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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. Over strong objections by the USA, the Dutch government supported acceptance of the People's Republic of China as a member of the UN in 1971. Luns's successors as Foreign Secretary had fewer misgivings about decrying US overt and covert involvement in Latin America, and particularly in Vietnam. One of them, Max van der Stoel, took pride in labelling the Netherlands a 'critical ally'. In 1975 the Dutch even targeted Cuba as one of the countries on which to concentrate its development aid. Within NATO the change in Dutch policy is evidenced by an increased emphasis on arms control negotiations, and in particular on reduction of nuclear weapons. The proposed deployment in 1977-8 of the 'neutron bomb', or the 'enhanced radiation, reduced blast' weapon as it was called officially, met with strong public opposition in the Netherlands. More than 1.2 million citizens signed petitions against the neutron bomb, which probably contributed to the vote in the Dutch Parliament not to accept the proposals by the Carter administration. The episode of the neutron bomb is important, because the issue ('a bomb that kills people, but saves property') served to mobilise a large portion of the population into what became known as 'the peace movement': a loose coalition of Left-wing political parties, trade unions, fringe groups, and individuals, dominated by two organisations linked to the churches in the Netherlands, the Catholic Pax Christi and the ecumenical Interchurch Peace Council (IKV). The fact that President Carter eventually decided to shelve plans for the production and the deployment of the neutron bomb was interpreted by the peace movement as a victory, and reinforced its resolve.
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