Speech Asking the Senate to Ratify the North Atlantic Treaty

Harry S. Truman

April 12, 1949

…This treaty is an expression of the desire of the people of the United States for peace and security, for the continuing opportunity to live and work in freedom.

Events in this century have taught us that we cannot achieve peace independently. The world has grown too small. The oceans to our east and west no longer protect us from the reach of brutality and aggression.

We have also learned-learned in blood and conflict-that if we are to achieve peace we must work for peace.

This knowledge has made us determined to do everything we can to insure that peace is maintained. We have not arrived at this decision lightly or without recognition of the effort it entails. But we cannot escape the great responsibility that goes with our stature in the world. Every action of this nation in recent years has demonstrated the overwhelming will of our people that the strength and influence of the United States shall be used in the cause of peace, justice, and freedom.

In this determination, our people wholeheartedly accepted the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Since then, we have worked unceasingly to reach international agreement through the United Nations and to make the United Nations a more effective instrument for its mighty task.

In the last year we have embarked on a great cooperative enterprise with the free nations of Europe to restore the vitality of the European economy-so important to the prosperity and peace of our country and the world.

The North Atlantic treaty is further evidence of our determination to work for a peaceful world. It is in accord with the action of the Senate last June when it signified its approval of our country’s associating itself in peace time with countries outside the Western Hemisphere in collective arrangements, within the framework of the United Nations Charter, designed to safeguard peace and security.

The twelve nations which have signed this treaty undertake to exercise their right of collective or individual self-defense against armed attack, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and subject to such measures as the Security Council may take to maintain and re-store international peace and security. The treaty makes clear the determination of the people of the United States and of our neighbors in the North Atlantic community to do their utmost to maintain peace with justice and to take such action as they may deem necessary if the peace is broken.

The people of the North Atlantic community have seen solemn agreement, designed to assure peace and the rights of small nations, broken one by one and the people of those nations deprived of freedom by terror and oppression. They are resolved that their nations shall not, one by one, suffer the same fate.

The nations signing this treaty share a common heritage of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. The American members of the North Atlantic community stem directly from the European members in tradition and in love of freedom. We have joined together in the progressive development of free institutions, and we have shared our moral and material strength in the present task of rebuilding from the devastation of war.

The security and welfare of each member of the community depend upon the security and welfare of all. None of us alone can achieve economic prosperity or military security. None of us alone can assure the continuance of freedom.

Together, our joint strength is of tremendous significance to the future of free men in every part of the world. For this treaty is clear evidence that differences in language and in economic and political systems are no real bar to the effective association of nations devoted to the great principles of human freedom and justice.

This treaty is only one step-although a long one-on the road to peace. No single action, no matter how significant, will achieve peace. We must continue to work patiently and carefully, advancing with practical, realistic steps in the light of circumstances and events as they occur, building the structure of peace soundly and solidly.

I believe that the North Atlantic treaty is such a step, based on the realities of the situation we face today and framed within the terms of the United Nations charter and Constitution of the United States.

In the conviction that the North Atlantic treaty is a great advance toward fulfillment of the unconquerable will of the people of the United States to achieve a just and enduring peace, I request the advice and consent of the Senate to its ratification.

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