Formation of NATO
After World War II, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) moved to take over the governments of the nations it had conquered. It replaced them with governments favorable to them. The United States and its allies in Europe wanted to stop the spread of Communism. In 1947, they put together a plan to give financial aid to friendly countries to help rebuild after the war. It was called the Marshall Plan.
After a coup in 1948, when the Soviets took over the formerly democratic country of Czechoslovakia, the United States and its European allies decided to join together for common security against this Soviet bloc. After the war, the city of Berlin was divided into four sectors, one each for the Soviet Union, Britain, France and the United States. In June, 1948, the USSR cut off any access to the city. The western allies had to send in supplies by dropping them from the air.
On April 4, 1949, the United States and eleven other western countries joined to make a treaty of security stating that if any one of them was attacked, the others would come to their defense. This organization was called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It was signed in Washington, D.C. The first Secretary General, leader of NATO, said that his goal was 'to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down'. The original countries were: Belgium, Canada, Britain, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Norway and the United States. This alliance reflected a big change in American foreign policy. The United States had formally become joined to countries in Europe for the first time since the 1700's. Between 1966 and 1995, France was not a member because the country didn't want to contribute its military forces.
When the United States and its allies allowed West Germany into NATO, they strictly limited the size of its military. When NATO was discussing allowing West Germany to join NATO in 1955, the Soviets threatened to make an alliance in Eastern Europe if this happened. West Germany joined, however.
The Soviets did just what they threatened. The Warsaw Pact was signed soon after in 1955 because the Soviets were afraid that the Germans might become strong again as they had before WWII. This Pact was an agreement between the USSR and Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania. This group stayed together until all the Communist governments in Eastern Europe were abolished in 1989 and 1990.
Just like NATO, the Warsaw Pact stipulated protection for any member attacked. The Soviets could gain greater control over its fellow members and keep them from becoming independent. The Soviets used the excuse of following the terms of the Warsaw Pact when they used the military in 1956 to stop a revolt in Hungary. They did the same in 1968 when they used force in Czechoslovakia.
For the next forty years, NATO became the force for protection for the west against the USSR. In time, Greece, Federal Republic of Germany, Turkey and Spain joined NATO. During the late 1990s, NATO gained some new member countries in Eastern Europe. The Russian Federation was unhappy about this. The action brought about more tension between them and West.
Today, NATO contains 29 member countries in North America and Europe. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for assistance to any member country which is attacked, was used only one time, after the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. Troops from NATO were sent to Afghanistan. Montenegro is the latest country to join, in June, 2017.
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