by David J. Bercuson
April 4, 2019
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) turns 70 this week. In April 1949, representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal joined the United States in signing the NATO agreement. The heart of the agreement was and still is Article 5, which states that each member is to consider an armed attack against one member to be an armed attack against them all. The purpose of the treaty was to provide the European member states and Canada with the nuclear umbrella held by the United States (which still had a nuclear monopoly in April 1949) to deter an armed attack by the Soviet Union.
After the Second World War, the Western states disarmed rather quickly — Canada led the chase for defence budget cuts — but the Soviet Union did not. The Soviets, after all, did not have to worry about what the Soviet public wanted in the way of post-war spending. And the Soviets, who had occupied all the central and east European nations that had been allies with Hitler or had been swallowed up by him, set up puppet governments in all of them.
NATO had two purposes; to build up the military forces of its members to deter a Soviet Attack and to ensure that non-Communist countries such as Finland did not fall under the sway of the mighty military of the USSR.