19:37 GMT03 July 2020
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    NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Hastings Ismay, once jokingly described the bloc's purpose as being to "keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down". The last part of this was never said in public, but recently declassified documents suggest that this was not a joke after all.

    Fascinating details of an undisclosed 1966 memo from US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara to President Lyndon B. Johnson were published in December by the National Security Archive, an NGO specialised at declassifying documents, drawing the attention of German media.

    According to the memo, the US was not just stationing troops in Europe during the Cold War to "contain" the USSR — it was also to discourage West Germany from striking a bilateral security pact with Moscow. Furthermore, McNamara argued that the US presence in Europe would help prevent "the revival of German militarism".

    Other declassified documents from the 1960s suggest that West Germany's entrance into the alliance was due to the fear of top US politicians that Germany outside of the bloc could become revanchist and strike a deal with the USSR. According to the documents, analysts at the US State Department also believed that the inclusion of West Germany in NATO would help "contain" the country and prevent the return of German militarism.

    While NATO's goal of containing the USSR in Europe was never a secret, containing Germany was not spoken publicly. The only exception to this are words attributed to NATO's first secretary general, Lord Hastings Ismay, who reportedly said that the alliance's goal was to "keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".

    READ MORE: NATO Members Agree to Locate New Logistics Command in Germany's Ulm — Reports

    Even after the Cold War's end, the now united Germany is still subject to limitations on its armed forces, including the number of its military personnel and capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. As of 2016, Berlin has begun to increase the size of its military, planning to add some 27,000 personnel by 2024. This will be the first time that the German armed forces grow in size since the end of the Cold War.


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    containment, NATO, West Germany, Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), USSR, United States
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