This month the North Atlantic Treaty Organization celebrates its 75th. And any individual would consider themselves fortunate it they were in as good shape.

NATO first saw the light of day on April 4th, 1949, when Canada, the U.S., the UK and nine other European states signed the founding treaty. Today it contains 31 members and will soon contain 32 with the addition of Sweden. It represents almost a billion people, the largest and most powerful military alliance in history.

It was born at a time when the Soviet Union, the main architect of the victory over Germany, was further flexing its muscles. It had already grabbed valuable Finnish territory and was preparing to make similar demands on Norway—rather similar to its current treatment of Ukraine. And Western leaders were concerned about a weakened Europe succumbing to yet another totalitarian temptation. With NATO, in combination with the U.S.-financed Marshall plan, the threats were answered and Europeans were able to choose the path of freedom.

The organization served its purpose well during the Cold War, becoming even more than a military alliance. Lester Pearson saw it as a “real commonwealth of nations” that could deepen their “political and economic unification.” The result was Article 2, the “Canadian clause,” that committed the parties to strengthening free institutions and encouraging economic collaboration among its members.

After tensions peaked during the Cuban missile crisis and then began to decline, many began to doubt the need for the organization. This increased when the U.S.S.R. collapsed under its own dead weight and broke apart.

Nonetheless, it continued to expand as some of the former Soviet republics sought security and democratic opportunity in NATO. And it found work to do, involving itself in the Balkans as communist Yugoslavia also collapsed, fracturing into often hostile republics. And then there was the ill-fated Afghanistan adventure, which seemed a stretch for a “North Atlantic” organization.

In any case, support declined as relationships between Eastern and Western Europe grew. Russian gas flowed into Western Europe and Western European cash flowed into Russia. As someone who has little use for militarism, I like many others had little regret if NATO was seeing its last days.

But no one imagined that Europe would throw up another Lebensraum-obsessed fascist so soon after the last one. Nor, it seemed, did anyone seem aware that the dream of restoring Peter the Great’s empire has remained very much alive among the Russian intelligentsia. But it did and it has.

So here we are. Back to 1939. Fortunately we are not totally unprepared as we were then. NATO has come to life, reinvigorated and growing. Echoing its original purpose, the organization confronts Stalin’s heir.

With some reluctance I admit that the Romans may have been right: si vis pacem, para vellum—if you want peace, prepare for war. So this near-pacifist wishes NATO a very happy birthday. And many more until fascism in all its forms departs Europe for good.

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