The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a UN-affiliated military alliance, and the troops placed under NATO command, including U.S. troops, serve as a UN, not a U.S., army.

By John F. McManus
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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), created during the post-World War II era for the stated purpose of defending western Europe against the Soviet bloc, is still viewed by many today as a needed military bulwark guarding democratic nations against the threat of foreign aggression. One adherent of this view, President Joe Biden, stated on May 18 of this year that “NATO guarantees the security of one billion people in Europe and North America — united by our shared commitment to democratic principles and our vision of peace and prosperity in Europe and around the world.”

Biden added, “My commitment to NATO and Article 5 is ironclad” — despite the fact that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which created the military alliance in 1949, circumvents the war powers of the U.S. Congress, which under the Constitution possesses the power to declare war. However, under NATO’s Article 5, “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them … will assist the Party or Parties so attacked.”

When NATO was created, there were 12 member nations — France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland — meaning that the United States, by becoming a party to the treaty, had pledged to come to the defense of 11 other nations. Today there are 30 member nations — and in the not-so-distant future there could be more. In his May 18 statement quoted above, Biden expressed his support for “the historic applications from Finland and Sweden for membership in NATO.”

Ukraine, too, has expressed a desire for NATO membership and could someday join the alliance. If Ukraine already were a member, the United States (and all other NATO members) would have been pulled into the war in Ukraine under Article 5, without Congress being able to decide on the issue.

Rather than guaranteeing “the security of one billion people,” as Biden claims, NATO and its Article 5 endanger their security by requiring nations to interject themselves into conflicts that they may otherwise choose not to enter and may be none of their business — resulting in larger and broader conflicts, including world war.

The Authority Behind NATO

To fully understand the dangers of NATO to the United States in particular, consider that NATO is not a military arm of the United States whose purpose is to put America first or protect American interests. Instead, it is and always has been a totally controlled subsidiary of the United Nations. The Preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty is very clear: “The Parties to this Treaty Affirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” So a quick review of what the UN itself has always been from its inception is important if one seeks to understand the subsidiary it spawned in 1949.

Fear of the Soviet Union led the American people and members of Congress to accept membership in the United Nations in 1945. The huge stream of information about the danger posed by Soviet communism proved to be so effective that few Americans of the 1940s had any foreboding about national independence and God-given personal freedoms being targeted. Practically all they heard from their political officials, mass media, and religious leaders told them of the need for a world authority to end war and create peace. The UN offered a promise to end or minimize war for all time. But honest history teaches that there have been more wars, not fewer, since the 1945 founding of the UN.

Only two U.S. senators voted to stay out of the new world body. Before the fateful 1945 vote to approve UN membership for the United States, Minnesota Republican Henrik Shipstead warned his Senate colleagues what joining the UN would mean for America. In a no-holds-barred message aimed at his colleagues, he thundered, “The control of the war power, as provided in the Constitution, must remain in the Congress if the United States is to remain a republic.” What Shipstead had correctly perceived about the potential congression-al loss of the war power actually became new U.S. policy several years later, when that pivotal portion of the U.S. Constitution was ignored. Maintaining the power to send our nation into war in the hands of Congress became obsolete, last honored immediately after the 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor. Within days of that tragedy, formal congressional declarations of war against Japan, Germany, and Italy were properly approved. It’s tellingly important to realize that our nation never lost a war through World War II. But the same cannot be said for the wars that followed — from the stalemate in Korea, to the loss in Vietnam, to the debacles in the Middle East.

Only minutes after his Senate colleague registered strong opposition to joining the United Nations, North Dakota Republican William Langer told his fellow senators that he, too, would vote “No” to joining the world body. Rather than supporting the proposed UN, Langer stated his belief that the UN Charter “will mean perpetuating war, not doing away with it.” He concluded his assessment with, “I cannot support the [UN] Charter. I believe it is fraught with danger to the American people, and to American institutions.”

Highly regarded former State Department official J. Reuben Clark added his own blistering disapproval of the proposed UN. He stated, “The Charter is a war document not a peace document [that] makes it practically certain that we shall have future wars.” But the flood of pro-UN propaganda had captured the thinking of America’s political leaders and the public in general. Blocking U.S. entry into the newly crafted world body became impossible.

Once the 89-2 Senate vote approving UN membership occurred, the world body had gained the support of its prime target, the United States. By October 24, 1945, when the new world organization’s first formal meeting convened, a total of 51 nations had joined the UN. That grew steadily and now stands at 193 nations. Membership requires acceptance of the UN Charter, a small document filling a mere 20 pages. It is readily available to anyone via the internet.

One branch of UN is the General Assembly, where delegates of all member nations meet and posture their effectiveness with seemingly endless bloviation. The world body’s real power is vested in a 15-member Security Council made up of five permanent members (Great Britain, France, the United States, Russia, and China) and 10 other members selected for temporary, two-year terms. The five permanent Security Council member nations possess veto power over matters being considered by the Security Council. At the UN’s inception, the Nationalist (anti-communist) Chinese led by Chiang Kai-shek held the China seat. In 1971, the Nationalist Chinese were ousted from the Security Council and China’s membership was awarded to the Communist Chinese led by Mao Tse-tung, the greatest mass murderer in world history. The United States declined to use its veto power to block the transfer of power to the Mao-led killers. Still, this world body continued to claim to be a “peace” organization.

Military Power for the UN

Consider for a moment that the UN has never had its own military arm. Whenever it takes action anywhere in the world, it has to raise forces from various member nations. It has done so on numerous occasions. Beginning in 1949, the world body turned to its newly created NATO to conduct some important military action, and it did so with men and armaments gathered from member nations, especially the United States.

Article 25 of the UN Charter is a single sentence that states, “The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.” No American, and no partisan for his own nation’s independence anywhere on earth, should accede to such a requirement. Yes, the United States has always had veto power over Article 25, but has never used it. Further scrutiny of the UN Charter soon impelled Ohio Senator Robert Taft to admit he had made a serious mistake in 1945 when he voted to approve U.S. membership in the world body. In 1947, he stated publicly, “The UN has become a trap. Let’s go it alone.” However, the reality was that the UN had not “become” a trap, it was a trap from its very beginning.

The two primary authors of the UN Charter were highly placed U.S. State Department diplomat Alger Hiss (later convicted of perjury and sent to prison for lying about his membership in the U.S. Communist Party) and Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. These two didn’t have freedom for mankind or independence for nations in mind.

As mentioned previously, the UN has never had its own military arm. So it has frequently dressed up forces of various nations with blue helmets and arm bands to act in its name. These were borrowed troops such as those who in 1961 attacked the Katanga Province of the former Belgian Congo. The province’s residents, led by a noble freedom advocate named Moise Tshombe, announced that Katanga was “seceding from the chaos” created by communists and declaring independence. They were telling the world they wanted nothing to do with the recently created communist government in their home country, the Belgian Congo. The UN turned to Article 43 of the UN Charter to assemble a military force for suppressing freedom in Katanga and conducting a murderous rampage. Article 43, another Charter mandate that America’s leaders should never have adhered to, states:

All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.

UN Charter Gives Rise to NATO

Over the years, the UN has engaged in numerous military campaigns, always employing trained forces gathered from member nations to carry out its will. But there was another way for the UN to assemble a military force. The UN Charter’s Articles 51-54 authorize the creation of “Regional Arrangements,” groups of nations formed in a joint venture to bring about “pacific settlement of local disputes.” Once those regional arrangements are formed, says the Charter, “The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority.” NATO is the most noteworthy of the UN’s use of this feature of its Charter. It enables the UN to establish its own military arm without openly identifying it as a UN creation. As might be expected, the UN has used the groups it has created to carry out plans to build a UN-dominated world government.

In April 1949, when the U.S. Senate considered becoming a founding member of NATO, Secretary of State Dean Acheson emphatically urged senators to approve membership. In a speech he delivered to the senators, he strongly recommended that the United States join NATO because “it is an essential measure for strengthening the United Nations.” He noted that all of the pact’s provisions are subject to the overriding leadership of the UN, including NATO’s Article 5.

Expecting that the Senate would approve joining NATO and thereby establish more control over nations, including ours, Ohio’s Senator Taft proposed adding a reservation to the treaty stipulating that membership would not commit the United States to supply arms to NATO’s members. New York Senator John Foster Dulles immediately rose to counter the Taft proposal. No surprise there: A member of the small group that founded the internationalist and pro-UN Council on Foreign Relations, Dulles displayed his preference for eventual world government instead of maintaining an independent United States. Only 13 senators voted against entangling our nation in this new UN proposal, and practically all cast a yes vote because NATO was sold to them, and to the American people, as a barrier should the Soviet Union seek to establish its control over additional nations in western Europe. NATO’s birthdate is April 4, 1949.

The UN Charter’s Article 54 should have alerted prospective members to the danger ahead. It states, “The Security Council shall at all times be kept fully informed of activities undertaken or in contemplation under regional arrangements.” (Emphasis added.) Not only will the NATO pact’s member nations supply personnel and equipment for military action once they become engaged in any conflict, they must inform the UN about how they will conduct any military activity beforehand. In this incredibly unusual arrangement, a military unit must reveal its plans to the UN Security Council before engaging an enemy.

The First “NATO” War

The first war waged with authorization derived from the UN/NATO began in Korea in June 1950, only a single year after formation of the pact. But NATO wasn’t cited by name as the source of authority to be at war; the UN was. Troops from our nation were sent into what President Harry Truman labeled “a police action,” not a war. He knew he was ignoring the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for a formal declaration of war, so he didn’t call the Korean action a war. Without naming NATO as his source of authority to send men into war without a formal congressional declaration, he hinted that he knew the Constitution was already being ignored when he told questioning senators, “If I can send troops to Europe [under NATO], I can send troops to Korea.” He had indeed sent troops to Europe soon after NATO was approved, and he knew full well that those troops were in Europe under NATO command — which meant, ultimately, UN command.

Years later, a retired U.S. Army general who had fought in Korea and later became my personal friend sent me a copy of the title page of a speech given by General Robert W. Sennewald, an American who had been appointed as the leader of the defense forces in South Korea. I have never seen the text of this general’s remarks, but the title page of his speech showed very clearly that he was serving in a UN assignment. Actually, the military action in Korea and its aftermath has always been a UN operation. On the title page of General Sennewald’s speech (dated September 15, 1982), he is named as the “Commander-in-Chief United Nations Command, ROK/US Combined Forces Korea, Eighth United States Army.” This means that all U.S. forces in Korea, even South Korean forces within this general’s command, were, and are to this day, actually led by the United Nations. For many years, this has been the arrangement to which our country has submitted. It started when a contingent of America’s military were sent to Europe as part of a NATO force. That precedent, agreed to and employed by President Truman in 1949, opened the floodgates for undeclared wars and various other unconstitutional assignments.

NATO Paves the Way for SEATO

The launching of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) began in February 1955. Then-President Dwight Eisenhower directed Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to create an alliance whose mission called for protecting Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam from being overrun by the communist-led forces of North Vietnam. Vice President Richard Nixon recommended copying the already-functioning NATO for the new alliance. At SEATO’s 1955 founding held in Bangkok, Thailand, its eight member nations included Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Great Britain, and the United States.

The stated goal of the new organization was blocking communist gains in Southeast Asia. The exact opposite was achieved. Our nation put tremendous effort into Vietnam. The problem was that its tie to the UN meant failure engineered by disloyal American leaders and their UN partners. SEATO, like NATO, was always a creature of the United Nations, and it was managed not to win, but to fail in the same manner as its NATO predecessor.

Consider the following official statements from the U.S. government:

• “The Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty authorizes the President’s actions…. The United States has reported to the Security Council on measures it has taken in countering the Communist aggression in Vietnam.” — State Department Bulletin 8062, March 28, 1966.

As in the Korean conflict, there was no constitutionally required declaration of war.

• “It is this fundamental SEATO obligation that has from the outset guided our action in South Vietnam.” — Secretary of State Dean Rusk, November 26, 1966.

• “We are in Vietnam because the United States and our allies are committed by the SEATO treaty to act to meet the common danger of aggression in Southeast Asia.” — President Lyndon Johnson, January 10, 1967.

But, just as in Korea, everything the U.S. forces did and planned to do in Vietnam passed through the Security Council, which would pass the information on to the North Vietnamese communist leaders.

In 1985, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater forced the release of previously classified “Rules of Engagement” governing the conduct of our nation’s forces during the Vietnam War. What he unearthed appeared in the March 6, 1985 issue of the Congressional Record. In his brief remarks at the beginning of the posting, Goldwater summarized some of the restraints on U.S. forces during the war. He stated:

For example, one rule told American pilots they were not permitted to attack a North Korean Mig [fighter plane] sitting on the runway. The only time it could be attacked was after it was in flight, was identified, and showed hostile intentions. Even then, its base could not be bombed. The same hostile intention rule applied to truck convoys driving on highways in Laos and North Vietnam. In some regions, enemy trucks could evade attack by simply driving off the road. Military truck parks located just over 200 yards away from a road could not be destroyed. Another rule provided that SAM missile sites could not be struck while they were under construction, but only after they became operational.

SEATO, formed supposedly to keep Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam from falling into communist control, played a key role in having each of those nations completely succumb to the communists. Fatalities among U.S. forces in the Vietnam War added up to 58,000, and there were many more wounded physically and mentally. And the three nations SEATO was created to defend from communism became communist-run.

SEATO was terminated in 1977, but NATO continues to function as a military arm of the UN and has only expanded since its inception.

NATO Expansionism

NATO, as mentioned above, was formed ostensibly to deter Soviet military incursion into western Europe. Despite this fact, the organization has continued to expand even though the Soviet Union no longer exists as a political entity.

Greece and Turkey joined NATO in 1952. West Germany joined in 1955, putting a NATO member on the border of Soviet-allied East Germany — a major factor in the creation of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact as a communist response to NATO. France — fearing the various nations in the alliance, including the United States, could not be counted on to stop a potential Soviet invasion — left NATO in 1966 and built up its own nuclear deterrent. Spain joined in 1982.

After the disintegration of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the issue of NATO expansion was brought to the forefront. During discussion on German unification in 1990 — in exchange for his agreeing to the accession of the former East German territory to NATO provided no NATO forces would occupy that territory — several Western officials gave Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev verbal assurances that NATO would not expand any further eastward, as the Soviets obviously saw NATO expansion as a threat to their security. No written guarantees to this effect were given, however.

In the 1990s, NATO, formerly seen as a “defensive” pact, took on the role of “policeman” when the organization intervened militarily in the conflict between former Yugoslavian member states, such as Bosnia and Serbia.

In 1999, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic joined NATO, followed by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004. France rejoined the alliance in 2009, and Albania and Croatia became new members that same year. Montenegro joined in 2017, and North Macedonia joined in 2020.

At the 20th NATO Summit held in Bucharest, Romania, in 2008, assurances were given to both Georgia and Ukraine that they would someday be able to join the organization. After much Russian opposition to such moves over security concerns, Georgia’s aspirations to this end were largely abandoned in 2014, but Ukraine’s continued moves toward NATO membership in large part influenced Vladimir Putin to launch his “special military operation” in the embattled eastern European nation in February with the stated goals of “demilitarization” and “de-Nazification,” and to achieve assurances of future Ukrainian neutrality.

In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are both on a fast track to join NATO. This will only serve to further antagonize Russia, which denies it has any plans of aggression toward European nations, so long as Ukraine remains neutral.

NATO’s New Role

After the end of the Cold War obviated NATO’s need to function as a pact against Soviet aggression in Europe, the military alliance saw its role shift to one of military interventionism. It has become, in a very real sense, a military arm of the UN, with most of its capability coming from the use of American armaments. Article 5 was invoked — for the first time — after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and NATO troops moved into Afghanistan. Their mission, named the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), was made up primarily of U.S. personnel and called for establishing security for the government and the Afghan people. Its 130,000 troops, all under ultimate UN control, failed miserably to accomplish their stated goal, and the force was disbanded in 2014. Next was NATO’s Resolute Support Mission with 17,000 troops, some of whom stayed until the disastrous 2021 pullout when all foreign troops were removed from the troubled nation. The exit was a classic failure, and the NATO forces exited while leaving behind weaponry worth billions of dollars — which certainly made the Taliban’s complete takeover of the nation a great deal easier.

While the Afghanistan conflict was raging, NATO also intervened in Iraq in 2004 to help train the U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces, the Gulf of Aden in 2009 to clear it of Somali pirates, and Libya in 2011 to help effect the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi. NATO acted as the UN’s army.

Time to Part Company

NATO, once a force supposedly formed to protect nations from being swallowed up by the USSR, now includes 30 nations, many of which don’t even come near to touching the Atlantic Ocean. (Recall that NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization.) The pact begun in 1949 quickly became the provider of a useful military arm of its UN parent. NATO has also established 43 subsidiary agencies scattered around the world to aid in building world government for its UN superior. Its most important member nation, right from the start, has been the United States.

But does the United States benefit from being in NATO? In a word, no. No nation would be foolish enough to actually launch a war of aggression directly against the United States and its current military might. Article 5 of NATO, therefore, is not in place to protect America; it is essentially an assurance that America will function as a global policeman and come to the rescue of any NATO member (or perhaps nonmember) who happens to get involved in a war, regardless of the circumstances that led to that war. This is similar to the cocky little kid on the playground who picks fights with bigger kids only because he knows his older brother will back him up, and is folly in the extreme. Consider the small NATO nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, or even larger Poland. None of them is particularly fond of Russia, to put it mildly. Should one of these nations wish to see harm visited upon the Russian Bear, all they would have to do is initiate an armed conflict with Russia, and the United States would be obligated to join the fight on their behalf — which would almost assuredly lead to a nuclear war.

NATO is now discussing forming some form of regional security alliance in East Asia to contain China and dissuade it from taking Taiwan. This is more folly, as China has made clear that any attempt to interfere with its territorial integrity — and this, for China, includes the issue of Taiwan — will lead to war, most likely a nuclear war if the United States gets involved.

How does poking the Bear and the Dragon benefit the Eagle? It doesn’t. Rather than leading to greater stability, the expanded, interventionist NATO can only lead to greater instability across the globe, at the expense of the United States. Sending young American men to die for nations that are trying to serve their own interests at America’s expense is nonsensical.

When it comes to foreign policy, we are wise to remember the counsel of the Founding Fathers. As George Washington noted in his Farewell Address of 1796:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities…. It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.

Thomas Jefferson gave further words of wisdom in his 1801 inaugural address, calling for a foreign policy of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”

And John Quincy Adams wrote  in 1821 that America

goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

There is only one sensible solution for America and other still-independent nations: Withdraw completely and speedily from the United Nations and all of its subsidiaries throughout the world. This includes NATO and any other current or future military alliance.

John F. McManus is president emeritus of The John Birch Society and former publisher of The New American.