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What Happened When the USSR Tried to Join NATO?

70 years ago, on March 31, 1954, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov shocked the United States and its NATO allies with a proposal to have the USSR join the Western bloc and effectively put an end to the Cold War in Europe. What motivated Moscow's calculations? What ultimately came of the proposal? Check out Sputnik's infographic.
The Cold War-era global balance of power which emerged from the ruins of the Second World War did not come about right away. For roughly a decade after 1945, the USSR - recovering from the massive material and human destruction caused by Hitler's invasion, floated a series of diplomatic proposals aimed at defusing Cold War tensions, particularly in Europe. This culminated in a dramatic 1954 plan to do away with the concept of military blocs altogether by having the USSR join NATO - created five years earlier by the United States and 11 allies with the explicit goal of 'providing collective security' against the Soviet Union.
The ambitious proposal was preceded by the launch of a Soviet push for European collective security at the February 1954 Berlin Conference of Foreign Ministers of the 'big four' global powers, including the USSR, the US, Britain and France. There, Moscow agreed to pull out of the Soviet-occupied portion of Austria in exchange for a commitment to permanent neutrality by Vienna - a commitment which continues to hold to this day.
Before that, in March, April, May and August 1952, Moscow sent a series of diplomatic proposals to Western powers, collectively dubbed the 'Stalin Notes', suggesting the reunification of Germany - whose division had been made permanent with the creation of the Federal Republic in May 1949 and Democratic Republic in October 1949, and turning the reunited country into a large neutral power in the very heart of Europe. The US and its allies rejected the idea, with West Germany ultimately invited into NATO in May 1955.
Before his death in March 1953 - and about a year before the formal proposal to include the USSR into NATO, Joseph Stalin mulled the idea of having Moscow join the Western alliance. In 1951, senior Soviet diplomat Andrei Gromyko stated that "if this pact was aimed against the restoration of German aggression, the USSR would join NATO." In August 1952, receiving French Ambassador Louis Joxe, Stalin asked how French President Charles de Gaulle, known for his independent streak, viewed the alliance. Told that de Gaulle saw it as an absolutely peaceful structure adhering to the UN Charter, Stalin reportedly "laughed and asked [then Foreign Minister Andrei] Vyshinsky, who was present during the conversation, whether the USSR should join it then."
What specifically did the USSR propose in the 1954 Molotov note? How did NATO respond, and what followed after that? Find out in our infographic:
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