No to war - No to NATO!

By Pat Turnbull 

On 3rd and 4th December 2019, NATO held its 70th anniversary summit in London, celebrating its foundation on 4th April 1949 in Washington DC, USA.  The summit was able to welcome as a participant its future 30th member, North Macedonia, strengthening NATO's stranglehold on the Balkans.

Before the summit, there was a lot of talk about divisions.  In an article of 3rd December entitled 'NATO summit: Divisions exposed ahead of meeting', the BBC web site highlighted widely publicised disagreements featuring French President Macron, Turkish President Erdogan, and US President Trump: 'Last month, the French president angered some countries by suggesting the alliance is "brain dead"'.  It continued, 'Ahead of his departure from Ankara to London, Mr Erdogan said Turkey would not approve a plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack unless NATO recognises the Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists.'  President Trump was quoted as saying ahead of the meeting that Macron's statement was “very, very nasty" adding: "You can't just go around making statements like that about NATO.  It's very disrespectful."  In addition, the mass media was full of Trump's disgruntlement at NATO members' failure to meet the target of military spending of at least 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Thieves do fall out, but predictions of a major rift turned out to be fake news when the final statement, agreed by all members, was delivered.  According to the statement: 'NATO guarantees the security of our territory and our one billion citizens’. It reaffirms, 'our solemn commitment as enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty that an attack against one Ally shall be considered an attack against us all.'  It continues: 'Through our Defence Investment Pledge, we are increasing our defence investment in line with its 2 per cent guidelines' adding that 'non-US defence expenditure has grown for five consecutive years; over 130 billion US dollars more is being invested in defence.'  


'Russia's aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security; terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all.  State and non-state actors challenge the rules-based international order.  Instability beyond our borders is also contributing to irregular migration.  We face cyber and hybrid threats.'  The statement repeats the lie that 'Russia's deployment of new intermediate-range missiles ...brought about the demise of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.'  It continues 'Allies are strongly committed to full implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in all its aspects', an assertion which does not sit well with the involvement of non-nuclear NATO states in preparations for nuclear war and with NATO's policy that in the event of war the non-proliferation treaty would be disregarded. 

The statement highlights new, additional priorities: 'NATO and Allies, within their respective authority, are committed to ensuring the security of our communications, including 5G.'   Worryingly it continues: 'We have declared space an additional domain for NATO' and 'We are increasing our tools to respond to cyber attacks.'  A new enemy is added. 'We recognise that China's growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an alliance.'

Given these additional aggressive priorities by NATO, it is disappointing that the 2019 Labour Party manifesto was weak in this respect.  Under Defence and Security the manifesto says: 'We will maintain our commitment to NATO and our close relationship with our European partners.'  It adds, 'Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent.'  Given that Britain in July 2019 reclaimed the title of the world's second biggest arms exporter, it is unfortunate that the manifesto says, 'Labour's commitment to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defence will guarantee that our armed forces are versatile and capable of fulfilling the full range of roles and obligations' and 'the UK defence industry is world-leading, and Labour will continue to work with manufacturers, unions and export partners to ensure it maintains its highly skilled workforce.'  There are better ways to guarantee skilled jobs than manufacturing arms.

It is also disappointing that the demonstrations on the occasion of the NATO summit in London were organised under the slogan 'No to Trump, no to NATO!  As a result the focus of the march was not on NATO but on Trump, with a range of organisations highlighting issues unconnected to the summit.  This contrasts with demonstrations in Portugal on the dates of the summit headed 'Yes to Peace! No to NATO!' or the proposed slogans in Germany next year 'No to War! No to NATO!'


On 6th December German paper Unsere Zeit (UZ)published in its online edition an interview with Anne Rieger, one of the organisers of the 22nd Kassel Peace Advisory of 7th and 8th December.  The Advisory, with forty speakers, was entitled 'No to war - disarmament not arms build-up - ban nuclear weapons'.  The interview was headed 'No Natural Law: without resistance the danger of war will grow.'  

UZ's questions began: 'Tanks roll eastwards through Germany to the Russian border. At the beginning of October German, US and other military units undertook the NATO military exercise 'Steadfast Noon' rehearsing nuclear war over Germany.  How does the peace movement assess the current danger of war?'

Anne Rieger answered: 'The danger of war is growing enormously.  World wide the profits of the concerns are not reaching the levels capitalist necessity requires.  The exploitation of nature and human beings is reaching its limits.  So with the competition among themselves, the clashes over resources, markets, means of transport and cheap labour, their room for manoeuvre grows less and less.  If this can't be dealt with by economic means, the option of a military conflict between the states concerned becomes ever greater and with it the danger of war.  We see and feel the build up of arms.  The question is how strong we, the people involved, the peace movement, are to fight against this.  War is not a natural law, but a question of the balance of forces.  Sadly we must say that this is not on our side in Germany, NATO and the EU.  The concerns and the politicians acting for them feel themselves since 1989 so strong, so brutally armed that they can take chances on this danger of war.'

But Anne Rieger continued: 'If we can succeed in developing lasting common demands and actions with the young people of the "Fridays for Future" demonstrations, join the problems of the environment and climate to the anti-war question, we can change the balance of forces a little bit to our advantage.  We must make it clear that wars and the concerns which prepare wars and armaments for them are the great climate destroyers.'

In 2020 NATO is planning a huge manoeuvre, Defender 2020.  More than 37,000 troops will practise redeploying to Poland and the Baltic.   In preparation the German peace movement will use the collection of signatures on the petition 'Disarmament not arms build up', which already has 170,000 signatures, to explain to people what is going on and the dangers it holds.  They want to extend their work with the trade unions, and mobilise for the February security conference in Munich and the regular Easter marches.

The manoeuvres are happening around the 8th of May, the 75th anniversary of the liberation from fascism, which gives them a particularly baleful significance.  On the days of the manoeuvres the peace movement will organise actions along the route of this war provocation, especially in east Germany, where actions and organisation were recently discussed at a big meeting of peace activists in Leipzig.

Anne Rieger sees no contradiction between the PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence) EU military project and the plans of NATO.  Like NATO, the PESCO members have committed themselves to spending more every year on armaments.  She judges that Germany, with the help of the EU, will play an even more central role in NATO, with the German bourgeoisie excited to have access in the EU to France's nuclear weapons.  At the negotiations to ban nuclear weapons in 2017, the official and de facto nuclear powers and the NATO states with the exception of the Netherlands did not take part.  The German peace movement wants to press Germany to sign the treaty. 


Anne Rieger also drew attention to a particular danger, that pressure for climate change can be used to justify an aggressive foreign policy.  'Several politicians have already said that because of rises in temperatures, there is a danger that more people will have to leave their countries and come to Europe.  So that they don't overrun us, the outer borders of the EU must be defended.

'Another argument being raised more and more is that in states where conditions are 'chaotic' by reason of climate change, western militaries will be needed to restore the states to 'orderly' conditions.  Climate protection is being used in these cases solely to excuse the further build-up of arms.' 

NATO leaders at the 2019, 70th anniversary summit