Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Vandenberg Resolution (11 June 1948)

U.S. Senate resolution named for its sponsor, Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, that embraced internationalism and collective security. The Vandenberg Resolution, passed on 11 June 1948, was a defining moment in the diplomatic history of the United States. Confronting the growing challenges of the Cold War, the U.S. Senate, using the United Nations (UN) Charter as a model, paved the way for American membership in a defensive alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was formed in 1949. Vandenberg's sponsorship constituted a revolution in American foreign policy, which had traditionally eschewed military alliances, and guaranteed America's preeminence in international affairs. All the more remarkable was Vandenberg's support, as he had been an ardent isolationist prior to World War II.

Vandenberg, a Republican from Michigan, had developed a keen interest in foreign affairs since the advent of World War II. He was a U.S. delegate to the UN Conference in San Francisco (1945) and to the meetings of the UN General Assembly in London and New York (1946); had served as American advisor during the meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London, Paris, and New York (1946); was an American delegate to the Rio de Janeiro Conference that drafted the Rio Treaty on inter-American defense assistance; and, most critically, had chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) during 1947–1949.

On 11 April 1948, Secretary of State George C. Marshall and Undersecretary of State Robert M. Lovett initiated a series of conversations with Senator Tom Connally of Texas (the ranking Democrat on the SFRC) and Senator Vandenberg on the topic of the Soviet threat in general and the need for security in the North Atlantic in particular. Since March 1946, when former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his "Sinews of Peace" speech (also known as the "Iron Curtain" speech) in Fulton, Missouri, relations between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union had deteriorated badly. At the same time, the Canadian government was proposing the creation of a collective defense system for the West, with the British seemingly in support. The conversations and proposals ultimately led to Vandenberg championing American involvement in a politico-military alliance.

During April 1948, Vandenberg carefully prepared a resolution based on the precepts of the UN Charter. The six major clauses of the resolution were suspension of the veto on admitting new UN members and on concerns involving the peaceful settlement of international disputes, the establishment of bilateral or multilateral agreements to secure self-defense, involvement of the United States in such agreements that were in its national interests, the reinforcement of Article 51 of the UN Charter on the right to self-defense, reaffirmation of the role of the UN to secure world peace, and the need to strengthen the UN to render it more effective in its peacekeeping operations. The third component was perhaps the most significant, as it created a constitutional basis for the United States to enter into mutual defense agreements.

The Vandenberg Resolution (Senate Resolution 239 of the 80th Congress, 2nd Session) was approved by the Senate on 11 June 1948 by a vote of 64 to 4. The Vandenberg Resolution was a significant development in the history of the Cold War, as it provided a firm basis for American involvement in NATO.

William T. Walker

Further Reading
McCullough, David. Truman. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.; Tompkins, C. David. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg: The Evolution of a Modern Republican, 1884–1945. Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1970.; Vandenberg, Arthur H., Jr., ed. The Private Papers of Senator Vandenberg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952.

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