NATO Background Information

To view an animation of the growth of NATO from 1949 to 2008 click here.

August 30, 2008

NATO was founded at the initiative of the United States in 1949. It was preceded by the collapse of the World War 2 alliance which had defeated the Axis powers, a collapse which had been predicted by the leadership of the Third Reich. Their prediction was based on what they believed to be the fundamental antagonism between capitalism and communism. Their last hope, as the Red Army drove the Wehrmacht back from Stalingrad, was that this fundamental clash of interests would surface when the Red Army crossed into German territory. It did not.

The inevitable was postponed until Germany's surrender in May, 1945. At that historical instant, the US returned to its pre-war "anti-Bolshevism," which it relabeled "anti-Communism" to mitigate its embarrassing similarity to this cornerstone of Hitler's foreign policy. This reversal, disparaged even among persons with a very limited sense of morality such as thieves, is called the "double cross."

After a suitable interval, in this case four years, giving the US propaganda apparatus enough time to convert the "double cross" into a moral crusade for "democracy" and enough time to obscure the fact that the US had taken up the mantle of the Third Reich's anti-Bolshevik crusade, NATO was created. The founding states are indicated by single asterisks next to their names in Category A in the table below.

You will notice that Germany, at that time West Germany, was not among the founding states. The simple reason that West Germany was not among the founding states is that the propaganda campaign which rationalized the formation of NATO was built on the premise that it was an alliance to coordinate the defense of its members against Germany. Given the state of Germany in 1949, divided into East and West Germany, its industrial base destroyed, its army disbanded, its population demoralized, and its policies dictated from abroad, the fact that this campaign succeeded is a measure of the fear and hatred of Germany which existed at the time.

The founding of NATO was thus based on an irrational fear of a non-existent enemy. The fact that it was an alliance against the Soviet Union, the nation which had borne the greatest burden in defeating Nazi Germany, could not yet be acknowledged. At least not in Europe. Hence the fictitious specter of a resurgent Third Reich. The possibility that NATO might be an instrument to assist in the achievement of Anglo-American global hegemony was unthinkable.

Six years later, the Soviet Union had been sufficiently demonized and the fear of a resurgent Third Reich sufficiently de-emphasized, that West Germany, the former target of the alliance, could be admitted to it. The new target of the alliance was the Soviet Union. The new rationalization, based on the discovery of the potency of the democracy theme, was that now the alliance existed to defend the "Atlantic democracies" from the rediscovered "Communist dictatorship" embodied in the Soviet Union. By now the possibility that NATO might be an instrument of Anglo-American hegemonic striving was actually thinkable, and not only by communists. France, under Charles de Gaulle, actually substantially reduced its commitment to the alliance on the grounds that it was an instrument of US foreign policy. In response, NATO's headquarters were moved to Brussels and the alliance soldiered on, presumably lubricated by US foreign aid.

In 1990, the Soviet Union, one locus of the Communist threat to the "Free World" decided to go out of existence and China, the other one, had long ago decided to become the source of cheap consumer goods to the US and to recycle its earned dollars back to the US treasury. The Soviet threat to the "Atlantic democracies" had evaporated. But the alliance to defend against it did not. It reinvented itself again.

When the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1990, NATO began recruiting its former member states. The first group of states from the former Soviet block to join NATO were Hungary, the Czech Republic (the western half of the former Czechoslovakian Soviet Socialist Republic which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993), and Poland. The most recent joiners are Croatia and Albania. They will be formally admitted in April 2009, Interestingly, Croatia is one of the seven fragments into which Yugoslavia was divided after the US-NATO bombing campaign which lasted from March 24 to June 10, 1999. The other Yugoslavian fragment which had previously joined NATO (2004) is Slovenia.

The following table summarizes NATO's history.

NATO: A brief summary of a political and military alliance
Category A Note Cat. A Cat. B Category B Note
These are states which were members of NATO before the demise of the USSR in 1990.
Prior to 1990, NATO was an anti-Communist alliance of states ostensibly opposed to the USSR and under US leadership.
With the disappearance of its original reason for existence, NATO seamlessly transformed itself into an anti-Russian and general purpose military force under US leadership.
The contention for the leadership of the anti-Soviet alliance between the US and Germany was resolved by the latter's defeat in WW2.

*The founding members (1949).

Belgium* Bulgaria These are states which were members of the Warsaw Pact and were allied with the USSR before its demise in 1990.
Most of these states were allied with Germany during WW2 in its drive to destroy the USSR.
Since 1990, they have reverted, with US encouragement, to their former hatred of Russia and joined the new anti-Russian NATO.
In a remarkable coincidence, 60% of these post-Soviet states (represented in bold type), which allied themselves with Hitler's invasion of the USSR in 1939, are now NATO members and allied with the US in its invasion of Iraq.

**Ukraine and Georgia are not members but are actively seeking to join.

Canada* Czech Rep
Denmark* Estonia
France* Hungary
Germany Latvia
Greece Lithuania
Iceland* Poland
Italy* Romania
Luxembourg* Slovakia
Netherlands* Slovenia
Norway* Ukraine**
Portugal* Georgia**
United Kingdom*
United States*

To view an animation of the growth of NATO from 1949 to 2008 click here.