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NATO at 70: The Time Has Come to Retire This Alliance

NATO has celebrated its 70th Birthday in London this week. It’s an anniversary, by rights, but it shouldn’t have reached.  


Sheila Coombes
21st Century Wire

This past week, numerous government officials gathered in London for this week’s NATO Leaders Meeting, and also to mark the 70th anniversary of the Alliance. But the organisation’s built-in obsolescence appears to have been forgotten.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was created in 1949 on the premise that it provided protection for its European member states from the Soviet Union. That the Soviet Union is no more, would, for rational brains be a sticking point when considering NATO’s continued existence.

Brushing that trifle aside, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured attendees and the public that ‘NATO is the most successful alliance in history because, “We have changed as the world has changed”.

The only credible ‘change’ would have been dissolution, but NATO soldiers on. The question is for how long?

Given that some heads of NATO member states are describing the alliance as ‘brain dead’, and given tensions between two key members, France and Turkey, and given US President Trump’s not entirely enthusiastic support of the block – is there cause for concern for NATO’s further longevity?

Both Stoltenberg and NATO conference host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, strongly emphasised the character of the organisation as being ‘all for one and one for all’ – reflecting Article 5 of the NATO treaty. But there are dangers with block initiatives when one overriding power resides at the helm.

Since its inception 70 years ago, the NATO post of ‘Supreme Allied Commander in Europe’ has been held by an American General or Admiral, the first being General Eisenhower in 1951. After 70 years, it’s now clear that NATO effectively operates as the de facto US military wing in Europe with subservient member states following suit, effectively occupied by US forces, and paying for the pleasure. President Trump’s dismay at underpayment by member states for US protection and meeting their 2% of GDP defense spending threshold, despite a collective increase in member state contributions by $160 billion since 2016, must be offset with his realisation that US weapons manufacturers like Lockhead Martin and Boeing benefit hugely from the captive market that is NATO. It’s a hugely lucrative market, with Lockhead Martins’ faulty F35 fighter aircraft (with an estimated cost of $85 million each) and Boeing’s Apache helicopters are widely purchased throughout NATO. A cartel, in all but name.

But NATO member Turkey, has bucked the trend by purchasing the S400 missile defence system from Russia, this despite extensive pressure from Washington not to do so. Sanctions were then threatened against Ankara which could have significantly harmed the fragile Turkish economy, a situation highlighted by the Financial Times and others.

In these changing times, and with fractures evident in the NATO alliance, Turkey has been more successful in its defiance of US stewardship of NATO than France was in 2015 when it endeavoured to fulfil its provision of French Mistral battleship purchased by Russia. The French government of Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated the sale of the Mistral-class helicopter carrier to Russia, which was due for delivery in 2015 under the government of new French President Francois Hollande. Although funds for the vessels had been paid by Russia, pressure was placed on Francois Hollande’s government by Washington and NATO member states to cancel delivery of the ship. Francois Hollande capitulated, refunded payment to Russia and added compensation due for breach of contract, before eventually selling the ships to Egypt.

Following World War II and the creation of NATO, France left the organisation in 1966. Later, in 2003 France refused to take part in the invasion of Iraq. This drew the wrath the Bush administration and in the US the French were labelled “Cheese eating surrender monkeys”, French wine was poured down US drains and French fries were renamed ‘freedom fries’ in protest at France’s non-compliance. In 2009 under the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, France re-joined NATO, and two years later in 2011 enthusiastically contributed to NATO bombing of Libya as did other member states including Britain. Having re-entered the NATO fold, France played the NATO game – not unwillingly, and even enthusiastically, but if NATO had not been there for logistical and propaganda support by way of its PR wing, the Atlantic Council, would France have been so bold as to unilaterally undertake such aggressive pre-emptive action in Libya? It was a French fighter jet called-in by a US surveillance drone operated from Las Vegas that bombed Gadaffi’s cavalcade leaving Tripoli.  NATO-backed ‘rebels’ (later found out to be comprised mostly Al Qaeda and extremist jihadi fighters) pulled Gadaffi from his vehicle, tortured and murdered him. This is the power and co-operation of the block that is NATO, the ‘All for one, one for all’ spirit invoked by Johnson and Stoltenberg.

NATO’s eternal disapproval of Russia, whether it be the nation governed under the principles of Communism, or the now free market capitalist Russian Federation, has been its mainstay. Only under the US puppet Yeltsin (whose released emails with US President Bill Clinton reveal the sycophancy of Yeltsin toward Clinton) was NATO’s stance toward Russia inactive. But since the continued rise of Washington NeoConservatives, and with Russia firmly in their sights for regime change, NATO bases have advanced eastward surrounding the Russian Federation, adding some 13 new NATO bases in Eastern Europe. This continued expansionism in through the Baltic states in the north and towards the Republic of Georgia in the south, was encapsulated by Hilary Clinton at the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, but which directly contravened US promises by US Secretary of State James Baker in 1990 that NATO would move “not one inch” past the East German border.

At the NATO conference in London, British PM Boris Johnson stated that the block’s success relied on all member states standing together to ensure that ‘No-one starts a war’, conveniently forgetting all of the wars instigated by NATO, including debacles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. If he were referring to wars in Europe and the contention that NATO has maintained peace there, one has to bring up the thorny issue of conflict in Yugoslavia in the 1990s undertaken under the auspices of NATO. NATO Generals like General Wesley Clark and General Philip Breedlove have actively sought conflict with Russia. As US Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe in the 1990s, Clark oversaw NATO’s brutal campaign in Yugoslavia. NATO hugely benefited from that war in that it constructed one of its largest bases in the relatively small territory of Kosovo, carved out of the former Yugoslavia. The Kosovo base is called Camp Bondsteel, and it officially covers 955 square acres, but unofficially over 1,240sq acres. Camp Bondsteel is situated just South of Pristina Airport in Kosovo. During the conflict in Yugoslavia, General Clark issued an order which was thankfully countermanded by wiser heads. In his Neocon aligned thirst for war with Russia (something he pursued later with regard to Ukraine following the US and EU-backed Maidan coup) Clark issued a command to attack Russian forces which had landed at Pristina airport. This order was refused, surprisingly by a man who went on to become a British pop singer, Captain James Blunt and countermanded entirely by General Sir Mike Jackson with the words: “I will not have my soldiers responsible for starting world war three”.

Following the US-EU coup in Ukraine, US Supreme Commander General Philip Breedlove’s hawkishness with regard to a supposed Russian military build-up in the East was revealed to be wishful thinking on his part. Breedlove’s desire for war with Russia mirrors that of Washington NeoCons and aligned Democrats like Hilary Clinton who was Secretary of State at the time of Breedlove’s stewardship of NATO. She famously likened President Putin to Hitler. Although Breedlove’s rhetoric convinced many of the veracity of his claims of a ‘Russian military invasion’ in Ukraine, thankfully the German intelligence agency the BND investigated to find none, only disparate groups whose sympathies and often ethnicity lay with Russia, and who operated Russian equipment sold to Ukraine in previous years and decades. Der Spiegel reported on Breedlove’s warlike demeanour in an article entitled, ‘Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO stance’.

So it’s ‘All for one and one for all’, but when the ‘one’ has the strategic goal of an element in Washington who’s stated aim is ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’, one has to wonder if the NATO block is a force for good in the world, or an obsolete  incestuous war machine supplying itself with more capacity for instigating military intervention – existing only to manage risks created by its own expansionism.

If this week’s 70h birthday showed one thing, it’s that fissures are now appearing in the NATO block, driven by economic, foreign policy and political tensions. If this contrived mechanism is to maintain its authority on the world stage, it will have to do what Stoltenberg claims, to ‘Change as the world has changed’, and perhaps note that there are new and powerful alliances forming all around it, and that its member states could consider seeking to forge other mutually beneficial alliances outside of NATO’s contrived jurisdiction.

If NATO wishes to continue its protestations of existing as a defensive block, it will have to desist from its relentless expansionism and antagonism of others in this new multi-polar world.

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Author Sheila Coombes is an activist and founder of the UK grassroots antiwar organisation Frome Stop War. See Sheila’s 21WIRE archive here.

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