Nato

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - NATO

Forged from the coalition of Allies who had defeated Nazi Germany, NATO formed in 1949 to meet the new challenge rising from the East; the Soviet Union. The organisation’s first Secretary General, Britain’s Lord Ismay described NATO’s mission; ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down’.

Formation

The swift end to WWII following the birth of the nuclear age in 1945 saw a rapid deterioration in relations between the Western democracies and communist powers headed by Stalin’s USSR. In 1948 Stalin initiated the blockade of West Berlin which was saved by the famous ‘air-lift’ but the rise in tensions and the Soviet Union’s own acquisition of nuclear weaponry reinforced a need for a permanent alliance of capitalist powers to counter the rising communist threat. In 1948 the Treaty of Brussels brought five Western European powers together and on the 4th April 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington DC expanding the organisation to both sides of the Atlantic.

NATO’s charter restricted its area of responsibility to the North Atlantic region and regarded an attack on one member state as an attack on all. Consequently this ruled out the possibility of any ‘small war’ in Europe which resulted in the icy peace of the Cold War where East and West faced each other in a divided Germany. When West Germany joined NATO in 1955 the communist response was the formation of the Warsaw Pact, the communist mirror of NATO.

The Korean War of 1950-53 galvanised NATO. Instead of just ‘conferencing’ NATO forged ahead to standardise equipment and created a single command structure to co-ordinate operations and the use of nuclear weaponry. The 7.62 x 51 mm rimless round developed by Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale de Herstal’s became the NATO standard.

Highlights

  • In 1959 Charles De Gaulle’s France withdrew from full participation in NATO, unhappy about US domination of the organisation and a lack of support for their war in Algeria. France resumed full membership in 2009.
  • Détente and an Arms Race were characteristics of the NATO/Warsaw Pact relationship from the 1960’s till the 1990’s. From 1968 both sides sought to limit nuclear weapons by Treaty while President Reagan with Margaret Thatchers' support, believed a ruinously expensive arms race could bankrupt the Soviet Union.
  • Warsaw Pact countries helped their client state North Vietnam defeat the US and their allies in the Vietnam War which finished in 1975 and the US helped humiliate the Soviet Union following their ‘invasion’ of Afghanistan in 1979.
  • The reunification of Germany in 1990 resulted in the speedy end of the Warsaw Pact (1991) and the unravelling of the Soviet ‘empire’. NATO now extends deep into Eastern Europe threatening a resurgent and democratic Russia.
  • NATO played a half-hearted role in ‘protecting’ civilians in a disintegrating Yugoslavia but Slobodan Milošević’s orchestrated ethnic cleansing of Kosovo’s Albanians in 1999 flexed NATO’s air muscle and Serbia’s atrocity was reversed. NATO forces maintain a presence in Kosovo.
  • Following the September 11th attacks NATO has played a role, supporting George W Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, stretching the credibility of NATO’s charter claims to concentrate on the ‘north Atlantic region’.
  • By 2014 Nato plans to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan following their failure to defeat the Taliban after 13 years. Nato expect Karzai's corrupt puppet regime to callapse quickly following their departure, so are negotiating with Taliban intermediaries in Qatar.