NATO’s Dual Purpose (Part Two of Three)

Jack D.

Continued from Part One.

Anglo-American Imperialism Plans an Anti-Cominform Pact

Should Germany be dismembered or gradually converted to an ally to meet Russian threat of 20 years hence?  I suggested the latter and feel certain that we must from now onwards regard Germany in a very different light.  Germany is no longer the dominating power of Europe, Russia is.  Unfortunately Russia is not entirely European.  She has however vast resources and cannot fail to become the main threat in 15 years from now.  Therefore foster Germany, gradually build her up, and bring her into a federation of Western Europe.  Unfortunately this must all be done under the cloak of a holy alliance between England, Russia and America.  Not an easy policy and one requiring a super Foreign Secretary!

These words, recorded as early as July 27, 1944 in the diary of Field Marshal Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff of the British army, foreshadow the policy the U.K. and U.S. ruling circles would actually pursue after the war.  From the beginning, it was clear to the British and Americans that an envisioned bilateral Anglo-French treaty was only to be the starting point for the gradual construction of an anti-Soviet alliance to include a remilitarized Germany.  This prospect represented a grave danger to the USSR and to the world.  The two imperialist world wars had both been precipitated by the division of Europe into mutually hostile military-political groupings, had both been preceded by intense arms races, had both essentially been projects of the German bourgeoisie and had both seen full-scale German invasions of Russia.  Not long after it was founded, British defense minister Manny Shinwell would remark in a private moment of extraordinary candor that NATO was indeed an “Anti-Cominform Pact”—a reference to Hitler’s infamous Anti-Comintern Pact.

Tensions between Great Britain and France, which in the spring of 1945 had nearly gone to war against one another in Syria, delayed the pursuit of this policy for a few years, but by early 1947 Anglo-French relations were on the mend and the two sides concluded the Treaty of Dunkirk.  This treaty was saturated with anti-German provisions and its preamble mentioned it had “the object of preventing Germany from becoming again a menace to peace.”  In the words of British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, one of the treaty’s signatories, “any suggestion that the treaty was not directed primarily against Germany would rouse suspicion and perhaps opposition not only in Moscow but in some other quarters including, I would imagine[,] the Communist party in France and their sympathisers in Belgium and elsewhere.”

Europe Gets a Rio Treaty

On January 22, 1948, Bevin gave a speech in which he proposed extending the Treaty of Dunkirk to include Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.  But the U.S. State Department subsequently advised him that, instead of the Treaty of Dunkirk with its “unreal and inadequate” focus on Germany, the Rio Treaty should be the model for western European organization.  The Benelux countries shared this view.  While Great Britain and France initially expressed various reservations, developments like the February 1948 socialist revolution in Czechoslovakia (portrayed in the West as a coup d’état) served to reconcile them to the U.S. position.  On March 17, 1948, the Treaty of Brussels was signed.

This step constituted a flagrant violation of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of 1942 and the Franco-Soviet Treaty of 1944, in which Great Britain and France had agreed “not to conclude any alliance and not to take part in any coalition directed against” the Soviet Union.  Unlike the Treaty of Dunkirk, the Treaty of Brussels made only two references to “renewal by Germany of an aggressive policy.”  In conformity to its anti-Soviet character, its provisions were general.  Article 4 mirrored Article 3 of the Rio Treaty in citing Article 51 of the U.N. Charter to justify providing “all the military and other aid and assistance in their power” to any signatory that “should be the object of an armed attack in Europe.”  Article 7 resembled Article 6 of the Rio Treaty in establishing a Consultative Council that could be convened in response to “any situation which may constitute a threat to peace, in whatever area this threat should arise.”

The Treaty of Brussels paved the way for U.S. involvement in a future trans-Atlantic pact.  Domestic considerations had been constraining the U.S. from immediately pursuing such a pact, but now that western Europe had demonstrated its readiness to take the initiative in organizing itself it would be easier for the U.S. to approach the matter.  The day the treaty was signed, Truman declared in a speech to Congress that “the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them to protect themselves.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Takes Shape

On March 22, 1948, a series of secret tripartite talks began at the Pentagon, bringing together representatives of the United States, Great Britain and Canada.  France had been excluded; as Paris tended to emphasize the risk of renewed German aggression, the “Anglo-Saxon” powers sought to come to a common understanding prior to involving France.  Four questions rose to the fore of the discussions: armed attack, indirect aggression, membership and territorial scope.

On the question of mutual assistance in the event of an armed attack, the U.S. delegation insisted it should be made explicit in the draft treaty that each signatory ought to be allowed to determine for itself whether an armed attack had taken place.  The British and Canadians, who preferred that this be left implicit, acquiesced to the U.S. demand.

On the question of indirect aggression, the U.S. wanted this term included in the draft treaty and explicitly defined as “an internal coup d’état or political change favourable to an aggressor, or the use of force within the territory of a State against its Government by any persons under direction or instigation of another Government or external agency other than the United Nations.”  The British cautioned that this could amount to interference in the internal affairs of other states (!).  The phrasing of the draft treaty was ultimately left vague and broad, allowing for consultation “in the event of any Party considering that its territorial integrity or political independence is threatened by armed attack or indirect aggression in any part of the world.”

The question of membership especially concerned Portugal, Spain and Italy.  Portugal and Spain were fascist dictatorships.  Washington favored including Spain in the pact, but British and Canadian objections prevailed.  However, ideological concerns over Portugal were outweighed by the country’s strategic value, particularly in light of its possession of the Azores.  Italy, despite being in the Mediterranean rather than the Atlantic region, was also judged essential to include due to the strength of the Italian Communist Party—a fact that underscores NATO’s purpose as a tool for the sabotage of ascendant democratic forces in Europe.  In particular, it was proposed to issue a public invitation for Italy to join the Brussels Pact if Christian Democratic Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi felt this might help him in Italy’s upcoming elections.  At Canada’s suggestion, it was also added to the draft treaty that Germany (or West Germany), Austria (or West Austria) and Spain should be invited, “[w]hen circumstances permit,” but that this provision “should not be publicly disclosed [their emphasis, not ours!].”

On the question of the territorial scope of the treaty, it was decided that it would apply to the continental and island territory, possessions included, in Europe or North America of any signatory.  This point would be important to smaller states cautious about involving themselves in a military pact that could draw them into a war in Asia.  It would also exclude British, French and Portuguese colonies in Africa (though at a later stage an exception would be made for French Algeria).

On April 1, 1948, the secret talks came to a close.  Next, the State Department set about convincing Congress to support the proposal.  By June 11, 1948, the Senate’s Vandenberg Resolution would publicly declare the United States’ interest in association with regional arrangements of the kind planned at the preceding Pentagon talks.

On July 6, 1948, delegates from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, France, Belgium and the Netherlands convened in Washington to begin a series of negotiations that would culminate in the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949.  On Washington’s initiative, Iceland, Norway and Denmark were also brought into the pact.  Naturally, Articles 3 and 6 of the Rio Treaty had analogues in the new document.  The two most important provisions of the final North Atlantic Treaty were Article 4, allowing for consultation “whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened,” and Article 5, which declared that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all” and cited Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

From the beginning, the Kremlin denounced these moves and pointed out that there was no need for a “defensive pact” against the USSR, a U.S. ally in the late war that had no military designs against other countries.  The Soviet armed forces had just undertaken one of the largest military demobilizations in history, reducing effectives from 11,365,000 at the war’s end to 2,874,000 by 1948, slightly fewer than at the time of the German invasion in June 1941.  While the U.S. was also demobilizing its troops, it deliberately delayed and scaled back this process to suit its foreign policy aims.  This led to a wave of protests and mutinies in early 1946 by U.S. military personnel around the world awaiting their return home, which the House Un-American Activities Committee explained by remarking that “Communist agitators actually went into the Army for the sole purpose of causing trouble.”

NATO Expands into the Balkans

In 1952, Greece and Turkey would together be brought into NATO.  These two “frontline states” had been the original objects of the Truman Doctrine when it was proclaimed in 1947.

Greece had been subjected to Anglo-American political subversion as early as 1944, when the British army fought alongside royalists and ex-collaborationist paramilitaries against the communist-led united front that had just liberated Athens from the Germans.  Under the London Agreement, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, first the U.K. and then the U.S. had taken control of the Greek economy and quashed the country’s democratic forces.

Turkey, which had stayed neutral during the war but had, like Portugal, expressed partiality to the Axis, found the emerging conflict between Anglo-American imperialism and the socialist states to be a convenient means of restoring itself into the West’s good graces.

Then, in 1954, Yugoslavia—one of the people’s democracies which had fallen out with the rest—joined a military pact with neighboring Greece and Turkey.  The Balkan Pact too contained the key provisions from the Rio Pact, plus a commitment to consult on measures to be taken in the event of armed aggression against NATO.  This allowed officially non-aligned Yugoslavia to associate itself with NATO indirectly.  But within a few years, as Soviet-Yugoslav relations improved, this pact was allowed to become dormant.

The Soviet Union Asks to Join NATO

Moscow made two proposals in response to the formation and growth of NATO.  The first was for “a general European system of collective security.”  On February 10, 1954, Molotov issued a draft treaty for such a system that, while sharing the “all for one, one for all” principle with the North Atlantic Treaty, emphasized “the principles of respect for the independence and sovereignty of States, and of non-interference in their internal affairs,” as well as the admissibility of all European states regardless of social system.  The alternative proposal, expressed on March 31, 1954, was that the USSR actually join NATO.  This would have the effect of eliminating NATO’s aggressive character, transforming NATO into its opposite.  The Western states dismissed the Soviet suggestions as a propaganda ploy and refused to consider Soviet accession to the alliance, confirming Moscow’s point that NATO was an aggressive pact directed against it.

West Germany’s Accession to NATO Is Answered with the Warsaw Treaty

On May 6, 1955, West Germany was finally admitted to NATO.  Just nine days later, in direct response to this provocation, Poland, the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria and East Germany signed the Warsaw Treaty.  Like the U.S.-organized pacts we have discussed, it took its authority for measures of collective self-defense from Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.  Unlike them, it included a pledge to “strive … for universal reduction of armaments and prohibition of atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction” and, rather than any allusions to “indirect aggression,” a declaration that each signatory would adhere “to the principle of respect for the independence and sovereignty of the others and non-interference in their internal affairs.”  Moreover, the treaty was left “open to the accession of other states, irrespective of their social and political systems … with the agreement of the Parties to the Treaty.”  Finally, it stipulated that “Should a system of collective security be established in Europe, and a General European Treaty of Collective Security concluded for this purpose, for which the Contracting Parties will unswervingly strive, the present treaty shall cease to be operative.”  The stark difference in content between the North Atlantic Treaty and the Warsaw Treaty reflects the stark difference in character between the principles of Washington and those of Moscow, between the forces of imperialism and those of socialism.

Nazis in NATO

On January 22, 1951, in the context of the campaign for West German rearmament and integration into NATO, Dwight Eisenhower had dinner with West German generals Adolf Heusinger and Hans Speidel.  Heusinger had served as Hitler’s Acting Chief of the General Staff for a time during the war and was wanted by the USSR for war crimes.  Speidel, though involved in a failed 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, had earlier spent time as Chief of Staff to the German military governor of occupied France.  A secret German report from February 28, 1942 in Speidel’s name describes “security measures” taken by his troops, including the execution of 21 “Communists and Jews” and the transportation of 1,100 “Communists and Jews … for deportation to the East.”  After the war, it is believed that both Heusinger and Speidel participated in building the Schnez Organization, a 40,000-strong illegal clandestine paramilitary group apparently intended to collect intelligence on leftists in West Germany and to orchestrate resistance behind enemy lines in the event of an invasion from the east.

Heusinger and Speidel had both taken part in the October 1950 Himmerod Abbey conference, which drew up a list of demands aimed at rehabilitating the Wehrmacht and achieving West German remilitarization.  The morning after his meeting with Hitler’s generals, Eisenhower issued a public statement propagating the myth of the clean Wehrmacht.  In 1957, NATO chose Speidel as Commander of the Allied Land Forces Central Europe; and in 1961, Heusinger was appointed Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.  In the opinion of Edward Russell, a British legal advisor at the Nuremberg trials, Speidel’s NATO appointment constituted an “offence against the living and an insult to the dead.”

NATO in Practice

The United States’ global network of military-political pacts was to be one of many tools for the implementation of the Truman Doctrine.  It was used to marshal other states to the U.S. position and served to give some acts of U.S. aggression a patina of legality.  But it was complemented by coercive diplomatic action, an information war, clandestine and covert operations and occasional bald-faced unilateral aggression.  Throughout the “Cold War,” NATO’s Articles 4 and 5 were never once invoked, but this was because alternative methods were available for achieving the same ends.  As Amílcar Cabral put it, “NATO is concrete countries, concrete governments.  NATO is the USA.”  As an illustration, consider the U.S. response to perceived threats to NATO’s “southern flank.”

In April 1967, one month before elections expected to install into the premiership Georgios Papandreou, who had pledged to withdraw from NATO, far-right colonels seized power in Greece.  The coup d’état was effected by the implementation of NATO’s “Prometheus” contingency plan, which had been developed to enable the army to take power in the event of a revolution.  While the evidence that has so far emerged suggests NATO and the U.S. were not involved in the putsch, the affair was at least a matter of the machinery NATO had developed for the suppression of the democratic forces in Greece being sprung into action by local reactionaries.  And NATO accepted the new fascist régime into its ranks—something it would not do for a leftist government.

After fascist Portugal was convulsed by a national-democratic revolution—in which the Portuguese Communist Party played a leading role—in 1974, the U.S. undertook a campaign of covert action aimed at sabotaging the NATO member’s democratic transition.  Until the decisive victory of the anti-communists in late 1975, the U.S. feared Portugal would likely be “lost.”  Gerald Ford stated publicly, “I don’t see how you can have a Communist element significant in an organization that was put together and formed for the purpose of meeting a challenge by Communist elements from the East.”  Behind closed doors, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger remarked:

The most dangerous development would be Portugal’s change into a system somewhere between that of Yugoslavia and Algeria, that is, not a Communist take-over, but a leftist neutralist regime remaining within NATO.  It is in this direction that I see the present Portuguese system developing.  If this becomes the case, this will be the greatest danger for Europe. … We see a leftward movement in Europe and Portugal’s providing a legitimization of it.  The problem now is to get them out of NATO.

In response to developments in Lisbon, NATO began withholding certain classified information from Portugal and strenuously pressured it into withdrawing from the organization’s Nuclear Planning Group.  Meanwhile, the CIA provided material support including media manipulation and funding to anti-communist forces in Portugal through European intermediaries, and the U.S. ruling circles also floated ideas of a reactionary coup and “a contingency plan to take over the Azores” (both discarded due to the improbability of their success).

The mid-1970s also saw marked improvement in the position of the Italian Communist Party.  In a 1974 meeting, Ford told Italian president Giovanni Leone, “If NATO is to be strong, we can’t have the Communists participating in the political life of any member. … We laud your past exclusion of them and think it vital they continue to be excluded from your government as such.”  Kissinger added, “we could not exchange military information if they came into the Government.  We have had to make such a change with respect to Portugal.”  The CIA funneled millions to anti-communist politicians in Italy and conducted what an internal document describes as a “disinformation program” involving black propaganda against the Italian Communist Party in the run-up to the 1976 elections.

NATO’s potential as an instrument of U.S. power was never fully realized due to contradictions among its members, which manifested themselves in the French withdrawal from the NATO military organization in 1966, the conflict between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus and obstruction by some members of U.S. policies like Operation Nickel Grass, the airlift of military supplies to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.