The Cold War, the United States, and NATO
John T. Kuehn
NATO, as in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its role in military history writ large, that is my target today (passive voice deliberate). Or in active voice, I am targeting the myth of a generally good relationship between NATO and the United States prior to the end of the Cold War experience. My suggestions in this incendiary come from a single CSPAN event while snowed in in the Rocky Mountains on a ski trip almost 17 years ago (or more, alas memory). As my sons played games on their devices after a great day skiing, I was glued to a TV set watching former American cabinet members from the Cold War. There was also an academic historian, Walter Issacson (later Henry Kissinger’s biographer), who moderated the discussion. The occasion were the issues and problems the United States was having with its NATO allies, especially over Iraq. Two SECDEFs and one Secretary of State were there, Don Rumsfeld (SECDEF, 75-77), James Schlesinger (SECDEF, 73-75), and Henry Kissinger (SECSTATE, 73-77). All three agreed that the issue of problems with NATO was certainly not a new one and that after Vietnam in the 1970s that NATO was less than pleased to have the United States refocusing, or pivoting as it were, from Vietnam to Europe. In other words, and Kissinger perhaps made the case best, that a smooth working relationship with NATO was not the norm, but rather an anomaly. Muffled explosion?
Reaching out to the Cold War crowd out here, hoping perhaps some H-DIPLO-mists will “slum a bit” and weight in with us lowly military historians (used broadly to include naval historians like myself).
The views are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.