NATO by Dr. Madeleine Ross at Great Decisions in Tyler, TX 2013–recorded by JD Meyer

Preface for NWP

Great Decisions is an annual program that analyzes leading foreign policy issues. In Tyler, TX, it lasts for eight weeks during the late winter/early spring and is held at the downtown library, Wednesdays at noon. Most of the speakers are local professors, but we had a two-star retired general and a member of Homeland Security among the lecturers too.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was designed to contain Soviet Union expansion or aggression. Russia often inhibits the United Nations, but they don’t belong to NATO. There were only twelve countries in NATO at its start in 1952. NATO enables the USA to have military bases all over Europe, so an eye can be kept on the Soviets.

Turkey and Greece were the first two new countries–important locations because they’re contiguous to Eastern Europe. It’s rather ironic that Greece and Turkey joined NATO at the same time since they’re traditionally enemies. Dr. Ross noted that they frequently desecrate each other’s graves. On the other hand, inviting Greece and Turkey to NATO prevented them from being influenced by the Soviets in that era of the Eastern European bloc.

France was disenchanted with NATO because the French were kicked out of Vietnam in 1954 by the Communists with no help from the West. Then France invaded the Suez Canal and left NATO. The capital of NATO moved from France to Belgium where it has remained. By the way, the European Union has its capital in Brussels, Belgium.

Advantages and Disadvantages

NATO is costly as it costs 4.6% of U.S. military spending, but it’s worth the cost for a variety of reasons. Ammunition has been standardized. There are 100 military bases in Great Britain alone! We have had nuclear weapons in Great Britain since 1979. The US and western European countries conduct joint exercises. Operation Namebrace off the Denmark coast warned the Soviets not to expand westward from the Baltic Sea.

Strains in NATO began in Iceland in 1949. World War II was a bad experience for Iceland since they were occupied by Great Britian to keep Germany away. France stayed out of NATO at least partially until 2009. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, a Mediterranean island that is mixed with Greeks and Turks. Greece was a fascist nation at that time. Cyprus is still a divided island since 1980.

Dr. Ross believes we haven’t had a World War III because of NATO. Europe has experienced a relatively peaceful seven decades since the end of WWII. The US withdrew some nuclear weapons from Turkey, so the Soviet union would do the same in Cuba in the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 60’s.

Soviet Union & Yugoslavia Breaks-Up

The desire for consumer goods fueled the movement for freedom in Eastern Europe around 1990–something capitalism delivers unlike communism. Earlier rebellions in Hungary (1956) Czechoslovakia (1968) were squashed. Then the Berlin Wall came down, and the two Germanies were reunited. Yugoslavia violently split into six republics after the death of its ruler, Tito in the mid 1990’s. Tito himself was of mixed Serbian-Croatian descent. Dr. Ross visited Yugoslavia way back in 1963. The horror of Rwanda genocide in 1994 scared Europeans, making them wonder if the Soviet Union would invade Serbia. NATO’s protection of Moslems proved weak in the mid-1990’s. Mostly Moslem Kossovo seceded from Serbia in 1999 and functions as an independent state now. Turkey had a horrible war with Serbia in 1389, and they still remain enemies.

NATO Today

NATO has increased to 28 countries. Spain became democratic in 1982. After 9-11, NATO attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan. NATO, like the US, hopes to withdraw from Afghanistan when it’s feasible; that is, no threat of Taliban resurgence. The new Baltic states–Lithuania, Lativa, and Estonia–joined NATO after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, now Russia. Norway and Poland joined while France and Denmark withdrew. However, Ukraine and Georgia–former Soviet republics, were blocked from entering NATO. NATO, together with US surveilance, is credited with the deposing of Libyan dictator Qadaffi. NATO didn’t go to Egypt or Syria in part because of difficulties flying there, according to Dr. Ross–let alone the well-documented confusion of which rebels to support. Nowadays, the US is becoming more interested in its relations with East Asia.

To conclude, Dr. Ross quoted Winston Churchill who said it’s better to talk than fight. Even though the United Nations doesn’t always do what the US would like because of Russia and China, it’s a lot better than warfare. People in other countries seem to like Americans if not always our country’s policy. On a humorous note, Dr. Ross stated marriage is to love, honor, and negotiate