NATO – Summary on a Map
We begin at the end of World War II.
Among the victors, the USSR and the United States are now the two world superpowers.
Europe is devastated.
The East of the Old Continent is under the influence of the Soviet Union.
In February 1948, Czechoslovakia, which is a parliamentary democracy,
suffers a coup d’état orchestrated by the Communist Party and supported by the Soviet camp.
In Western Europe, this event leads to fears that Soviet influence will spread ever further westward.
France, the United Kingdom, and the United States
agree then to unite their occupation zones in Germany
in order to create a democratic German state that will block Soviet influence.
In addition, the Benelux countries, France, and the United Kingdom sign a defensive alliance to protect themselves,
on the one hand against a possible return of German power,
and on the other against a military intervention by the USSR, which has the largest army in the world.
The United States, for its part, offers credits to Europe via the Marshall Plan
to accelerate reconstruction and stem the spread of communism.
Tensions rise, and the continent is divided by what is called the Iron Curtain.
It is the beginning of the Cold War.
The USSR, which is opposed to the creation of West Germany,
organizes a blockade of West Berlin, which is under Western control.
Tensions rise further.
This time, the United Kingdom secretly begins negotiations with the United States and Canada
to establish a common defensive alliance.
On April 4th, 1949, in Washington, twelve countries sign the North Atlantic Treaty,
also known as the Washington Treaty, a political and military alliance
whose central point is Article 5, which ensures the collective defense of each of the member countries.
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe
or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.
The territories of the signatory countries north of the Tropic of Cancer are affected,
including the departments of French Algeria, and Cyprus and Malta, which are British colonies.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is thus created.
Western Europe is now officially under the protection of the United States,
which is the only nuclear power.
But in a few months, on August 29th, 1949, the Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb.
In Asia, the United States and the USSR fail to reach an agreement on the status of Korea, which is divided.
On June 25th 1950, the North Korean army, supported by the USSR, invades South Korea.
In response, an international UN force under the command of the United States counter-attacks.
The United States is heavily involved on this front, and fears that the USSR will take advantage
of the situation to launch a similar attack against West Germany,
which is not a member of NATO, and has not been allowed to rearm since the end of World War II.
The United States wants to authorize the country’s rearmament as quickly as possible.
But France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, which had all been invaded by Germany in the two world wars, are opposed.
Instead, France wants to create a European army that would include German forces and be integrated into NATO.
Furthermore, the members of the alliance agree to set up a common structure to better coordinate military actions.
They establish a headquarters at Rocquencourt, close to Paris.
Each member country will provide, at its own expense, military forces that will be placed under its command.
The future President of the United States, Eisenhower, becomes the first Supreme Commander.
In 1952, Greece, which is emerging from a civil war,
and Turkey, which is turning towards the Western camp, join NATO.
The same year, the alliance continues to structure itself by creating the position of Secretary General,
who becomes the highest representative of the alliance.
The headquarters of NATO, which had been based in London for 3 years, is moved to Paris.
In France, parliament rejects the European Defense Community project.
After negotiations, France finally authorizes the rearmament of West Germany
and its integration into NATO, which becomes official on May 6th, 1955.
A few days later, the Eastern Bloc responds by creating the Warsaw Pact,
a military alliance between the countries of Eastern Europe.
The armies of the two alliances mainly face each other on either side of the border that divides Germany.
The United States, which has approximately 400,000 soldiers on European soil,
is now betting on nuclear and installs nuclear weapons in Europe.
Within a few years, Cyprus, Algeria, and then Malta gain their independence.
But none of the three new countries applies to join NATO.
In France, President Charles de Gaulle is opposed to the US dominance within the alliance.
He then decides that France must leave NATO integrated command,
while still remaining a member of the alliance.
French troops will no longer participate in NATO military actions.
The 30,000 U.S. troops present in France must leave, and NATO headquarters and military command are moved to Belgium.
In 1974, after an attempted coup in Cyprus, Turkey invades the north of the island militarily.
Greece, unhappy, also leaves NATO integrated command.
In the following years, the USSR develops and installs new more powerful nuclear missiles
that threaten Western Europe more precisely.
This rekindles tensions.
In reaction, NATO decides to install new missiles in five member countries,
while attempting to initiate a policy of détente with the USSR.
In 1980, Greece returns to the integrated command,
and in 1982, Spain is admitted to NATO following the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.
In the USSR, the economic situation is catastrophic.
Industrial and agricultural production stagnate, while the country is bogged down in a costly war in Afghanistan.
After the Chernobyl nuclear incident of 1986 the USSR is weakened,
and loses control in Eastern Europe, where pro-Soviet governments fall one by one.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall is torn down.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the head of the USSR, begins meetings with the West to organize German reunification.
Gorbachev wants Germany to be neutral, while the West wants it to be a member of NATO.
Long negotiations then begin, during which the West verbally promises not to extend NATO
one inch eastward in a reunified Germany.
As the Warsaw Pact is still in place, it is then not imaginable to extend NATO further eastward.
But no agreement or treaty is signed in this regard.
Finally, Gorbachev agrees that reunified Germany can be a member of NATO.
A few months later, the Warsaw Pact and then the USSR are dissolved, marking the end of the Cold War.
NATO accomplished its mission by preserving peace among its members for over 40 years,
without ever having to engage in combat.
Despite the end of the Cold War, NATO members decide to maintain the alliance
and adapt it to the new global environment.
From now on, in addition to its defensive mission,
NATO will be able to intervene beyond its borders to support humanitarian missions,
and to ensure stability in Europe.
In the Balkans, Yugoslavia is weakened by independence movements.
After Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina proclaims its independence.
But the new country is populated by a large Serbian minority that proclaims its own independence,
and begins a siege of Sarajevo.
The UN then asks NATO to patrol the Adriatic Sea to enforce an arms embargo against Yugoslavia,
which is supporting the Bosnian Serb minority.
The UN then passes a resolution to create a no-fly zone in the skies over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The NATO air force is given the task of patrolling to enforce the resolution.
On February 28th, 1994, 6 Serbian planes are spotted in the exclusion zone bombing a military factory.
Forty-five years after its creation, NATO engages in its first combat, and shoots down 4 planes.
The following months, NATO begins bombing campaigns against Bosnian Serb forces,
which intensify until the signing of a peace treaty on December 14th, 1995.
An international peacekeeping force, under NATO command, is then established to ensure peace.
After years of meetings and talks, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary join NATO on March 12th, 1999.
In Yugoslavia, Kosovo, which is mainly populated by Albanians, also has independence claims.
A local armed group attacks Yugoslav forces, and a civil war breaks out.
Once again, the international community seeks to intervene,
but this time Russia announces that it will veto a military intervention at the UN.
After the failure of negotiations with Yugoslavia,
NATO takes the initiative to intervene militarily for the first time without a UN mandate,
believing that its role is to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
For 78 days, NATO massively bombs Yugoslavia, including the capital, Belgrade.
Finally, an agreement is reached, and the Yugoslav army leaves Kosovo.
NATO then deploys an international force called KFOR to guarantee security.
Russia, which feels betrayed and sidelined by the West, also sends soldiers to Kosovo to ensure the same mission.
On September 11th, 2001, the United States is the victim of terrorist attacks on its territory.
For the first time ever, NATO activates Article 5, and commits itself to the fight against terrorism.
Military aircraft are sent to the United States to patrol the skies,
and a naval force is deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to combat terrorist activities.
The United States, for its part, forms a military alliance, and goes to war against Afghanistan,
which is ruled by the Taliban, and where Osama bin Laden is located.
After taking control of the capital Kabul,
an international force is deployed to assist the new government in taking control of the entire country,
and to maintain security.
Two years later, the United States launches another offensive,
this time against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
In two months, Baghdad falls.
NATO is then called upon, on the one hand, in Afghanistan, to take command of the international force there,
and on the other hand, in Iraq, to train and supervise the country’s new troops.
In 2004, the Baltic States, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria join NATO.
In 2005, the African Union, which is intervening in Darfur where a war is raging,
asks NATO for support, and obtains logistical and air transport assistance.
The same year, NATO sends humanitarian aid to the United States, after Hurricane Katrina,
and to northern Pakistan, after a devastating earthquake that leaves 4 million people homeless.
In 2008 in Georgia, during a referendum,
77% of the population announce that they are in favor of joining NATO.
A few months later, at the Bucharest Summit,
NATO members announce their support for Ukraine’s and Georgia’s applications for NATO membership.
This time, tensions rise with Russia, which claims to be the heir to the USSR,
and which feels increasingly threatened by NATO, which is moving closer and closer to its borders.
In 2009, Croatia and Albania join NATO, while France fully reintegrates into the military structures of the Alliance.
The same year, NATO deploys an international military fleet off the Horn of Africa
to fight piracy that threatens shipping.
In 2011, NATO intervenes in Libya during the Arab Spring, officially to protect civilians.
The organization bombs Sirte, where Muammar Gaddafi had taken refuge, which accelerates his fall.
In 2014, in Ukraine, pro-European demonstrations turn into a revolution.
The pro-Russian government falls,
and the country is torn between pro-Russian and pro-European supporters.
Russia takes advantage of the chaos to annex Crimea.
In response, NATO suspends all cooperation with Russia.
In addition, NATO deploys troops in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
In 2017, Montenegro join the alliance,
and in 2020, North Macedonia becomes the 30th member of NATO.
The following year in Brussels, NATO members reiterate their desire to integrate Ukraine into the alliance.
In Afghanistan, the international force leaves the country
without having succeeded in defeating the Taliban,
who regain control of the country after 20 years of expensive war.
At the end of 2021, Vladimir Putin appeals to NATO to negotiate an end to its expansion to the East.
Without a response, on February 24th, 2022, he decides to invade Ukraine.
Among the negotiations that take place during the war,
Russia asks Ukraine to become a neutral country and not to join NATO.
But the war has ironically driven other countries to now want to join the organization.
Thus, in May 2022, Finland and Sweden officially announce that they wanted to join NATO.
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