This day in History April 1949, the United States and 11 other nations establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact aimed at containing possible Soviet aggression against Western Europe. NATO stood as the main U.S.-led military alliance against the Soviet Union throughout the duration of the Cold War.
NATO’s primary significance stemmed from its character as an alliance of democratic countries. Forces of democracy a mutual defense pact “a shield against aggression.”
NATO was the first peacetime military alliance the United States entered into outside of the Western Hemisphere. After the destruction of the Second World War, the nations of Europe struggled to rebuild their economies and ensure their security. The former required a massive influx of aid to help the war-torn landscapes re-establish industries and produce food, and the latter required assurances against a resurgent Germany or incursions from the Soviet Union.
The international turbulence of the period also had its impact. Churchill (The grand alliance principal architect) said the Russian danger … is our danger”.
The United States viewed an economically strong, rearmed, and integrated Europe as vital to the prevention of communist expansion across the continent. As a result, Secretary of State George Marshall proposed a program of large-scale economic aid to Europe. The resulting European Recovery Program,
or Marshall Plan, not only facilitated European economic integration but promoted the idea of shared interests and cooperation between the United States and Europe. Soviet refusal either to participate in the Marshall Plan or to allow its satellite states in Eastern Europe to accept the economic assistance helped to reinforce the growing division between east and west in Europe.
In 1947–1948, a series of events caused the nations of Western Europe to become concerned about their physical and political security and the United States to become more closely involved with European affairs. The ongoing civil war in Greece, along with tensions in Turkey, led President Harry S. Truman to assert that the United States would provide economic and military aid to both countries, as well as to any other nation struggling against an attempt at subjugation.
A Soviet-sponsored coup in Czechoslovakia resulted in a communist government coming to power on the borders of Germany. Attention also focused on elections in Italy as the communist party had made significant gains among Italian voters. Furthermore,events in Germany also caused concern. The occupation and governance of Germany after the war had long been disputed, and in mid-1948, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin chose to test Western resolve by implementing a blockade against West Berlin, which was then under joint U.S., British, and French control but surrounded by Soviet-controlled East Germany.
This Berlin Crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of conflict, although a massive airlift to resupply the city for the duration of the blockade helped to prevent an outright confrontation. These events caused U.S. officials to grow increasingly wary of the possibility that the countries of Western Europe might deal with their security concerns by negotiating with the Soviets.
To counter this possible turn of events, the Truman Administration considered the possibility of forming a European-American alliance that would commit the United States to bolstering the security of Western Europe.
Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union began to deteriorate rapidly in 1948. There were heated disagreements over the postwar status of Germany, with the Americans insisting on German recovery and eventual rearmament and the Soviets steadfastly opposing such actions. In June 1948, the Soviets blocked all ground travel to the American occupation zone in West Berlin, and only a massive U.S. airlift of food and other necessities sustained the population of the zone until the Soviets relented and lifted the blockade in May 1949.
The Western European countries were willing to consider a collective security solution.
In response to increasing tensions and security concerns, representatives of several countries of Western Europe gathered together to create a military alliance. Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed the Brussels Treaty in March, 1948.
To reaffirm their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the other ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations;
Their treaty provided collective defense; if any one of these nations was attacked, the others were bound to help defend it. At the same time, the Truman Administration instituted a peacetime draft, increased military spending, and called upon the historically isolationist Republican Congress to consider a military alliance with Europe.
In January 1949, President Harry S. Truman warned in his State of the Union Address that the forces of democracy and communism were locked in a dangerous struggle, and he called for a defensive alliance of nations in the North Atlantic—U.S military in Korea.NATO was the result.
In spite of general agreement on the concept behind the treaty, it took several months to work out the exact terms. The U.S. Congress had embraced the pursuit of the international alliance, but it remained concerned about the wording of the treaty. The nations of Western Europe wanted assurances that the United States would intervene automatically in the event of an attack, but under the U.S. Constitution the power to declare war rested with Congress. Negotiations worked toward finding language that would reassure the European states but not obligate the United States to act in a way that violated its own laws.
Additionally, European contributions to collective security would require large-scale military assistance from the United States to help rebuild Western Europe’s defense capabilities. While the European nations argued for individual grants and aid, the United States wanted to make aid conditional on regional coordination. A third issue was the question of scope. The Brussels Treaty signatories preferred that membership in the alliance be restricted to the members of that treaty plus the United States.
The U.S. negotiators felt there was more to be gained from enlarging the new treaty to include the countries of the North Atlantic, including Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, and Portugal. Together, these countries held territory that formed a bridge between the opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean, which would facilitate military action if it became necessary. In April 1949, representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal joined the United States in signing the NATO agreement.
The signatories agreed, “An armed attack against one or more of them… shall be considered an attack against them all.” President Truman welcomed the organization as “a shield against aggression.”
This collective defense arrangement only formally applied to attacks against the signatories that occurred in Europe or North America; it did not include conflicts in colonial territories. After the treaty was signed, a number of the signatories made requests to the United States for military aid. Later in 1949, President Truman proposed a military assistance program, and the Mutual Defense Assistance Program passed the U.S. Congress in October, appropriating some $1.4 billion dollars for the purpose of building Western European defenses.
Soon after the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the outbreak of the Korean War led the members to move quickly to integrate and coordinate their defense forces through a centralized headquarters.
The North Korean attack on South Korea was widely viewed at the time to be an example of communist aggression directed by Moscow, so the United States bolstered its troop commitments to Europe to provide assurances against Soviet aggression on the European continent.
In 1952, the members agreed to admit Greece and Turkey to NATO and added the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955. West German entry led the Soviet Union to retaliate with its own regional alliance, which took the form of the Warsaw Treaty Organization and included the Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe as members.
NATO lasted throughout the course of the Cold War, and continues to play an important role in post-Cold War Europe. In recent years, for example, NATO forces were active in trying to bring an end to the civil war in Bosnia. This step forward has allowed the EU to respond by opening accession negotiations with Serbia, and by launching Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with Kosovo.
The EU:s External Action Service is a genuine asset whose professionalism and expertise is widely respected around the world. Looking back four years ago EU had to establish a European External Action Service to focus on the Neighbourhood – both South and East Europe. The EU:s external service is more than the sum total of its parts.
The ideas of Europe and and many success story of Europe also shows that individual interests in Europe are better protected by acting together through common institutions. In Europe there is some political commitment to present democracy as core european value. This centres on the conviction that Europe offers a model of political harmony both within and among states that is highly relevant to some other parts of the world, not least the zones of conflict, because it shows how to rise above centuries of interstate violence.
Today, the developments in and around Ukraine are seen to constitute a threat to neighboring Allied countries and having direct and serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area.
The European Union has declared that Russia’s actions are to be regarded as an act of aggression.
On Friday 21th March 2014, prior to the European Council, EU signed the political provisions of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine.
Russian military intervention in Ukraine is clearly against international law and principles of European security. Any possible movements, action and stationing of forces must be in accordance with international law and commitments, notably under the UN Charter and the OSCE Final Act, the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 as well as bilateral treaties such as the one regulating the stationing of the Black Sea Fleet.
Military action against Ukraine by forces of the Russian Federation is a breach of international law and contravenes the principles of the NATO-Russia Council and the Partnership for Peace. Russia must respect its obligations under the United Nations Charter and the spirit and principles of the OSCE, on which peace and stability in Europe rest. All nations, including Russia, depend on a rules-based international system. For those rules to remain credible there must be costs attached to breaking international agreements.
One of the very fundamental principles that everyone decided upon at the end of the Cold War, at the end of the Soviet Union, at the end of Yugoslavia, was: don’t change the borders,”The leaders of the G-7 nations said they will not recognize the results of a coming referendum on Crimea’s status.
The main issues remain border disputes, refugees and displaced persons as well as the war crimes. All these issues are a part of the broader concept of maintaining good neighbourly relations and ensuring the stability.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its efforts to destabilize the transitional government in Kyiv have reframed the relationship between Europe and Russia in Europe’s eastern neighborhood from an uneasy geopolitical balancing into full-on systemic conflict. The unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected at all times and by all sides. Any violation of these principles is unacceptable. More than ever, restraint and sense of responsibility are needed.
Obama Renewing U.S. Commitment to NATO Alliance. President Obama and European leaders have pledged that Russia would not be allowed to run roughshod. U.S. President Obama was worried by declining defence budgets in many Nato nations and said the alliance should examine its members contributions.
Every Nato state must step forward and carry its share of the burden by showing the political will to invest in our collective defence” Obama said after a full day in Brussels meeting EU and Nato leaders (24-27 March 2014).
His words will resonate in the EU, quite necessary for the Heads of State and Government of the EU to address defence.
Everything has to be approached with restraint, with composure, with dialogue, within the framework of international law and the existing contractual texts that link Ukraine with Russia and with the international community.
On 28th March 2014 the North Atlantic Council decided to appoint Mr. Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of NATO and Chairman of the North Atlantic Council, in succession to Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Mr. Stoltenberg will assume his functions as Secretary General as from 1 October 2014, when Mr. Fogh Rasmussen’s term expires after 5 years and 2 months at the helm of the Alliance.
While Mr Stoltenberg was Prime Minister, Norway’s defence spending increased steadily, with the result that Norway is today one of the Allies with the highest per capita defence expenditure. Mr Stoltenberg is a strong supporter of enhanced transatlantic cooperation, including better burden-sharing across the Atlantic. He sees NATO and the EU as complementary organisations in terms of securing peace and development in Europe and beyond.
Strong defence and deterrence have ensured peace and stability in Europe for almost 70 years. The political, economic and military bonds between Europe and North America remain as important as ever in the defence of our common values shared by the United States and Europe.