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The Cold War, NATO

COMECON, containment policy, French Indochina, defense spending, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

In 1949 the United States joined 11 other nations (Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal) to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact. Members of NATO pledged that an attack on one would be an attack on all. Stalin responded by uniting the economies of Eastern Europe under the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). Then late in 1949, Americans learned that the Soviets had successfully exploded an atomic bomb in August. Finally, in February 1950, Stalin signed an alliance with the People’s Republic of China, a Communist state formed in 1949.

The doctrine of “containment” now faced big challenges. To bolster the containment policy, U.S. officials proposed in a secret 1950 document, NSC-68, to strengthen the nation’s alliances, to quadruple defense spending, and to convince Americans to support the Cold War. Truman ordered the Atomic Energy Commission to develop a hydrogen bomb many times more destructive than an atomic bomb. In Europe, the United States supported the independence of West Germany.

Finally, the United States took important steps to contain Communism in Europe and Asia. In Europe, the United States supported the rearmament of West Germany. In Asia in early 1950, the United States offered assistance to France to save Vietnam (still French Indochina) from Communist rule, and signed a peace treaty with Japan to ensure the future of American military bases there. Responding to the threats in Asia, Stalin endorsed a Communist reprisal in Korea, where fighting broke out between Communist and non-Communist forces.

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