On Saturday 4th April, NATO is ‘celebrating’ is sixtieth anniversary. Peace and anti-war activists across Europe, however, see this as a cause for protest. NATO is a nuclear-armed alliance with a first strike policy. In the last ten years it has abandoned all pretence of being a defensive organisation and now has a ‘mission statement’ which includes ‘out of area’ activities across the entire Eurasian landmass. US nuclear weapons, under the auspices of NATO, are stationed in countries across Europe, outside any national control. Not surprisingly, strong campaigns exist for their expulsion.
From 3rd to 5th April, Strasbourg will be the venue not only for the NATO ‘celebrations’, but also a counter-conference and demonstration organised by the European peace and anti-war movements.
Many people rightly believe that NATO should have been dissolved, as the Warsaw Pact was, at the end of the Cold War. But that didn’t happen. In fact, with the disappearance of one superpower, the other did not just fade away and allow a harmonious world to emerge – as we were promised at the time. The US moved to fill the positions vacated by its previous rival. Nowhere is that more clearly demonstrated than with the expansion of NATO.
The first steps towards integrating former Warsaw Pact states into full-membership were taken via the Partnerships for Peace programme from 1994. Since then, it has expanded across eastern Europe, up to the Russian border, including former Soviet republics.
This has contributed to international tension as Russia sees itself being surrounded by US and NATO bases, including in the Balkans, the Middle East and central Asia.
Over the last few years, the US drive for global domination has become increasingly active in military terms. NATO has become a vehicle for this process, in particular with the war on Afghanistan. This has been a NATO-led war since 2003, when NATO assumed control of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), established in 2002. By May 2008, there were around 47,000 troops from 40 countries in Afghanistan under the auspices of ISAF, with NATO members providing the core of the force.
Recently, the US has turned its sights on the strategic area of the Black Sea and south-western Asia. This region is very significant in terms of energy production and transportation. The US backed the change of government in Georgia in 2003, which has led to an increasing pro-western orientation. In 2005, Georgia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace scheme, and Georgia signed an agreement supporting and aiding transit of NATO forces and NATO personnel.
It is clear that Bush’s backing for Georgia’s entry into NATO – even though unsucessful at that time – was a key factor in the war in that region in the summer of 2008. What happens next on expansion is less certain, under the Obama presidency, as he has promised to improve relations with Russia. It is hard to see how he can do that and expand NATO at the same time.
All these issues and more – crucial to European security and global stability – will be debated at the counter-conference in Strasbourg in April. Come and join us, for the counter-conference and the demonstration. Seats are still available on coaches from around the country – see CND’s home page for details.