NATO: Attack one member, attack them all

NATO countries agree to be part of a collective defense.
NATO countries agree to be part of a collective defense.
It all began when Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president, was asked about the country’s role in protecting fellow NATO nations.

    What if Russia came over the border of Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania -- all NATO members? 
    At first, Trump responded that he did not wish to signal what he might do. But during an interview with The New York Times in July, he answered the question with a question: “Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”
    The remark was controversial because the cornerstone of NATO -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- is a treaty provision stating that an attack on one member country is an attack on all member countries.
    So how did NATO come about? Here is a backgrounder, along with a source list and links for further study.

    The Truman Doctrine: In February 1947, the British Embassy informed U.S. officials that Great Britain’s financial aid to Greece and Turkey would end. During a meeting between congressmen and State Separtment officials, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson said that if Greek and Turkey fell to communism, other countries could follow, recounts the President Harry S. Truman Library and Museum website
    In a joint session of Congress the following month, Truman asked for $400 million in military and economic assistance for Greece and Turkey and articulated what became known as the Truman Doctrine: “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
     As summed up by the library, this doctrine “signaled America's post war embrace of global leadership and ended its longstanding policy of isolationism.”

    Rebuilding Europe:
    Nations throughout Europe struggled to rebuild their infrastructure and economies while maintaining security. U.S. leaders understood that a strong Europe was “vital to the prevention of communist expansion across the continent,” according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian website.
    In a speech at Harvard University June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall proposed an aid program: the European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan. The plan was approved by Congress one year later. The Soviet Union refused to take part and would not allow its satellite states to accept help. From 1948 to 1952, the U.S. spent approximately $13 billion on reconstruction projects that were credited with helping countries recover from the war. (See: National Archives website, Bipartisan Foreign Policy: The Marshall Plan.)

    The Brussels Treaty:
    At the same time, European countries realized that they would need to create a collective defense. The Brussels Treaty, signed in March 1948, included Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. It called for participating nations:
    “To afford assistance to each other, in accordance with the charter of the United Nations, in maintaining international peace and security and in resisting any policy of aggression;
     “To take such steps as may be held to be necessary in the event of a renewal by Germany of a policy of aggression.”  

     The Berlin Blockade and Airlift:
     In 1948–49, the Soviet Union tested its power, attempting to push the United States, the United Kingdom and France into abandoning their jurisdictions in West Berlin, which had been divided in four occupation zones.  
     On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded land, rail and canal access in an attempt to prevent the creation of a unified West Germany. In response, the U.S. and Great Britain began flying food and supplies into the area. The airlift provided West Berlin with more than 2 million tons of supplies, according to The Complete Book of Presidents, by William A. DeGregorio and Sandra Lee Stuart, (Barricade Books; 2013).
    Stalin lifted the blockade in 1949.  This incident is considered the first confrontation of the Cold War. (See story in The New York Times: An Airlift Marks the beginning of the Cold War, May 24, 1998. )

     NATO forms: 
     The New York Times story noted two direct consequences of the Berlin blockade and airlift: NATO in April 1949 and the creation of the Federal Republic of West Germany in May 1949.    
     The NATO website says that the alliance was about more than opposing the Soviet Union. The idea was also to stop “the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent” and to encourage European political integration. 
     On April 4, 1949, foreign ministers from 12 countries met in Washington and signed the North Atlantic Treaty, which was also known as the Washington Treaty. The heart of the treaty is Article 5:
     “The parties 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, …. 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's website lists these founding members: the U.S., Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.
   A year later, in December 1950, the council asked Gen. Dwight Eisenhower to become supreme commander of NATO. Eisenhower, who had been serving as president of Columbia University after World War II, agreed. He served as NATO's supreme commander for one year before running for president.

   Other countries added:
   Greece and Turkey became part of the alliance in 1952; West Germany in 1955; Spain in 1982; Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia in 2004; Albania and Croatia in 2009.

   NATO is now a security alliance of 28 countries from North America and Europe.  The U.S. State Department describes it as,the principal security instrument of the transatlantic community and expression of its common democratic values. It is the practical means through which the security of North America and Europe are permanently tied together.” 

    NATO member countries:
  1. Albania
  2. Belgium
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Canada
  5. Croatia
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. France
  10. Germany
  11. Greece
  12. Hungary
  13. Iceland
  14. Italy
  15. Latvia
  16. Lithuania
  17. Luxembourg
  18. Netherlands
  19. Norway
  20. Poland
  21. Portugal
  22. Romania
  23. Slovakia
  24. Slovenia
  25. Spain
  26. Turkey
  27. United Kingdom
  28. United States



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