NATO The History of NATO NATO it is
- Slides: 19
The History of NATO • NATO – it is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and is the main international alliance specialising in preventing terrorism. It is important to know why it was formed, because it has changed so much over the years and has become the main force for fighting terrorism. But it wasn’t designed for that role, and some people take issue with the fact that it seems to have become a “world police”.
• In the 20 th century two wars left Europe financially destroyed. • The USA had managed to stay out of both wars until nearish the end, and claim victory In WW 2 Russia did most of the fighting, and most of the people who died as a result of the war were either Russian or German. The USA was able to capitalise on all of the destruction European countries had caused each other, and took over as the most powerful nation on Earth
• Western Europe was in absolute ruins. Russia was a bit annoyed about all this fighting that had been going on. Stalin ( the Russian President) had spent enough years trying to kill his own people, and yet he got surprisingly annoyed when Hitler started to do it for him. His people, he would kill them in his way. (At this time Russia was going through communist restructuring like China did under Mao. The result was famine and death for anyone who resisted totalitarianism. )
• The response of Russia to the end of the war was to start building itself a “buffer zone” so if Europe kicked off again they would not be able to send troops over to attack Russia sought to control the countries lying between Russia and the West of Europe, countries like Ukraine, Poland, Czechoslovakia (which has become 2 countries in recent years), Yugoslavia and a few others, you get the drift. Russia wanted a “sphere of influence”, like the USA had in South America and Britain had with the “Commonwealth” (India, Australia, and huge bits of Africa that Britain used to run). Russia wanted its own Empire—as this would bring power. It named it the USSR.
• It was the development of this “sphere of influence” after WW 2, and the spread of Stalinist communism into these countries that worried Winston Churchill, (at the time the UK Prime Minister) he talked of an “Iron Curtain” descending over Europe. Fear of communism spreading from Russia meant that Western countries were concerned about the military strength of Russia.
• Europe had failed to keep the peace for many years, it was clear that outside incentives would be needed. The US had stayed out of international politics, it had only really been interested in controlling South America up until that point, and much of the USA itself was still coming out of the terrible depression of the 1930’s. The UK Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, met with the US Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, and the two set in motion the plan to build an alliance for “collective defence”, which they called NATO— the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
• On the 4 th April 1949 the Washington Treaty was signed by twelve nations (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, The United Kingdom, and the United States). • Other countries joined later – Greece and Turkey 1952; The Federal Republic of Germany 1955; Spain 1982; Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland 1999. • The most recent enlargement was in 2009 when Albania and Croatia joined. • There are now 28 members.
NATO was, from the beginning a military alliance of nations. It did not have its own troops, but would draw on the forces of its member nations. So, no longer were countries on their own, but they weren’t in full charge of how they could act militarily either
• Back then the US was not keen on getting involved in the petty crises of Europe. • The USA had to be persuaded to be involved in NATO, the threat of spreading communism, and the basic compliance with US domination of decision making within NATO was the price for the US lending its by far superior wealth and military power to the alliance. But remember Europe now needed the USA to provide a safety net. • European countries knew that Russia had an incredibly powerful army, and if it decided to push its curtain over a bit there was little that Europe in its crushed state could have done about it. So if they had to give up a bit of dignity and power in order to be protected, then so be it. The USA had nukes.
The Domino Theory • At around this time the USA became obsessed with the spread of communism. There was Russia, taking over much of Eastern Europe, and additionally some countries in Asia were starting to get a bit Commie. • In 1949 China fell to Communism, then there was a bit of a movement in the USA’s back garden of South America too, culminating in Fidel Castro turning Cuba all leftie in 1959. • The USA was worried about what it referred to as the “Domino Theory”, when one country in a region becomes communist it is likely to influence others around it, before you know it we are all communists, probably smoking turnips, wearing brown and having sex with dustbins.
• In 1955 the USSR formed the Warsaw Pact. This was a response to NATO. The USSR perceived NATO as an offensive organisation. This means they saw it as a threat they had to defend against, with their own gang. The Warsaw Pact
The Cold War • The USA were obsessed with the “Red Threat” • So much of the next few decades was filled with what has been referred to as the “Cold War” – Cold because it never became officially “hot”, in that the USA and Russia never directly fought each other. • However, lots of other stuff happened and the two powers fought their war by other means…. .
Proxy Wars • Proxy wars – the most destructive of the outlets for Cold War tension was the use of other countries as staging grounds for the war. • Vietnam, Mozambique, Angola, Korea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan in the 1980 s, Iran and Iraq in the 80’s, to name just a few. • Opposing sides backed by the USA or the USSR. Given weapons and training and sent out to fight each other. There was often no rhyme nor reason as to why the superpowers backed the groups that they did – for example the USA backed the Mujahadeen (who later became the Taliban) in Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. • Millions have died as a result of these proxy wars, with further, longer term consequences of deepening ethnic conflicts, famines, dictatorships, failed governments and lack of infrastructure in the countries that became the staging grounds.
Dictators • Dictators in poorer countries took advantage of the situation in order to get money to build up their armies and maintain control in their countries. • The USA was so afraid of democracy in poorer countries leading to elections of communist regimes as had happened in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Chile and many other countries, that they backed right wing dictators with funding, weapons and training. Keeping in place some of the most brutal dictatorships, and preventing the development of democracy in large sections of the world. • The result being that we now look down on these countries as they seem to have been unable to develop all the criteria for democracy. With this support of brutality and thuggery the USA had also built up a high level of antipathy (hatred) in sections of the poorer world (I wonder how that will affect the USA in the long-run? Spoiler alert—terrorism).
MAD • Nuclear Weapons, by the mid fifties the superpowers had nuclear weapons. The concept of MAD – mutually assured destruction emerged. • Basically both sides trying to prevent the use of nuclear weapons by building the biggest weapons that they could, and showing each other how big their bits were by sending stuff off into space. I’m not going to go into all this, but it was basically this idea that either country would know that if it ever used nuclear weapons the other would be able to respond immediately and annihilate the other. So both (Mutually) were “Assured” they would be “Destroyed”. MAD.
Espionage • Finally there was spying. That whole time both sides were obsessed with what the others were doing and the governments funded huge intelligence agencies with the power to watch over their entire populations. • In the climate of fear created by both sides in the Cold War the populations of the countries did not question the collection of data, and a climate of suspicion that hung in the air.
Collapse of USSR “Communism” • In 1989, for reasons that we don’t really need to go into, the USSR kind of just coughed, fell over and gave up on the old communism. The Warsaw Pact ended and the USSR split up into 26 different countries, the biggest of which was Russia faced economic collapse. There was a problem here in that it had loads of weapons lying around, including nuclear ones – this is something we will hear more about. (another spoiler alert, guess who is going to get their hands on all this stuff? Terrorists! Massive warehouses full of AK 47’s and RPGs “disappeared”, and all those nuclear scientists who were suddenly looking for a job—North Korea, Iran …. ) NATO had essentially won, but other problems were now brewing.
Why was all this important? • Many conflicts in the world right now can trace at least some of their causative factors to this period, the proxy wars or brutal dictatorships backed by the world powers back then. Additionally the way the international community responds to these crises can also be influenced by this period of history. Still today Russia and the USA rarely agree, and you will see this has a huge effect on the actions of the UN. We will see how this has affected the growth of groups such as ISIS. And then there is the problem of what to do with NATO- if NATO no longer had an enemy, what was it for? They had spent all this money and energy building an alliance, and all of a sudden, that alliance has no purpose. They needed to think of something new to do with it, to justify all the cash.