Many remember that in 2001 President Vladimir Putin proposed Russia’s entry into NATO. This was not a bluff or a prank. Additionally, few know that in 1954 the USSR proposed the same thing to Brussels.
Written by Dmitri Drobnitski; Originally appeared at VZ, translated by Caspersky exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Yoana
The formation of the North Atlantic Alliance – NATO – was ratified in Washington 67 years ago, on April 4 of the 1949.
Playing the role of an opposition to the USSR was not the original aim of the military-political organization. Moreover, it wasn’t even known just a few months before the signing of the agreement, whether the United States would join the new military union.
In March 1948, five countries, including: Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg signed the so-called Treaty of Brussels. Then, in the spirit of the treaty, the Western Union Defense Organization was founded in September of the same year, but there were no illusions about its military power.
In both the West and the East, the greatest fear was the revival of the German militarism. The Soviet Union quickly guided all of the countries in Eastern Europe to the ‘socialist standard,’ but, like not so long ago, the USSR struggled to restrain the zeal of its German comrades – for the creation of a separate pro-Soviet state in the east of the country was still not planned in Moscow.
There are contending points of view among historians regarding what Stalin actually wanted to avert – the dismemberment of Germany, or the expenditure of its resources – but, it is indisputable that at least twice the USSR officially and publicly proposed the preservation of the German state on the condition that it would remain neutral, and that a new joint system of collective security would be established.
The Soviet Union had bilateral political and military agreements with virtually all the countries, which later joined the Warsaw Pact in 1955, except with East Germany. The GDR itself emerged only seven months after NATO.
It was of great importance to the European countries joining the American military alliance. The initial strains in relations within the anti-Hitler alliance of 1945-46 were forgotten. Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech (for little did the retired British politician was an urging matter!) as well as the appeals of General Eisenhower to use nuclear weapons against the USSR, slowly were forgotten.
Despite all of its difficulties, the UN began functioning properly. The dominant countries of the new international organization became the four winners and China – only they commanded the right to veto. This policy hasn’t changed ever since. The ‘Big Five’ became, in essence, the world’s government. Articles 45-47 of the UN charter even called for the establishment of military bases and formations under the command of the United Nations – meaning, under the command of the anti-Hitler coalition.
Including the USSR.
But this was obviously unacceptable. The West needed its own international organization, a global society separate from Russia if you will, where it could ensure the legitimacy of its conduct, internationally.
Upon signing the agreement for the formation of the North Atlantic Alliance, its first Secretary General British Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay declared its purpose as follows: ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.’
Lord Ismay was not speaking about being a military opposition to the USSR, as much as the exclusion of the country from certain decisions, which were only a privilege of the West. But the countries in the Treaty of Brussels could not even exclude Soviet Russia from global decisions, let alone European ones. They were not even able to decide the fate of post-Hitler Germany on their own.
But when the United States joined NATO everything changed. At the same time, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, and Iceland signed the Washington Agreement. However, not all civilians of the member states of the newly inked military political bloc confronted its creation with joy. In Iceland, even peaceful protests grew to clashes with police.
Again, the world was divided into blocs, and this could not make anyone happy. In the mean time, it was still possible to preserve an unified Germany, and to lend the confrontation of two political systems a less dangerous character.
I’m sure many remember that in 2001 Vladimir Putin proposed Russia’s membership in NATO. He said, ‘once you expand eastwards, keep expanding until the end. The bloc is not directed in opposition to us, as you claim.’ Lets enduringly befriend each other. And it wasn’t a bluff or a prank.
His words soon revealed the fact that, regardless of how much Russia would strive to join a common system of security, and what it would do, it would never be accepted as equal. But that’s not the logic which laid at the foundations of the Alliance, even though at that time it had not expanded to the borders of Russia.
But there are few who know that the USSR proposed the same to Brussels back in 1954. Foreign Minister Molotov made the proposal quite formally. Actually, the first major military conflict of the Cold War on the Korean peninsula had already ran its course, nevertheless the Soviet Union was knocking on the door of its recent Allies.
The USSR was suspected of duplicity and was not admitted into NATO. Before long, West Germany and East Germany were re-militarizing and the Cold War as we know it, began.
For some time after the Cold War’s end, cooperation between the Russian Federation and NATO remained, but ultimately, everything receded to the same old logic, to the so-called restraining of Russia – for the Alliance knew nothing else.
However, if one perceives that at the time of the Cold War all member states of the North Atlantic bloc had, more or less honestly borne their part of the burden to maintain their own war machines, then after the fall of the Iron Curtain, everything changed.
The countries of Western Europe lowered their military expenditures manifold. New members of the Alliance weren’t even thinking of meeting the minimum requirements of the organization’s charter – to allocate no less than 2% of GPD to necessary defense. The fact that Germany was ‘busy with postscripts,’ emerged in the course of NATO’s operations in Kosovo. Back then, they preferred avoiding the scandal. But now, the pressure on members states has proven permanent, but without noticable effect.
Today, NATO consists of 28 countries. It numbers 3.5 million troops, 1.4 million of which are American. The joint military budget of NATO is 900 billion dollars, 610 billion of which come from the American coffers.
It’s not a surprise that Donald Trump proposed reducing America’s participation in the Alliance – or even dissolving it completely – which caused a torrent of criticism from the Washington elites, but not before having the desired effect on the electorate.
Sometimes, it even seems that only the United States need NATO. But the United States are entirely capable of securing their own safety and defending their own national interests without the help of the French or the Dutch, and that’s even mentioning the operetta armies of Albania and Slovenia.
And so it seems that the United States continues to enforce the philosophy of the Cold War; and ensures that their predominance through NATO remains. However, dominance is when you’re being paid, not when you pay for everyone. Or you pay, and they manipulate henceforth.
It only took the Baltic NATO neophytes squealing about the Russian threat, for the United States to be obligated to send Lithuania several fighter jets for the sake of Barack Obama appearing in front of the Seal of the President of the United States in front of the cameras of all the world’s news agencies.
It only took Poland panicking about Ukrainian events, which caused America to hurriedly organize a symbolic raid using its armour throughout Europe, in order to show its loyal duty as an ally.
When Turkey shot down the Russian bomber, Washington and Brussels were completely shocked. The common assumption that without the approval of his ‘big brother’ Erdogan would never act so desperately, is refuted by many sources in the Pentagon and NATO. Indeed, the Alliance even took the time to coordinate the ground actions of the Turkish Air Force so the dust could settle.
Many western analysts like to reason that all those countries of Eastern Europe, including the three former Soviet Republics, which took part in the eastern expansion of NATO did so because they had ‘sufficent reason’ to fear the revival of ‘Russian militarism’ and the demonstration of ‘imperial revanchism.’
Maybe they actually were afraid of something. It’s almost certain that Recep Erdogan was afraid of something when Russian military aircraft appeared in Syria. But this, after all, is no reason to maintain hardware valued at almost one trillion dollars a year, and it’s no reason to break into a cold sweat if the head of Estonia suddenly calls Washington.
I admit (although I don’t understand) that we are culturally disparate to the West, and that the West does not want us to uphold the world together. Recall 1949 – 1955: NATO doesn’t want to, that’s it.
But, that’s only another reason not to let the bureaucrats expand the Alliance to the borders of Russia.
But now, regarding the fifth article of the NATO charter, the one referring to mutual military assistance: do you know when is the only time it was ever invoked? On September 11th, 2001. And since then, the Alliance is fighing global terror.
But indeed, NATO could not cope because since then Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, and Croatia have been admitted into the Alliance. Perhaps there was no way there without them.
Later, it came to light that Turkey, a member of the Alliance, associates with terrorists. Then, an explosion in Brussels, in the heart of NATO.
And so, my fellow NATO comrades, you deserve Donald Trump. But not because you’ve offended us. But if you harp on the Russian threat for a quarter of century in order to only increase your budget, increase subsidies, foster a bulky bureaucracy, only to devise a useless, insanely expensive organization, sooner or later, the gravedigger will come.
…in the same way a liquidator comes to a company gone bankrupt…in the same way an angry craftsman tosses ‘you’re all fired’ sheets into a warehouse full of sloths…in the same way an irresistable text message arrives on a young slacker’s phone, ‘service suspended,’ courtesy his father’s bank.