This day in history, April 4, 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established by 12 nations including the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and the United States.
The pact provided these Western nations with a self-defense platform against Soviet aggression.
Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were deteriorating and there were tense arguments over the postwar status of Germany. The United States insisted upon German recovery and their eventual rearmament, while the Soviets staunchly opposed such actions.
In January 1949, President Harry S. Truman warned in his State of the Union Address that the forces of democracy and communism were locked in a dangerous struggle. In it, he called for a defensive alliance of nations, which resulted in NATO.
The signatories agreed: “An armed attack against one or more of them … shall be considered an attack against them all.”
The U. S. Senate ratified the treaty by a wide margin in June 1949. Greece, Turkey, and West Germany later joined NATO, but France withdrew in 1966 citing violations of the treaty.
In 1955, the Warsaw Pact, a Soviet-led Eastern European alliance, was established to counter NATO.
Today, there are 28 member states in total.