NATO – 2.9 – Joseph Luns (Secretary-General, 1971-1984)

NATO


Joseph Luns

The Official Story

JOSEPH LUNS
(5th Secretary General of NATO, 1971-1984)
[Netherlands]


 

Joseph Marie Antoine Hubert Luns (28 August 1911 – 17 July 2002) was a Dutch politician and diplomat of the defunct Catholic People’s Party (KVP) now merged into the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party and jurist. He served as Secretary General of NATO from 1 October 1971 until 25 June 1984.

Luns attended a gymnasium in Amsterdam from April 1924 until June 1930. Luns was conscripted in the Coastguard of the Royal Netherlands Navy serving as a warrant officer from June 1930 until July 1931. Luns applied at the University of Amsterdam in July 1931 majoring in law before transferring to the Leiden University in November 1932, obtaining a Bachelor of Laws degree in June 1933 and graduating with a Master of Laws degree in July 1937. Luns applied at the London School of Economics of the University of London in January 1938 for a postgraduate education in economics, obtaining a Bachelor of Economics degree in June 1938. Luns worked as a civil servant for the Diplomatic service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from October 1938 until September 1952 as an attaché in Bern, Switzerland, from December 1939 until April 1942, as an attaché in Lisbon, Portugal, from April 1942 until November 1943, as an attaché in London, England, from November 1943 until September 1949 and as chargé d’affaires at the United Nations in New York City from September 1949 until September 1952.

After the election of 1952 Luns was appointed as Minister for Foreign Policy in the second Drees cabinet, taking office on 2 September 1952. Luns was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives after the election of 1956, taking office on 3 July 1956. Following the cabinet formation of 1956 Luns was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet Drees III, taking office on 13 October 1956. The Cabinet Drees III fell on 11 December 1958 and continued to serve in a demissionary capacity until the cabinet formation of 1958 when it was replaced by the caretaker Cabinet Beel II with Luns remaining as Minister of Foreign Affairs, taking office on 22 December 1958. After the 1959 Dutch general election Luns was elected again as a Member of the House of Representatives but declined to take office. Following the cabinet formation of 1959 Luns continued as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet De Quay, taking office on 19 May 1959. After election of 1963 Luns was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives but again declined to take office. Following the cabinet formation of 1963 Luns remained as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet Marijnen, taking office on 24 July 1963. The Cabinet Marijnen fell on 27 February 1965 and continued to serve in a demissionary capacity until the cabinet formation of 1965 when it was replaced by the Cabinet Cals with Luns continuing as Minister of Foreign Affairs, taking office on 14 April 1965. The Cabinet Cals fell just one year later on 14 October 1966 and continued to serve in a demissionary capacity until the cabinet formation of 1966 when it was replaced by the caretaker Cabinet Zijlstra with Luns remaining as Minister of Foreign Affairs, taking office on 22 November 1966. After the election of 1967 Luns returned as a Member of the House of Representatives, taking office on 23 February 1967. Following the cabinet formation of 1967 Luns continued as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet De Jong, taking office on 5 April 1967. After the election of 1971 Luns again returned as a Member of the House of Representatives, taking office on 11 May 1971. Following the cabinet formation of 1971 Luns per his own request asked not to be considered for a cabinet post in the new cabinet, the Cabinet De Jong was replaced by the Cabinet Biesheuvel I on 6 July 1971 serving as a frontbencher and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.

In September 1971 Luns was nominated as the next Secretary General of NATO, he resigned as a Member of the House of Representatives the same day he was installed as secretary general, serving from 1 October 1971 until 25 June 1984. Luns retired after spending 31 years in national politics and became active in the public sector served as an diplomat and lobbyist for several economic delegations on behalf of the government and as an advocate for United States–European Union relations and European integration.

Luns was known for his abilities as a negotiator and debater. Luns continued to comment on political affairs as an statesman until his retirement in 1996 after suffering a stroke, he died six years later at the age of 90 and holds the distinction as the longest-serving Secretary General of NATO with 12 years, 268 days and the longest-serving Minister of Foreign Affairs with 14 years, 266 days and the longest-serving government minister after World War II with 18 years, 307 days.

NATO Secretary-General (1971–1984)

In 1971, Luns was appointed as NATO secretary-general. At the time of his appointment, public protests against American policies in Vietnam were vehement throughout Western Europe and among European politicians the credibility of the American nuclear protection was in doubt. Though there were initial doubts about his skills for the job he soon proved that he was capable of managing the alliance in crisis. He regarded himself as the spokesman of the alliance and he aimed at balancing the security and political interests of the alliance as a whole.

Luns was in favour of negotiating with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact members on the reduction of armaments if the Western defence was kept in shape during such negotiations. European members of NATO, according to Luns, should understand that the United States carried international responsibilities while the latter should understand that in-depth consultation with the European governments was conditional to forging a united front on the international stage, which could be accepted and endorsed by all members of NATO.

US-Soviet negotiations on mutual troop reductions and the strategic nuclear arsenal caused severe tensions. Luns convinced American leaders that it undermined the credibility in Western Europe of their nuclear strategy by neglecting European fears of a change of strategy which would leave Europe unprotected in case of a Soviet nuclear attack. The modernisation of the tactical nuclear forces by the introduction of the neutron bomb and cruise missiles caused deep divisions. In the end, Luns succeeded in keeping NATO together in the so-called Double-Track Decision of December 1979. The deployment of these new weapon systems was linked to success in American-Soviet arms reduction talks.

It was also the duty of the secretary-general to mediate in cause of conflicts within the alliance. He was successful in the conflict between Great Britain and Iceland, the so-called Second Cod War not by pressuring the Icelandic government to end its aggressive behaviour against British trawlers but by convincing the British government that it had to take the first step by calling back its destroyers to open the way to negotiations. Luns failed however in the conflict between Greece and Turkey over the territorial boundaries and Cyprus. Lack of co-operation on both sides made Luns unable to mediate or advise on procedures to find a way out.

Between 1964 and 1984 he participated in every annual conference of the Bilderberg Group.

Source: Wikipedia

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