Labour leader Keir Starmer’s article in The Guardian on 10 February was a timely reminder that it was indeed the Labour government elected in 1945, and in particular its anti-communist (and anti-semitic) Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, that pushed for the idea of NATO in the first place.
Bevin wanted an alliance against the Soviet Union, which at huge cost had just saved the world from fascism. More than that, he wanted to push forward the idea of European integration, and NATO was a step in that direction.
That fact is acknowledged in the official history of NATO on its own website. NATO, it says, was not only formed to “deter Soviet expansionism” (which didn’t exist then) and to stop “revival of nationalist militarism” – but also with the aim of “encouraging European integration”.
Starmer might also note the statement in the official history that the NATO commitment diverted money destined for the young NHS. That didn’t stop him ending his eulogy in The Guardian by referring to the “two Ns – NATO and the NHS” as two legacies of a Labour government that “we need to be proud of and protect”.
Support for NATO was carried on by the Churchill government that followed Attlee’s. So in 1952 the British politician and former general Hastings Ismay was appointed as NATO’s first secretary general, and the British Army on the Rhine was transferred to NATO control.
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