NATO is 75 Years Old Today

WASHINGTON, : General view taken 04 April 1949 in Washington of the official signing cere
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The “the most powerful and successful alliance in history” is 75 years old today, having grown from 12 members managed out of offices in a London townhouse to 32 members headquartered in Brussels.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was signed into existence in Washington D.C. on April 4th 1949, an alliance of post-Second World War nations organised in collective defence against what they saw as the next threat after the defeat of Nazi Germany: Communism.

The original 12 members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Greece and Turkey joined shortly afterwards, and a rearming West Germany joined in 1955. The majority of growth after that came with the end of the Cold War, when Eastern European nations previously occupied or controlled as puppet states by Moscow looked to Washington and Western Europe for protection.

General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1950 with Winston Churchill, British statesman and Conservative politician. (Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib (L) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, each hold a slice of cake as they and foreign ministers celebrate the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance’s 75th anniversary at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 4, 2024. The NATO military alliance on April 4, 2024, marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of its founding treaty in Washington. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Member state foreign ministers met in Brussels this morning and NATO flags are being flown across the alliance to mark the day.

Admiral Rob Bauer, the military head of the alliance said millions of men and women serving in uniform today are “upholding a shield against aggression” and that “brutal tyranny” is threatening democracies again. The admiral, who has made strident remarks about Russia and the need of European civilians to be prepared to stand up and potentially become involved in defence in recent months, told the ceremony at NATO’s Brussels headquarters:

We deter and defend against any adversary, at any time, in any place. In a world where authoritarian regimes are desperately trying to portray an image of strength, and brutal tyranny strives to take away the sovereign rights of peoples and nations, we need that shield more than ever.

We need to show the world that democracy is worth fighting for. It is not a perfect system. Nor is it self-sustainable. Even in countries where it has existed for centuries. But it is worth risking our lives for.

We are the most successful Alliance in history, not because of any aggressive display of military strength, or territory we have brutally conquered. We are the most successful Alliance in history because of the peace we have brought… the countries we have united… and the conflicts we have prevented from spiralling out of control.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg hailed the success of the alliance, and reflected on Article 5, the commitment that an attack on one member is an attack on all, promising a military response from nearly the whole Western world. He said the alliance was “bigger, stronger, and more united than ever”, and that the alliance was “founded on a single, solemn promise: An attack on one ally is an attack on all… From that foundation, we have built the most powerful and successful alliance in history.”

Allied officers look at a map at the command post during the North Atlantic treaty organization (NATO) joint exercise “Counter Thrust” held in September 1951 in the British sector of Germany with the armies of seven Atlantic Pact nations. In September 1951, a large-scale tactical exercise called Counter Thrust took place in the British zone of Germany from 15 to 23 September with ground and air forces of US, British (British Army of Rhine (BAOR) and the 2nd Tactical Air Force), Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish and French armies. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)


The foundational principle reflects the Latin adage Si vis pacem, para bellum — if you wish for peace, prepare for war — that credible threat of overwhelming response has kept the peace in Europe for decades. Indeed, speaking on this day 75 years ago then U.S. President Truman said of this principle and then then-hopes for peace:

For us, war is not inevitable. We do not believe that there are blind tides of history which sweep men one way or another. In our own time we have seen brave men overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable and forces that seemed overwhelming. Men with courage and vision can still determine their own destiny. They can choose slavery or freedom, war or peace. I have no doubt which they will choose. The Treaty we are signing today is evidence of the path they will follow. If there is anything certain today, if there is anything inevitable in the future, it is the will of the people of the world for freedom and for peace.

As noted by the Associated Press, NATO has succeeded in preventing the invasion of any member state in 75 years but its recent attempts to involve itself outside its own territory have met mixed results. It stated:

Among the more recent successes as it grew from the Cold War and after the Berlin Wall collapsed, NATO would count its 1999 air campaign against former Yugoslavia to end a bloody crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians and its effort to avert near civil war in Macedonia in 2001.

At the other end of the scale lies the operation in Afghanistan. NATO took command of the security effort in 2003 and it became the longest, costliest and deadliest in alliance history. It was marked by a chaotic retreat in August 2021, many of the successes over almost two decades abandoned.

While NATO celebrates its history today, the present war on its eastern border in Ukraine is not far away from the commentary on the anniversary, and NATO members are presently in talks over building a huge $100 billion fund to keep Kyiv fighting against Russian occupation of its United Nations-recognised territory. Indeed, two new members have been pushed into the alliance in the past year by Moscow’s invasion of a neighbour.

Much reportage has also focussed on former U.S. President Donald Trump, with some reports even stating the anniversary is overshadowed by the prospect of his return to power, relying on now dated claims that Trump’s oft-repeated view that NATO must be stronger and more self sufficient to survive. Far from damaging the alliance, as was claimed back in 2016, top NATO figuresincluding Stoltenberg — have conceded since that Trump’s push to make Europe pay its way in defence has strengthened the alliance, not weakened it.

From left: Chair of the Military Committee of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Admiral Rob Bauer, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana attend a wreath laying ceremony during alliance’s 75th anniversary at the Flag Circle outside NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 4, 2024. The NATO military alliance on April 4, 2024, marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of its founding treaty in Washington. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)


(Original Caption) NATO. Washington: Pres. Nixon addresses April 10th and 20th anniversary meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers in the Departmental Auditorium, the same hall in which the North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949. On speaker’s platform are (L-R): W. Den Toom, Netherlands Minister of Defense; German Minister of Defense Otto Grieg Tidemand; Nixon; Secy Gen. Manlio Brosio (partly hidden by podium); German Minister of Defense Gerhard Schroder (partly hidden by Brosio_; United Kingdom Minister of Defense Denis Healey; Italian Minister of Defense Luigi Gui; U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird; Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pietro Nenni.





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