Sunday, May 08, 2016

Is the Western World in Crisis?

NATO’s start in 1949 was a hardly a smooth one.

George Kennan, having advocated political and economic containment of the Soviet Union, opposed the formation of the military alliance. Norway was reluctant to join the transatlantic defense pact, fearful that accession might provoke Soviet military action. Portugal was similarly ambivalent. The authoritarian government of António de Oliveira Salazar — anti-communist, but also troubled by a rise of American influence — initially refused to participate in the Marshall Plan. The strategic environment was otherwise hardly settled. There was civil war in Greece. The Germans were tiring of occupation. And Washington’s increasingly assertive stance toward the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was causing tension in most capitals across risk-averse Western Europe. The alliance was “held together with string, chewing gum and safety pins,” in those days, as Dean Acheson would later put it.

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