The decision by the twelve founding members to grant membership was taken at the Ottawa Conference on 20 September 1951, where a resolution was adopted to this effect. On that day, Belgian Foreign Minister, Van Zeeland stated: “The decision has been taken. The twelve members of the Pact have decided to invite Greece and Turkey to join them; to join them in their efforts to maintain peace.”
Expanding membership: strategically vital
The decision was a strategic one. It was taken at the beginning of the Cold War and just after the outbreak of the Korean War, a war that confirmed the Allies’ greatest fears: that if it were willing to extend its influence in Asia, the Soviet Union had the potential to attack Europe. The accession of both countries would provide an additional military guarantee to resist Soviet political pressure or armed attack, and serve to contain communism.
Turkey and Greece had requested NATO membership as early as 1950 and became members on the date of deposit of the instruments of accession with the Government of the United States of America, 18 February 1952.
60 years on
Turkey and Greece have greatly contributed to Alliance security during six decades, guarding NATO’s southern flank during the Cold War and, today, addressing new challenges such as violent extremism, or contributing to missile defence and stabilizing Afghanistan. Both countries are helping to find new ways of tackling these challenges and play a key role in reaching new partners in vital parts of the world. In turn, the Alliance is also key to their strategic thinking and even more so in a context of economic crisis and political turmoil among neighbouring countries in the region.
In the same way their contribution is just as valuable today as in 1952, the guarantee of collective defence has the same resonance as 60 years ago.