Dean Acheson Explains NATO – 1949 – Reference Room
Dean Acheson, Secretary of State in 1949 during the Truman administration, he promoted the idea of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an organization which constituted a system of collective defense, whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. If one nation was attacked by another (during the Cold War it was presumed the Soviet Union), then it would be perceived as an attack on all nations, including the U.S.
It was seen as a deterrent to another potential World War, but at first it was considered largely political. And it wasn’t until the Korean War and the increasing Cold War conditions between East and West which made such a treaty a necessity. It also laid the groundwork for a more united Europe which would eventually become, at first the Common Market, and then the European Union. It was the notion that, as a unified force Europe would be in a stronger position than if it were left up to the individual countries. It also created a stronger bond between the U.S. and Europe.
The notion of such an organization came about as the result of the Treaty of Brussels, which was signed in 1948 between Luxembourg, The Netherlands, France, The U.S. and Britain. This was the result of the Soviet Berlin Blockade of that year and growing anxieties over the rise of Communist Party activities in France and Italy. And ever though the U.S. wasn’t part of Europe, it was part of the recovery and military aid streaming into those countries which made its membership essential. However, the concept of NATO wasn’t unanimously popular, even in the U.S. and it led Secretary of State Acheson to deliver this address, which was broadcast nationwide, as a way of better explaining the reasons for its existence and our proposed role in it.
There are those, even today, who question the validity of NATO as a continuing operation, because it’s seen as a relic of the Cold War years. During the post-Soviet years, the organization has been streamlined and updated to include many countries initially not part of the formation. In recent years NATO has participated in the Bosnia-Herzogovina intervention of the 1990’s and more recently, in the recognition of Cyber attacks and hacking into information systems as a form of warfare.
Here is that complete address, as it was given by Dean Acheson on March 18, 1949.