eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact became moribund and was formally declared “nonexistent” on July 1, 1991, at a final summit meeting of Warsaw Pact leaders in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
    • Deployed Soviet troops were gradually withdrawn from the former satellites, now politically independent countries.
    • The decades-long confrontation between eastern and western Europe was formally rejected by members of the Warsaw Pact, all of which, with the exception of the Soviet successor state of Russia, subsequently joined NATO.

NATO during the Cold War

  • From its founding, NATO’s primary purpose was to unify and strengthen the Western Allies’ military response to a possible invasion of western Europe by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.
  • The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 was crucial for NATO as it raised the apparent threat of all Communist countries working together, and forced the alliance to develop concrete military plans. SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), was formed as a consolidated command structure.
  • The 1952 Lisbon conference, the post of Secretary General of NATO as the organization’s chief civilian was created. Greece and Turkey also joined the alliance in 1952.
  • In 1954, the Soviet Union suggested that it should join NATO to preserve peace in Europe. The NATO countries, fearing that the Soviet Union’s motive was to weaken the alliance, ultimately rejected this proposal.
  • Incorporation of Germany:
    • A serious issue confronting NATO in the early and mid-1950s was the negotiation of West Germany’s participation in the alliance.
    • The prospect of a rearmed Germany was understandably greeted with widespread unease and hesitancy in western Europe, but the country’s strength had long been recognized as necessary to protect western Europe from a possible Soviet invasion.
    • Accordingly, arrangements for West Germany’s “safe” participation in the alliance were worked out as part of the Paris Agreements of October 1954, which ended the occupation of West German territory by the western Allies and provided for both the limitation of West German armaments and the country’s accession to the Brussels Treaty.
    • In May 1955 West Germany joined NATO, which prompted the Soviet Union to form the Warsaw Pact alliance in central and eastern Europe the same year.
    • The West Germans subsequently contributed many divisions and substantial air forces to the NATO alliance.
  • French withdrawal:
    • France’s relationship with NATO became strained after 1958, as President Charles de Gaulle increasingly criticized the organization’s domination by the United States and the intrusion upon French sovereignty by NATO’s many international staffs and activities. He was also apprehensive of what he perceived as a special relationship between the USA and the United Kingdom.
    • He argued that NATO subjected France to “automatic” war at the decision of foreigners.
    • He wanted to give France, in the event of an East German incursion into West Germany, the option of coming to a separate peace with the Eastern bloc instead of being drawn into a larger NATO-Warsaw Pact war.
    • In July 1966 France formally withdrew from the military command structure of NATO and required NATO forces and headquarters to leave French soil; nevertheless, de Gaulle proclaimed continued French adherence to the North Atlantic Treaty in case of “unprovoked aggression.”
    • After NATO moved its headquarters from Paris to Brussels, France maintained a liaison relationship with NATO’s integrated military staffs, continued to sit in the council, and continued to maintain and deploy ground forces in West Germany, though it did so under new bilateral agreements with the West Germans rather than under NATO jurisdiction.
    • In 2009 France under President Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined the military command structure of NATO while maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent.
  • In the early 1950’s NATO relied partly on the threat of massive nuclear retaliation from the United States to counter the Warsaw Pact’s much larger ground forces.
    • Beginning in 1957, this policy was supplemented by the deployment of American nuclear weapons in western European bases.
    • NATO later adopted a “flexible response” strategy, which the United States interpreted to mean that a war in Europe did not have to escalate to an all-out nuclear exchange.
      • Under this strategy, many Allied forces were equipped with American battlefield and theatre nuclear weapons under a dual-control system, which allowed both the country hosting the weapons and the United States to veto their use.
    • Britain retained control of its strategic nuclear arsenal but brought it within NATO’s planning structures; France’s nuclear forces remained completely autonomous.
  • During most of the Cold War, NATO’s watch against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact did not actually lead to direct military action.
  • In May 1978, NATO countries officially defined two complementary aims of the Alliance:
      • to maintain security and
      • to pursue detente.
    • This was supposed to mean matching defences at the level rendered necessary by the Warsaw Pact’s offensive capabilities without spurring a further arms race.
  • On 12 December 1979, in light of a build-up of Warsaw Pact nuclear capabilities in Europe, ministers approved the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe. The new warheads were also meant to strengthen the western negotiating position regarding nuclear disarmament. This policy was called the Dual Track policy.
  • Similarly, in 1983–84, both side deployed nuclear missiles in Europe. This action led to peace movement protests throughout Western Europe, and support for the deployment wavered as many doubted whether the push for deployment could be sustained.
  • The Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina did not result in NATO involvement because article 6 of the North Atlantic Treaty specifies that collective self-defense is only applicable to attacks on member state territories north of the Tropic of Cancer.
  • The membership of the organization at this time remained largely static.
    • In 1974, as a consequence of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Greece withdrew its forces from NATO’s military command structure but, with Turkish cooperation, were readmitted in 1980.
    • In 1982, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance.
  • A conventional and nuclear stalemate between the two sides continued through:
    • the construction of the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s,
    • détente in the 1970s, and
    • the resurgence of Cold War tensions in the 1980s after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the election of U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1980.
  • After 1985, however, far-reaching economic and political reforms introduced by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev fundamentally altered the status quo.
    • In July 1989 Gorbachev announced that Moscow would no longer prop up communist governments in central and eastern Europe and thereby signaled his tacit acceptance of their replacement by freely elected administrations.
  • Moscow’s abandonment of control over central and eastern Europe meant the dissipation of much of the military threat that the Warsaw Pact had formerly posed to western Europe, a fact that led some to question the need to retain NATO as a military organization—especially after the Warsaw Pact’s dissolution in 1991.
    • The reunification of Germany in October 1990 and its retention of NATO membership created both a need and an opportunity for NATO to be transformed into a more “political” alliance devoted to maintaining international stability in Europe.
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One thought on “Unification of Europe: Post War Foundations: NATO- Part I”

  1. Many points you have missed here.
    1. Brussel’s treaty was against any kind of rearmament or resurgence of West Germany,
    2. How it was precursor of NATO, you have not explained. NATO was a more extended version of Brussel’s treaty in terms of membership, geographical representation & collective framework. It carried the same spirit & theme of Brussel’s treaty

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