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N A T O

 

The Dutch decision to join the Atlantic Alliance was opposed only by

the Communist party, and has never been seriously questioned. The

original support for NATO should be understood against the backdrop of,

on the one hand, gratitude for the American effort to liberate the

Netherlands in 1945 and for Marshall Plan aid for rebuilding the ruined

Dutch economy, tempered only marginally by anger over American pressure

to end the successful military actions against Indonesian insurgents

and, on the other hand, of growing anxiety over Soviet imperialism,

fuelled particularly by the Communist take-over in Czechoslovakia in

1948. Perhaps the Dutch embraced NATO membership because it allowed them

to continue as a naval power by compensating for the loss of the

colonies .

 

Despite later criticisms of the participation in NATO by the then

dictatorial regimes of Portugal and Greece, despite opposition to

American involvement in Indo-China and Latin America, and even despite

misgivings over NATO's nuclear strategy, public support for NATO

membership has never wavered. The percentage in favour of leaving the

Alliance has never exceeded 20 per cent, and no major party has ever

advocated withdrawal from NATO, not even a 'French', partial, one.

Especially during the first decades of the Alliance, the Netherlands

acted as a particularly staunch ally and a loyal supporter of US

leadership in the Alliance.

 

The Dutch share in NATO's defence expenditures has always been

relatively high compared with that of other smaller member states such

as Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Denmark, or Norway. The Dutch were among the

15 countries that joined the USA in the Korean War (a UN mission de

iure, a US mission de facto). In 1957 the Netherlands wasted no time in

becoming the first European ally to accept American nuclear missiles on

its territory. While other member states demanded a say in the

engagement) of such weaponry ('dual key'), the Dutch would have been

happy to leave this responsibility entirely to the US government.

Another quarrel with the Americans about Dutch colonialism, this time

about the Dutch—Indonesian conflict over Papua New Guinea in 1961—2, did

little to weaken the Dutch enthusiasm for the Atlantic Alliance. The

long-serving Foreign Secretary, Joseph Luns (1956—71) stead-fastly

refused to convey the protests of the Dutch Parliament over American

intervention in Vietnam to Washington. As we shall discuss in the

following section, the Dutch government always objected to plans for

European rather than Atlantic defence arrangements, and served almost as

an American proxy in the EC. One author even struggled to find a

distinction between the Dutch role of faithful ally and that of a vassal

or satellite state: the submission of .the Dutch to American leadership,

he suggests, was not imposed, but voluntary.

 

With the retirement of Luns as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1971, the

Dutch role as America's small but staunch ally abruptly came to an end.

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