The enlargement of NATO has received much attention recently. The inclusion of Central and Eastern European states in the 1990s generated significant controversy and debate. NATO had however already been through several rounds of enlargement between its inception in 1949 and 1982. In 1949 disagreement already existed over the membership of certain states. In 1952, the first official enlargement occurred as Greece and Turkey became members of the Western military alliance. In 1955, the German Federal Republic joined. In 1982, Spain became a member of NATO. All of these enlargements have received considerably less attention than the enlargements that occurred after the ‘end’ of the Cold War. The available work has mainly focussed on the views of the United States. In this thesis, the view of a smaller power, the Netherlands, is examined. How did its small power status affect its position on the NATO enlargements that occurred between 1949 and 1982? The findings show that the Netherlands’ small power status affected its government’s position on NATO enlargement several times and in different ways between 1949 and 1982. During the initial membership debate, the Netherlands was still heavily involved in a colonial conflict in Indonesia. In order to curb international pressure exerted through the United Nations Security Council, the Netherlands completely changed its position on the inclusion of Italy, which it had opposed before. The small power status of the Netherlands affected its stance towards the accession of Turkey and Greece. It was thought that the enlargement would impose new responsibilities on the smaller powers, that these states were simply not willing to take on. The smaller powers did not have as much strategic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East as the larger powers and therefore did not feel obliged to defend this area. In the case of German accession, the Netherlands’ size affected its position in two ways. Since small states rely on imports and exports more than larger states which have larger domestic markets, the inclusion of Germany in a stable Europe, both economically and militarily was of vital importance to an open, small economy like the Netherlands. Secondly, the Netherlands chose to support German rearmament through a NATO framework instead of a purely European option like the European Defence Community because this would maintain the Netherlands’ influence. In the case of Spanish accession, the Netherlands’ size does not seem to have affected its position. Although severe opposition to Spanish membership existed in the Netherlands, this was largely due to the religious and political composition of the country. Although the small power status of the Netherlands’ affected its position several times and in different ways, it was only one of several factors determining the Dutch stance on enlargement. For example, the preference for a culturally and politically homogeneous NATO membership also featured quite often in the positions taken by the Netherlands on this matter.

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Keywords NATO enlargement, Netherlands, Cold War, Alliances, Netherlands’ foreign policy, Small power, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, Greece, West Germany, Spain
Persistent URL
Series Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society
SIZING UP: THE NETHERLANDS’ VIEWS ON NATO ENLARGEMENT DURING THE COLD WAR, 1949-1982. (2019, June 28). SIZING UP: THE NETHERLANDS’ VIEWS ON NATO ENLARGEMENT DURING THE COLD WAR, 1949-1982. Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society. Retrieved from