Europe 1949: NATO and the Two Germanys
On 4 April 1949 the United States and its European allies formed the NATO alliance to counter the Soviet Union. On 12 May the Soviets ended the Berlin blockade. Eleven days later the western occupation zone of Germany became an independent republic. The Soviet-occupied east followed suit in October.
24 Feb–20 Jul 1949 1949 Armistice Agreements▲
Between February and July 1949, the government of Israel signed armistice agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. Under these agreements, 78% of what had been Mandatory Palestine was placed under Israeli control. In exchange for peace, Jordan was allowed to maintain control of the mountainous region henceforth known as the West Bank, which it annexed unilaterally on 24 April 1950, while Egypt continued to occupy the coastal region known as the Gaza Strip. Following these agreements, the 1949 Lausanne Conference recognized all areas under Israeli control to be part of Israel.
4 Apr 1949 North Atlantic Treaty▲
The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington DC, creating a formal alliance—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO—between Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. The treaty, primarily directed against the Soviet Union, committed each member state to consider any armed attack against another member state, in Europe or North America, to be an attack against them all.
12 May 1949 Berlin Blockade ends▲
On 12 May 1949, after a month of negotiations with the Western Allies, the Soviet Union lifted its blockade of West Berlin. For a time, worried that the move was a Soviet bluff to disrupt them, the Americans and British continued to supply the city by air anyway, but the blockade was never resumed and on 30 September the Berlin Airlift officially ended. Over the duration of the 323-day blockade the US Air Force and the RAF had delivered a total of 2,334,374 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 278,228 flights to Berlin.
23 May 1949 German Federal Republic▲
On 1 June 1948 the Anglo-American Bizone was merged with France to become the Trizone, unifying Western Allied-occupied Germany. On 12 May 1949 the western Allies agreed to implement a constitution for the Trizone, establishing the German Federal Republic (West Germany) on 23 May, with Bonn as its provisional capital.
29 Aug 1949 RDS-1▲
In its first nuclear weapon test, the Soviet Union detonated RDS-1—code-named Joe-1 by the United States—on 29 August 1949 at 7:00 am at Semipalatinsk, Kazakh SSR. Radioactive fission products from the test were detected by the US Air Force, prompting US President Truman to notify the world of the situation the following month. The test surprised the Western powers, who had estimated that the Soviets would not be able to build an atomic bomb until 1953–54.
7 Oct 1949 German Democratic Republic▲
In April 1946 the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) was formed in the Soviet Zone in Germany by merging the rival Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). In October 1949, in response to the establishment of German Federal Republic in the west, the SED established the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, with its capital in (East) Berlin. Retaining close ties with the Soviets, the SED continued on as the ruling party of East Germany until the state’s end in 1989.