Faltering NATO Alliance

March 22, 1974

Report Outline
Crisis in Atlantic Treaty Organization
Postwar Creation of Atlantic Alliance
Uncertain Future of Defensive Alliance
Special Focus

Crisis in Atlantic Treaty Organization

Disarray in U.S. Relations With Western Europe

Twenty-five years after the signing of the agreement establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on April 4, 1949, the alliance is in a state of disarray. The Cold War factors which brought the allies together no longer seem valid in an era of detente and negotiation with the Soviet Union. So serious are the disagreements on the future of Nato and the common “partnership” that President Nixon has repeatedly postponed a trip to Europe and, on March 15 he spoke his harshest public words to date about the European allies. Appearing before the Executive Club of Chicago, he accused the Common Market countries—all but Ireland are members of Nato—of trying to “gang up against the United States.”

Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was recently quoted as saying at a private meeting with congressional wives that “the biggest problem American foreign policy confronts right now” is Western Europe. Kissinger has frequently expressed his displeasure over a lack of cooperation among the European members of the alliance. The French, who pulled their troops out of the Nato command in the mid-sixties, are accused of undermining the European community at every turn. Even the stolid Dutch have cancelled plans to issue postage stamps commemorating the Nato anniversary because this would be “controversial” in Dutch society.

Nato historians point out that no other defensive alliance has lasted as long and that a revision of this pact is long overdue. In Kissinger's famous “Year of Europe” speech in April 1973, he called for a new Atlantic Charter to “reconcile” the different perspectives of Europe and America. He spoke of the United States having “global responsibilities” and the European community “regional interests.” Divisive issues of oil, trade and international monetary problems have arisen or grown since then. With Europe groping for political identity and America trying to find its new post-Vietnam role in the world, their divergent paths seemed to make each other's tasks more difficult.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jan. 2009  Future of NATO
Feb. 28, 2003  Future of NATO
May 16, 1997  Expanding NATO
Aug. 21, 1992  NATO's Changing Role
Mar. 22, 1974  Faltering NATO Alliance
Nov. 18, 1964  Reconstruction of NATO
Oct. 24, 1956  Future of NATO
Alliances and Security Agreements
Regional Political Affairs: Europe