NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

US President Truman was in no doubt that Communism must be resisted and adopted a policy of containment. This involved the setting up of a network of anti-communist alliances around the world. The first of many was the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO.

NATO Emblem

NATO Emblem

As a result of the Soviet blockade of the city of Berlin, which was deep in the Soviet controlled part of Germany, and the resulting Berlin Airliftwhich started in June 1948, President Truman declared his intention to provide military aid to Western Europe. The USA and Canada along with ten West European countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty to establish NATO on 4th April 1949, as a counter to what was seen as the threat from the Soviet Union. The 10 signatories from Europe were Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom. The cornerstone of NATO is that all members agreed to come to the aid of any member state if they are attacked.

Forming NATO was also very important in that it committed the US to the defence of Western Europe by treaty obligation, this would ensure that the US would not pursue a policy of isolationism, as it had after the First World War, when it had tried to stay out of European affairs. Now it was being given the leading role in the Western world.

The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had driven the West into a formal alliance as defence against Soviet aggression with his actions in and around Berlin in 1948/49.
"We refused to be forced out of the city of Berlin. We demonstrated to the people of Europe that we would act and act resolutely, when their freedom was threatened. Politically it brought the people of Western Europe closer to us. The Berlin blockade was a move to test our ability and our will to resist." - President Truman, speaking in 1949.

NATO was further expanded when the 12 were joined in 1952 by Greece and Turkey and by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955. The rearming of West Germany was used as an excuse by the Soviet Union to form the Communist equivalent to NATO, the Warsaw Pact.