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U.S. Officials Agree NATO’s Worth is Unquestionable

For 75 years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been a force for peace that stared down the Soviet Union, prevented a larger war in the Balkans, joined in the fight against international terrorism and even now stands ready to defend all NATO territory from Russian aggression.

NATO remains an essential and pivotal alliance, recognized by political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful collective defense alliances in history.

The alliance emerged from the experiences of the 20th century, during which great power conflicts resulted in the deaths of over 100 million people. Western leaders established an international order to prevent such catastrophes from recurring, and NATO became a key component of that order — a collective defense alliance.

President Joe Biden has described NATO as “the greatest military alliance in the history of the world.” Since its inception, U.S. officials from both political parties have praised NATO for enhancing the security, prosperity, and liberty of Americans and the global community.

Recent polling by the Pew Research Center indicates that approximately two-thirds of Americans have a favorable view of NATO. However, this also means that a third of Americans hold unfavorable opinions about the alliance — a 4% increase since 2023.

This rise in isolationist sentiment within the United States is concerning to NATO leaders.

Isolationism has deep roots in the United States. In 1796, President George Washington, in his farewell address, advocated for avoiding permanent alliances with foreign nations. He made this statement despite likely understanding that without France’s alliance during the American Revolution, Britain would have prevailed.

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, it did so as an “associated” power alongside France and the United Kingdom, a designation that maintained some distance from any binding alliances.

After the war, American isolationism during the 1920s and 1930s partly paved the way for an even more destructive conflict.

In World War II, the U.S. was a full ally, fighting alongside the U.K., the Soviet Union, China, France, and many other nations.

The war was so devastating, and the weapons created were so destructive, that there was overwhelming support for collective defense. World War II resulted in the deaths of 420,000 Americans, with many more wounded. Compared to other Allies, the U.S. was relatively fortunate. The Soviet Union lost up to 25 million people, and the U.K., with less than a third of the U.S. population, lost 450,900. Overall, it is estimated that 3% of the Earth’s population perished during World War II.

The development of atomic weapons underscored that future conflicts between great powers would result in even more catastrophic casualties.

The alliance may seem inevitable, but as President Biden remarked during NATO’s 75th anniversary, its success was neither accidental nor guaranteed.

Candy vs. Communism

NATO was established with the signing of the Washington Treaty on April 9, 1949. The original members included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the U.K., and the U.S.

As Western leaders were signing the treaty, U.S. and allied aircrews were securing the first victory of the Cold War: The Berlin Airlift.

At the end of World War II, the victorious Allied powers divided Germany for administrative purposes: the Americans in the South, the British in the North, the French in the Southwest, and the Soviets in the East.

Berlin was a special case. Each of the four powers controlled a sector in the former Nazi capital, which was located deep within the Soviet zone. On June 24, 1948, the Soviets cut off all allied ground, rail, and river routes into the city.

The allies — primarily the U.S. — responded with a massive airlift called Operation Vittles, which supplied the city of more than 2 million people with food, milk, medical supplies, and coal. Aircraft landed with metronome-like regularity, and logisticians loaded and unloaded the planes with precision. Through this operation, over 2.3 million tons of supplies were delivered on more than 277,000 flights into the besieged city until September 1949.

The flights brought more than just necessities. Aircrews noticed children gathering to watch the planes land. One pilot, Air Force 1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, attached parachutes to Hershey bars and dropped them to the children, earning him the nickname “the Candy Bomber.” This gesture lifted the spirits of Berliners of all ages and underscored the stark contrast between the two systems: while the Soviets blockaded milk for babies, the Americans were dropping candy bars to children.

Article 5

The cornerstone of the Washington Treaty is Article 5, which pledges a collective response to an attack on any single member.

It states: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.”

The treaty never explicitly mentions the Soviet Union, but there was no doubt about the perceived threat. NATO’s first secretary general, Britain’s Lord Ismay, stated the alliance’s purpose was “to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”

The alliance became a significant deterrent to the Soviet Union, evidenced in 1955 when the Soviets established the Warsaw Pact, a forced coalition of captive nations in response to NATO.

NATO stood united during pivotal Cold War events: when the Soviets crushed a rebellion in Hungary in 1956, erected the Berlin Wall in 1961, and suppressed the democratic movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968…..

The only time NATO invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty was following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. NATO personnel fought and died alongside American forces in Afghanistan.

Secretary Austin has emphasized that America’s greatest asymmetric advantage over any competitor is its network of allies and partners, with NATO being the jewel in the crown.

“Our allies magnify our strength and expand our security,” Austin said in Brussels. “America’s network of allies and partners worldwide — built and sustained by wise administrations of both parties in the decades since the nightmare of World War II — remains a core strategic strength that no rival can match — and that none should doubt.”

Source: Midtown Tribune news, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3825855/us-officials-agree-natos-worth-is-unquestionable/

July 2024

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