The United States and Neutrality/Nonalignment
Summary and Keywords
For almost a century and a half, successive American governments adopted a general policy of neutrality on the world stage, eschewing involvement in European conflicts and, after the Quasi War with France, alliances with European powers. Neutrality, enshrined as a core principle of American foreign relations by the outgoing President George Washington in 1796, remained such for more than a century.
Finally, in the 20th century, the United States emerged as a world power and a belligerent in the two world wars and the Cold War. This article explores the modern conflict between traditional American attitudes toward neutrality and the global agenda embraced by successive U.S. governments, beginning with entry in the First World War. With the United States immersed in these titanic struggles, the traditional U.S. support for neutrality eroded considerably. During the First World War, the United States showed some sympathy for the predicaments of the remaining neutral powers. In the Second World War it applied considerable pressure to those states still trading with Germany. During the Cold War, the United States was sometimes impatient with the choices of states to remain uncommitted in the global struggle, while at times it showed understanding for neutrality and pursued constructive relations with neutral states. The wide varieties of neutrality in each of these conflicts complicated the choices of U.S. policy makers. Americans remained torn between memory of their own long history of neutrality and a capacity to understand its potential value, on one hand, and a predilection to approach conflicts as moral struggles, on the other.
Two episodes in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War illustrate the potential pitfalls of neutrality amid total wars. The better known is, of course, the Athenian expedition against the neutral island of Melos in 416 bce. In a parley before the battle the Melians—boasting a long history of independence—rebuffed Athenian demands that they surrender their city. When asked what harm Melian neutrality did to Athens, the Athenians replied that it represented a standing challenge to their city’s power: if the independent states survived, it could only be because Athens felt intimidated by them.1 The Athenians, moreover, dismissed the Melian suggestion that invading the island might drive other neutral powers together, observing that clear distinctions existed between the remaining Greek neutrals. Grasping at various hopes—support from a league of neutrals, intervention by Athens’s rival Sparta, and the fortunes of the battlefield—the outnumbered Melians chose to resist, with disastrous consequences.
This grim chapter in human history is often invoked in international relations classes to illustrate the perils of the state system and the ways by which power is often coldly wielded. It does, to an extent, also reflect the sometime fate of neutral states faced by a merciless great power. Yet a subsequent chain of events in the Peloponnesian War is far more representative of both the challenge of maintaining neutrality and the predicament neutrality can pose for combatants. A year later, Athens launched an expedition against the prosperous city-states of Sicily, Syracuse chief among them. Forewarned of the Athenian offensive, the Syracusans sought to rally their neighbors, including the neutral state of Camarina. Frustrated by Camarinaean pleas of neutrality, the Syracusan general Hermocrates questioned whether his neighbors were truly acting in a neutral fashion:
You need not think that your prudent policy of taking sides with neither, because allies of both, is either safe for you or fair to us. Practically it is not as fair as it pretends to be. If the vanquished be defeated, and the victor conquer, through your refusing to join, what is the effect of your abstention but to leave the former to perish unaided, and to allow the latter to offend unhindered?2
The unnamed Athenian envoys to Melos gained a posterity denied to the Syracusan Hermocrates, and yet the latter voiced a criticism of neutrality that would echo across successive millennia. Combatants in total conflicts regarded declarations of neutrality with frustration or suspicion, while neutral states found it difficult to maintain a safe middle course.
In the critical early formative years of the American republic, neutrality represented both foreign policy and a domestic creed. Having decried the “baneful effects of the spirit of party” in his final presidential address, George Washington felt compelled to elucidate the dangers of a “passionate attachment” to any foreign power. Alliances, by Washington’s reckoning, not only risked needless American involvement in European “quarrels and wars … without adequate justification”; they also established “avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways.”3
This seamless linkage between outward neutrality and domestic tranquility, set forth in the most important foreign policy address in early U.S. history, resonated long after Washington departed office. A century later, the newly inaugurated President William McKinley praised “the policy of non-interference with affairs of foreign governments wisely inaugurated by Washington, keeping ourselves free from entanglement, either as allies or foes.”4 A prudent yet idealistic middle position in 1796 represented by 1897 a canonized doctrine. When the United States fought Spain the following year, the war produced no significant conflicts with the neutral European great powers. Washington accorded generous recognition of neutral rights, while the main European powers maintained a careful neutrality.5 Proudly neutral themselves, Americans entered the 20th century sympathetic to the preservation of neutral rights.
The American rise to world power, however, proved a powerful countervailing force to both the American neutral tradition and the sympathy Americans were prepared to extend to other neutral states. Three global conflicts in the 20th century fundamentally tested the professed American belief in a right to neutrality. In part, the ensuing conflicts between the United States and the neutrals were Hermocratean in nature: stemming from the perception that a given state’s neutrality did not divest it of responsibility for the ultimate outcome of the conflict. This, in turn, sprang from the ways by which Americans perceived the world wars and Cold War: as titanic and ultimately moral struggles over the fate of humanity. The powerful role of religion in the history of American foreign policy further inclined successive generations of Americans toward a crusading vision during wartime.6 Cloaked in righteousness, Americans could and did rationalize violations of neutrality as necessary acts.
Still, Americans had not forgotten their own long history of neutrality. The 20th century witnessed repeated efforts to reconcile newfound global commitments with the prior and long-standing American support for neutral rights. “We were a young country once,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked in 1956, “and our whole policy for the first 150 years was, we were neutral.”7 Wartime exigencies, moreover, thrust the United States into alliances with a variety of foreign powers, forcing difficult choices about the extent to which Washington would underwrite the agendas of its friends. The demands of solidarity were powerful and resonated domestically, but these did not relieve the United States of difficult choices. The American decision, when disputes pitted neutrals against allies, was not a foregone conclusion. A greater tendency toward Manicheanism emerged over time in the American approach to neutrality, but so, too, did U.S. policy makers come to value and respect neutrality in particular contexts. This conflict between ideology, memory, and pragmatism emerged initially in the year and a half of U.S. belligerency during the First World War.
The Great War
Germany’s 1914 invasion of neutral Belgium at the outset of the First World War aroused considerable domestic outrage and sympathy, amplified by reports of widespread depredations by the occupying power. Even so, President Woodrow Wilson stopped short of a formal protest.8 The preservation of U.S. neutrality, already tested by thorny questions of finance and commerce, came before universal assertions of the rights of neutrals. Wilson proved far more tenacious in his defense of U.S. trade with belligerents: a trade that grossly favored the Triple Entente and which contributed over time to a collision course with Germany.
At the same time, the U.S. adoption of neutrality at the outset of the war nominally situated its foreign policy closer to that of the numerous states that had followed the same course: the Netherlands, the Scandinavian powers, and the states of Latin America among them. As the most powerful neutral state, the United States was in a clear position to lobby effectively for the rights of all neutrals and perhaps to form an association of neutral powers. The Wilson administration did act forcefully on perceived infringements of U.S. rights, most notably in its opposition to German submarine warfare and the British blacklist, but showed little interest in coordination. Scandinavian and Latin American inquiries elicited a tepid response from the U.S. State Department, which tilted toward the Associated Powers after the appointment of Robert Lansing as secretary of state.9
The Norwegian historian Nils Ørvik notes a sharp distinction between the forms of neutrality practiced by the Scandinavians on one hand and the United States on the other. Simply put, the risks posed by the war to European neutrals were far graver, entailing not only depredations against commerce but also the risk of aerial attack and invasion—by either the Central or the Associated Powers. With some variation, the grievances of European neutrals were also distributed more evenly between the two opposing coalitions. While German submarine and mine attacks menaced their commerce, so too did European neutrals face substantial pressure from the United Kingdom to limit their trade with the Central Powers. Small, weak states beholding a conflagration of unprecedented ferocity and technological sophistication, they perceived little room in which to maneuver. The Scandinavian states, deeply dependent upon coastal commerce in the North and Baltic Seas, endured substantially greater losses of lives and property. Norway, one twenty-fifth the size of the United States, suffered three times the number of U.S. maritime deaths, while losing half of its merchant marine.10 As the nameless Athenian envoy had once said, the strong did what they could, and the weak suffered what they must.
Despite the real gulf separating the United States and other neutrals, the Wilson administration belatedly attempted, in the wake of Germany’s January 1917 return to unrestricted submarine warfare, to create a concert of neutrals. As he severed relations with Berlin on February 3, Wilson directed a reluctant Secretary of State Robert Lansing to petition the other neutral states to follow suit. Without exception, the European neutrals declined, and indeed the Wilson administration enjoyed few successes outside the Western Hemisphere, where its leverage was far greater and the threat of German retaliation substantially less.11
U.S. entry into the war, as David C. Hendrickson perceptively writes, marked a fundamental shift in the American attitude toward neutrality. Wilson’s war address before Congress constituted “the peculiar moment when the older and newer conceptions of neutrality stood side by side, eyeing each other warily but without full comprehension of their mutual incompatibility.” Having decried reckless German assaults upon neutral shipping and their irreplaceable cost in human lives, Wilson pivoted toward a startling conclusion: “Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved.” In the coming age, “nations and their governments” would be held to the same standards of “conduct and responsibility” as ordinary citizens.12 Far from Sicily—the New World of the 5th century bce—Hermocrates’ logic had found a new and powerful adherent.
As a belligerent, the United States approached neutrality quite differently. A sudden and revealing reversal in the U.S. stance toward neutrality occurred shortly after the declaration of war, affecting the most important remaining European neutral: the Netherlands. The sole Low Country left untouched by the German offensive of 1914, the Netherlands had, like the United States, sought to preserve its neutrality, even as it developed a lucrative overland trade with Germany. Close relations during the phase of shared neutrality deteriorated precipitously after U.S. entry, particularly as the United States, in collaboration with its British ally, began to interfere with Dutch commerce, initially by insisting upon the use of Dutch merchant vessels and limiting their departures from port. In March 1918, however, the United States acted alongside its ally in seizing 137 Dutch vessels, a third of the country’s entire merchant marine, offering a hollow, archaic legal justification. Military necessity provided the sole actual cause: with the German spring offensive in full sway, the Allies needed merchant hulls desperately. Dutch anger focused more intensely upon their former fellow neutral than on the British, who had at least been consistent in their policy of interference. The seizure heightened, moreover, the risk of the Netherlands being drawn fully into the Great War.13 The historian Thomas A. Bailey, in an account quite favorable to U.S. policy, terms the episode “the single most spectacular act of force employed by the United States against the neutrals.”14 In a spirited but uncommon dissent, the Nation magazine opined about the seizures:
If we must win this war by adopting the principle that might is right, let us prate no more of moral justifications, let us weep no more tears for Belgium and Servia [sic]. Let us not allow ourselves to be held up before the neutral world as hypocrites who believe in principles when they work to our advantage, and who toss them into the scrap basket when they get in our way.15
Even so, the consideration of neutral rights took a distinct second place behind military necessity. The urgency of the situation on the western front, particularly in the wake of the Russian military collapse, drove the Wilson administration toward general support of British efforts to curtail neutral trade with Germany. U.S. belligerent policy toward neutrals varied noticeably on a case-by-case basis. Norway, which had suffered severe maritime losses while trading with the Allies, benefited somewhat from U.S. sympathy. Responding to British efforts to curtail Norwegian trade with Germany, Wilson wrote “I do not feel that I can … demand of Norway what we would not … allow any government to demand of us.”16 Similarly, in 1918, the United States proved unsympathetic to its British ally’s plan to deploy mines in Norwegian coastal waters (thereby closing a critical gap in London’s North Sea minefields).17
Sweden posed greater challenges. A traditional foe of Russia, Sweden potentially had much to gain from the collapse of the Tsarist Empire, including islands it had lost to the tsars a century before, and enjoyed a lucrative iron ore export trade with Germany. Thus Stockholm practiced a “benevolent neutrality” toward Germany through much of the war. In the war’s final years, London and Washington pressed Stockholm to reduce its exports of ore to Germany, while also attempting to secure some use of Sweden’s merchant marine. In the ensuing talks, American demands on Sweden were sometimes greater than Britain’s, yet it appears that London cannily maneuvered the United States into holding the more severe negotiating position. A May 1918 agreement secured both four hundred thousand tons of Swedish shipping and a significant reduction of ore exports.18 A measure of empathy was apparent in these Scandinavian cases, but so was a healthy realism. Excessive pressure on the Nordic neutrals—especially Sweden—might have driven them into the arms of the Central Powers.
The United States faced particular difficulties in the one region of the world where neutrality prevailed after its own entry into the war: Latin America. Specific grievances against Washington, wariness about entering the war, and anxiety about Wilson’s hemispheric projects jointly complicated U.S. efforts to recruit cobelligerents. Only Brazil, among the region’s major states, joined the war—angered by German attacks on its maritime commerce.19 Pro-German sentiment and suspicion of the northern colossus drove Chile to resist U.S. entreaties to enter the war.20 Argentine neutrality reinforced that of its western neighbor. Argentine President Hipólyto Yrigoyen attempted to convene a conference of neutrals and sought to create a regional association that excluded the United States. The sinking of Argentine ships by German U-boats and the Anglo-American disclosure of secret, scathing German diplomatic correspondence about his government did not shake Yrigoyen from his course.21 Far to the north, Mexico, in the throes of civil war, held fresh grievances against the Wilson administration for its repeated military interventions but also bore a healthy fear of invasion. Clumsy German efforts to enlist Mexico as an ally against the United States—chiefly the infamous “Zimmermann Telegram”—had already backfired spectacularly. Mexico nevertheless remained a battlefield between German and American intelligence services.22
With the war concluded, Wilson’s pursuit of a just and lasting peace disinclined him toward further action against neutrals. Having undermined Dutch neutrality during the war, Wilson was nevertheless less punitive toward the Dutch than his European allies. At the Paris Peace Conference, his secretary of state, Robert Lansing, proved unsympathetic to Belgian designs on Dutch territory. Nor was Washington vexed, as its Entente partners had been, by the refusal of the Netherlands to extradite the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm.23 Wilson accepted Swiss requests for a qualified membership in the League of Nations, consonant with their traditional neutrality; he also supported their aspiration to host the new organization in Geneva.24 Washington was similarly supportive of Danish efforts to regain the province of Schleswig, which had been lost to Prussia in 1864.25 If the United States had been unexpectedly severe toward the neutrals as a combatant, its conciliatory postwar policy toward them hinted at a return to prewar attitudes. So, too, did the subsequent American retreat from involvement in European affairs, which stopped short of isolationism but constituted a spirited return to the neutral tradition.
Even so, Americans, during their short war, adopted the belligerent’s perspective. Some balance of historically founded sympathy and prudence moderated their conduct, but they felt much the same urgency as their senior partners within the Entente. In a postwar memoir, Ira Nelson Morris, the U.S. minister in Stockholm, recorded his regrets about the mistaken inclusion of Swedish firms on the black list, which penalized entities known to trade with the Central Powers. Nevertheless, he concluded:
The exigencies of warfare, unfortunately, cannot take much account of the rights of the weak. The only excuse to be offered is that these black lists helped win the war. And that was all we were thinking of at the time.26
The United States and the Neutrals in the Second World War
Postwar American disaffection led to a return to neutrality but with one twist. Mindful of the chain of events that had eroded U.S. neutrality in the Great War, isolationists in the 1930s sought to disavow the concept of neutral rights. Neutrality without rights constituted a new but transient interpretation. As Ørvik writes, “The Americans wanted to stay out of war and were willing to do almost anything to that end.”27 Successive Neutrality Acts, intended to insulate the United States from involvement in another European war, were ultimately undermined creatively by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: through legal revision after the German invasion of Poland, through the leasing of ninety-nine Great War–era destroyers to Britain, and finally through the 1941 passage of Lend-Lease. American neutrality ended long before Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s aircraft reached Oahu.
Tacit U.S. support of Britain, in fact, obligated the Roosevelt administration to monitor the neutrality of Europe’s few remaining nonbelligerents. The defeat of France, in June 1940, followed the conquest of three Great War–era neutrals by Adolf Hitler: the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark. Sweden maintained a vulnerable neutrality, sandwiched between Finland and Nazi-occupied Norway. Switzerland was entirely engulfed in Axis Europe, although its terrain and extensive fortifications afforded it some defensibility. Turkey and the Iberian states, Spain and Portugal, benefited from their geographic marginality. Of the neutrals, Spain seemed most likely to join the war. General Francisco Franco owed much to German and Italian assistance during the Spanish Civil War, and he looked eagerly toward reaping some of the spoils produced by the defeat of France. All of the neutrals, nevertheless, engaged in significant trade with the Third Reich. Preventing Spanish belligerency emerged as the foremost objective in U.S. policy toward the war’s neutral states, limiting or eliminating neutral trade with Berlin was feasible only after the war began to shift in a more favorable direction.
On June 13, 1940, Spain changed its wartime status from neutrality to “nonbelligerency.” The status lacked any international legal meaning; it was best regarded as a form of pre-belligerency, as the fascist government in Madrid hoped for territorial gains at the expense of Britain and France. Italy had made a similar declaration—and then followed it by invading France. Of the European neutrals, Spain was both the most pro-Axis and the one most capable of influencing the direction of the war. Spanish entry into the conflict risked, at a stroke, closing off the Mediterranean to Allied shipping and defeating British and Commonwealth forces in the North African theater. Another nonbelligerent power, however, acted to dampen Franco’s ardor for intervention in the global conflagration. The U.S. government acted quietly, and in some coordination with the United Kingdom, to limit oil and food exports to Spain in the summer of 1940. Franco pined for a place in Hitler’s New Order, but the preexisting economic order left him dependent on Anglo-American imports. He committed a division of Spanish troops to the invasion of the Soviet Union the following year and was rewarded by a tightening of the Allied vise. U.S. entry into the war finally pushed Spain away from nonbelligerence, toward something superficially like neutrality.28
Some variation existed among the wartime neutrals in their relationship to the war. While they were imperiled by Nazi advances, European neutrals—those still left by June 1941—also found trade with the Third Reich highly profitable, particularly in the field of raw minerals. States like Switzerland and Sweden were geographically engulfed within the Nazi empire and vulnerable to economic and military coercion. Swiss steel and Swedish iron ore were critical commodities for the Reich, and both countries also afforded Germany transit privileges across their territory. Less vulnerable, more peripheral states, Portugal and Turkey, were still cowed by German power and earned considerable revenue from tungsten and chromite exports, respectively. Even distant, neutral Afghanistan seemed to take careful stock of the ebbs and flows of the eastern front. Not coincidentally, the first U.S. legation in Kabul opened in 1942.29
Until the midpoint of the war, the Western allies enjoyed relatively little leverage in their efforts to check Nazi trade with European neutrals. Nazi-neutral commerce persisted in considerable volume past the pivotal battles of early 1943. In separate negotiations that year, the United States sought to reduce, if not eliminate outright the export of war materials to Germany, making sharper demands upon the Swiss, Swedes, and Spanish than the British thought advisable. “Thus it was,” wrote Dean Acheson later, “on all the neutral fronts the same crisis flowered on the same central issue with pretty much the same division of forces.”30 Accordingly, on April 9, 1944, Secretary of State Cordell Hull issued a direct warning to the neutrals: “We can no longer acquiesce in these nations’ drawing upon the resources of the allied world when they at the same time contribute to the death of troops whose sacrifice contributes to their salvation as well as ours.”31 Months before the landings at Normandy, the Allies went on the diplomatic offensive, seeking to circumscribe neutral-Axis commerce.
In some cases, the United States seemed keen to apply greater pressure than did the United Kingdom. More than Washington, London appreciated the humanitarian role played by the Swiss in Nazi-occupied Europe and sought to limit U.S. demands against Berne in 1944. Still, by August 1944, the U.S. State Department sought to terminate all trade between Switzerland and its northern neighbor. Despite British concern, Washington pressed ahead, securing the cessation of military exports on October 1, 1944. The sudden, unexplained end of rail traffic from now-liberated France into Switzerland applied further pressure on the beleaguered Swiss, who conceded entirely in negotiations in early 1945. The immediate postwar years witnessed further Helvetic-American acrimony on the question of repatriating German accounts and stolen assets (which would resurface again, to Switzerland’s great discomfort, in the 1990s).32
The allies drew apart, again, on the question of how sharply to press Sweden to cease exporting ball bearings to Germany, with London taking a more conciliatory course.33 Roundell Palmer (Lord Selborne), the British minister of economic warfare, termed a U.S. proposal to blacklist Swedish firms a “fatal blunder.” He observed:
All those who have intimate knowledge of Sweden advise me that there would be every likelihood of the Swedes reacting most unfavourably. One must never lose sight of the fact that the smaller European nations, especially those who have so far successfully resisted Hitler’s attempts to dominate them, are touchy on the point of threats to an extent that amounts almost to an inferiority complex.34
Even so, the United States continued to press the Swedes to limit and—with the Third Reich’s defeat imminent—utterly eliminate their trade with Germany. They succeeded in gaining a pledge from Stockholm to cease trade with Berlin on January 1, 1945, having abandoned demands for a total break of relations. Washington unsuccessfully sought, thereafter, to proscribe Swedish trade with Nazi-occupied Norway and Denmark; here the Swedes held out.35
Anglo-American diplomacy toward fascist Spain was visibly uncoordinated, offering the now-panicked Franco regime a greater degree of maneuverability.36 In the distant case of Argentina, perceived within Washington to be pursuing a pro-Axis neutrality, London again adopted a softer line, motivated to some degree by its separate economic interests.37 Turkey offers a countervailing case. Frustrated by his failure to enlist Turkey in the war in 1944, Winston Churchill adopted a more punitive attitude toward Ankara than did his American partners, who had viewed the entire enterprise with skepticism, as a diversion from a direct assault across the English Channel.38 This, however, constituted a very specific exception, tied directly to the critical Allied strategic debates of 1943 and the preponderant British interest in the eastern Mediterranean region.
One might regard the general pattern of the British good cop and American bad cop as the product of regional geopolitical calculations. Uncertain about the postwar U.S. commitment to Europe and more proximate to the few significant wartime neutrals, Britain had to think more carefully of the postwar order and, in particular, about the implications of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. Similarly, London drew back from more punitive American schemes for postwar Germany. Yet the case of Argentina, tied to Britain economically but well within the U.S. sphere envisioned in Roosevelt’s notion of the Four Policemen, suggests that broader perceptions about the conflict were at stake. There, wartime threat perceptions and frustrations with neutrality carried over into the immediate aftermath of the war and into the early Cold War years, when the U.S. ambassador in Buenos Aires, Spruille Braden, embarked upon an ill-considered campaign against President Juan Perón.39
The American commitment to victory in the Second World War, forged in the wake of Pearl Harbor and enshrined in the Casablanca Declaration, with its call for the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers, afforded less room for neutrality. The diplomatic offensive of 1944 suggests that wartime expediency was the primary factor staying Washington’s hand. Britain, which had battled Germany longer and at far greater cost, was altogether more prudent and less severe in its approach to the neutrals. Some sense of the righteousness with which Americans viewed the struggle—and their newfound impatience with protestations of the traditional commercial rights of neutral states—can be discerned in the words of Thomas K. Finletter, head of the Division of Defense Materials (and future U.S. ambassador to NATO—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Referring to the postwar trials of the Nazi leadership, he wrote:
We must, I think, regard Nuremberg as striking down finally the premise of international law that the trade of neutrals with aggressor nations is a right. We may perhaps go even further and assert that now that aggressive war is a crime, it is the positive duty of nations not to be neutral, but to do their fair share in suppressing the criminality.40
These tendencies, forged in the most destructive conflict in human history, rose readily to the fore when applied to neutrality in the Cold War, by many of the same individuals who had waged the Second World War.
The United States and Emergent Nonalignment
Neutrality, in the Cold War era, posed the greatest challenges outside of the clearly delineated zones of Europe. Compared with the question of Cold War nonalignment, the questions raised by neutrality during the world wars had been relatively straightforward. The United States and its allies had engaged initially in damage limitation and then an aggressive program of rolling back neutral commerce with Germany. The neutrals, moreover, had been hamstrung by their weakness, geographic isolation, and vulnerability to economic pressure. As Neville Wylie writes, they had also failed to coordinate when they were more numerous, before the Nazi offensives of 1940.41 Pressure could thus be applied to them once the Allies gained the offensive. In the cases of Turkey and Argentina, the Allies were even able to extract symbolic but militarily irrelevant February 1945 declarations of war against the Axis powers.
Neutrality and nonalignment during the Cold War presented a far more complex and varied problem. The postwar collapse of European empires added dozens of new states to the international system, many of which refused to take sides in the East-West struggle. The ties between postcolonial, nonaligned states were extensive and long-standing, tracing back to the solidarity of independence movements in the interwar years. Diplomacy between nonaligned states was increasingly active, rising to the level of institutionalization. At its height, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) counted a majority of the world’s sovereign states as members (although not all attendees to its conferences could claim to be uncommitted in the Cold War).
The nature of the Cold War, moreover, made it easier to remain uncommitted. The devastation of Europe during the Second World War, American fears of a garrison state, and the development of a Soviet nuclear capability limited the West’s military options and obligated it to seek allies elsewhere in the world. So, too, did the consistent importance of political warfare and the widespread belief that the Cold War was a contest for global opinion. The openly coercive measures employed during the final years of the Second World War held greater risks if employed against uncommitted states in the Cold War world, particularly after they began to band together in forums like the NAM. The ideological nature of the conflict, moreover, which pitted rival political and economic systems against each other, added to the relative leverage of postcolonial states, enabling some among them to solicit aid from both the capitalist and communist blocs.
The case should not, though, be overstated: nonalignment held its own dangers as well as opportunities. The universal ideologies that accorded symbolic importance to distant, impoverished states also, over time, acted to constrain or even destabilize them. West and East alike scrutinized the expressed views of nonaligned states exhaustively, while indigenous political developments often complicated the efforts of governments to remain uncommitted. Cold War nonalignment, moreover, did not entail the reticence of traditional wartime neutrality. The nonaligned states committed themselves to a broad global agenda and often individually held expansive local objectives as well. The former often served to bind them, while the latter were often potent sources of division.
India emerged, early in the Cold War, as the most significant nonaligned state—indeed, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of nonalignment before independence. An aversion to enlistment in European struggles stretched back decades within the colonial states. “India,” he declared in January 1947, “wants to remain independent and free of all these blocs.”42 Indo-American disagreements over the Korean War forecast the shape of arguments yet to come. Although India initially voted to condemn the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950, Washington and New Delhi drew apart, as the former went on the offensive in the autumn. Nehru, fearing a broader conflagration, opposed a United Nations resolution calling for the unification of Korea.43 Continued friction over Indian efforts to resolve the conflict contributed to a sense of mutual disaffection by the war’s conclusion. “When the chips were down,” declared Senate Majority Leader William Knowland (R-Calif.) in 1954 with regard to Korea, “India was not there.”44
The Indian outlook on the Cold War, however, was shared by other leaders in Africa and Asia, among them Indonesian President Sukarno and Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Along with Nehru, Nasser objected to the encroachment of Anglo-American security pacts in the Middle East and South Asia during the early Eisenhower years.45 Sukarno, for his part, worked to unite the postcolonial world, hosting a much-heralded summit at the Indonesian resort city of Bandung in April 1955. Geography, not alignment, constituted the organizing principle of the famous conference. Sukarno spoke dramatically and eloquently of the potential role the postcolonial states could play in staving off nuclear Armageddon, aiding each other in economic development, and liberating those lands still under the colonial boot.46
The Eisenhower administration regarded the Bandung meeting warily, particularly concerned by the presence of a delegation from the People’s Republic of China. It considered but dismissed as counterproductive any efforts to dissuade states from attending. They feared that the attendees would endorse the PRC’s claim to Jinmen and Mazu, two embattled islands held by the rival Republic of China and located dangerously close to the mainland. In the end, rousing defenses of alignment with the West and condemnations of Soviet policies in Eastern Europe assuaged Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles’s anxieties about the conference.
Even so, the Eisenhower administration wrestled with the concept of nonalignment (which they often referred to as “neutralism”). Eisenhower spoke often of his own nation’s long history of neutrality and thought it was a reasonable choice for newly independent states in a perilous world. In particular instances they battled a skeptical, reflexively anticommunist Congress in defense of aid to nonaligned countries, particularly Yugoslavia. Even so, Eisenhower’s thinking on the issue was clearest when he framed the problem militarily. Stable noncommunist neutral states could conceivably be better bulwarks against communism than weak allies, with governments lacking in domestic credibility. Still, Eisenhower told the National Security Council in February 1956 that neutrality “should mean a moral, spiritual, and possibly, a political commitment to our side.”47 Neutrality, classically defined, has never meant that. Dulles, who felt more strongly on the matter, termed neutrality in the Cold War “immoral” in a 1956 speech that earned him considerable infamy throughout the nonaligned world.
Consequently, the Eisenhower administration boasted a mixed record in its policy response to nonalignment. It had wisely refrained from interference with Bandung, and yet it found itself confronting nonaligned governments in Africa and Asia. In early 1956, angered by Nasser’s acceptance of arms from communist Czechoslovakia, Eisenhower withdrew a loan intended to support the Egyptian leader’s Aswan High Dam project. In response, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, leading, in turn, to a military confrontation with Israel, Britain, and France. The three powers acted without consulting Washington and, in turn, evoked an angry response from the Eisenhower administration when they invaded Egyptian territory. Precipitate action by the three powers had jeopardized U.S. standing throughout the Middle East, if not the postcolonial world; Eisenhower and Dulles acted swiftly and forcefully to rein in their errant allies. Even so, they continued to distrust Nasser and sought over the following two years to contain his influence in the region.48
Eisenhower’s policy toward Indonesia proved more confrontational. Alarmed by Sukarno’s centralization of power, acceptance of Soviet aid, and tacit alliance with the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), he and Dulles supported a massive covert action program directed against the Indonesian government. By late 1956, the Eisenhower White House had begun covert operations against Indonesia, which escalated the following year, as the Central Intelligence Agency funneled assistance to rebels on the islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi. Yet the Indonesian military remained loyal to the government on the central island of Java and received critical evidence of U.S. involvement in the revolts when it captured an American pilot engaged in a bombing mission in support of the rebels. Recognizing defeat, the United States hurriedly disengaged from the rebels in mid-1958 and attempted to mend fences with a wary Sukarno. Covert actions that undermined nonaligned governments were undertaken elsewhere in Southeast Asia: in Burma, Laos, and Cambodia. U.S. aid to remnants of the Kuomintang in northern Burma fostered considerable anger from the government in Rangoon and likely contributed to the erosion of civilian rule in that state.49
Yet Eisenhower was capable of changing course. He remained avidly interested in relations with New Delhi, perceiving a potential utility in Indian nonalignment. Indian development, while statist, at least offered a noncommunist alternative to the model promoted by China. Similarly, Eisenhower rethought his policy toward Egypt in the wake of the emergence of a more radical regime in Iraq—in a clear rebuke of his Asian alliance system. Yugoslavia constituted a success story for Eisenhower-era diplomacy. Despite considerable domestic anticommunist sentiment and advocacy by Croatian-American groups, Eisenhower realized the critical significance of Josip Broz Tito’s break from the bloc. U.S. aid continued to flow to Belgrade, although military deliveries became a particularly sensitive issue in the United States.50 Nonaligned leaders spoke bitterly in subsequent years about Dulles, but the trend in relations between the United States and the leading states of the nonaligned world was positive toward the end of the 1950s.
Critical issues remained, however, with the great potential to divide Washington from the postcolonial world. The year 1960 brought the apogee of decolonization, as France granted independence to seventeen of its African colonies. Belgium granted a hasty independence to the Congo, its sprawling and grievously misgoverned colony in Central Africa, while acting to maintain control behind the scenes. The Congo quickly spun into chaos. Congolese nationalists, led by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, strove to free the country from Belgian control. The Eisenhower administration perceived Lumumba as a dangerous radical and sought his ouster. When he escaped from protective custody in the capital of Leopoldville, the Central Intelligence Agency sought to assist in his apprehension. Captured by the government, Lumumba was ultimately flown to the breakaway province of Katanga, where he was murdered days before the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as president.
Lumumba’s disappearance and murder symbolized the looming terror of neocolonialism to the new states of Africa and Asia. The explicit rule of the colonialist might be replaced not by true independence but by a veiled, yet similarly oppressive regime. Elsewhere on the continent, the killing of nearly seventy black South Africans and the wounding of hundreds more by police in the township of Sharpeville focused the world’s attention on the injustices of apartheid. Moreover, the Cuban revolution, in 1958–1959, highlighted the apparent vulnerability of Latin America to radical upheaval. Eisenhower’s late-term diplomatic successes with the more established nonaligned states did not preclude a general sense of panic about the direction of the Cold War in the postcolonial world.
Engaging the Nonaligned World
The Kennedy administration arrived in office with a general sense of alarm about the prospects of revolution in the Third World. Kennedy held a particular interest in the problems of postcolonial states and had delivered a much-noted and controversial 1957 speech in favor of Algerian independence. He brought with him into office liberal Democrats who viewed the independence movements of the postcolonial world sympathetically and others who believed that nonaligned states could themselves offer a form of containment to the expansion of communism. Although the planned economy held particular appeal as a model of development, nonaligned leaders often stood apart from domestic communist parties. Wary of conflating the nationalism of the Third World with communism, Kennedy believed that a cautious, patient approach to the nonaligned states might bear fruit. “We do not always expect to find them supporting our view,” he declared in his famous inaugural address. “But we shall always hope to find them supporting their own freedom.”51
Kennedy’s inauguration was well received in the postcolonial world, where expectations ran high for the new and presumably more sympathetic president. He faced a spate of crises in the area: the ongoing disintegration of the Congo, the eruption of rebellions in Portuguese Africa, and lingering colonial conflicts elsewhere in the world. Newer rivalries, including the India-Pakistan and Arab-Israeli conflicts, also threatened to force difficult choices upon the new administration. All this occurred in an unparalleled period of Cold War tension, as consecutive crises in Berlin and the Caribbean tested the administration severely.
Kennedy’s policy toward the nonaligned states employed three principal tactics. Like his predecessor, the new president was an energetic and effective practitioner of presidential diplomacy. “He is charming and was very gracious to me,” remarked Sukarno after an April 1961 visit.52 Guinea’s Sekou Touré, whose country had been shunned by the Eisenhower administration for months after independence in 1958, regarded Kennedy as a good friend.53 Kennedy did not meet Egypt’s Nasser during his presidency, but the Egyptian leader was gratified by their prolific and candid correspondence.54
Personal gestures, of course, could not suffice in lieu of acts of policy. Kennedy’s advisor Walt Rostow viewed economic development as a way to shield postcolonial societies from the diversion of communism; his more jaundiced counterpart, Robert W. Komer, thought that there was a political utility in offering baksheesh to major Third World regimes. After the first meeting of the nascent NAM in Belgrade, which occurred at the height of the Berlin crisis, Rostow and Komer jointly made the case for a continued policy of engagement, Rostow noting that recipients of U.S. aid had taken more agreeable positions on major Cold War issues. The United States engaged in broad programs of agricultural assistance toward Egypt and India. Assistance to Indonesia expanded substantially after the resolution of that country’s long-standing territorial dispute with the Netherlands over the western half of New Guinea. Despite considerable misgivings, Kennedy approved a generous loan to Ghana in December 1961 toward the completion of an ambitious dam on the Volta River.55 Similarly, perceiving neutralist tendencies in Bolivian President Victor Paz Estenssoro, Kennedy provided considerable aid to the government in La Paz, abetting Paz’s authoritarian tendencies in the process.56
Finally, Kennedy shifted U.S. policy somewhat on key geopolitical questions. He voted with the Africans at the United Nations on resolutions related to Portugal’s war in Angola (although concern about U.S. access to key facilities in the Azores ultimately drove Kennedy toward a more cautious stance).57 Despite strong advice from European allies, he supported the formation of a coalition government in the Congo minimally acceptable to African opinion and backed the reintegration of the rogue province of Katanga.58 In the West New Guinea dispute, his administration ultimately abandoned the Dutch, who had previously enjoyed the support of the Eisenhower administration. Both Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, spoke quite bluntly to the Dutch.59 Elsewhere, after the secession of Syria from an ill-starred federation with Egypt, the administration acted with deference to Cairo’s sensitivities—and at the expense of its relationship with the newly restored Syrian government.60 Washington and Cairo acted with restraint on the one fundamentally unresolved question between them: the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the immortal words of Egypt’s ambassador in Washington, Mustafa Kamel, they kept it in “the icebox,” agreeing to disagree, while avoiding drastic action.
Kennedy’s policy of engagement gained traction, but not all at once. He understood the inclination of newly independent states to remain nonaligned but often felt vexed by their criticism of U.S. policy or by their own regional policies. India’s sudden military resolution of a fourteen-year dispute with Portugal over a trio of colonial enclaves frustrated Kennedy. So, too, did Sukarno’s brinksmanship over West New Guinea and Tito’s endorsement of the Soviet position during the Berlin crisis.61 Yet the White House perceived real improvement by the end of 1962. The nonaligned states had largely refrained from criticism of Kennedy’s policy during the Cuban missile crisis; Ghana and Guinea had gone so far as to deny the Soviet Union permission to use their airfields.62 China’s autumn offensive against India had offered the United States a priceless opportunity to aid Nehru in his time of greatest need. In his 1963 State of the Union address, Kennedy spoke of real improvement in U.S.-nonaligned ties.
Yet setbacks awaited, and 1963 proved a trying year. A civil war in Yemen and Indonesian opposition to the creation of the Malaysian Federation posed difficult policy problems for the administration, forcing it to choose between solidarity with allies and outreach to nonaligned states. Ghana’s numerous disputes with its neighbors posed significant complications to Kennedy’s efforts at African outreach. Aid to the nonaligned world—never a popular proposition on Capitol Hill—faced a sustained and bipartisan assault over the summer and autumn of 1963. Kennedy spent the last months of his life trying to rescue his beleaguered aid bill from the maelstrom. By all evidence he remained committed to engagement, but the policy faced difficult terrain. Its better days may have been behind it.
Lyndon Johnson held a different view of the Cold War, which afforded states far less room for neutrality. A longtime Senate majority leader who regarded reciprocity as a solemn code of legislators and states alike, he drew back from vocal nonaligned states, which accepted U.S. aid while criticizing Washington’s policies. As regional conflicts intensified, Johnson’s instinct was to support and reassure allies. He also engaged in far less presidential diplomacy than had his predecessor.
In the critical arena of foreign aid, Johnson was inclined to act punitively when recipients appeared to be ungrateful. Egypt had received a three-year sale of surplus U.S. grain at concession prices through the Food for Peace program. Clashing with Nasser over an array of issues, including Egyptian support of rebels in the Congo, Johnson stalled on drafting a new aid agreement, while drawing out fulfillment of the Kennedy-era grain pact. Nasser was irate, but—after waiting through 1965—was finally able to receive a new sale agreement, good for only six months of grain. Irked by Indian use of U.S. weaponry against Pakistan, Johnson employed similar tactics against New Delhi. The “short tether” approach, as it was known, undermined any goodwill the aid might have otherwise elicited. Nasser bitterly regretted, in December 1966, his earlier choice to rely on U.S. food aid. In his defense, Johnson had cause to worry about presenting Congress with visible targets in his own foreign aid bills, yet Robert Komer perceptively observed, “There is more to LBJ’s reluctance than just Congress.”63
The Vietnam War, above all, drove a wedge between the United States and the nonaligned world. Johnson’s decision to Americanize the conflict set him upon a collision course with the nonaligned states. Indonesia, now deeply antagonistic to the United States, denounced Johnson’s war as a neocolonial enterprise in Southeast Asia. Most nonaligned states, however, sought to mediate the conflict. At times the Johnson administration seemed to humor these requests, but the imperative of seeming to be open to negotiation was not matched by a willingness to facilitate talks through meaningful concessions. Johnson did authorize two significant halts in the bombing of North Vietnam. The second and more significant pause began on December 27, 1965, and lasted through January 1966. During that time, the Johnson administration engaged in a much-publicized “peace offensive,” dispatching diplomats around the world to speak with potential intermediaries. (The United States, of course, lacked diplomatic relations with both North Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China.) Heartened by the bombing halt, nonaligned states were just as dismayed when the aerial war recommenced and escalated; thereafter, they condemned Johnson’s war with greater vehemence. For his part, Johnson continued to punish aid recipients who criticized his war. By the end of his presidency, little remained of the Kennedy-era amity.
The period between 1958 and 1967 witnessed the apogee of U.S. efforts to engage the nonaligned movement. During that span of time, the United States succeeded in standing sufficiently apart from European colonial powers while supporting the development aspiration of the rising states of the nonaligned world. Yet once the downward spiral commenced, in the middle of the 1960s, it was almost impossible to interrupt it. The deepening of mutual antipathy drove the nonaligned states into avowedly anti-American rhetoric, while the incoming administration of Richard Nixon sought reliable and aligned partners to shoulder a greater portion of the burden.
To some degree, that transition can be traced to dramatic changes within the NAM itself over the course of the 1960s. The 1961 Belgrade Conference had been attended by only some two dozen delegations, with many other potential invitees screened by political criteria on the part of the states inviting or—in the case of Latin American states—deterred by stern U.S. warnings. The next conference, held in Cairo in 1964, was a far larger affair, with many new African delegations in attendance. Jawaharlal Nehru, who had died on May 27 of that year, was poignantly absent. Anticolonial sentiment, held in relative abeyance at Belgrade, emerged more prominently at Cairo. At stake was not only the direction of the uncommitted caucus but also its organizing principle. While Nasser, Tito, and India’s Lal Bahadur Shastri supported maintaining the movement along principles of nonalignment, Sukarno sought a return to the Bandung model, promoting a rival conference for the states of Africa and Asia, to be held in Algiers the following year.
Tumult in the Third World, however, derailed the Bandung II project and the governments promoting it. A coup d’état in Algiers in June 1965 brought the conference’s postponement—it was already the subject of considerable controversy, related to Indonesian efforts to exclude Malaysia and a somewhat mischievous Indian project to classify the Soviet Union as an Asian state and thereby eligible for attendance. A violent and still-mysterious chain of events in Indonesia over the autumn politically crippled Sukarno, culminating in his retirement from office two years later. India’s Lal Bahadur Shastri died suddenly in Tashkent, while negotiating a peace treaty with Pakistan. Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah suffered a military coup shortly after he left the country in February 1966. The founding generation of nonalignment had almost entirely passed from the scene, with only Nasser and Tito remaining by 1970. Nasser died suddenly of a heart attack several weeks after the third NAM conference concluded in Lusaka.
By this point it was a different NAM. Nehru had succeeded in focusing the Belgrade communiqué on grand questions of war and peace. The waning of Cold War tensions allowed the NAM to focus on colonial and economic questions to a greater extent—and indeed, as Soviet-U.S. relations broadened over the early 1970s, they had good reason to think that the conflict was passing from the scene. The liberation of oppressed populations in the colonial and white minority redoubts, self-determination for the Palestinian people, and a revision of the global terms of trade and resource rights emerged as the NAM’s primary foci. So, too, was vociferous criticism of the American war in Vietnam and increasingly warm declarations of solidarity with North Vietnam and the communist National Liberation Front. Events such as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence further widened the gulf. Starkly demarcated lines divided the United States and the NAM during the presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon.64
Nixon, Ford, and the Nonaligned World
Nixon, of course, was no newcomer to foreign affairs. He considered foreign policy to be the cardinal responsibility of the presidency. As Eisenhower’s vice president, he had traveled widely and formed important relationships. His travels continued during the long eight years following his defeat in 1960. He remembered—viscerally—who had welcomed him warmly and who had treated him as an unwelcome houseguest. Among the latter were Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
It is difficult to think of two people less suited for each other’s company than Nixon and Gandhi. She had made no secret of her boredom when he had met her in 1967.65 Nevertheless, U.S. policy toward India before 1971 was not hostile; Nixon visited the country in the summer of 1969, and his administration received military aid requests from Pakistan with considerable hesitancy. There was no going back to the late Eisenhower or Kennedy years, but National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger likened the Indo-American relationship to that of “a couple that can neither separate nor get along.”66
Relations declined precariously, however, as Nixon pursued relations with China and as the Pakistani government began a genocidal campaign against nationalists and minorities in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). That same Pakistani government, acting to open channels for Washington in Beijing, received Nixon and Kissinger’s gratitude, while India’s pleas for international intervention met with a contemptuous U.S. response. Finally, in December 1971, India struck, overrunning the East Pakistani lowlands within weeks, as an enraged Nixon and Kissinger looked on. True to form, the two statesmen read Gandhi’s military action as a Soviet ploy designed to humiliate the United States and China, scant weeks before Nixon’s February 1972 trip. Their consequent dispatch of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal served to complete the tragedy of errors: Indian-American relations plummeted to historic lows.67
Nixon and Kissinger had no patience for the politics of the nonaligned states at large. African advocacy against the white supremacist states of Rhodesia and South Africa found unreceptive ears in the White House. “I do not believe that it is worth our while to do something for the Africans that’s against the British or somebody else,” Nixon opined after a visit from Mauritanian President Ould Daddah, who spoke against weakening the Rhodesian sanctions regime. Like Johnson before him, Nixon was ill disposed to take unsolicited advice on his foreign policy, observing to British Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home afterward:
Mauritania’s got—Mauritania, they’ve got a million two hundred thousand people. They haven’t—they have to answer to the problems of a million two hundred thousand instead of worrying about … what’s happened in Rhodesia or South Africa.68
Shortly afterward, with the administration’s quiet support, Congress passed the Byrd Amendment, which removed official restrictions on the importation of Rhodesian chrome, eliciting considerable anger from African states. Similarly, the Nixon administration pursued closer relations with Portugal and apartheid South Africa.69
Yet by the end of his presidency, Nixon could boast two major successes in consolidating new ties with major nonaligned states. Egypt under Nasser’s successor, Anwar al-Sadat, shifted dramatically toward closer ties with Washington in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Egypt became one of the largest recipients of U.S. economic and military aid, and Sadat signed a historic peace treaty with Israel in 1978—for which the way had been paved by Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy during the administrations of Nixon and Gerald Ford. Suharto’s Indonesia emerged as a quiet regional partner of the United States through the later years of the Vietnam War, in sharp contrast to earlier Sukarno-era condemnations of U.S. policy. “We are convinced that the United States is waging a just struggle for independence and freedom in Southeast Asia,” the Indonesian leader assured Nixon during a May 1970 visit.70 Indonesia helped to train the Cambodian military after the overthrow of the nonaligned Prince Sihanouk and declined to embargo oil to the United States along with the rest of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1973. Accordingly, when Suharto raised the prospect of “rapid or drastic action” against the newly independent state of East Timor in December 1975, he received the approval of Ford and Kissinger.71 The Indonesian action was indeed drastic—and brutal.
Through this time, the hostility between the United States and the NAM as an entity continued to deepen. The founding generation of the NAM had been comparatively cautious; their departure from the scene allowed the movement to grow more fractious. Americans took special note of the more radical and incendiary voices in the ranks of the NAM—Nixon and Kissinger developed a particular fascination with Uganda’s Idi Amin. The admission of communist Cambodia, North Korea, and Vietnam served to discredit the movement further in the eyes of Americans. The Cold War had receded in intensity during the détente years, and the NAM had long since shifted its emphasis toward issues of national liberation and economic equality. Those Americans who perceived the greatest danger from the Soviet Union, however, regarded the NAM with particular scorn. Observing the proceedings of the 1976 meeting, in Colombo, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board commented:
The struggle against colonialism that first brought these nations together in 1961 is now a dead issue, but the delegates have decided to keep meeting and talking anyway. It is all very solemn, yet there is more than a little irony in the sight of a gaggle of kings, dictators, strongmen and potentates arriving with large entourages and then proceeding to talk about social equality and singling out for condemnation those nations that try to abide by the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.72
Yet opinion was changing in Washington by this point in time—driven not so much by a reevaluation of the NAM as by prior U.S. commitments. As historian Daniel Sargent writes, the Ford years witnessed a greater creativity in the realm of foreign policy. In the wake of the Arab oil embargo, newly cognizant of American economic dependence on the resource-rich states of the global South and fearful of the transformative New International Economic Order agenda promoted by postcolonial regimes, Ford and Kissinger embarked upon a program of outreach.73 This entailed patient diplomacy to lessen Arab-Israeli tensions. After revolution in Portugal brought the collapse of Lisbon’s African empire, Kissinger abandoned prior policy toward Rhodesia and embarked upon successive African trips in 1976, promising his hosts that he would work for majority rule and restore sanctions against the reviled regime of Ian Smith.74 Visiting nonaligned Tanzania, Kissinger took apparent pride in noting that South Africa’s defense minister, P. W. Botha, had accused him of membership in communist organizations. “You must be doing well,” remarked his bemused host, President Julius Nyerere. Kissinger joked, “I should be invited to the next nonaligned conference.”75
Engagement’s Second Wave? The Carter Years
These efforts, in turn, paved the way for further attempts at outreach during the ensuing administration of Jimmy Carter. With the Portuguese Empire dissolved and Cold War tensions considerably reduced, the Carter administration invested considerable effort in improving U.S. relations with the Global South. Carter’s historic treaty ceding the Canal Zone back to Panama stemmed from his conviction that it was necessary to preserve U.S. influence in the region. The treaty was wildly popular in Latin America but was ratified only at serious political cost to the Carter administration.76 Similarly, a combination of mission and pragmatism impelled Carter to pursue peace agreements in Rhodesia and the Middle East. He managed to overturn the Byrd Amendment and kept sanctions in place until the Rhodesian government accepted majority rule. Carter was unwilling, for various reasons, to apply sanctions against South Africa.77 Fierce presidential commitment succeeded, in September 1978, in brokering the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Carter hoped earnestly that the treaty could prove a model for future Arab-Israeli peace agreements.78
In other areas, Carter administration policy did not significantly differ from those of its predecessors. The White House did not seriously press Indonesia to improve its human rights practices, nor did it seek to undo the invasion of East Timor.79 Indira Gandhi’s electoral defeat in 1977, at the hands of Morarji Desai, seemed to augur restored ties with New Delhi under Carter, yet the relationship remained fraught. India and the United States disagreed over the extension of U.S. naval power into the Indian Ocean, and the Carter administration was uneasy about the ongoing Indian nuclear program.80 The sudden collapse of the Desai government and Gandhi’s 1980 return to power ended the brief interregnum.81
Yet Carter’s seeming deference to Third World opinion evoked a powerful domestic reaction from the emerging neoconservative movement. As ambassador to the United Nations in 1975, Daniel Patrick Moynihan jousted daily with representatives of the Third World, rejecting their denunciations of U.S. foreign policy and decrying their corruption and abuses of human rights. Moynihan’s sharp tongue got him into trouble with Henry Kissinger—who was then intent on a more conciliatory course toward the Third World—but he inspired others to similar denunciations. NAM criticism of Israel drew, in turn, the scorn of American neoconservatives, who viewed it as a pillar of solidarity and democracy in a hostile region. A 1975 UN resolution terming Zionism to be a form of racism particularly antagonized them.82 The presence of Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam at nonaligned conferences and the tenor of the 1979 Havana meeting of the NAM led commentators like Norman Podhoretz to conclude, “Despite protestations of neutrality, much of the ‘South’ was for all practical purposes on the side of the ‘East’ against the ‘West.’”83 He and fellow neoconservative Jeane Kirkpatrick lacerated the Carter administration for what she termed “a posture of continuous self-abasement and apology vis-à-vis the Third World.”84
These criticisms were only amplified by a string of Cold War setbacks, which simultaneously served to undermine the détente regime. The fall of aligned but authoritarian regimes in Iran and Nicaragua, while Carter stood by, had particularly incensed the conservative opposition. Nonaligned regimes, too, were toppling in the turbulent seventies, and with similarly destabilizing effects. After a revolution in Ethiopia unseated the nonaligned (but friendly) government of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Carter administration was drawn into a proxy war, when it supported a Somali incursion into the contested Ogaden region.85 The fall of Afghanistan’s nonaligned government in April 1978 and its replacement with a brutal, incompetent communist regime drew Carter and his hawkish national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, into covert action against the new Kabul regime. The unraveling of détente abetted the rise of Ronald Reagan and a return to starker views of nonalignment. Before discussing the Reagan era, however, it would be appropriate to turn to the parallel story of the United States and European neutrals.
The European Neutrals in the Cold War
Compared with the unpredictable, sometimes tumultuous nonaligned states of the postcolonial world, the familiar cohort of European neutrals generally acted in a stable and predictable fashion through the Cold War. They affiliated economically with their Western neighbors and, aside from Finland, presented little risk of being absorbed into the communist bloc. Even so, in the early years of the conflict, earlier frustrations with neutrality boiled easily to the surface. Sweden’s refusal to align openly with the United States—while neighbors Norway and Denmark abandoned their traditional neutrality—engendered considerable frustration in the early years of the Cold War. Swedish neutrality risked the broader neutralization of Scandinavia.86 Echoing the 1944 language of his predecessor Cordell Hull, Secretary of State George C. Marshall wrote, in June 1948,
The great issue in the world today is not a matter of choosing between two great power blocs, as seems to be widely believed in Sweden, but is rather the question of the survival of nations which believe in freedom and democratic processes. Such nations have a common interest, and a neutrality policy which reveals a division among the free nations of the world can only serve to invite aggression.87
As the front lines of the Cold War stabilized, such dire prognoses faded somewhat before cool calculations of the potential utility of neutrality.
The case of Yugoslavia demonstrates, above all, the situational pragmatism U.S. policy makers could achieve during the Cold War. After President Josip Broz Tito’s decisive break with the Soviet Union in 1948, successive U.S. administrations recognized Yugoslav nonalignment as a strategic asset, helping to shield NATO’s southern flank. Substantial U.S. economic assistance began during the Truman presidency and endured through the Eisenhower administration, despite the outraged sentiment of domestic anticommunists and the Croatian-American community. Yet this was a difficult relationship to maintain. Unique among European states, Yugoslavia became very invested in the nonaligned movement, while remaining avowedly communist. Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia’s Partisan movement during the Second World War, was also fearful of the restoration of German power. This drove him to side with Moscow during the Berlin crisis, to the intense vexation of the United States. Nevertheless, Yugoslavia never returned to the bloc, and Leonid Brezhnev’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia profoundly unsettled Tito. Within the NAM, he strove to keep the organization from affiliating with the Soviet Union, defeating a Cuban motion to term Moscow a “natural ally” in 1979.
If ever there was a useful neutral state, it was the Helvetic Confederation. Cold War–era Switzerland was politically neutral but socially conservative, with strong, indigenous anticommunist sentiment and deep social, cultural, and economic ties to NATO states. Cognizant of these ties, particularly toward West Germany, and wary of U.S. disapproval, Berne moved with noticeable slowness in opening diplomatic relations with communist North Vietnam (1971), East Germany (1972), and North Korea (1974). Washington recognized by the late 1940s the strategic utility of armed Swiss neutrality and supported British sales of heavy weapons to the Helvetic Confederation. NATO and Berne engaged in secret defense consultations.88 Swiss neutrality, moreover, was indispensably useful to the United States in states without formal diplomatic ties to Washington. From the early 1960s onward, the Swiss embassy in Cuba performed vital work in conveying messages between the hostile neighbors.89 Berne took on the same role in Iran after the severance of relations between Washington and Tehran. “If neutral Switzerland did not exist,” mused an appreciative McGeorge Bundy in March 1962, the United States would have “had to invent it.”90 True to its interwar history, when it had hosted the League of Nations, the city of Geneva was the recurring site of critical Cold War conferences and summits: among them the meeting resolving the First Indochina War and the first meetings between Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev (1955) and Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev (1985).
Austria represented a singular case: like Germany, it had been partitioned into zones of occupation after the war. Like western Germany, the country benefited handsomely from U.S. assistance under the Marshall Plan, which channeled one billion dollars in aid into the country. Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev elected to unify Austria, contingent upon its adopting neutrality—better a neutral undivided Austria than a militarized West Austria applying for admission into NATO.91 Even so, after the Austrian State Treaty, Vienna could safely be counted as a friendly neutral. The United States quietly aided in the development of a new Austrian army, considering it a potential wartime ally to NATO.92 Austrian trade tied it to Western Europe, especially West Germany, and it sought European integration carefully: first through membership in the European Free Trade Association and then in the European Economic Community.93 Yet the new Austrian state also adopted a mediating mission. Vienna played host to a famous, albeit acrimonious 1961 summit between Kennedy and Khrushchev and a 1979 meeting between Carter and Brezhnev. Foreign Minister Bruno Kreisky engaged in his own quiet, sporadic efforts at mediation during the Berlin crisis.94 His successor, Kurt Waldheim, undertook similar efforts during the Vietnam War.95 Austria, furthermore, provided sanctuary to Hungarians and Czechoslovaks fleeing the 1956 and 1968 Soviet invasions of their countries.
Sweden proved a more difficult case for the United States, as it practiced a less reticent form of neutrality. Conservative Americans recoiled from the Swedish welfare state, which conversely appealed to liberals. More serious, however, was Stockholm’s increasingly open criticism of the Vietnam War, which reached a climax during the first prime ministerial government of Olof Palme. In the years preceding the Tet Offensive, the Swedish government had acted as a secret intermediary between the United States and the National Liberation Front, hoping to spur serious negotiations. The ASPEN Channel, as it was code-named by the United States, was no more successful than other concurrent peacemaking efforts.96 In the meantime, Sweden turned against Lyndon Johnson’s war. Antiwar rallies marched through Swedish cities, American draft dodgers found sanctuary in the country, and Palme’s was the first Western government to recognize North Vietnam. Relations reached their postwar nadir when Palme likened Nixon’s December 1972 bombing of Hanoi to a litany of historical atrocities: massacres at Oradour, Katyn, and Lidice and the Treblinka death camp.97 Even so, Sweden remained interested in Cold War mediation. Although Palme spoke critically of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policies during his second government (cut short by his assassination in 1986), Soviet infringements of Swedish territory in the 1980s brought centuries-old fears of the great eastern neighbor back to the surface.98
Finland, meanwhile, clung to a precarious independence during the Cold War era. Soviet armies had bypassed it on their way to Berlin, but it seemed destined to fall into the arms of Joseph Stalin’s bloc in the postwar years. Careful Finnish diplomacy in the early postwar years worked to assuage Soviet suspicions, and Stalin may have noted the relative weakness of local communists when considering whether to sponsor a coup in Helsinki. For the United States, Finnish neutrality was at first something welcome—Finland was militarily indefensible. During the 1950s, under the canny Urho Kekkonen, Helsinki’s policy seemed something more ominous: potentially a neutralist wedge into Scandinavia. Finnish neutrality seemed to legitimate Khrushchev’s claims of the possibility of peaceful coexistence between the blocs.99 Yet there was another side to the Finnish coin, which argued for its utility. Americans could point to Finland’s quiet foreign policy and noncommunist government and suggest a similar arrangement for the states of Eastern Europe. Beyond that, Finland’s vulnerability to Soviet pressure remained apparent. Life for the Finns—and by extension NATO’s northern flank—could easily have been much worse. For this reason, successive U.S. administrations expressed their understanding of Finland’s unique position, while supporting its inclusion in Western European trading zones. Patience was rewarded by a rightward swing in Finnish politics after Kekkonen’s resignation in 1981.100
The United States and the Neutral World: Reagan and Beyond
Ronald Reagan wanted to win the Cold War; like John F. Kennedy before him, he thought the Third World constituted a vital battleground. Unlike Kennedy—whom Reagan had admired—he did not fret about the direction of Third World opinion. Reagan’s belief in the innate goodness of the United States guided him through life, and he counted among his supporters intellectuals who had identified the NAM as a fundamental antagonist on the world stage. Jeane Kirkpatrick served as his ambassador to the United Nations, where she excoriated the politics of the NAM. Reagan viewed dictatorial regimes in Chile and the Philippines as reliable allies in the battle against Soviet communism. For most of his presidency, he viewed South Africa sympathetically.101
Yet, guided by his secretary of state George Shultz, Reagan did not subscribe to Dullesian pique toward nonaligned states. His innate amiability and belief in his powers of persuasion—which jointly aided him in successive summit meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev—were also on display when he met with nonaligned leaders. On Shultz’s insistence, Reagan met with Mozambican President Samora Machel in 1985. By meeting’s end, the two were on first-name terms, with their ideological differences apparently forgotten. “[Machel] turned out to be quite a guy & I believe he really intends to be “non-aligned,” Reagan wrote in his diary that evening.102 This pragmatism was also on display in a less auspicious chapter of Reagan’s foreign policy: his efforts to forge a working partnership with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—then engaged in a bitter war with Iran. Relations with Baghdad had been broken since 1967 but were restored in 1984. Support of Hussein impelled Reagan to overlook the Iraqi use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish minority in the north and to forgive quickly an Iraqi attack on a U.S. vessel.103
Despite her refusal to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Reagan proved a friendly and effective host when Indira Gandhi visited in 1982. Gandhi, for her part, sought to broaden India’s trade relations with the United States, particularly in the realm of computers. Reagan’s close ties to Pakistan proved an obstacle, and yet Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother after her assassination in 1984, continued New Delhi’s slow rapprochement with Washington. More like his grandfather than his mother, Rajiv thought that relations with both superpowers could be pursued simultaneously. On June 14, 1985, while addressing the U.S. Congress, Gandhi wryly invoked the peculiar historical ties linking the United States and India:
You gained your independence as we were losing ours and many of the people involved were the same. We wish that Elihu Yale had founded a university for us instead of being Governor of Madras and that Lord Cornwallis had surrendered in Delhi rather than to General Washington.104
Years would pass before the full emergence of U.S.-Indian rapprochement, but the worst years of the relationship were now past.105
Elsewhere in the world, Reagan inherited sturdy ties to Egypt and Indonesia. Suharto remained a favored ally, and his human rights abuses in East Timor bothered Reagan no more than those perpetrated by Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.106 Egypt under Hosni Mubarak, who succeeded the assassinated Sadat in 1981, was similarly close to Washington. Cairo received an annual $1.5 billion in military aid from the United States, second only to Israel.107 These states remained important members within the NAM, but they had long since chosen sides within the Cold War.
By the 1980s, the NAM appeared to have lost much of its earlier cohesion. Regional and economic forums, ranging from OPEC to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had supplanted the NAM. The larger states within the organization, Egypt, India, and Indonesia among them, had opted for alliances with superpowers and were aligned in all but name. The 1981 recession lowered commodity prices, hurting export revenues, even as rising arms expenditures drove many NAM members into debt, at the same time that Reagan’s own deficit-fueled arms buildup increased interest rates. Facing bankruptcy, they often grimly accepted severe International Monetary Fund restructuring programs. For his part, Reagan emphasized neoliberal economics and self-reliance to the beleaguered Third World: trade, not aid. The Soviet Union, under its own growing economic burden and mired in a costly war in Afghanistan, became increasingly frugal, not only toward the Third World but also toward its Eastern European allies.108
The Cold War ended soon after the Reagan presidency, not through concerted nonaligned action, as Nehru or Sukarno might have hoped, but through the implosion of the Soviet bloc. This was an outcome that Americans found profoundly inspiring but one which seemingly removed the NAM’s reason for being. What, they asked, did nonalignment represent in a world suddenly bereft of the great ideological struggle? The NAM itself endured and continued to call attention to a wide range of political and commercial issues. Nevertheless, economic and regional associations had largely eclipsed it. ASEAN summits receive a level of attention from successive U.S. administrations that NAM meetings never matched (although the selection of Havana, Tehran, and Caracas as conference sites posed added difficulties). U.S. commentary on the NAM continued to treat it as a holdover from the Cold War era, with comparatively little effort undertaken to explain its curious perseverance.
The resolution of the Cold War, widely interpreted as an American victory, helped to make the world safe for independent foreign policies. Bonds forged under the shadow of a menacing communist bloc have since frayed. France and Germany, which remain NATO members, nevertheless kept a critical distance from the Iraq War. Turkey has emerged as an independent power in the Middle East, standing distinctly apart from the United States in 2003 and again in the war against the Islamic State. Pakistani-American ties waned after the Cold War, and their seeming restoration after September 11 proved illusory. A loyal ally during the Cold War, Thailand now balances between the United States and China. The intermediate zone in world politics, occupied by neutrals during wars cold and otherwise, has endured and perhaps widened. Simultaneously, longtime neutrals have shifted over time. Austrian collaboration with NATO expanded considerably after the Cold War; as of this writing it is effectively encircled by alliance members. Aggressive Russian behavior in the Baltic Sea region in 2014–2015 heightened Swedish and Finnish anxiety—and serious discussion about joining the Atlantic Alliance.109 The membership of these three countries in the European Union (and, in the case of Austria and Finland, the Eurozone) inevitably links their foreign policies to those of their peers.
Witnessing the fluidity of world politics in the quarter century following the end of the Cold War, Americans nevertheless retained their capacity to view the world through the lens of a single overarching conflict. President George W. Bush’s September 2001 declaration that states would side with either the United States or “the terrorists” brought a neo-Dullesian moral clarity to U.S. foreign policy. The republic’s long-standing history of neutrality recedes further into the past; indeed, comparatively few Americans now living can recall when it constituted the core principle of U.S. foreign relations. Such certitude about the nature of conflict in the world, and a corresponding belief in American exceptionalism, deny the intrinsic complexity of a world with nearly two hundred recognized states and of warfare itself. Americans, once perceiving themselves to be Melians menaced by malignant great powers, shifted over time to a Hermocratean view of neutrality, channeled at times by sympathy or pragmatic appraisals of its utility. This tension between ideology, strategy, and memory is unlikely to fade away so long as the United States acts as a world power.
Discussion of the Literature
Seven decades after the U.S. abandonment of neutrality, systematic scholarly attention to the American approach to the phenomenon has been somewhat sporadic. Scholars from European states with their own history of neutrality have made invaluable contributions to understanding U.S. policy; Nils Ørvik’s The Decline of Neutrality, 1914–1941, and Jürg Martin Gabriel’s The American Conception of Neutrality after 1941 are both outstanding, drawing from sophisticated comparisons to the conduct of other neutrals.
The major scholarly work on the United States and neutrality during the Great War remains Thomas A. Bailey’s massive 1942 history, The Policy of the United States toward the Neutrals, 1917–1918. Although it is more sympathetic to U.S. policy than most succeeding accounts, it is as exhaustive and rigorous a treatment of the topic as can be conceived. Here, as elsewhere, country-specific accounts are of considerable utility. Excellent scholarship on the Netherlands, by far the most vulnerable of the European neutrals, is available in Maartje Abbenhuis’s The Art of Staying Neutral, and Hubert P. van Tuyll van Serooskerken’s The Netherlands and World War I. Steven Koblik’s Sweden: The Neutral Victor offers similar detail, as does J. Romero Salvado’s Spain, 1914–1918. We presently lack an English-language book on Denmark’s wartime neutrality. Ørvik’s The Decline of Neutrality. 1914–1941 nicely frames the key distinctions between U.S. and European neutrality during the war. Mark Gilderhus wrote two critical books on this era: Diplomacy and Revolution, on the troubled U.S.-Mexican relationship, and Pan American Visions, on broader U.S. efforts in the hemisphere. Nevertheless, in light of the prevalence of neutrality in Latin America, more can yet be written.
There is as yet no equivalent to Bailey’s book with regard to post–Pearl Harbor U.S. policy toward Second World War neutrals. Nevertheless, comparative studies of neutrality have much to yield. Christian Leitz’s Dealing with the Devil, offers a useful comparison of the European neutrals (save Ireland) in their respective approaches to the war. Even richer is a compilation of essays edited by Neville Wylie, European Neutrals and Non-Belligerents during the Second World War, which looks beyond the core group of “long haul” neutrals toward states that either abandoned their neutrality or had it taken from them. Memoirs by Cordell Hull and Dean Acheson shed considerable light on efforts to restrict neutral commerce. Spain receives at least a plurality of attention among wartime bilateral studies; two books by Joan Maria Thomàs are of particular utility in understanding Franklin Roosevelt’s Spanish policy. A chapter in Gabriel’s The American Conception of Neutrality deals efficiently with policy toward Sweden and Switzerland. Otherwise, as before, readers are advised to consult country-specific accounts. Neville Wylie’s Britain, Switzerland, and the Second World War is deeply researched and comprehensive. John Gilmour and W. M. Carlgren offer informative histories of Sweden’s wartime policy, respectively titled Sweden, the Swastika, and Stalin and Swedish Foreign Policy during the Second World War. In the absence of a study of the U.S.-Turkish relationship, readers should consult Selim Deringil’s Turkish Foreign Policy during the Second World War and Nicholas Tamkin’s Britain, Turkey, and the Soviet Union, 1940–1945.
The postwar history of U.S. policy toward neutral and nonaligned states remains a fairly open field, although bilateral and regional studies have flourished in recent years. Two major thematic examinations of the United States and nonaligned states during the Cold War are H. W. Brands’s The Specter of Neutralism, which examines the Eisenhower years, and Robert B. Rakove’s Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World, which covers most of the 1960s. Brands and Rakove both find in their respective subjects considerable tolerance for nonalignment, contravening the image of a Manichean pursuit of Cold War objectives. Michael Latham’s The Right Kind of Revolution also offers incisive bilateral studies in this era. Work remains to be done on the Nixon, Ford, and Carter years as well as the Reagan period.
Scholarship on European neutrality during the Cold War is fairly advanced. Regional studies of Scandinavia, by scholars from the region, capture much of the U.S. ambivalence toward neutrality. Geir Lundestad’s America, Scandinavia, and the Cold War, 1945–1949 captures the divergence of the formerly neutral Scandinavian states. Jussi Hanhimäki carries the story forward with the excellent Scandinavia and the United States: An Insecure Friendship. His Containing Coexistence is the standard book on the U.S. response to Finland’s accommodation with the Soviet Union in the early Cold War. The scholarship on Austria in the Cold War is quite rich, with important works penned by Günter Bischof and Wolfgang Mueller. More can yet be written about Switzerland, particularly in examining Berne’s role as an intermediary between the United States and unfriendly regimes. Scholarship on Ireland to date has focused on its participation in the United Nations and response to decolonization, notably Kevin O’Sullivan’s Ireland, Africa, and the End of Empire. Yugoslavia is a special case, as the sole European member of the NAM. Svetozar Rajak is the leading contemporary scholar of Tito’s foreign policy. Rinna Kullaa has written an important book, Non-Alignment and Its Origins in Cold War Europe, studying the linkages between Finnish and Yugoslav neutrality. Lorraine Lees examines the U.S.-Yugoslav relationship in depth in her Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia, and the Cold War.
The Indian-American relationship emerges most fully in Andrew J. Rotter’s Comrades at Odds, Robert J. McMahon’s The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan and Dennis Kux’s Estranged Allies. A new, important work is Paul McGarr, The Cold War in South Asia. The three most useful books on the U.S.-Indonesian relationship are Matthew Jones’s Conflict and Confrontation, Bradley Simpson’s Economists with Guns, and George and Audrey Kahin’s Subversion as Foreign Policy. Much remains to be written about the Suharto years. Kenton Clymer has written exemplary studies of the U.S. relationships with Cambodia and Burma. On Egypt, Lloyd Gardner’s The Road to Tahrir Square: Egypt and the United States from the Rise of Nasser to the Fall of Mubarak is a concise, energetic account of U.S. relations with the Egyptian republic. Books by Peter Hahn also probe the U.S.-Egyptian and U.S.-Iraqi relationships. Douglas Little’s American Orientalism remains indispensable. Key works on the U.S. relationship with Africa include Thomas Noer’s Cold War and Black Liberation, Thomas Borstelmann’s The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena, Mary Dudziak’s Cold War Civil Rights, Richard Mahoney’s JFK: Ordeal in Africa, and Philip Muehlenbeck’s Betting on the Africans: John F. Kennedy’s Courting of African Nationalist Leaders. Recent works focused on modernization include Secular Missionaries, by Larry Grubbs, and Amanda Kay McVety’s Enlightened Aid.
On the Third World and nonaligned movement, see G. H. Jansen, Nonalignment and the Afro-Asian States; Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations; Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War; and Robert Vitalis, “The Midnight Ride of Kwame Nkrumah and Other Fables of Bandung” in Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development.
Differing levels of archival access overseas, to some degree, circumscribe research on U.S. relations with nonaligned and neutral countries. In the United States, as of this writing, documents are available in abundance into the late 1970s at major research institutions. The first source any researcher must consult is the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, which offers an incisive, well-selected collection of primary source documents illuminating the major issues of the day. Volumes are available in government documents libraries; recent volumes and volumes ranging from 1861 to 1960 are also available online. The series contains numerous documents pertaining to wartime relations with neutral states and with the major states of the nonaligned world, although coverage clusters around major issues of the day and does not distribute evenly. To wit: the important African state of Tanzania lacks a dedicated section in the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford volumes on Africa.
Going further afield, research at presidential libraries—preceded by consultation of FRUS—can fill these gaps. Researchers are advised to consult the relevant country files but also to identify the staff member of the National Security Council who dealt with the country (or issue) in question. The older the presidential library is, the better the likelihood that materials have been digitized or at least comprehensively indexed. Searchable records are available at libraries from Carter onward. The most comprehensive archives for researching U.S. diplomacy can be found in College Park, Maryland, at the National Archives II facility, but researchers are advised to allocate significant time to work there. Some time is required to make optimal use of the finding aids and to get the knack of the State Department’s evolving filing system.
European countries publish documentary collections similar to FRUS. Documents on British Policy Overseas, published in different series and arranged topically, is particularly useful in its consideration of European neutrals. Documents Diplomatiques Français is global in scope and organized chronologically. Its West German equivalent is Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, which is also organized chronologically. Swiss efforts to digitize diplomatic records have been particularly impressive.
Research in European archives can add considerable depth to a project. The United Kingdom National Archives in Kew (a village on the outskirts of London) are commonly believed to be the best place to conduct research. The archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs offer material of similar quality. A new facility at La Courneuve, north of central Paris, provides ministerial records. It is somewhat complemented by another facility in Nantes, the capital of Brittany, which holds embassy records. The Auswärtiges Amt in Berlin contains records of both East and West Germany. Works consulted for this article have made adroit use of archives in Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland. The archives of the former Yugoslavia in Belgrade have proved highly useful to scholars in recent years.
Among NAM member states, Ghana, Zambia, and India have proved particularly accessible to researchers. Although access to the papers of Jawaharlal Nehru remains subject to family approval, published collections are of particular utility, notably Nehru’s Letters to Chief Ministers and the more comprehensive Selective Works of Jawaharlal Nehru. Files of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs have been transferred to the National Archives in New Delhi. Research in Zambia has proved fruitful as well; Andy DeRoche has written a valuable archive guide. The holdings of the National Archives of Ghana reveal much about Kwame Nkrumah’s ambitious diplomacy.
Finally, with regard to meetings of the Third World, there is no substitute for consulting conference publications. The definitive volume of Bandung is the official Asia-Africa Speaks from Bandung, best read alongside accounts by Richard Wright and George Kahin. An invaluable documentary collection for the organizational workings of the NAM is The Third World without Superpowers, compiled and edited by Odette Jankowitsch-Prevor, Karl P. Sauvant, and Jörg Weber. Conference volumes generally accompany major NAM meetings, but these tend to be fairly rare books.
Bailey, Thomas A.The Policy of the United States toward the Neutrals, 1917–1918. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1942.Find this resource:
Brands, H. W.The Specter of Neutralism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.Find this resource:
Gabriel, Jürg Martin. The American Conception of Neutrality after 1941. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.Find this resource:
Hanhimäki, Jussi. Containing Coexistence: America, Russia, and the “Finnish Solution.” Kent: Kent State University Press, 1997.Find this resource:
McMahon, Robert J.The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.Find this resource:
Mišković, Nataša, Harald Fischer-Tiné, and Nada Boškovska Leimgruber, eds. The Non-Aligned Movement and the Cold War: Delhi, Bandung, Belgrade. New York: Routledge, 2014.Find this resource:
Muehlenbeck, Philip. Betting on the Africans: John F. Kennedy’s Courting of African Nationalist Leaders. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Ørvik, Nils. The Decline of Neutrality, 1914–1941. London: Frank Cass, 1971.Find this resource:
Rakove, Robert B.Kennedy, Johnson and the Nonaligned World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Wylie, Neville, ed., European Neutrals and Non-Belligerents during the Second World War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.Find this resource:
(1.) Thucydides, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, ed. Robert B. Strassler, and Richard Crawley (New York: Free Press, 1996), 352–353.
(2.) Thucydides, The Landmark Thucydides, 406.
(3.) George Washington, “Farewell Address,” September 19, 1796, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp
(4.) William McKinley, “First Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1897, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/mckin1.asp
(5.) Maartje M. Abbenhuis, An Age of Neutrals: Great Power Politics, 1815–1914 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 181–182.
(6.) See especially Andrew Preston, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy, 1st ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).
(7.) The President’s News Conference, June 6, 1956, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1957), 554–555.
(8.) Justus D. Doenecke, Nothing Less than War: A New History of America’s Entry into World War I (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 28–31.
(9.) Nils Ørvik, The Decline of Neutrality, 1914–1941. With Special Reference to the United States and the Northern Neutrals. (London: F. Cass, 1971), 89–118.
(11.) Thomas A. Bailey, The Policy of the United States toward the Neutrals, 1917–1918 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1942), 20–33.
(12.) David C. Hendrickson, Union, Nation, or Empire: The American Debate over International Relations, 1789–1941 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009), 306–307.
(13.) Maartje M. Abbenhuis, The Art of Staying Neutral: The Netherlands in the First World War, 1914–1918 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006), 132–134.
(14.) Bailey, The Policy of the United States toward the Neutrals, 1917–1918, 237.
(15.) “The Dutch Danger,” Nation, 106.2751 (21 March 1918): 310.
(16.) Bailey, The Policy of the United States toward the Neutrals, 1917–1918, 114–122; Olav Riste, The Neutral Ally: Norway’s Relations with Belligerent Powers in the First World War (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1965), 180–211.
(17.) Riste, The Neutral Ally, 112–124; Bailey, The Policy of the United States toward the Neutrals, 1917–1918, 412–419; Patrick Salmon, Scandinavia and the Great Powers, 1890–1940 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 159–161.
(18.) Bailey, The Policy of the United States toward the Neutrals, 1917–1918, 136–164; Steven Koblik, Sweden: The Neutral Victor. Sweden and the Western Powers 1917–1918. A Study of Anglo-American-Swedish Relations (Stockholm: Läromedelsförlagen, 1972), 169–212.
(19.) On the region at large, see Mark T. Gilderhus, Pan American Visions: Woodrow Wilson in the Western Hemisphere, 1913–1921 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1986), 81–127.
(20.) William F. Sater, Chile and the United States: Empires in Conflict (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990), 88–91; Fredrick B. Pike, Chile and the United States, 1880–1962: The Emergence of Chile’s Social Crisis and the Challenge to United States Diplomacy (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963), 155–159.
(21.) Joseph S. Tulchin, Argentina and the United States: A Conflicted Relationship (Boston: Twayne, 1990), 36–40; David Sheinin, Argentina and the United States: An Alliance Contained (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006), 45–48.
(22.) Mark T. Gilderhus, Diplomacy and Revolution: U.S.-Mexican Relations under Wilson and Carranza (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1977), 60–70. On the covert war, see Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States, and the Mexican Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).
(23.) Hubert P. van Tuyll van Serooskerken, The Netherlands and World War I: Espionage, Diplomacy and Survival (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 302–312.
(24.) Jürg Martin Gabriel, The American Conception of Neutrality after 1941 (New York: St. Martin’s, 1988), 73–74.
(25.) See Telegram 91, Washington to Peace Commission, December 21, 1918, in Papers relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States: The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1919), 458.
(26.) Ira Nelson Morris, From an American Legation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923), 81.
(27.) Ørvik, The Decline of Neutrality, 1914–1941, 157.
(28.) Joan Maria Thomàs, Roosevelt and Franco during the Second World War: From the Spanish Civil War to Pearl Harbor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 84–100.
(29.) Ludwig W. Adamec, Afghanistan’s Foreign Affairs to the Mid-Twentieth Century: Relations with the USSR, Germany, and Britain (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974), 255–260.
(30.) Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (New York: Norton, 1969), 55.
(31.) Cordell Hull, “Foreign Policy of the United States of America,” April 9, 1944, Department of State Bulletin, 10.251 (15 April 1944): 336.
(32.) Neville Wylie, Britain, Switzerland, and the Second World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 155–161; Gabriel, The American Conception of Neutrality after 1941, 53–60.
(33.) John Gilmour, Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin: The Swedish Experience in the Second World War (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 103–108.
(34.) Telegram 3268, London to Washington, April 20, 1944, in Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1944, vol. 4, Europe (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1966) 515.
(35.) W. M. Carlgren, Swedish Foreign Policy during the Second World War (New York: St. Martin’s, 1977), 147–168, 199–210; Gabriel, The American Conception of Neutrality after 1941, 50–52; Gilmour, Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin, 121–127.
(36.) Joan Maria Thomàs, Roosevelt, Franco, and the End of the Second World War (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 67–127.
(37.) Randall Bennett Woods, The Roosevelt Foreign Policy Establishment and the “Good Neighbor”: The United States and Argentina, 1941–1945 (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1979), 55–60, 147–154.
(38.) Selim Deringil, Turkish Foreign Policy during the Second World War: An “Active” Neutrality (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 144–165.
(39.) Sheinin, Argentina and the United States, 84–89; Lars Schoultz, Beneath the United States: A History of U.S. Policy toward Latin America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 320–325.
(40.) Quoted in Gabriel, The American Conception of Neutrality after 1941, 64–65.
(41.) Neville Wylie, European Neutrals and Non-Belligerents during the Second World War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 9–10.
(42.) Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s Foreign Policy: Selected Speeches, September 1946–April 1961 (Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1961), 14.
(43.) Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 80–87.
(45.) Peter L. Hahn, The United States, Great Britain, and Egypt, 1945–1956: Strategy and Diplomacy in the Early Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 180–210.
(46.) Robert Vitalis, “The Midnight Ride of Kwame Nkrumah and Other Fables of Bandung (Ban-Doong),” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 4.2 (2013): 261–288; Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 97–104.
(47.) Quoted in Robert B. Rakove, Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 4. See also H. W. Brands, The Specter of Neutralism: The United States and the Emergence of the Third World, 1947–1960 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 305–307.
(48.) Salim Yaqub, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
(49.) Matthew Foley, The Cold War and National Assertion in Southeast Asia: Britain, the United States and Burma, 1948–1962 (London: Routledge, 2010); Kenton Clymer, A Delicate Relationship: The United States and Burma/Myanmar since 1945 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016).
(50.) Lorraine M. Lees, Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia, and the Cold War (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), 189–204; Brands, The Specter of Neutralism, 181–219.
(51.) Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, 1961 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1962), 1–12.
(52.) Quoted in Rakove, Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World, 84.
(53.) Philip E. Muehlenbeck, Betting on the Africans: John F. Kennedy’s Courting of African Nationalist Leaders (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 67–70.
(54.) Warren Bass, Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 64–97.
(55.) Muehlenbeck, Betting on the Africans, 73–90.
(56.) Thomas C. Field, From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014).
(57.) Thomas J. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation: The United States and White Rule in Africa, 1948–1968 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1985), 61–95; Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 148–153; Muehlenbeck, Betting on the Africans, 117–121.
(58.) Madeleine G. Kalb, The Congo Cables: The Cold War in Africa—from Eisenhower to Kennedy (New York: Macmillan, 1982); Richard D. Mahoney, JFK: Ordeal in Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).
(59.) Bradley R. Simpson, Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960–1968 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 52–61; Matthew Jones, Conflict and Confrontation in South East Asia, 1961–1965: Britain, the United States, and the Creation of Malaysia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 31–60.
(60.) Rakove, Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World, 154–155.
(61.) On this, see Amit Das Gupta, “The Non-aligned and the German Question,” in The Non-Aligned Movement and the Cold War: Delhi, Bandung, Belgrade, ed. Nataša Mišković, Harald Fischer-Tiné, and Nada Boškovska Leimgruber (New York: Routledge, 2014), 143–160, and Jovan Čavoški, “Between Great Powers and Third World Neutralists: Yugoslavia and the Belgrade Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, 1961,” in The Non-Aligned Movement and the Cold War, 184–206.
(62.) Muehlenbeck, Betting on the Africans, 213–222.
(63.) Rakove, Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World, 190–207.
(64.) For a concise account of the changing relationship between the Non-Aligned Movement and the Cold War, see Lorenz Lüthi, “The Non-aligned: Apart from and Still within the Cold War,” in The Non-Aligned Movement and the Cold War, 98–113. See also Robert B. Rakove, “The Rise and Fall of Nonaligned Mediation, 1961–1966,” International History Review 37.5, 991–1013.
(65.) Gary J. Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), 6–7.
(66.) Srinath Raghavan, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 82–84.
(67.) Bass, The Blood Telegram; Raghavan, 1971.
(68.) Transcript of Conversation, September 30, 1971, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, vol. 28, Southern Africa (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2011), 185.
(69.) Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, 234–237; Ryan M. Irwin, Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 167–172; Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 238–242.
(70.) Memorandum of Conversation, May 28, 1970, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, vol. 20, Southeast Asia, 1969–1972 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2006), 648–650.
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