The birth of NATO

In the years after 1945 the non-communist govern­ments of Western Europe looked uneasily at the huge Russian armies grouped just behind the barbed-wire fences of the Iron Curtain. They feared that Stalin might order his soldiers to over­run them. In February 1948, their fears increased. With Russian support a communist government took control in Czechoslovakia. Then, in June, Stalin started the blockade of Berlin.

These events convinced President Truman that Western Europe needed more than economic aid. in 1949 he invited most of its nations to join the United States in setting up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This was an alliance of nations who agreed to support one another against threats from the Russians and set up combined armed forces to do this.

The North Atlantic Tieacy was signed in Washing­ton in April 1949. The following September Americans heard the news that the Russians, too, could now make atomic bombs. This persuaded Congress to vote millions of dollars to equip NATO’s armed forces. In 1951 General Eisen­hower, one of the United States’ best known generals of the Second World War, was placed in command of these forces. Soon thousands of American soldiers were in Europe once more.

ended was the death of Stalin, who had been encouraging the Chinese to fight on. Another was the fact that the ncwly-clcctcd President Eisenhower hinted that the Americans might use atomic weapons if the Chinese did not sign a cease-fire.

The cease-fire left Korea still divided more or less along the line of the 38th parallel. One Korean in every ten had been killed and millions made homeless. Yet both sides claimed that they had won a kind of victory. The Chinese said that they had proved that nobody need. be afraid of opposing the Americans. The Americans said that they had shown communists everywhere that it did not pay to try to spread their rule by force. More than 33,000 Americans had died in Korea and over 100,000 more had been wounded. Containment in Asia had been expensive. But the Americans felt that it had worked.

Updated: 18th July 2015 — 3:17 pm