I’m Mr. Beat What is NATO? Steven: You know, it’s that mushy stuff that’s really colorful that you can make really cool stuff out of like…edible pancakes! No Steven. Absolutely not. NATO, not Playdoh. And it’s not edible, so hopefully you’re not eating that. NATO is an acronym that stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance of 29 European and North American democratic countries. But how did NATO get started? What’s its purpose? In this video I will explain everything you should know about NATO. Steven: Oh, Playdoh? No, NATO! On April 4, 1949, the leaders of 12 countries in both North America and Western Europe got together in Washington, D.C. in response to the growing threat of the Soviet Union, a Communist country that had been fairly aggressive trying to spread its influence. By this time, the United States, under the leadership of President Harry Truman, had committed to helping countries fight dictators who had threatened personal freedoms or fight rebels who wanted to install Communist regimes. The U.S. gave money to the Greek government army during the Greek Civil War and gave money to Turkey to resist Soviet influence there. Communists were making gains in Italy, and, with the help of the Soviet Union, Communists overthrew and took over the government Czechoslovakia. Not only that, but the United States and Soviet Union straight up went at each other, bro. In occupied Germany following World War II, the Soviet Union controlled East Germany and East Berlin and Britain, France, and the United States controlled West Germany and West Berlin, which was completely within East Germany. Well, that’s, uh, a bit weird. A bit isolated, are ya, there West Berlin? A bit isolated indeed. Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union, started a blockade to Berlin so that the U.S., Britain, and France couldn’t get supplies and food to their peoples there. Well, the U.S. and Britain broke that freaking blockade by smuggling in food and supplies anyway. This was known as the Berlin Airlift, and it certainly made Stalin angry. Tensions became ridiculously high between the U.S. and the Soviet Union after this. So anyway, yeah, back to April 4, 1949 and those 12 countries that met up in DC. What did they all have in common? They were all democratic countries that viewed the Soviet Union and Communism in general as a big threat. They thought they should probably unite to help defend each other. So they signed the North Atlantic Treaty, which was mostly a security agreement that said any military attack against one of the countries that signed the treaty would be considered an attack against them all. The twelve countries that signed it were the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Italy, Portugal, and Iceland. Well one of these countries, the United States, would end up pulling most the weight for this military alliance. Later in 1949, Congress approved $1.4 billion for helping to build up the militaries of the Western European countries. In 1950, NATO got its first big test with the Korean War. NATO-led forces rushed to help South Korea fight North Korea, a Communist country backed by both the Soviet Union and China. After NATO stepped in to help South Korea, it was able to push back against the Communist countries, eventually causing a ceasefire in July 1953. This set up a, you could say, very tense border, that’s really just a demilitarized zone located at the 38th parallel. In 1952, NATO admitted Greece and Turkey. In 1955, it admitted West Germany, which promptly led the Soviet Union to form its own military alliance in retaliation. It got together Albania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and East Germany to all join what became known as the Warsaw Treaty Organization, aka the Warsaw Pact. In the end, the Soviet Union made most of the decisions in this alliance, even using the alliance to put down uprisings against it in member countries. Anyway, back to NATO. During the Suez Crisis, NATO members Britain and France started some conflict in Egypt, and the United States was like “what the heck you doin’ Britain and France?!?” and they sorted it all out. I have a video about that Crisis and you should check it out after this. No, really, I’m not just saying that. Check it out. In 1957, NATO accepted the idea of massive retaliation as a defensive measure. In other words, it said if the Soviet Union or any of its allies were to attack NATO members, it would be dropping some serious nukes on them. The idea was this would scare the heck out of the Soviet Union from even thinking about dropping nukes in the first place. In 1967, the Harmel Report restated its commitment for defense of its member countries, but importantly it introduced the idea of detente, which mean an easing of hostilities between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. Instead of just talking trash and building up arms, NATO members would now try to work with those countries, talk more nicely to them, and reduce their weapons, including nuclear weapons. This policy of detente went forward through the 1970s, but ended after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, leading to what became known as the Soviet-Afghan War. And then everybody pointed missiles at each other again. Around this time, Spain joined NATO. Things got less hostile again after Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev became friends, and soon both sides again agreed to start reducing the amount of weapons they had. And in 1989, the Berlin Wall collapsed, symbolizing the reunification of Germany. The Soviet Union also collapsed a couple years later, and with it the Warsaw Pact. Most Communist countries in the world fell one by one, around the same time. Pretty crazy stuff. So you’d think NATO wouldn’t be needed anymore, right? Right? Well apparently wrong. Instead NATO ended up expanding. NATO stayed together to tried to be like a world police force, now tackling perceived security threats around the world. In the 1990s, terrorism from smaller, decentralized, nationalistic, and often ragtag groups became an increasing threat. Oh, and ethnic cleansing and genocide was still a thing. So NATO tried to fight all this. In 1995, it dropped bombs on the Bosnian Serb Army. In 1999, in dropped some more bombs on the Republic of Yugoslavia. That same year, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland all joined NATO. After the 9/11 attacks, NATO sent forces to Afghanistan. It later got involved in Iraq, Libya, and fighting pirates near Somalia. Meanwhile, NATO continued to grow. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia all joined in 2004, while Albania and Croatia joined in 2009. Montenegro is the latest country to become a member, joining just last year. In recent years, the existence of NATO has continued to be debated. Some argue that it no longer makes sense now that the Cold War has been over for decades. Others argue there’s still a bit of a Cold War between the United States and Russia, especially since Russia has become much more aggressive in recent years. Plus, NATO is like a world’s police trying to put out fires. Sure, the United Nations has its peacekeeping forces, but some argue they haven’t been that effective. NATO was a big reason why the Cold War almost became a hot war many times. It probably further hurt relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and almost caused World War III. But based on the mutual assured destruction doctrine, it arguably also saved us from World War III. It also probably provided stability and security to its member countries, and continues to do so. Military alliances were a big reason why the world wars began. However, NATO seems to be different, which probably explains why so many countries do see it as a necessary force. What are your thoughts on NATO? Do you think it should still exist? Does it keep the world more safe or less safe? Let me know in the comments below. I’m really interested in what you think about this organization. I will be back next week with a brand new episode of Supreme Court Briefs. Thank you so much for watching.