The United States and Western Europe since 1945: From "Empire" by Invitation to Transatlantic Drift

By Geir Lundestad | Go to book overview

3 The Atlantic Community, Germany's Role, and Western Europe's Integration, 1950-1962

America's Domination and Europe's Centrality

After the uncertainties of the very first years after 1945, the US had gradually developed clear-cut objectives for Western Europe. On the whole, it was able to secure these objectives, by far the single most important of which was to limit Soviet expansion. After the “fall” of Czechoslovakia in 1948, no European country joined the Soviet bloc. To fight “Soviet Communism” the resources of the United States and Western Europe had to be coordinated. To Washington this meant that Western Europe had to be fitted into an Atlantic framework. NATO was the most important part of this framework; originally set up on European initiative, once, in March 1948, London had persuaded Washington to commit itself to the idea of an Atlantic security organization, the United States was to heavily influence, sometimes to decide more or less on its own, the policies of this organization: who the members were to be, its military strategy, its overall attitude towards the Soviet Union, and, to a much lesser extent, the level of defense spending in the member countries. With the American system of domination went a comprehensive system of US bases including virtually every allied country, from the wide network of such bases in West Germany and Britain and to the “facilities” to be used in times of crisis in Denmark and Norway. 1

From 1950 it also became essential for the United States to have the larger part of Germany, West Germany, on its side even militarily, either directly in the form of West Germany's membership in NATO or, more indirectly, by its membership in a European defense organization which in turn was linked to NATO. European integration was under no circumstance to lead to an independent “third force, ” but was to be part of the Atlantic structure under America's leadership.

On the domestic side, America's overriding goal was to keep the Communists and their “fellow-travellers” out of power. On the right, fascists and extreme nationalists were also to be excluded. With the small exception of Iceland in 1956-8, where a leftist bloc including Communists actually participated in the

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