|17 March 1948
Brussels Pact Signed
|In the wake of World War II the idea of European economic and political integration became quite popular as a way of preventing the outbreak of future wars. The Marshall Plan encouraged this goal by requiring that European nations consult with one another in determining their needs for economic recovery. Therefore in 1947 diplomats from Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands began calling for the formation of a Western European Union that would include not only their countries, but Great Britain and France as well.
What provided the strongest impetus for European integration, however, was not economics but rather the threat of the Soviet Union. The refusal of the USSR to participate in the Marshall Plan and its obvious desire to dominate Eastern Europe worried many Europeans who feared that Stalin might try to conquer all Europe, as Hitler had done just a few years earlier. The communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February seemed proof of Stalin’s aggressive intentions, and on March 17 the Treaty on Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence was signed in the Belgian city of Brussels. Its main provision was a promise on the part of all who signed that they would come to the aid of any other signatory who was a victim of armed attack.
The Brussels Pact was a good first step, but given the size of the Red Army, everyone realized that there was little that the nations of the Western European Union could do on their own to resist a Soviet attack. Almost immediately, therefore, negotiations began for a wider alliance—one that would include the United States.