The Long Entanglement: NATO's First Fifty Years

By Lawrence S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

III
NATO in the Second Generation, 1968-1989

The length of a generation is often in the eye of the beholder. There is something arbitrary, though convenient, about identifying it as twenty or thirty years. In the case of the Atlantic alliance a particular milestone, the Harmel Report of 1967, ended the first generation eighteen years after the signing of the Treaty of Washington. "The Future Tasks of the Alliance," the official name of the exercise under the direction of Belgian foreign minister Pierre Harmel, was initiated by the smaller members of the alliance to examine the changing environment of Europe. The report concluded that the Soviet Union's expansion had been successfully blocked, that the Communist world was no longer monolithic, and that a policy of détente should accompany the maintenance of military security. In brief, NATO accepted the principle that defense and détente were complementary not contradictory policies. The Harmel Report marked a major change of direction in the course of NATO's internal history.

The Cold War had not ended, but the détente that followed in the 1970s made longstanding differences within the alliance seem more threatening to the future of the organization than conflicts between East and West. No event in the second generation would bring NATO and the Warsaw Pact members, or the United States and the Soviet Union, as close to a catastrophic war as the Berlin or Cuban crises had done in the first generation. While East-West problems were by no means settled, West-West difficulties were more critical to NATO's survival. Conflicts between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, resentment in the United States over lack of European support for the Vietnam War, division between Europe and America over

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