historical perspectives, latest, NATO

Defence of European Empires Was Original NATO Goal

by Yves Engler, March 30, 2019

The first installment  in this series discussed how NATO was set up partly to blunt the European Left. The other major factor driving the creation of NATO was a desire to bolster colonial authority and bring the world under a US geopolitical umbrella.

From the outset Canadian officials had an incredibly expansive definition of NATO’s supposed defensive character, which says an “attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies.” As part of the Parliamentary debate over NATO external minister Lester Pearson said: “There is no better way of ensuring the security of the Pacific Ocean at this particular moment than by working out, between the great democratic powers, a security arrangement the effects of which will be felt all over the world, including the Pacific area.” Two years later he said: “The defence of the Middle East is vital to the successful defence of Europe and north Atlantic area.” In 1953 Pearson went even further: “There is now only a relatively small [5000 kilometre] geographical gap between southeast Asia and the area covered by the North Atlantic treaty, which goes to the eastern boundaries of Turkey.”

In one sense the popular portrayal of NATO as a defensive arrangement was apt. After Europe’s second Great War the colonial powers were economically weak while anti-colonial movements could increasingly garner outside support. The Soviets and Mao’s China, for instance, aided the Vietnamese. Similarly, Egypt supported Algerian nationalists and Angola benefited from highly altruistic Cuban backing. The international balance of forces had swung away from the colonial powers.

To maintain their colonies European powers increasingly depended on North American diplomatic and financial assistance. NATO passed numerous resolutions supporting European colonial authority. In the fall of 1951 Pearson responded to moves in Iran and Egypt to weaken British influence by telling Parliament: “The Middle  East is strategically far too important to the defence of the North Atlantic area to allow it to become a power vacuum or to pass into unfriendly hands.”The next year Ottawa recognized the colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as “associated states” of France, according to an internal report, “to assist  a NATO colleague, sorely tried by foreign and domestic problems.” More significantly, Canada gave France hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment through NATO’s Mutual Assistance Program. These weapons were mostly used to suppress the Vietnamese and Algerian independence movements. In 1953 Pearson told the House: “The assistance  we have given to France as a member of the NATO association may have helped her recently in the discharge of some of her obligations in Indo-China.” Similarly, Canadian and US aid was used by the Dutch to maintain their dominance over Indonesia and West Papua New Guinea, by the Belgians in the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, by the Portuguese in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau and by the British in numerous places. Between 1950 and 1958 Ottawa donated a whopping $1,526,956,000 ($8 billion today) in ammunition, fighter jets, military training, etc. to European countries through the NATO Mutual Assistance Program.

The role NATO played in North American/European subjugation of the Global South made Asians and Africans wary of the organization. The Nigerian Labour Party’s 1964 pamphlet The NATO Conspiracy in Africa documents that organization’s military involvement on the continent from bases to naval agreements. In 1956 NATO established a Committee for Africa and in June 1959 NATO’s North Atlantic Council, the organization’s main political decision-making body, warned that the communists would take advantage of African independence to the detriment of Western political and economic interests.

The north Atlantic alliance was designed to maintain unity among the historic colonial powers — and the US — in the midst of a de-colonizing world. It was also meant to strengthen US influence around the world. In a history of the 1950-53 US-led Korean war David Bercuson writes that Canada’s external minister “agreed with [President] Truman, [Secretary of State] Dean Acheson, and other American leaders that the Korean conflict was NATO’s first true test, even if it was taking place half a world away.”

Designed to maintain internal unity among the leading capitalist powers, NATO was the military alliance of the post-WWII US-centered multilateral order, which included the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, International Trade Organization (ITO) and the United Nations. (For its first two decades the UN was little more than an arm of the State Department.)

A growing capitalist power, Canada was well placed to benefit from US-centered multilateral imperialism. The Canadian elite’s business, cultural, familial and racial ties with their US counterparts meant their position and profits were likely to expand alongside Washington’s global position.

NATO bolstered colonial authority and helped bring the world under the US geopolitical umbrella, from which the Canadian elite hoped to benefit.

Former Vice President of the Concordia Student Union, Yves Engler is a Montréal-based activist and author. He has published ten books: Left, Right — Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada; A Propaganda System—How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, Canada in Africa — 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation, The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy, Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping — The Truth May Hurt, Stop Signs — Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay (with Bianca Mugyenyi), The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Shortlisted for the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non Fiction in the Quebec Writers’ Federation Literary Awards), Playing Left Wing: From Rink Rat to Student Radical and (with Anthony Fenton) Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority and Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid.



  1. Robbobbobin says

    “Defence of European Empires Was Original NATO Goal”

    So? The conversion of sickly little French swots into strong and efficient cannon fodder for future Franco-German conflict was the original impetus behind the establishment of the “modern Olympics”. (True, my little darlinks, true.) To build a good NATO you first need a reliable, plentiful source of thought-free brickheads and their vocal, armchair supporters. In well run empires, all roads lead to war. So “go, [insert ‘your’ team/city/county/nation here], go…”

  2. Harry Law says

    2% of NATO members GDP is an obscene amount of money [German GDP is 4Trillion dollars] here is what 1 Trillion dollars looks like http://www.pagetutor.com/trillion/index.html Of course it all starts to make sense when that money has to be spent [for the most part] with the MIC [US] because of interoperability. It would appear NATO want to surround Russia [GDP 1.5 Trillion] for what reason only the mad Neocons know. Or maybe it is to defend against the Martians.

  3. Fair dinkum says

    “Daddy, will I be old like you one day?”
    (A long silence)
    “I don’t know son. I really don’t know”

  4. Wilmers31 says

    We were proud of what we learned in school in West Berlin: Never shall a war start from German soil again. “Therefore the Constitution does not allow German uniforms outside Germany.” Even that they killed for NATO.

    In the broader picture the cut-off of aid to the 3 Central American Countries will have some ripple effects. I do not think Russia and China have so much money that they can or want to support them – they have to learn to stand on their own two feet anyway.

    But American uniforms or any other NATO uniforms would not be welcome any longer in these “three Mexican countries” (sic, from Fox).

  5. Archie1954 says

    It is very disturbing to hear that Canada was instrumental in assisting colonial powers to maintain control over various colonies and prevent them from getting independence. I always believed that Canada was above such detrimental policies. What a wake up call!

    • Mucho says

      No, you only get to be in the club by proving your evil

    • Mucho says

      It is no accident that the Governor of th Bank Of ENgland is a Canadian. That is an in the club, proud cunt, job. You need to rape and kill a lot of children to get that gig

    • Ramdan says

      Yup, Canada is the nice face…so the rest can stab you in the back while they (Canada) show the smiley face of the compassionate pal.
      They are quietly backing all efforts now to feed unrest and war in Venezuela….for the greater good of Venezuelans that will be happily living in a torn appart latinamerican Libia if the thing is successful…

      My sympathies go out to you….

  6. IntergenerationalTrauma says

    The book: “NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe,” by Swiss historian Daniel Ganser is a critical resource in understanding NATO’s function in Western empire and how NATO has supported fascists while opposing the left post-WWII. It also sheds a good deal of light on the why and how to today’s “false-flag” terrorism used by elites to manipulate the perceptions and thinking of Western populations through fear created by acts of “synthetic” terrorism.


    • Ramdan says

      What is really worrisome is that hate, war, violence and total disrespect for international law and disregard for human life it’s being normalized. In US, Europe, Canada, etc the discurse of current affairs that clearly jeopardize human survival is being sterilized, problems fragmented and attention being drawn to minor technicalities dehumanizing and emptying all discussion in advance.
      Orwellian discurse is now a de-facto norm by which “war, bombing and killing” have become “peace efforts” “democratization” and “advancement of human rights”!!!!…..and the
      commonfolk is buying into it…

    • milosevic says

      NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe, by Daniele Ganser

      full text:


      This research (along with the Northwoods documents) makes anyone who still denies that 9/11 was a US deep state operation, look like an idiot, at best, or a disinfo agent.

  7. Michael Cromer says

    People are tired of both NATO & BREXIT and I think that the United States and the UK are running out of plot sequels and we are all past caring anyway.

  8. George Cornell says

    The founding of NATO did not allow for its most powerful member becoming a rapacious predatory amoral scofflaw. It should have done. It is the major reason for world unrest because its existence depends on invented bogeymen, false threats and false flag ops. It should be disbanded immediately so poor countries can stop from being forced to buy American and Israeli arms and technology, a requisite for membership. The Americans are viewed as the greatest threat to world peace in poll after poll. Why is any moral country in any kind of partnership with them? They reek of decay, and I only wish their wonderful founding fathers could come back and tell them what they have become.

    • summitflyer says

      I thought Putin had told them at the United Nations “don’t you realize what you have done ” .
      They were told something they did not want to hear,the truth.

      • George Cornell says

        Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln et al. were as fine exemplars of our species as there have been. The current mob of chancers view them as secular saints, no matter that those ‘saints’ would not give this lot the time of day. Even less that they owe their prosperity to the guiding principles of morality, hard work and empathy for their fellow man, so dear to the founding fathers. Putin cannot possibly influence them, as he is one of the imaginary bogeymen.


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