Best Defense

Did the French collapse in spring 1940 later help spur the creation of NATO?

Was NATO created partly as a response to the French collapse of May and June 1940?

ADN-ZB, II. Weltkrieg 1939-1945
Frankreich:
Waffenstillstand mit Frankreich im Wald vom Compiégne am 22.6.1940.
A. Hitler (2.v.r.) im Gespräch mit Generalen und anderen Führern des faschistischen deutschen Reiches. Links neben Hitler sein Stellvertreter R. Hess u. H. Göring, (links außen) J. v. Ribbentrop, Außenminister des faschistischen Staates, (rechts außen) Generaloberst W. v. Brauchitsch.
ADN-ZB, II. Weltkrieg 1939-1945 Frankreich: Waffenstillstand mit Frankreich im Wald vom Compiégne am 22.6.1940. A. Hitler (2.v.r.) im Gespräch mit Generalen und anderen Führern des faschistischen deutschen Reiches. Links neben Hitler sein Stellvertreter R. Hess u. H. Göring, (links außen) J. v. Ribbentrop, Außenminister des faschistischen Staates, (rechts außen) Generaloberst W. v. Brauchitsch.

 

Was NATO created partly as a response to the French collapse of May and June 1940?

I had that thought after reading a comment Churchill made to President Roosevelt in November 1944: “One must always realise that before five years are out a French army must be made to take on the main task of holding down Germany.” The realization that France likely would not be up to that task (plus bipartisan American distrust of De Gaulle) may have helped spur the creation of NATO a few years later. Of course, the Soviet threat lined up east of the German problem played a far bigger role.

Lord Lothian, the British ambassador to the U.S. early in the war, predicted in 1940 that if the U.S. did enter the war, the result would be “an extension of the Monroe Doctrine to cover the Western democracies and the seas in her own interests.” I suspect he was right. For what is NATO but that?

Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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