History Podcasts

1949-NATO Founded - History

1949-NATO Founded - History

The Berlin blockade provided compelling evidence that in order to deter the Soviets from further aggression, an alliance was necessary between nations of Western Europe and the United States. On April 4, 1949, the foreign ministers of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States formally signed the North Atlantic Treaty. The key paragraph was Article 5. It stated that "an armed attack against one or more of the European signatories or the North American signatories, would be considered an attack against all of them".



Member countries

At present, NATO has 30 members. In 1949, there were 12 founding members of the Alliance: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The other member countries are: Greece and Turkey (1952), Germany (1955), Spain (1982), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Albania and Croatia (2009), Montenegro (2017) and North Macedonia (2020).

Highlights

  • Provision for enlargement is given by Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
  • Article 10 states that membership is open to any “European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area”.
  • Any decision to invite a country to join the Alliance is taken by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal political decision-making body, on the basis of consensus among all Allies.

1949-NATO Founded - History

Expeditions of Julius Ceasar.

Invasion of Britain by Emperor Claudius.

Revolt of Boudicca (Boadicea) against the Romans.

Construction of Hydrian’s Wall begun, from the Tyne to the Solway Firth.

End of Roman rule in Britain.

Saxons settle in Sussex, Wessex, and Essex.

Angles settle in Norfolk and Suffolk (East Anglia).

Saint Augustine ’s mission arrives in Kent from Rome.

Danish raids on Lindisfarne, Jarrow and Iona.

Kenneth MacAlpine engages in first stage of Scottish unification.

Northumbria falls to the Danes.

East Anglia falls to the Danes.

Alfred becomes king of Wessex.

Pence of Edington determines the boundary between the Saxon and Danish-controlled sectors of England.

Norse kingdom of York is founded by Raegnald.

Cnut becomes king of England.

Cnut divides England into four earldoms.

Duke William of Normandy defeats and kills King Harold and becomes king of England.

Death of William the Conqueror accession of his son William II Rufus.

Death of William II accession of Henry I.

Death of Henry I accession of Stephen.

English conquest of Ireland begins.

Murder of Archbishop Thomas à Becket.

Death of Henry II accession of Richard I.

Death of Richard I accession of John.

Magna Carta civil war in England.

Death of John accession of Henry III.

Treaty of Paris between England and France.

Battle of Evesham death of Simon de Montfort.

Henry recognizes Llywelyn ap Gruffydd as Prince of Wales.

Death of Henry III accession of Edward I.

Wales brought under English control.

Edward I asserts his overlordship over Scotland.

Edward I invades Scotland.

Death of Edward I accession of Edward II.

Scottish victory at Bannockburn under Robert Bruce.

The Hundred Years’ War begins.

English victory over Crecy.

English capture of Calais.

First occurrence of the ‘Black Death’ (plague) in England.

English victory at Poitiers.

Second major occurrence of the Black Death.

Condemnation of John Wycliffe’s works.

Richard II’s expedition to Ireland.

St Andrews University founded in Scotland.

English victory at Agincourt.

English conquest of Normandy.

Anglo-French treaty of Troyes.

French overrunning of Normady.

William Caxton’s first printed book in England.

Death of Richard II at Bosworth accession of Henry VII.

War with France and Scotland.

Henry VIII marries Ann Boleyn birth of Princess Elizabeth.

Act of Supremacy the King becomes Supreme Head of the English Church.

Execution of Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher.

Wales joins England under one administration.

Dissolution of the Monasteries union of England and Wales.

Death of Henry VIII accession of 10-year-old Edward VI.

First Book of Common Prayer.

Persecution of Protestants begins under Mary Tudor.

Papal bull excommunicating Queen Elizabeth I.

Sir Francis drake becomes the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world.

Defeat of the Spanish Armada.

James VI of Scotland succeeds to the throne as James I of England.

Gunpowder Plot of Guy Fawkes.

Settlement of Virginia in North America.

Rebellion of the Northern Earls in Ireland beginnings of the Planting of Ulster by Scotts and English Protestants.

Publications of Authorized Version of the Bible.

Pilgrim Fathers sail to New England.

Charles I dissolves Parliament.

Civil War between Royalists (‘Cavaliers’) and Parliamentarians (‘Roundheads’).

Presbyterian Church established in Scotland.

Trial and execution of Charles I England becomes a Republic (‘Commonwealth’).

Oliver Cromwell ‘pacifies’ Ireland.

Oliver Cromwell conquers Scotland.

Cromwell dissolves the ‘Rump’ Parliament and becomes Lord Protector.

Cromwell dies and is succeeded by his son Richard.

Richard is overthrown by the army.

The Royal Society is established.

The emergence of Whig and Tory parties.

‘Glorious Revolution’: William of Orange invades James II escapes to France accession of William III.

Bill of Rights settles succession to the throne and declares illegal various grievances.

James II defeated by William III in Ireland (Battle of the Boyne).

Bank of England is founded.

The War of Spanish Succession begins.

British capture Gibraltar from spain.

Malborough defeats the French at the Battle of Blenheim.

Union of England and Scotland.

Peace Treaty of Utrecht concludes the War of Spanish Succession.

Jacobite rebellion in Scotland under Earl of Mar.

South Sea Bubble: many investors ruined after speculation in the stock of the South Sea Company.

John Wesley begins the Methodist movement.

Prince Charles Edward leads a second Jacobite rising in Scotland and is finally defeated at Culloden.

Seven Years’ War: Britain allied with Frederick the Great of Prussia against France, Austria and Russia.

Battle of Plassey: British victory of Bengal over the French in India.

Capture of Quebec: British victory over the French in Canada.

Peace of Paris concludes Seven Years’ War.

James Watt’s steam engine patented.

Boston Tea Party: American colonists protest against the East India Company’s monopoly of tea exports to America.

Declaration of American Independence Adam Smith publishes Wealth of Nations.

Peace of Versailles recognizes independence of American colonies.

Vaccination against smallpox introduced.

Prime minister Peel introduces first factory legislation.

Battle of Trafalgar: Nelson defeats the French and Spanish fleets.

‘Luddite’ disturbances in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.

East India Company’s monopoly abolished.

Battle of Waterloo: defeat of Napoleon. Congress of Vienna peace in Europe. Corn Law passed setting the price of corn at 80s. per quarter.

Peterloo massacre in Manchester.

Stockton-Darlington railway opened. Trade Union legalized.

Nonconformists allowed to hold public offices.

Roman Catholics are given vote and allowed to hold public offices organization of the police force by Robert Peele.

First Reform Act extends franchise and restructures representation in Parliament.

First government grant for education.

Slavery is abolished in the British Empire. Parish workhouses instituted.

Accession of Queen Victoria.

People’s Charter demands fundamental political reform.

Rochdale Co-operative Society is founded. Royal Commission on Health of Towns. Potato famine begins in Ireland.

Railway mania. 5,000 miles of tract laid.

Chloroform is first used as an anaesthetic.

Chartism finally collapses. Public Health Act.

Great Exhibition is held in London at the Crystal Palace.

Working Men’s College founded in London. The Crimean War, in which Britain and France are engaged with Russia, and with Florence Nightingale comes to public prominence.

Bessemer ’s new, and cheaper, steel making process is introduced.

Matrimonial Causes Act, setting up divorce courts allowing men to obtain divorce on the grounds of the adultery of the wife.

The Society for promoting the Employment of Women formed. Publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

Limited Liability Act provides vital stimulus to accumulation of capital shares.

First national Trade Union Conference is held.

Irish Fenian movement founded against British rule.

Second Reform Act increases suffrage.

Trades Union Congress meets for the first time.

Labour Representation League founded. Irish Church disestablished.

Forster’s Education Act extends the provision of elementary education. Married Women’s Property Act extends the rights of women in marriage.

Ballot Act creates secret voting.

First Trade Union Members of Parliament elected. Disraeli’s second Conservative government.

Disraeli buys Suez Canal shares, gaining a controlling interest for Britain. Agricultural depression deepens.

Queen Victoria proclaimed Empress of India.

Women are admitted to degree courses at the University of London.

British-Zulu war in Africa.

Mundella’s Education Act introduces compulsory schooling for children between the ages of five and thirteen.

Third Reform Act extends suffrage to virtually all adult males. A series of explosions in London caused by Fenians.

Gladstone ’s third Liberal government fails to enact first Home Rule Bill for Ireland: Liberal Party splits.


Lester Pearson’s grandson talks about his grandfather

For all his accomplishments, Pearson was a humble man. He would have been the first person to acknowledge that he did not bring Canada into NATO single-handedly. He worked closely with associates like Escott Reid (his chief aide, who was the first Canadian to propose the idea of a North Atlantic collective security alliance) and Humphrey Hume Wrong (Canada’s ambassador to the United States, who played the most active role in negotiating the text of the Treaty in 1948). Louis St. Laurent (Pearson’s predecessor as Prime Minister) also contributed to NATO’s foundation, delivering a landmark speech to the United Nations in September 1947 where he told delegates that the United Nations had become "frozen in futility and divided by dissension" and that a new collective security body was needed. Paul Martin Sr (Pearson’s Foreign Affairs Minister) negotiated the deployment of nuclear weapons on Canadian territory in 1963. And alongside George Ignatieff (who was later to become Canada’s ambassador to NATO) Pearson was the first NATO Foreign Minister to visit Russia. In 1955, Pearson and Ignatieff participated in a drinking contest with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev where the Canadians downed 18 shots of vodka (nearly two pints each).

For a diplomat who rubbed shoulders with the global elite, he cut an unusually modest figure, always showing up with a smile and sporting one of his signature bowties. Known to some as “the unhappy warrior”, Pearson was 50 years old when he got into politics and was never comfortable with the “hoopla and circus” that came with being Prime Minister. Nominated for UN Secretary General in 1946, 1950 and 1953 (and blocked by a Soviet veto all three times), Pearson later confessed that this was “the job I really wanted”. Nevertheless, first as Foreign Minister and then as Prime Minister, Pearson helped establish Canada’s position as a key NATO Ally. Listen to the audio file of the interview with Michael Pearson, Lester Pearson’s grandson.

Pearson at Germany’s accession to NATO, 1955


April 4, 1949 - NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is founded

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as NATO, is an intergovernmental military alliance between thirty North American and European countries. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949, in Washington, D.C. The treaty consists of fourteen articles preceded by a preamble.

In the Treaty, the people pledge to “reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations” express their determination “to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” and declare their resolve “to unite their efforts for collective defense and for the preservation of peace and security.” The North American Treaty stands to provide the framework for a military and political alliance. By signing the Treaty, the countries voluntarily commit themselves to participating in the political consultations and military activities of the Organization. Although each and every signatory to the North Atlantic Treaty is subject to the obligations of the Treaty, each country can choose in which ways they will contribute.

NATO has many headquarters. The political headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium however, the three major military headquarters are in Mons, Belgium, as well as Norfolk and Northwood, United Kingdom.

The original members of NATO on the day of its inception in 1949, are Belgium, Canada, and Denmark. The Federal Republic of Germany joined on May 5, 1955, and France, Turkey, and Greece joined on February 18, 1952. Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain joined on May 30, 1982.


NATO Expands

As NATO’s role in the world has grown, so has its membership. When the organization was founded, it had 12 member states. During the Cold War, three new countries joined the group. Turkey and Greece joined in 1952, and West Germany joined in 1955. In 1982, Spain became a member of the alliance. Thus, when the Cold War came to an end, NATO’s membership had grown to 15 members.

By 2020, the number of countries that were part of NATO doubled to 30 countries. This great expansion began in 1999 when three countries that were formally part of the Warsaw Pact were admitted into the alliance. These countries were Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Five years later, seven additional countries from Eastern Europe were allowed to join. Croatia and Albania joined the alliance in 2009. The former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro would become a NATO member in 2017. In 2020, NATO welcomed its newest member, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, now known as North Macedonia.


TENSION, D É TENTE, AND THE END OF THE COLD WAR

D é tente climaxed in the first half of the 1970s. Nixon's visits to Moscow and Beijing, the Berlin Treaty of 1971 – 1972, the 1972 Basic Treaty between the two German states, and the Helsinki Accord of 1975 appeared to prove the vitality of East-West d é tente. But there was increasing domestic American opposition to d é tente the growing number of neoconservatives were firmly opposed, for example, to the Helsinki conference. Many on the right of the political spectrum in the United States viewed Western acceptance of the postwar borders in Europe by means of the Helsinki Final Act as a substantial defeat of the West. Soviet ratification of the human rights accord, an element that may well have contributed to the unraveling of the Soviet empire a decade later, was seen as unimportant.

When President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, he embarked on a human rights crusade. He viewed NATO as more than just a military and political alliance to him NATO ought to contribute to a more humane development of international politics and create a more just world. This antagonized the Soviet Union and led to much increased tension in East-West relations. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, d é tente was all but over. Carter turned into a full-blown cold warrior, not least in order to increase his chances for reelection in 1980. The U.S. government boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 and the president refused to let the SALT II Treaty proceed for ratification in the Senate (where it probably would have been defeated).

However, in 1977 Carter made three important proposals that were accepted by NATO at the North Atlantic Council meeting in May 1978 and indicated the alliance's enduring mistrust of Moscow. The first proposal argued that Western policy should continue to be based on the Harmel Report: d é tente had to be pursued on the basis of strength. The second proposal referred to the standardization of military equipment and to the necessity of making further progress with integrating NATO at the operational level. The third proposal, which developed into the Long-Term Defense Program (LTDP), indicated that d é tente had not overcome the arms race. In view of continued Soviet expansion of its offensive capabilities, NATO's defenses also needed to be strengthened, particularly in the area of conventional weapons. NATO's long-term nuclear needs were to be discussed by the Nuclear Planning Group. Although most European countries whole-heartedly approved of the LTDP, the renewed out-break of Cold War tension after the Afghanistan invasion worried the Europeans. The simultaneous continuation of d é tente in Europe became a serious problem for the coherence of NATO and America's dominant position within the alliance.

Soon the belief, widespread in the United States, that the Soviet Union was in fact attempting to obtain military and nuclear superiority under the guise of arms control agreements also began to worry a number of European NATO countries such as West Germany and Britain. It eventually led to NATO's "dual track" rearmament decision of December 1979. The dual track strategy consisted of the attempt to negotiate with Moscow for the reduction or even elimination of the Kremlin's intermediate-range SS-20 missiles, which were targeted at western Europe, by 1983. If this should prove impossible, as was in fact the case, equivalent U.S. weapons (464 cruise missiles and 108 Pershing missiles) would be deployed in western European countries: the Pershings in West Germany and the cruise missiles in the United Kingdom, Italy, Holland, and Belgium. Among the European peoples this decision was severely criticized. In Bonn it contributed to the downfall of the Helmut Schmidt government and its replacement by the center-right government of Helmut Kohl in 1982. It also caused many domestic upheavals in France and Italy and led to the rapid development of a European-wide peace movement. The latter largely benefited the new left-leaning, pacifist, and environmental Green parties across western Europe, which were particularly strong in West Germany, France, and the Benelux countries. After all, while European countries had to agree to the deployment of the new nuclear missiles in their countries, negotiations with the Soviet Union, if they were to take place, would be a bilateral affair between Moscow and Washington. It would exclude the Europeans — including the United Kingdom and France, whose nuclear weapons might also be affected by any negotiated solution — from having any input.

By the early 1980s America's political elite was increasingly dominated by anticommunist ideology, which eventually culminated in the election of President Ronald Reagan in late 1980. Reagan did not hesitate to go back to the days of intensive Cold War first experienced in the 1950s and early 1960s. However, Washington habitually failed to consult or even inform its European allies.

When Ronald Reagan entered the White House he was intent on reimposing America's leadership on transatlantic relations. The European Community's much stronger economic position and greater political confidence as well as the era of d é tente with the Soviet Union were simply ignored by Reagan as if these developments had never taken place. Thus, under Reagan, even more so than under Carter, economic as well as security issues and severely differing perceptions regarding the East-West conflict affected the transatlantic alliance. Reagan went on the offensive to implement NATO's "dual track" decision and undermine the European peace movements by attempting to sell the alliance as a harbinger of peace. At the same time, the reassertion of America's leadership of NATO and the concurrent attempt to increase America's global prestige were at the heart of Reagan's foreign policy. Reagan also did not hesitate to employ anticommunist rhetoric. Much to the despair of the European NATO allies, Reagan did not appear to be interested in rescuing what was left of East-West d é tente. Among European leaders only British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher supported Reagan's hard-line approach.

Reagan, like Thatcher, was not interested in supporting the creation of a supranational Europe. In fact, his new policy of strength toward Moscow precluded a reassessment of Washington's relations with its allies. With regard to Reagan's policy toward the Soviet Union, however, it is useful to differentiate between his first and second terms in office from 1984 to 1985 the president embarked upon a less hard-line approach toward the USSR. Although this helped to improve Washington's relations with its allies to a considerable degree, Reagan still expected the Europeans to follow America's hegemonic lead without questioning any of its policies. Thus, in terms of transatlantic relations, a deliberate policy of arrogant rather than benign neglect can be observed throughout Reagan's terms in office. Early in his presidency, for example, the administration talked casually of developing capabilities for fighting nuclear war and the possibility of entering into tactical nuclear exchanges with the Soviet Union. Such exchanges would of course have taken place over European territory, destroying much of the continent in the process. The same apparent willingness to distance himself from European security concerns appeared to apply to the president's enthusiasm regarding the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). If this project ever were to come to fruition it purportedly would make the United States immune to nuclear attacks by the Soviet Union, while in all likelihood such protection would not be available to the Europeans.

Reagan's negotiations with Soviet secretary general Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik in October 1986 almost led to the elimination of all ballistic missiles in East and West and the tabling of plans for the eradication of all nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Although such a development would have dramatically affected the future of the European continent, the president never consulted the Europeans but drew the lesson that only a united NATO front would convince the Soviets to make concessions. The same unilateral approach was applied when Gorbachev surprised Western leaders by accepting the United States' "zero-zero" INF proposal in December 1987, which foresaw the removal of all intermediate-range missiles from Europe. Reagan's 1988 proposal to modernize NATO's short-range nuclear Lance missiles in Europe to counter Moscow's still existing conventional strength in Europe also occurred without much consultation with America's NATO allies.

The Reagan administration's disinterest in consulting the Europeans can also be observed with respect to economic issues. The European Community's, and in particular West Germany and France's, increasing trade with East Germany, the Soviet Union, the developing world, and certain Arab nations was viewed with a combination of suspicion and envy in Washington. Reagan attempted to restrain the competition of the EC countries, and he did not hesitate to explain the rationale of American trade policy with the help of NATO and transatlantic security arguments, which usually resulted in the development of severe economic conflicts. Such crises emerged, for example, in connection with the proposed European gas pipeline deal with Moscow. Reagan's controversial trade sanctions on the Soviet Union in the wake of the declaration of martial law in Poland in December 1981 ensured that transatlantic relations deteriorated further.

As usual, the European Community was ready to compromise as far as security and political issues were concerned, fully realizing that reasonable transatlantic relations and a functioning NATO alliance were still the indispensable pillars of the Cold War world. From November 1983, after the negotiations with Moscow within NATO's dual track framework had failed, most EC countries went along with the deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in the face of very hostile peace movements in many countries. Indeed, the deployment of the missiles even reassured some European governments that the Reagan administration did not intend to "decouple" from the European continent. Eventually the EC countries compromised over SDI and agreed to the imposition of sanctions (though largely symbolic ones) on Moscow after the Polish crisis of late 1981.

With regard to important economic issues the European Community was much less disposed to compromise. Regarding the envisaged gas pipeline to Moscow, the EC countries were adamant in their refusal to be browbeaten by the American attempt to undermine the deal for example, they forbade the employment of American companies and technology in the construction of the pipeline. Reagan's attempts to impose what in effect amounted to extraterritorial sanctions on European companies who were willing to participate led to an outcry. Eventually Reagan had no option but to quietly give in.

Overall, Reagan's economic and financial policies showed yet again that the European Community was helpless in the face of unilateral American policies, forced to react to decisions that had been taken in Washington. Thus, as John Peterson has argued, "the precarious dependence of European economies on decisions taken by a fundamentally unsympathetic U.S. administration pushed the EC countries towards closer co-operation." The European Community under commission president Jacques Delors began developing plans for a Single European Market (SEM) to liberate itself from overwhelming American influence on western Europe's economic and financial fate. It intended to develop a fully free and integrated internal European market by 1992 and to design a common European currency system for implementation shortly thereafter. The French-led, though rather short-lived, revival of the Western European Union (WEU) in 1984 helped to contribute to the development of new ideas for creating a genuine common European foreign and defense policy, as later articulated in the Maastricht Treaty of 1991. In 1988 a Franco-German brigade was founded. This was expanded to corps level three years later it had the dual purpose of making sure that Germany would remain committed to European integration and of strengthening Europe's military capacities. America's economic and financial predicament, made worse by a rapid decline of the dollar's value in the second half of the 1980s, seemed to indicate the possibility of U.S. troop withdrawals from Europe for financial reasons. The unilateral actions of Gorbachev regarding the reduction of nuclear and conventional armaments and the winding down of the Cold War also appeared to make this a distinct possibility for political reasons.

The Reagan administration viewed these moves toward an economically and politically more integrated and independent Europe with great suspicion. Despite its own protectionist and discriminatory trade policies, it did not hesitate to speak of a "Fortress Europe" and was deeply disturbed by European protectionist measures. By the end of the Reagan years it appeared that not much was left of America's vision for the European continent as it had been developed in the late 1940s and 1950s. The Reagan administration certainly had not been willing to deal constructively with the attempt of its European allies to emancipate themselves a little from American preponderance.


About NATO

NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949. Which countries were originally involved in NATO? What was the purpose of NATO? What obligations did the member nations have to each other? Did NATO succeed in attaining its purpose? Explain your responses thoroughly.

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https://brainmass.com/history/world-history/about-nato-322026

Solution Preview

One way to help you prepare for writing your final copy is to address each question from various sources, which you can draw on for your final copy. This is the approach this response takes.

1. NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949. Which countries were originally involved in NATO?

On 4 April 1949 NATO was formed. Twelve states from Europe and North America signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC. The countries originally signing of the North Atlantic Treaty were: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Article 10 of the treaty provides basis NATO's "open door policy".(www.nato.int )

Leading up to NATO was the intense rivalry between communist and non-communist countries after World War II that ended in 1945. The Communist countries were led by the Soviet Union, whereas the non-Communist nations were led by the United States. This rivalry was named the Cold War. The Warsar pact of 1955 lead by the Soviet Union was in reaction to and to oppose NATO, .

Solution Summary

The solution provides insight and advice in tackling the set of questions (see above) in relation to NATO, its membership, purpose, obligations & that of member nations and an assessment of its effectiveness/success. Some resources are listed in the reply.


Member Countries

NATO's 30 members are Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Each member designates an ambassador to NATO as well as officials to serve on NATO committees and discuss NATO business. These designees could include a country’s president, prime minister, foreign affairs minister, or head of a defense department.

On December 1, 2015, NATO announced its first expansion since 2009, offering membership to Montenegro. Russia responded by calling the move a strategic threat to its national security. Russia is worried by the number of Balkan countries along its border that have joined NATO.


A History of Vexation: Trump’s Bashing of NATO is Nothing New

The Trump administration has recently been consumed by the domestic fallout from the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Facing criticism from across America and even from members of his own party, President Donald Trump must now focus on recovering from what is arguably the worst week of his presidency.

But like his predecessors, he will learn that the world will not wait. Notwithstanding the significance of the turmoil in Charlottesville, we have seen acts of terror in Barcelona, threats of war from North Korea, faltering leadership in France, and Russia will hold large-scale war games planned next month with its neighbor Belarus, which some fear could be the pretext for another Crimea-style invasion. Moreover, an America weakened at home might tempt rivals abroad.

For the past century, much of the world has turned to the United States for leadership. In 1941, Henry Luce, the publisher of Life magazine and a frequent commentator on U.S. foreign policy, coined the term “the American Century.” The term encapsulated the United States’ unprecedented economic, military, and political dominance on the world stage. Victory in World War II had cast America in that leading role, a part the country initially sought with reluctance, but later played with gusto. For generations of American statesmen, it was, to paraphrase Don Corleone, a part the country could not refuse.

Despite Washington’s great prowess, the American Century would require many non-Americans in supporting roles. One of the main instruments of support was NATO. Founded in April 1949, NATO helped to keep the Cold War cold and saved America from having to intervene in a third and perhaps apocalyptic world war. This long peace in a region that had been home to many conflicts enabled Europe to prosper under America’s benevolent leadership and legitimize U.S. dominance. According to the famous quip by Lord Ismay, NATO’s first secretary general, the goal of the organization was to “keep the Russians out, the Americas in, and the Germans down.” Few alliances have ever been so successful.

Enter Donald Trump, stage left. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was not shy about his disdain for NATO. In an interview with The New York Times, he was asked: “If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?” Trump’s response suggested that the United States’ decision on whether to come to the aid of a NATO ally under attack would be contingent on whether it had contributed its fair monetary share to the alliance. He declared that NATO was “obsolete.” Trump also said that the other members of NATO need “to pay their fair share.”

Many politicians, pundits, and government officials were quick to denounce Trump’s words. The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Trump’s remarks were “in contradiction with what the American defence minister said in his hearing in Washington only some days ago and we have to see what will be the consequences for American policy.” Steinmeier’s French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, remarked that “the best response to the [Trump] interview … is European unity.” He added that France would oppose “a return to nationalism, and each man for himself.” And the leader of America’s closest ally, British leader Theresa May, described NATO as “the cornerstone of the West’s defence” and as part of a wider, rules-based world order that the United States and the United Kingdom had helped to build after World War II. “We must turn towards those multinational institutions like the UN and NATO that encourage international cooperation and partnership,” she said.

These remarks and many others suggest that a Trump-led America poses a grave danger to the one institution that has kept the peace in Europe since 1945.

But does Trump pose an unprecedented threat to NATO? In fact, history shows Trump is saying nothing about NATO that American officials have not been saying since the inception of the Alliance. While his public tone is different, the sentiment is not.

While Trump’s bluntness on the topic might be unprecedented, the sentiments he expressed are not new. In fact, the question of burden sharing — who pays what — has plagued the alliance since its beginning. At the outset of NATO in April 1949, the organization was more of alliance on paper than an alliance in fact.

Beyond the specific issue of burden-sharing, NATO has had a number of in-house disputes over the decades. A brief review of the historical record shows that Trump’s criticisms are similar to those American officials have made in the past.

Dwight Eisenhower had a special connection to NATO, serving as the organization’s first supreme allied commander. But once in the Oval Office, Ike did not mince words when discussing burden-sharing:

All I ever get from [Secretary of State John Foster] Dulles are favorable reports, but the French are getting their asses kicked. Blackmailing bastards! Damn them! They have ten divisions bogged down in Vietnam, and every time I ask the sons of bitches to put more troops into NATO they kiss me off unless I promise to bail them out. The French have got themselves into this. They ought to get themselves out of it.

Eisenhower’s successor, John F. Kennedy, was equally caustic about burden-sharing. Kennedy announced at a National Security Council meeting the European allies were not paying their fair share and living off “the fat of the land.” Like Eisenhower, Kennedy also threatened to pull U.S. forces out of Europe.

The West Germans have often felt America’s wrath since joining NATO in 1955. After he became commander in chief, Lyndon Johnson leaned hard on the Germans to force them to pay more for defense. He even gave Chancellor Ludwig Erhard the “Johnson Treatment” over what the president considered insufficient German defense spending, which led the fall of his government.

Unlike Johnson, who wanted to focus on domestic issues like the Great Society, Richard Nixon was a foreign policy president. But in 1974:

Several months prior to the enactment of Section 812, this Administration took the initiative to seek Allied cooperation in developing a solution to the financial problems arising from the stationing of U.S. forces in NATO Europe.

Such criticism of NATO has not been limited to U.S. presidents. Indeed, many other American politicians and policy makers have long been sounding the same horn.

One of Johnson’s contemporaries, Mike Mansfield, who was a U.S. senator (1953 to 1977) from Montana and the longest-serving Senate majority leader in history (1961 to 1977), was so incensed at NATO free-riding that he called for pulling large numbers of American troops out of Europe.

These criticisms extend across the ideological spectrum. In 1994, liberal Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank remarked:

There is no reason for the American taxpayers, in the face of our own substantial deficit, to continue to subsidize Germany, France, England, Norway, Belgium and other prosperous European democracies.

American complaints about NATO have continued into the 21st century. At the 2010 NATO summit, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said:

In the past, I’ve worried openly about NATO turning into a two-tiered alliance: Between members who specialize in “soft” humanitarian, development, peacekeeping, and talking tasks, and those conducting the “hard” combat missions. Between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership — be they security guarantees or headquarters billets — but don’t want to share the risks and the costs. This is no longer a hypothetical worry. We are there today. And it is unacceptable.

Gates repeated this theme in 2011, noting,

[T]he blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources … in their own defense.

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seconded Gates:

We all have to step up and share the burdens that we face in responding to 21st century threats. And many members are doing just that. Every country in the alliance, including of course our own, is under financial pressure. We are being asked to cut spending on national security at a time when we are living in an increasingly unpredictable world.

Clinton continued her critcisms of NATO’s allies when she ran for president. During an April 2016 Democratic debate, Clinton said:

I support our continuing involvement in NATO. And it is important to ask for our NATO allies to pay more of the cost. There is a requirement that they should be doing so, and I believe that needs to be enforced.

During the same debate, Sanders was asked to compare his stance on NATO to that of Trump’s. He responded:

So I would not be embarrassed as president of the United States to stay to our European allies, you know what, the United States of America cannot just support your economies. You got to put up your own fair share of the defense burden. Nothing wrong with that.

Sanders was also also reminded that in 1997, he said, “It is not the time to continue wasting tens of billions of dollars helping to defend Europe, let alone assuming more than our share of any cost associated with expanding NATO.”

Currently, only a handful of countries — Estonia, Greece, and Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — meet NATO’s two percent of GDP goal. Unless more countries meet this standard, we can expect the next U.S. president to also make calls for NATO members to spend more on defense. This will certainly be the case if the world becomes increasingly less stable.

As we see, the former reality TV star is now playing the role of a lifetime. But in fact, Trump is merely reprising a role that has been played by all of his predecessors and many of their also-rans. Bashing NATO is a familiar American script. The only difference this time is that it’s being delivered by the ultimate anti-hero. His dialogue is not original it’s just more convincing.


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