Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Opening of the NATO Meetings in Paris

December 16, 1957


I am here to continue, with you, NATO's work for a just peace.

I meet with you in Paris--my friends of many years; colleagues in sharing heavy responsibilities and bright opportunity.

This meeting is unique in NATO history. For the first time it is attended by Heads of Governments.

We meet, not under a chilling fear that each nation among us, acting separately and alone, might fail to match the aggressive power that could be brought against any.

That was once true.

We meet, not in any dreadful knowledge that our cities are again, by conflict, scarred and painfully marked, our economies strained, our peoples worn from a war against totalitarianism.

Again, that was once true.

Most certainly, we do not meet in a mood of nationalistic self-assertion, pursuing selfish interests at the expense of our sister nations.

That has never been true of NATO.

We are here to re-dedicate ourselves to the task of dispelling the shadows that are being cast upon the free world. We are here to take store of our great assets--in men, in minds, and in materials. We are here to find ways and means to apply our undoubted strengths to the building of an ample and safer home for mankind here on earth.

This is a time for greatness.

We pray for greatness in courage of will to explore every path of common enterprise that may advance the cause of justice and freedom.

We pray for greatness in sympathy and comradeship that we may labor together to end the mutual differences that hamper our forward march within a mutual destiny.

We pray for greatness in the spirit of self-sacrifice, so that we may forsake lesser objectives and interests to devote ourselves wholly to the well-being of all of us.

We pray for greatness of wisdom and faith that will create in all of us the resolve that whatever measures we take, will be measures for peace!

By peace, I do not mean the barren concept of a world where open war for a time is put off because the competitive war machines, which humans build, tend mutually to neutralize the terrors they create.

Nor by peace do I mean an uneasy absence of strife bought at the price of cowardly surrender of principle. We cannot have peace and ignore righteous aspirations and noble heritages.

The peace we do seek is an expanding state of justice and understanding. It is a peace within which men and women can freely exercise their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In it mankind can produce freely, trade freely, travel freely, think freely, pray freely.

The peace we seek is a creative and dynamic state of flourishing institutions, of prosperous economies, of deeper spiritual insight for all nations and all men.


NATO was born nearly 10 years ago. Eight European nations had then come under Soviet domination and there was clear danger that the rest of Europe might, nation by nation, fall before the powerful military and political influence of the Soviet Union.

NATO has proved itself as an agency of peace. Since it came into being no further nation of Europe has been lost to Communist aggression. Behind the barrier of NATO's deterrent power, conventional and nuclear, the peoples of the West have made great advances.

Here on the Continent of Europe there has been achieved a progress toward unity, in terms of the Coal and Steel Community, EURATOM and the Common Market. Thus is justified the vision of statesmen and provided a new stimulus to vast creative forces long enfeebled by irrational divisions. Everywhere the people of the West have attained new levels of economic prosperity.

We see in Europe and in America the vitality of our factories and mills and shipping, of our trading centers, our farms, our little businesses, and our vast industrial complexities. And above and beyond these material values, are those moral and spiritual strengths which cannot be gauged by finite measurement.


We can take satisfaction from the past, but no complacency in the present. The Soviet State daily increases its military and economic power, and its rulers make clear their purpose to use that power to dominate the world.

To this end the Soviet system imposes upon the great mass of its workers a harsh discipline. Their lot is of forced labor and production, which is as abhorrent as it is menacing, for it provides the despotic State with vast resources produced out of serfdom.

Thus there is emphasized the production of new weapons, including atomic warheads and rocketry. The Communists likewise have enlarged their industrial capacity. They challenge us to a world contest in the economic field, seeking by economic penetrations to gain the mastery of still more human and material resources.

These are some of the problems that confront us. The presence here of Heads of Governments proves that we recognize the magnitude of the challenge.

At a later meeting this Council will consider proposals for specific measures for raising the level of our collective effort. But I repeat--that whatever measures we take--will be measures for peace.


This peace we seek will not be had for nothing. Indeed, its price will be high. But it need not dismay us. Our free peoples possess ample resources wherewith to meet every threat.

The only question is, will we do so? Will we, in freedom, pay the price necessary to preserve freedom?

Let us glance at our resources. The 15 NATO countries comprise nearly 500 million people. These people have a per capita productivity about three times that of the Soviet Union. Our scientists and technicians were the inventors of what now revolutionizes the arts both of war and of peace. We possess what is, today, the most powerful military establishment in the world.

These are some of our material assets. Even more important are the political and moral assets that are national heritages.

We have a demonstrated will for world disarmament and the peace that all men want.

Following World War II, the free nations, without awaiting disarmament agreements, voluntarily disarmed themselves.

When the West possessed an atomic monopoly, we offered to dedicate it to international control, so that the fearsome power could never be used for war.

We conceived and developed the concept of "Atoms for Peace." The International Atomic Energy Agency, now functioning at Vienna, is a product of our imagination and persistence.

Western nations proposed "open skies," so that no nation could mount a massive surprise attack against another.

At London last summer we proposed that there should be an end to the manufacture of fissionable material for weapons purposes; that therefore nuclear weapons should no longer be tested, and that existing nuclear weapons stockpiles should be reduced by transfers to peaceful purposes.

We have demonstrated a will for the spreading of the blessings of liberty. Within the last 15 years our nations have freely granted political independence to 20 countries with populations totaling 800 million peoples.

Within our societies we manifest, so that all can see, the good fruits of freedom. Those fruits do not consist of materialistic monuments, which despots have always been able to exhibit. They consist of providing the simple things all men want--the opportunity to think and worship as their conscience and reason dictate; to live in their homes without fear; to draw together in the intimacies of family life; to work in congenial tasks of their own choice, and to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

These are the most precious manifestations of freedom. And we have the power to defend and spread that freedom.

Freedom has not failed us! Surely, we shall not fail freedom!

We shall be successful. But the task will not be easy or short. Accomplishment will prove to be a journey, not a destination.

We who inherit and share the humane and religious culture of Europe must examine our collective conscience to determine if we are doing our best to meet the grave threat to our free institutions.

I believe that we must rid ourselves of certain false habits of thought of which we have all been more or less guilty.

Among our misconceptions has been the belief that our free system was inherently more productive in all fields than the totalitarian system. Another has been that time was always on our side, irrespective of what we do with that time. Another has been that our nations, merely because they are sovereign, can each lead a separate, selfish national life, without coordination of planning and of effort.

Another is the assumption that the triumph of freedom over despotism is inevitable. As a countryman of mine once observed, "It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice by a lot of people to bring about the inevitable."

It is imperative that, while the margin of power is still ours, we should make sure of policies and efforts that will always keep it so.

We are moving into an era in which vast physical forces cast a pall over our world. I believe our NATO governments stand ready to concert our efforts with each other--and with other nations including, of course, the Soviet Union if it were willing to bring these forces under rational control in the common interest of all humanity. Until that can be done, we must continue to create and sustain within the free world the necessary strength to make certain of the common security. And all of us must have the assurance that that strength will be used to sustain peace and freedom.

We are in a fast-running current of the great stream of history. Heroic efforts will long be needed to steer the world toward true peace.

This is a high endeavor. But it is one which the free nations of the world can accomplish.


We of the Atlantic Community are not alone. In other parts of the world many free nations have banded together in the exercise of their inherent right to collective security. Other free nations, relying on individual rather than collective security efforts, nevertheless share our purposes and our goals of freedom. A special responsibility does, however, rest upon the Atlantic Community. Within our lands freedom first had its birth. It still waxes strong.

The members of our Community need to feel an increasing responsibility to help other free peoples to attain for themselves relief from what has been for them an age-old blight of direst poverty. We have, as I have recalled, been parties to the grant of political liberty to hundreds of millions of people. But that bestowal could be a barren gift, and indeed one which could recoil against us, unless ways are found to help less developed countries to achieve an increasing welfare.

All of us have a vital stake in this sense of increasing sacrifice. None of us must shirk any needed sacrifice to make it possible.


The forces arrayed against us are formidable but not irresistible.

The captive peoples of Eastern Europe have made it evident that patriotism survives and that they continue to live in the hope of recovering their proud and honorable traditions of national independence.

The Kremlin has publicly recognized the "contradictions" between the desires of the workers for better standards of living and the utilization by the State of colossal sums for military and capital developments. The Soviet current 5-year Plan has had to be abandoned. There is in process a decentralization of industry which will inevitably bring with it a decentralization of power and of opinion.

With the passage of time, despotic government historically has suffered internal decay before it is apparent on the surface. Beneath a hard governmental exterior, love of freedom among all peoples still persists. It is a force that has never been indefinitely suppressed.

The industrial plans of the Soviet rulers require an ever-increasing number of finely trained minds. Such minds cannot be indefinitely subjected to thought-control, and to conformity, by the Communist or any other Party.

Freer access to knowledge and fuller understanding are the internal forces that will more and more require recognition. Their effect will be more noticeable if the existing order cannot feed on what appear to be external successes, and thus distract mass attention from the obvious failures of despotic rule.

There lies before the free nations a clear possibility of peaceful triumph. There is a noble strategy of victory--not victory over any peoples but victory for all peoples.

This is no reason for complacency; it is a reason why we should confidently and hopefully do what is required to carry out that strategy.


I have known the comradeship of men in arms from many nations joined in the defense of freedom. The sense of sharing moments of crisis and decision is a moving and a lasting one. Too often those moments come only in time of war. It would indeed be a tragedy if we could not, in waging peace, share the joy of common decision, common effort, and common sacrifice. There is no task so difficult, yet so imperative and so honorable.

It is in that spirit that we have come here, so that out of the reconciling and joining of our wills we shall renew our strength and press on to that peace, in freedom, which is our rightful heritage.

Note: The President spoke at the public session opening the NATO meetings held at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Opening of the NATO Meetings in Paris Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234002

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