The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) must be understood from its roots, which is anti-democratic says Yves Engler, while discussing his four part print series on The Real News
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary is this week and it was met with anti-NATO protests across the world, including right here in Washington D.C. where the alliance is expected to meet this week with all the foreign ministers. On April 4th 1949, the alliance’s treaty was signed by twelve organizations and today it has grown to 29 members.
NATO PROMOTIONAL VIDEO CLIP: The North Atlantic Alliance was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War in the context of countering the threat posed at the time by the Soviet Union. The treaty sets out the idea of collective defense, meaning that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies. It commits the allies to democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law, as well as to peaceful resolution of disputes. Today, NATO has 29 members who are stronger and safer together.
SHARMINI PERIES: On to discuss the lineage of NATO to the present is Yves Engler. Yves is the author of many books and among them is Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada. Yves, good to have you back.
YVES ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: Alright now. NATO’s 70th anniversary is important to remember and that is why you have written a four-part series about its anti-democratic roots. So Yves, tell us about the four that we are publishing on The Real News that one can go and read.
YVES ENGLER: I have four different articles dealing with different elements of NATO and specifically, Canada’s role dealing with the foundation of NATO which was designed to blunt the European Left and then to really bring the world under the U.S. geopolitical umbrella. I also have a piece dealing with how NATO has become more belligerent since the end of the Cold War and how NATO was used within Canada to promote increased military spending. And then the fourth part of the series is dealing with how the Left in Canada has responded to NATO and it’s been an issue that’s been very controversial within the mainstream N.D.P. For a couple decades, the party had an official “get Canada out of NATO” position. So the series is really just trying to unpack what the alliance is in this context of the 70th anniversary.
SHARMINI PERIES: Alright now. In the NATO clip you saw earlier on the NATO website, it boasts the fact that it was really established as an alliance to deal with the Soviet Union at that time. Let’s have a look.
NATO PROMOTIONAL VIDEO CLIP: For its first four decades, the Cold War defined the alliance. Collective defense was NATO’s main role. When that confrontation ended in 1989 and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, some said that NATO had fulfilled its purpose, that it was no longer needed, and yet the alliance is still here today. So why has NATO stood the test of time?
SHARMINI PERIES: Alright, so that’s the question to you, Yves. Why has NATO stood the test of time? Why is it necessary today?
YVES ENGLER: Well it stood the test of time because it was never designed primarily about countering the Soviet Union. From the beginning, even when it may be correct to say it was about countering communism, but that was communism internally. After World War II, the Soviet Union was not a threat to Western Europe, but indigenous, socialist, and communist parties in Italy, in Greece, in France, had a lot of support and they would have won an election in Italy, almost won 30 percent of the vote in France, and would have took power in Greece if it wasn’t for U.S. intervention. And so what NATO was designed to do was to– there were tens of thousands of Canadian-U.S. troops that were stationed in France and Germany and elsewhere in Europe– designed to blunt the European Left and in the words of Canada’s Foreign Minister, “a conquest from within.” That was the objective of NATO, to stop a conquest within (i.e. a socialist or communist taking power internally). The real reason, the secondary reason for the creation of NATO and why it continues to exist today is because NATO was designed to reinforce European colonial power in Africa and Asia and bring it under a U.S.-led geopolitical umbrella and basically to have this alliance that brings the leading capitalist countries together to dominate the world under Washington’s lead. And that’s something that Washington has continued to want to do around the world. The end of the Soviet Union didn’t end Washington’s desire to dominate the world. And so NATO as a tool for that domination has really continued on until today and in fact, become more belligerent since the end of the Cold War.
SHARMINI PERIES: Alright. In reference to what you just said, Yves, about the kind of activities it’s engaged in now, let’s have a clip of this, what they claim the purpose of it today.
NATO PROMOTIONAL VIDEO CLIP: Today, we face a much broader range of threats than in the past. To the east, Russia has become more assertive with the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine, as well as its military buildup close to NATO’s borders. During the Arab Spring, NATO led an air campaign over Libya to protect civilians being targeted by the Gaddafi dictatorship. NATO and its partners have helped to prevent piracy off the Horn of Africa and are cooperating to fight terrorism in the Mediterranean Sea. NATO has also supported international efforts to stem illegal migration and human trafficking in the Aegean Sea.
SHARMINI PERIES: One cannot ignore the irony in all of that. It talks about Libya and Gaddafi’s attack on civilians, but then they boast that it is fighting terrorism in the Aegean Sea, where in fact what I have witnessed in the Aegean Sea is the NATO ships coasting the Aegean Sea, looking for immigrants that might come over to Europe, and not necessarily protecting any civilians which they are in those boats desperate people trying to come over from Syria and northern Africa escaping all kinds of atrocities often created by NATO countries.
YVES ENGLER: Well and in the case of the 2011 bombing of Libya, not just the bombing; there were Canadian special forces on the ground and there were British and other countries’ special forces on the ground. The effect of the NATO mission was to increase instability, was to increase Libya as a hub of migration in illegal human trafficking. It was also to destabilize not just Libya, but also much of the Sahel region of Africa. And so on one hand NATO engages in belligerent, violent campaigns. On the other hand, it talks about the need to bring security and end problems at sea or instability at sea, while it’s simultaneously creating this violence. But I think we also need to look at, least in the Canadian context, how the NATO alliance is really used to promote destructive— ecologically, socially-— military spending. The alliance in the Canadian context is very much used to put pressure on the Canadian government, on public opinion to say that we have to be spending two percent of our G.D.P. on military spending. That’s an agreement that NATO countries came to in 2006. It’s a totally arbitrary number and it’s used as a sort of militarist stick within public discussion in this country, and I presume in many of the European countries as well, to put pressure on political leaders to increase military spending, which is the last thing we need is more military spending. We need more spending on things to mitigate climate change, on education, on day care, and whatnot. So the alliance really becomes this militarist tool to push our politics and, in my opinion, the wrong direction.
SHARMINI PERIES: Right and also, we saw from the earlier clip that NATO is now boasting 29 members. This now includes countries like Colombia and possibly Brazil. Colombia has a special status now with NATO and Brazil is also positioning itself to be some sort of affiliate. So they’re really expanding their wings as an alliance into Latin America. That has never existed before. So talk about that, as well as Georgia now becoming a member.
YVES ENGLER: Well I think that the expansion to Colombia, which has become a partner country and I think Brazil’s on the cusp of becoming a partner to NATO, is a reflection of the fact that it’s not just about North Atlantic region, but of course it never was. The Korean War in the early 1950s, which began a year after the creation NATO, Canadian and American political leaders justified going to war in Korea partly on the basis of saying that we had this NATO alliance and we had to defend it. And of course Korea is about as far from the North Atlantic area as you can get. So I think that the Colombia example and Brazil example, reflect the fact that it’s really an alliance of world domination, if you like. And I also think that the Colombia example does also speak to the fact that NATO is just one tool of many tools in the foreign policy/military toolkit of the U.S., of Canada, and other leading imperial countries. So historically the U.S. has pursued its domination of Latin America outside of NATO. In fact, they would prefer that NATO was not really involved in Latin America so that Britain or France isn’t really involved. “This is our backyard,” in the words of official U.S. foreign policy. And so NATO had been more focused on Africa and Asia, which were places that were colonized in more recent times at least by European powers. And so what NATO was about was propping up that European power in those countries in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. And so with regards to Latin America, I think that the direction of the U.S. government in bringing Colombia into NATO is somewhat reflective of the fact that there has been a change of balance of power in the region over the past 20 years, even though right now it sort of seemed to have regressed. Latin America has somewhat broken away from some U.S. dominance. And so bringing NATO into Colombia, I think, the U.S. sees that as trying to reassert its power in the region. And with regards to Georgia and Eastern Europe, the agreements with the Soviet Union with regards to the reunification of Germany was that NATO wouldn’t go an inch to the east. But instead what’s happened of course is NATO has expanded onto all these countries on Russia’s border, which of course Russia considers a serious threat. And that, I think, just contributes to this conflict between the U.S. and Russia, which really nobody is benefiting from this except for arms companies. And the belligerence of NATO in moving towards the east, moving to Russia border, and, like I said, Canadian troops in Latvia, that’s just leading to the possibility of this horrible conflict between the two main nuclear powers in the world.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Yves. Let’s leave it there for now. I encourage everyone to go on The Real News site and you’ll see a JPEG, which is a link to all of Yves articles on NATO. I thank you so much for joining us today.
YVES ENGLER: Thanks a lot for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.