In 2020 the Western world will celebrate the founding of NATO 70 years ago. To make the idea of such a transatlantic treaty even possible, the US had to move from a position of isolationism towards a more open and engaged relationship with European countries. This change of direction started with the Vandenberg Resolution, which was passed in 1949. Its author was the aging senator Arthur Vandenberg, who typed out this one-page document in his Washington living room.
This resolution represented a fundamental change in the United States’ tradition of peacetime neutrality, which went back to the country’s founding. Already in his Farewell Address, George Washington had warned his countrymen to avoid ‘entangling alliances’ with European powers. Now Arthur Vandenberg, himself once the leader of Senate isolationists, paved the way for Senate approval of this profound change in direction. What made him change his mind?
Although its virtues are sometimes debated today, NATO’s enduring solidarity between nations has been accompanied by decades of relative peace. And the consensus that created NATO was forged in no small part by Arthur Vandenberg.
On June 20th, the John Adams will host Hendrik Meijer, entrepreneur and author of the first complete biography of Senator Vandenberg. A story, as one commentator noted, that “every member of Congress should read… for lessons in leadership”.
Join us for an evening about the importance of NATO, the threats it faces today and a senator who put the greater good of the country ahead of partisanship.
Click on the video below to watch historical footage of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949.
Moderator: Roberta Haar