‘Atlantic Pact peril’: NATO war alliance turns 75

This article is part of the People’s World 100th Anniversary Series.

April 4, 2024, marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of NATO—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

When NATO was formed in 1949, its Cold War apologists claimed that its mission would be to repel “Soviet aggression,” a lie rooted in anti-communism. The real expansionist force in Europe then, as now, was U.S. imperialism, which initiated NATO as part of its policy of encircling the Soviet Union. NATO’s real aim was to destroy the USSR—an obsession that even included plans for pre-emptive nuclear war.

NATO’s second assignment was to ensure U.S. military and political hegemony over its European “allies.” The Supreme Allied Commander of NATO has always been an American, and Supreme Allied Command-Europe is based in Norfolk, Va., even though the official “headquarters” are on the continent. European NATO members have always been junior partners, taking their orders from the Pentagon.

The alliance achieved its primary purpose when socialism was destroyed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union fell apart from 1989 to 1991. Of course, that did not mean U.S. imperialism took a break or that NATO closed up shop. The pledge that Western leaders made to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev when the Cold War ended that NATO would not expand eastward was broken almost as soon as it had been made.

The German Democratic Republic—East Germany—was the first Soviet-aligned state to be absorbed, in 1990. In the years that followed, former Warsaw Pact countries like the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and others were swallowed up. Later, even former republics of the USSR itself—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—were brought into the pact.

With Russia weakened, NATO also began engaging more directly in armed aggression, starting with the Balkan Wars and the piece-by-piece dismantlement of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, alliance members joined the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and deployed soldiers to Iraq. Later, NATO planes participated in the bombing of Libya and helped force that country into a civil war.

Despite spreading its tentacles toward new targets, attention never drifted away from confrontation with Russia. Since 2002, NATO has openly courted Ukraine to join its anti-Moscow alliance. Though rebuffed by former President Viktor Yanukovych, the 2014 coup in Ukraine brought to power a right-wing government eager to hitch itself to Washington. It was the U.S., of course, which had helped put it that same government in power.

Weapons supplied by NATO fueled Kiev’s campaign in the Ukrainian civil war in the east, always with the goal of splitting the country away from cooperation with Russia and opening a pathway for eventual NATO membership. It was the threat of U.S.-controlled troops and weapons being stationed in a NATO-aligned Ukraine, a country that had been a part of the Soviet heartland, that played a major role in sparking the war that erupted following the Russian invasion of 2022.

Europe, Afghanistan, the Middle East, North Africa, Ukraine—none of these have proven to be enough for those who lead NATO. In recent years, they’ve also set their sights on the Pacific, with the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, recently declaring China “a threat to security and democracy.” As they did before, the European powers are joining in yet another Cold War.

Restraining Russia, containing China.

It’s the same old game. As has been the case since the alliance was founded, behind all of it is the determination to protect the interests of U.S. imperialism and global capitalism—with anti-communism as a key ideological pillar when needed.

The article below was published in the Daily Worker on March 18, 1949, just days before what was then called “the Atlantic Pact,” was due to be signed in Washington. The editors of the paper laid bare the true reasons why NATO was being founded, how it would benefit the war profiteers, and the threat it posed to world peace and human survival on the planet.

Blocking the war moves of NATO and working for the alliance’s abolition are chief tasks for the peace movement in this country today—just like they were in 1949.

Atlantic Pact Perils Your Family
By the Daily Worker Editorial Board
Daily Worker, March 18, 1949

After long secret deals, the Atlantic Pact is going to be displayed to the American people in its final form.

Naturally, we have not seen the final, manicured phraseology. That is unimportant. The real intent of the pact has been made wholly clear in the statements coming from Washington for the past few weeks. It has also been made clear in the revelations coming from foreign capitals.

Regardless of how they dish it out, this Atlantic Pact is a far-reaching military alliance whose single, sole pur­pose is the preparation of Europe and the USA for war.

No matter how much and how cynically the sponsors of the pact mouth phrases about peace and defense and how they are just getting together to “prevent aggression” by the Soviet Union, this pact breeds and hastens war.

The Atlantic Pact rests on a complete lie.

NATO and its emblem are depicted in artwork from a 1986 Soviet poster.

This lie is that the countries which are signing it face the menace of Soviet aggression. The hired hacks of the press and the double-talking banker generals in Wash­ington have spread this lie far and wide. They have manufactured the theory of a “Russian conquest of Europe” in exactly the same manner and in practically the same words as the German Nazi war machine did prior to the treacherous German fascist attack in June 1941.

Was Hitler right when he launched his murderous assault on the Soviet people? Was he right when he claimed that Germany faced the threat of Russian aggression? The entire civilized world knows that Hitler was lying through his teeth. The great anti-Axis war alliance led by Roosevelt and Stalin shed its blood to prove that Hitler was lying about “Soviet aggression” when he gave the orders for the attack on the USSR and against the USA in December of 1941.

Today, the anti-Comintern war plan of the Axis is being revived by the banker-generals in London and Washington with exactly the same purpose—aggression.

Solemnly, the sponsors of this enormous war alliance speak of “Soviet aggressive moves” against which they must prepare. What are these moves? Let us list them:

  • Proposal to outlaw atomic warfare, destroy all bombs, and submit all nations, the USSR included, to UN inspec­tion to see that no more are ever made. Proposal rejected.
  • Proposal to evacuate all foreign troops, Soviet and American, from Germany after a peace treaty is signed and guarantees are laid down to prevent a revival of German war power in the Ruhr. Proposal rejected.
  • Proposal to evacuate all foreign troops from Korea. Proposal rejected. (But Soviet troops left anyway; ours are still there.)
  • Proposal for Stalin and Truman to meet to settle dis­puted questions, to sign a long-term peace pact. Proposal repeatedly rejected.

Are these aggressive moves? Clearly not. What has Washington done to answer them? It has retorted by a policy of reviving German Nazi war power in the Ruhr in flagrant violation of the Potsdam-Yalta agreements. It bars peace talks. The military basis of the Atlantic Pact in Europe is the revival of the Hitler war arsenal in the Ruhr under Wall Street control. This makes it the New Munich.

Can any honest man say that he feels his country was menaced by the Soviet Union’s repeated peace offers? Is there anyone who does not know that the USSR lost more than 15,000,000 [Editor’s note: actually 27,000,000] of its people only four years ago, 20 times more than all the other Allies put together?

The plea of defense reeks with hypocrisy. And the entire world knows it, the State Department salesmanship notwithstanding.

What are the immediate aims of this war deal?

Strengthening NATO to restrain Russia remains a key focus of U.S. imperial strategy. Here, U.S. armored military vehicles parade with NATO forces in Estonia a few hundred feet from the Russian border in February 2015. | Estonian Armed Forces
  • To provide a market for U.S. manufacturers of muni­tions, tanks, guns, etc., to be paid for by the American taxpayer.
  • To arm reactionary governments in Europe for civil war against their own working people in the style of the 1935-6 Hitler-Mussolini arming of Gen. Franco in Spain.
  • To arm European governments for war against the colonial uprisings for liberty and independence (Indo­nesia, etc.).
  • To open the way for complete Washington control of all Western European domestic and foreign policies through economic dictation (Marshall Plan) and through military dictation (Atlantic Pact).

The peoples of Europe are alarmed at this “defense” pact. They know that it means a militarist reaction against them and the drafting of their sons as cannon fodder in an unnecessary and criminal war.

The American people will pay no less for this evil design than the European workers. They will have to pay for the juicy munitions contracts out of their pay envelopes. They, will face militarism at home and the greatly increased peril of war in alliance with the Nazi cartels, the fascist regimes of Spain, Greece, and Turkey.

The Atlantic Pact is a menace to the security and peace of the United States because it is a war-breeding scheme foisted upon the nation by a small clique which seeks war profits and empire.

We urge that our fellow Americans reject this crooked deal and that they insist on a return to the FDR peace policy of American-Soviet friendship. Let President Tru­man meet Stalin to talk peace. Let us stop reviving the Nazis. Let us open up a big trade with the USSR and the people’s democracies, instead of rushing into an armaments economy. Let Washington sign a peace pact with the USSR.

America wants peace, not the horrible prospect of an atomic war.

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People’s World
People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.