Chapter 4 – U.S. “Containment” Strategy from Truman to Johnson - 1950 to 1968

Geneva Agreements on Indochina—July 1954. These agreements and other developments involving the United States are reviewed later in this chapter in Topic 11 on Vietnam.

SEATO—September 1954. The Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) Treaty (also known as “The Manila Pact”) was established in Manila, the Philippines, on September 8, 1954. The members of this defensive alliance were the United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan. A protocol signed by Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam brought them within the scope of the Treaty’s military and economic terms. The treaty became effective on February 19, 1955 and committed its members to:

the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and declaring that they will earnestly strive by every peaceful means to promote self-government and to secure the independence of all countries whose peoples desire it and are able to undertake its responsibilities. . . . [They pledged] continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid [to] maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack and to prevent and counter subversive activities directed from without against their territorial integrity and political stability. . . .

[Furthermore] each Party recognizes that aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area against any of the Parties or against any State or territory which the Parties by unanimous agreement may hereafter designate, would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that event act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. Measures taken under this paragraph shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations.7

NATO Expansion—October 1954, A Sovereign Germany—May 1955. In October 1954, nine European nations agreed to an alternative to the European Defense Community of integrated military forces, but this was rejected by the French parliament. A NATO Ministerial Conference agreed to terminate Germany’s occupation status (but, with German agreement, to keep foreign troops there) and to create a Western European Union, adding Germany and Italy. NATO formally admitted a sovereign West Germany as the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1955.

Post-Stalin Leadership Changes—1954 to 1955. In the months after Stalin’s death, the post-Stalin Soviet Union initially appeared more peaceful at home and abroad. In May 1954, the Soviet Union ratified the U.N. Genocide Convention that forbade the destruction of religious, racial, ethnic, or national groups. In February 1955, Marshal Bulganin replaced Stalin’s confederate Malenkov as chairman of the Soviet State Council. In August 1955, the Soviet government announced a 640,000-man reduction in the Soviet armed forces. In November 1955, Bulganin and Khrushchev traveled to India, Burma, and Afghanistan as part of a new Soviet campaign denouncing Western “colonialism” and promoting “peaceful coexistence.”

Soviet Withdrawals: The Austria State Treaty and Finland—1955. An unusual action of voluntary withdrawal of Soviet forces from an area they occupied occurred in May 1955, when the Soviet Union agreed at a four-power foreign ministers conference in Vienna to join in a peace treaty pushed by the Western allies. The treaty ended Austria’s occupation status in July 1955 and freed Austria to regain its sovereignty as a republic based on western democratic principles. (Note: In another rare, although only partial, withdrawal the Soviet-Finnish Treaty signed on September 19, 1955 provided for the return of the Parkalle naval base taken in 1947, but not Petsamo.)

The Formosa Resolution and Mutual Defense Treaty—January 1955. In the Far East, meanwhile, U.S. concern grew about the Communist People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military pressure on the Pescadores Islands, which were manned by Nationalist Chinese troops close to the mainland’s shores. In response, on January 29, 1955, the U.S. Congress passed the Formosa Resolution that provided U.S. Congressional authorization for the President to employ the armed forces of the United States to protect Formosa, the Pescadores, and related Republic of China-controlled areas under threat from PRC military forces. The resolution:

recognizes that an armed attack in the West Pacific Area directed against the territories of either of the Parties . . . would be dangerous to [each party’s] own peace and safety . . . [and that the President of the United States] hereby is authorized to employ the Armed Forces of the United States as he deems necessary for the specific purpose of securing and protecting [these territories] against armed attack.8

The Formosa Resolution has affected U.S.-China relations for decades and has been reaffirmed numerous times. Over a half century after its passage, it continues to be operational at this writing.

[Book pg. 81]