NATO - 70 years of aggression

by Pat Turnbull

This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - NATO. The military alliance was set up on 4th April 1949 in Washington DC, USA. To mark the anniversary year the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition are calling for a huge protest, with international participation, on 7th December 2019 on the occasion of the London summit of the NATO heads of state. They are calling it No to Trump - No to NATO.

NATO was set up by the United States and included also Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Portugal and Luxemburg (which had already, in March 1948, formed the first post-war military bloc, the so-called Western European Union). Turkey and Greece joined in 1952 and the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955. From its inception, NATO was a baleful presence, its aim being to stop the tide of progressive advance after the end of the Second World War and to further the interests of the leading capitalist nations, in particular the USA.


In 1945 all over Europe the people were emerging from the horrors of war with a strong desire for peace and progress. In the countries of Eastern Europe liberated by the Soviet Red Army, people's democracies were being established, taking the major means of production into the hands of the people, and redistributing the land to the peasants. The Soviet occupied zone of defeated Germany was de-nazifying with determination, as shown in the 1946 plebiscite in Saxony which approved the expropriation without compensation of properties owned by war criminals and active Nazis.

In Western Europe too, the people's wishes were expressed in electoral form. A huge defeat of Churchill's conservatives in Britain put a Labour government in power. Communist parties gained big votes in the first post-war elections - in France 28.6 per cent, in Italy 20 per cent, in Finland 25 per cent. In 1945, 1946 and 1947 communists were members of governments of nine European countries: France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Finland and Luxemburg. A World Federation of Trade Unions was formed in September 1946 with members from 56 countries, including the USSR, the USA, Great Britain, France, Italy, Poland, China, India and Indonesia.

During 1945 and to some extent during 1946 and 1947, representatives of the USSR and the western powers were still able to reach agreement on many important international political problems. The United Nations Organisation was created, the Potsdam Conference took place, peace treaties were signed with Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland, the countries which participated in the Second World War on the side of Nazi Germany. But already on March 5th 1946, Winston Churchill, still a major western political figurehead, made his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech at the US town of Fulton, Missouri, in the presence of US President Truman. He implied the division was the responsibility of the Soviet Union, but was in effect announcing that the west was drawing an 'Iron Curtain' across Europe. It was a declaration of political war on its wartime ally the Soviet Union the chief force which, at immense cost, had defeated fascist Germany.

In March 1947 came the proclamation of the Truman Doctrine. In a special message to the US Congress, the president claimed the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries. Financial and military aid was given to the reactionary monarchist regime of Greece and the government of Turkey and in return the US obtained the right to establish military bases in both countries, strategic gateways to the Black Sea and the heart of the Soviet Union.

Attempts to use US Marshall Plan economic assistance to lure the European people's democracies, especially Czechoslovakia, into re-joining the imperialist camp failed. But in Western Europe and the US itself measures were taken to curb communist parties and other progressive and peace organisations. Marshall Plan aid accomplished one of its main objectives, the economic reconstruction of West Germany as the imperialist spearhead in Europe.


As early as 1945, when the subject of anti-Soviet military blocs was first broached in the western press, discussion began of the possible inclusion of West Germany in such blocs. This could only be done by thwarting the aim of the Soviet Union and progressive Germans for a united, truly democratic and de-nazified Germany.  

Between 1946 and 1948 the three western zones under US, British and French administration joined up and on June 20th 1948, with no warning or discussion, announced a unilateral currency reform. On September 7th 1949 the first West German Parliament, the Bundestag, proclaimed a Federal Republic of Germany. Among its leaders were people who had only recently collaborated with the Nazi regime. These included Hans Globke who was Secretary of State and Chief of Staff of the West German government from 1953 to 1963 but had been a Nazi civil servant and co-author of the laws designed to persecute and anihilate the Jewish people. With unbelievable impudence West German government called for a revision of the state frontiers established jointly by the victorious powers after the Second World War, refusing to recognise the Oder-Neisse line as the border between Germany and Poland. The division of Germany was a fait accompli, and on October 7th 1949 the German Democratic Republic was founded in what had been the Soviet occupied zone.

In 1951 the rebuilding of the West German military machine was begun, and many Nazi generals were called back into service. One of these was Adolf Heusinger a high-ranking colonel in the Nazi army who became not only a general in in the West German Army, but went on to chair the NATO military committee from 1961-64. In 1955 the Federal Republic of Germany was admitted into NATO. And only in that year, in May, did the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies - the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Bulgaria and Hungary - form the Warsaw Pact as a treaty of mutual assistance in the event of aggression against any one of them and creating a joint military command of their armed forces. Throughout the existence of the Warsaw Pact, its member countries consistently worked for general and complete disarmament, for the prohibition of nuclear weapons and for the dismantling of foreign military bases.


Fast forward to 1990 and the end of socialist Europe and the Warsaw Pact.  Soon there was once more war in Europe, with NATO a major force in the break up of Yugoslavia, involved in military interventions in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995.

As part of the agreement to unify Germany in the capitalist camp, NATO promised not to advance to the borders of Russia. Before the decade was out, this promise was broken. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO in 1999 and ten days later they were at war with their neighbour, Yugoslavia, as part of the NATO bombing campaign. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined in 2004, Albania and Croatia in 2009, and Montenegro in 2017. Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are next in line. NATO arms are on the borders of Russia. Frequent exercises simulate attack; exercises like Anakonda 2016, when 30,000 troops and numerous vehicles, aircraft and ships put on a ten-day show of force.

The Soviet Union asked to join NATO in 1954 but was rejected. A document which has since come to light indicates the response from the west was that 'the unrealistic nature of the proposal does not warrant discussion'. In 1991, 2000 and 2003 Russia asked to join, but to no avail. Russia as a chief NATO target is plain to see.

NATO has thrown off the mask of being a defensive body. On its fiftieth anniversary in 1999, NATO adopted a new 'Strategic Concept'. Henceforth it could conduct 'out of area' offensive operations anywhere on the Eurasian landmass. The war in Afghanistan, begun in 2001, involves all NATO countries and, although NATO's mission officially ended in 2014, it has since launched a new 'non-combat resolute support' operation, with thousands of troops still in the country. As the “No to war - No to NATO” network's 2008 founding document states: 'Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has reinvented itself as a tool for military action by the "international community" including the promotion of the so-called "war on terror". '


The US arms industry is well served by NATO. There are over 1300 military standardisation agreements and standardisation of NATO countries' military technology means buying US equipment. This is also true in the field of nuclear weapons, a core component of NATO's policies. ‘Nuclear sharing' means non-nuclear weapons states are also involved in planning for the possible use of nuclear weapons by NATO, including their delivery. In the event of war, the US has informed NATO members that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would no longer operate.

Some 150 non-strategic gravity B-61 bombs are stored in six US nuclear weapon facilities in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. Updated warheads will enter full production in 2020 and be deployed by 2024. Turkey, the Netherlands, Italy and possibly Belgium have plans to buy the nuclear-capable F35A Joint Strike Fighter from the US. Germany will extend the life of its nuclear-capable Tornado planes through the 2020s. Britain's nuclear contribution is Trident.


In 2014 the NATO summit in Wales agreed a Readiness Action Plan to 'respond swiftly and firmly to security challenges from the east and south', establishing a 5000-strong Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.  NATO Force Integration Units have been established in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia and a Headquarters for a Multinational Corps Northeast has been created in Szczecin, Poland and another for a Multinational Division Southeast in Bucharest, Romania. The US and NATO are installing ballistic missile defence systems in Europe, a policy started under the presidency of Barack Obama. The system was declared operational in 2016. Russia says the activation violates the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

NATO will also continue to help further militarise the European Union, which has been developing its own military since the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 and there has been a Joint Declaration to take the partnership between the EU and NATO 'to a higher level'.

NATO's 'Global Partners' include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia (since May 2018), Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. Brazil is mooted to be next. NATO has also been working with the African Union (AU) since 2005, when it provided support to its mission in Darfur, Sudan - the first NATO mission on the African continent. Currently NATO is supporting the AU mission in Somalia and a long-term 'peacekeeping' capability, the African Standby Force. There are now nearly 40 non-member states that work with NATO.  

NATO is extending its reach. The 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw agreed to recognise cyberspace as 'an operational domain, alongside air, land and sea'. Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty requires member states to come to the aid of any member state subject to an armed attack. So cyber-attacks could be used as a trigger for war.

There is precedent for leaving NATO; France left in 1966, though it re-joined later. A Labour government truly committed to an international policy of peace and cooperation would do well to leave. NATO accounts for three-quarters of all military spending in the world. NATO and its leading force, the United States, are the biggest danger to peace.

The following were used as references for this article:

No to War - No to NATO network - Q and A June 1 2018 (web site)

NATO at 70, Kate Hudson - Tribune, 2.4.19

A Short History of the World, A Z Manfred - Progress Publishers, 1974

The Brown Book, Albert Norden, Verlag Zeit im Bild 1965

The Red Army raising the Soviet flag on the roof of the Reichstag, Berlin 1945

Winston Churchill