The European Union: a Product of the Cold War, made in USA

15 mei 2024 | John Laughland

This article was published on 18 April 2018 and was updated on 14 May 2024

In discussions about the EU, the ultimate underlying argument in favour is that it guarantees peace.  Nations, it is claimed, and national rivalry, plunged Europe into two catastrophic wars which then engulfed the whole world.  It is only by superseding nation-statehood, and by pooling the sovereignty of European nations in an entirely new form of supranational organisation, that the old continent has been at peace since 1945.

The truth, however, is very different.  The first European communities were not created out of a desire for peace.  Peace had already existed for five years when the first Coal and Steel Community was announced in 1950.  The goals of the major players behind the scenes were not ‘peace’ or ‘reconciliation’ or the brotherhood of man. On the contrary, the first, decisive, steps of the European construction were moves in the incipient Cold War.  The goal of creating these supranational structures was to weld Western Europe into a militarily, politically and economically united bloc, under supranational control, to enable it to fight a war against the USSR.


In 1945, Soviet Russia found herself in a more powerful geopolitical position than the country had been since Tsar Alexander I entered Paris in 1814 after the defeat of Napoleon.  The West wanted to meet this geopolitical and ideological challenge. As there was, at the time, no way of knowing that the conflict would remain cold, preparations were made for the West actually to fight its Soviet former ally. The US, in particular, was determined to unite Europe militarily, politically and economically. 

The first attempt to do this was through the Marshal Plan, announced in June 1947, which required economic integration in Europe as a condition for aid.  It was sold to a partly sceptical American Congress as essential to contain the Soviet threat: anti-communism cut more ice with some American lawmakers than the humanitarianism by which the Marshal Plan is remembered today. This is why the Marshal Plan elicited the hostility of the Soviet Union. George Kennan's long telegram outlining the nature of the alleged Soviet threat and arguing for the US to contain it, dated from the previous year (22 February 1946) and Washington was acting on this basis. On leaving the Three Power conference held in Paris on 2 July 1947 between Britain, France and the USSR, the Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov warned the states receiving aid from the Marshal plan that they “would find themselves placed under control and [that they] would lose their former economic and national independence because it so pleases certain strong powers," by which he meant America.  

In February 1948, when Communists seized power in what was then neutral Czechoslovakia, the Cold War really got under way.  Winston Churchill attended and dominated The Hague Congress of 7 – 11 May 1948 which would lead to the signature of the Treaty of London, a Treaty that provided for the creation of the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental platform for free and friendly cooperation between otherwise sovereign states. However, this new body, which was based on the Franco-German reconciliation which Churchill had called for in his Zurich speech in 1946, and which grew out of a genuine pan-European desire for peace and amity, did not meet the expectations of either the Americans or their federalist allies in Europe because it was not supranational.  It did not provide for proper command-structures that would supersede national sovereignty and it did not correspond to their desire for a top-down supranational structure which would make proper warfare possible.  The Council of Europe would therefore be essentially useless for their purposes.

When the Americans realised that Churchill's initiative did not correspond to their plans, they moved to  reassert control.  In order advance their preparations for a war with Russia, the Americans created, in the summer of 1948 (directly after the Hague Congress), a body called the American Committee on United Europe (ACUE). Allen Dulles, who had been a senior operative in the wartime US secret services and who in 1953 was to become Director of the CIA a month after his brother, John Foster Dulles, became Secretary of State, and William Donovan, the ex-head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), were the prime movers.  Ostensibly a non-profit private corporation, the leaders of this ACUE were in fact all senior CIA or ex-OSS agents: Donovan was the Chairman, Dulles the Vice-Chairman and the executive director was Thomas W. Braden, who had served in the OSS and who would join the CIA in 1950.  On the board of ACUE there was, among others, General Walter Bedell Smith who would become Director of the CIA on 7 October 1950.  

The purpose of this Committee was to provide covert support and control for much more than just intergovernmental cooperation. The European Movement - which was to be a major recipient of funds from the ACUE, but which also got money from John McCloy, the US High Commissioner in Germany, and Robert Murphy, the US ambassador to Belgium - came into being almost immediately after the ACUE was constituted, on 25 October 1948. As the European Movement had no significant funding from within Europe itself, American financial support was to be absolutely decisive in the very first years of the European construction. The European Movement was, indeed, a classic bogus NGO of the kind that has sprung up all over Central and Eastern Europe in the last 25 years: a front organisation for American interests.

Once it became clear that the Council of Europe would not be federal enough to unite Western Europe militarily or politically (and so to fight a war with the USSR), the decision was taken to create a rival organisation to displace it.  This would be the first European community, the Coal and Steel Community, which was was famously announced by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, on 9 May 1950, four days after the Council of Europe came into being. The ECSC created a central planning authority – a sort of Politbureau – to control coal and steel production, the primary materials for war.  (This High Authority created by the ECSC is the direct predecessor of today's European Commission.)  The ECSC therefore was based on an approach to politics and economics which recalled the command economy of the USSR: its vertical command structure provided for central planning to control the means of production, the output, the pricing and the ways in which products were used. It had nothing  to do with ‘free trade’.

Now, it is no exaggeration to say that the Schuman declaration was a conspiracy.  Jean Monnet, the true author of the Declaration, confirmed that only nine people knew of the plans before Schuman announced them. Members of the French Parliament, France's ministries, her proposed partners, and the coal and steel producers themselves - in other words, literally everyone concerned - were kept in the dark until the last minute, no doubt for fear that they might object. The Benelux countries and Italy were not consulted about it until 8 May 1950, at a top secret meeting in Paris after which all its working documents were immediately destroyed. Meanwhile, the office of the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, was informed only in the morning of 9 May 1950, just a few hours before the Declaration was read out. The plan was evidently deliberate - to create a "psychological shock" (as the Dutch newspaper Het Parool reported at the time) and a fait accompli. The idea that the first European community came about as a result of pan-European sentiment or even consultation is therefore, quite simply, a lie.  

Interestingly, there was only one non-European who was in on Schuman's secret: Dean Acheson.  The Secretary of State visited Paris on 8 May 1950 and Schuman told him about his plan, which Acheson immediately decided to support.  The Americans thus knew about the European Coal and Steel Community before the Germans did.  This secrecy would become emblematic for the several key moments in the development of the European ‘project’. It reflects the non-democratic or even anti-democratic nature of the entire undertaking which was initially run by former Resistance operatives or serving secret agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and was later cheered on by Maoists, Mafioso politicians and multinationals. 

Anyway, events moved fast after that.  Having kept the UK out of the ECSC - even though Britain was the largest coal and steel producer in Europe, its politicians on both Left and Right were united in their rejection of supranationalism - the Americans in the ACUE then neutralised the continuing influence of Churchill by engineering the dismissal of his son-in-law, Duncan Sandys, as president of the European Movement because of his opposition to federalism. Two months after the Schuman declaration, Sandys was replaced by Paul-Henri Spaak, an arch-federalist whom the US State Department had tried to shoe in as director-general of the OEEC the previous year, and who would later become Secretary-General of NATO.  The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Joseph Retinger, told Sandys to resign because "our American friends do not agree with your tactics." As if he were running the show - which ultimately he was - Thomas Braden, the US intelligence officer who was executive director of the ACUE, told General Bedell Smith that the task of the former Belgian prime minister's new secretariat - headed by Georges-Louis Rebattet, who had become the national head of the French Resistance in 1943, and who was therefore an expert in covert operations - would be to generate support for federalism through "the initiation of major propaganda campaigns in all European countries." 

Indeed, propaganda, specifically against the USSR, was an absolutely key element of the new war effort for which the first European communities were created. This is very important – because it explains how the entirely bogus ‘peace’ narrative came about. 

At its founding congress in 1947, the Cominform had taken the specific decision that peace propaganda was a major political weapon. From then on, the Soviet Union  started to present itself as the champion of peace against a West determined to divide Europe.  This message of peace elicited considerable support around the world. For example, on 20 - 23 April 1949, the first World Congress of Partisans of Peace was held in Paris with the energetic support of the USSR and of the Communist Parties it funded.  Two thousand delegates from seventy countries attended and it concluded in a massive public meeting in a football stadium.

This Soviet propaganda resonated in a continent that had just divided Germany.  The West was on the back foot and Western leaders realised they had to find a way of combating what they regarded as the Fifth Column of Communists in their own countries.  Robert Schuman said precisely this to Dean Acheson, the US secretary of state, when he met him in Paris on 8 May 1950, the day before the Declaration.  He said, "We must counter the powerful Communist peace propaganda theme, which is making dangerous headway in non-Communist circles."  This is why the very first words of the Schuman Declaration are "World peace ..."  The nascent ECSC, therefore, though designed for war, was thenceforth presented as an organisation devoted to ‘peace’ – its strategic purpose being to prepare for war, its socio-cultural purpose being to draw away some of the attraction felt by millions for the real USSR based in Moscow.

It was also essential to peddle the myth that the new US-backed "community" was all about "Europe".  The West was dividing the continent through the creation of NATO in April 1949 and of the West German rump state in May 1949.  (The German Democratic Republic was not created until October.)  It had to fight back and present itself, instead, as uniting (Western) Europe.  This was why the creation of a Franco-German military alliance, directed against Russia and under US leadership, had to be sold to the public as a manifestation of "Europe".

The next stage was to move towards the full military integration of the military capacities of Western Europe. On 12 September 1950, a series of three days of meetings started in New York between the American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, and the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman. The historical importance of this meeting lies in the announcement of Acheson that the USA wanted to re-arm Germany.  This, he said, was the condition for his other historic announcement, that the US was prepared to "put into Western Europe at the earliest date substantial forces to become part of the total new defence establishment."  He described this as "a step never before taken in (our) history" yet demanded of his British and French colleagues that they give him an answer immediately.  Acheson thereby announced the sudden abandonment of the policy of maintaining a weak and disarmed Germany and of disengaging from Europe.  

Washington undertook this U-turn because Soviet-backed North Korea had attacked the South in June and the Americans feared the same thing could happen in the two Germanies.  At this stage, Western Europe suddenly appeared very vulnerable.  The USA had withdrawn the vast majority of its troops from Europe after 1945.  The numbers stationed there dropped vertiginously and continued to fall after the creation of NATO in 1949.  By 1950, there were just over 100,000 US troops in Europe.  Truman's policy of containment threw all this into sharp reverse and the numbers of US troops in Europe rose rapidly again to reach 350,000 by the time West Germany joined NATO in 1955.  

Robert Schuman reacted to Acheson's demand with characteristic duplicity: he told Acheson that he agreed on the need to rearm Germany but that the plan had to be kept secret. "An announcement now of the decision on this matter (the establishment of German army units) would cause the gravest difficulty in France," he said.  His solution was simple: to disguise German rearmament as a European army.  The French prime minister René Pleven, presented to the Council of Ministers his plan for a European Defence Community, the Pleven Plan, less than one month after the New York meeting, on 8 October 1950. And when he announced his proposal to the French National Assembly on 24 October 1950, Pleven made it quite clear that the proposed European Defence Community was intended to fight the Cold War and to bring the then still neutral West Germany into the orbit of NATO.  He framed the argument in purely Atlanticist terms: 

The associated nations (of NATO) have recognized the need to defend the Atlantic community against any possible aggression, on a line situated as far to the East as possible. They have agreed that all those forces, irrespective of their nationality, should the placed under the command of a single Commander-in-Chief... The army of a united Europe, composed of men coming from different European countries, must, so far as is possible, achieve a complete fusion of the human and material elements which make it up under a single European political and military authority.

In other words, less than six months after pooling coal and steel, the primary materials of war, the six founding member states of what was to become the EU decided to pool their armies as well, and to use the supranational structures of the ECSC for the purpose.  Because the French parliament rejected the European Defence Community in 1954, it is forgotten about today, just as is the poor old Council of Europe. But the sequence of events should not be forgotten. The present European Union is the direct successor of the original ECSC, whose structures its incorporates, and therefore the origins of the European project lie in geopolitics, more precisely to arm Western Europe and to prepare it to fight a new war. The decision to create a so-called single market, and thus to promote European unity through trade and open borders would only come later, after the European Defence Community had failed and as a substitute for it.  But the original geopolitical purpose of the present EU remains unchanged since 1950: the keep Europe firmly in the Western (i.e. American) camp and to prevent any proper reconciliation with its enormous neighbour to the East.


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