Time To Rethink NATO

with Alice Slater

Donald Trump angered the D.C. establishment when he said that NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, may be obsolete and the U.S. should reassess its spending on the alliance. Hillary Clinton has used Trump’s comments as another example that he is a dangerous, loose cannon. But Trump has brought up an issue worth exploring and this month, when NATO will hold its Annual Summit in Warsaw, Poland on July 8-9, is an excellent opportunity to do so. Indeed, activists are planning to show up on in Warsaw during the Summit and in New York City there will be a demonstration on July 9 in Times Square.

Formed in the early years of the Cold War, 1949, with the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, UK, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France, by 1952 this post-WWII alliance included Greece and Turkey, and had rejected the Soviet Union’s request to join. In 1956, when West Germany was admitted to NATO membership, the USSR formed the Warsaw Pact in response and the Cold War was then on, full-blown. Missiles and nuclear weapons from each side pointed menacingly at each other, with the United States parking nuclear weapons in five NATO countries (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey), where they remain to this day. NATO doctrine provides that nuclear weapons will be used if necessary, at will, on behalf of all its members.

After the Berlin wall fell in 1989 and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all the Soviet-occupied Eastern European countries, dissolving the Warsaw Pact without a shot, the U.S. promised Gorbachev that if he didn’t object to East Germany’s inclusion in NATO, we would never expand NATO further eastward. Russia had lost 27 million people to the Nazi onslaught during World War II and had good cause to fear a military alliance on its borders. Despite U.S. assurances to Gorbachev, today NATO has expanded to include twelve new countries in eastern and central Europe, including Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Croatia. NATO now extends right up to Russia’s border, and has even been discussing membership with Georgia and the Ukraine.

One can only imagine what the response would be in the United States if Russia were to invite Canada and Mexico into its military alliance. Let us not forget how close we came to war when the Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba. And part of the deal President Kennedy made with President Khrushchev for their removal was to take US missiles out of Turkey. Then George W. Bush turned around and put the missiles back in Turkey in 1991, and they were only removed this year after huge objections from Russia.

Meanwhile, in 1991 the U.S. government withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty we had signed with the Soviets in 1972 and put new missile bases in Poland and Romania. Although NATO took no military action during the Cold War, during the first Gulf War it deployed forces for the first time, and then acted unlawfully when it bombed Yugoslavia without UN authorization. The UN Charter, devoted to preventing "the scourge of war," allows nations to the use force only in self-defense when under threat of imminent attack, or when authorized by the Security Council, neither of which had occurred when NATO bombed Yugoslavia in the 1999 Kosovo war. Since then NATO has taken part in many military actions, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. But this year it has been particularly aggressive and provocative, conducting massive military maneuvers on Russia’s borders.

It is totally unacceptable to be taking these provocative measures when the U.S. and Russia have nearly 2,000 nuclear warheads on hair trigger alert, loaded on missiles, submarines and airplanes, poised and ready to fire in minutes. Next year, the Pentagon plans to quadruple military spending in Europe to $3.4 billion and begin rotating an armored brigade through Eastern Europe-in addition to extra NATO forces to be deployed to Poland and the Baltics. The U.S., the main force behind NATO, is already in a deadly proxy war in eastern Ukraine.
In June NATO launched the largest war games since the Cold War, involving hundreds of tanks and jets, as well as 31,000 troops from 24 countries. The war games in Poland included air-ground assaults and electronic warfare scenarios. Airborne units, infantrymen, medics, military police and aviation units have operated jointly throughout the exercise, which culminated in a massive live-fire event led by the U.S. military. A naval exercise involving NATO forces has just begun in Finland. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing "Saber Strike" operation in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

One can only wonder how, 25 years after the end of the Cold War, we find ourselves rattling our sabers, nuclear and conventional, in this untenable dilemma. Surely President Eisenhower’s prescient warning way back in 1961 that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" is a potent warning for today, more than half a century later. The time has come to spread the word about the dangerous mischief NATO is causing on Russia’s border. With the recent breakup of the old paradigm after the UK just left the European Union, there may be a new opening for change. It has been reported that Germany and France have been talking about ending the sanctions on Russia imposed after the Ukraine events and are now recommending a less aggressive posture for NATO. America too, could do its share to make good on the UN promise to "end the scourge of war" by ratcheting down the hostilities towards Russia and working for the abolition of NATO. You don’t have to be a Donald Trump supporter to recognize that it is time to rethink NATO.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights group Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. Alice Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

8 thoughts on “Time To Rethink NATO”

  1. When I asked my German relatives what, if anything, was the use for them of NATO they surprised me with a reference to a specific contribution to the Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had used the history of Europe to warn against the formation of several abutting states from the former British Colonies because they would go to war against one another for sure. Of course that happened later between the USA and CSA.
    My relatives think that the only good of NATO for them is that it prevents another Franco-German war. Or an invasion of Poland by Germany. Or the invasion of Greece by Italy.

    1. Of course they can’t see Nato from it’s true perspective. They don’t understand Nato’s reason for existing because they haven’t come to figure out that Nato only serves US interests. In Canada the same situation exists to a large part and that is why Canada insists on continuing to be a part of Nato. If Trump was to insist on Canada payiing more for Nato, that could easily upset the applecart, scam, and lead Canadians into understanding that Nato is of no practical use for Canada. However, Canadians also have to come to the understanding that we don’t need US protection because there is no enemy that is a danger to our country. Even though the facade of making Russia the enemy is being partly accepted. That is going to be the difficult part because the Russia/Putin brainwashing fear has worked.

      luv from Canada.

  2. Sad to see NATO become a dangerous and deadly accomplice of the MIC in its quest for domination or destruction in its thermonuclear backed game of chicken… We need to kill NATO quickly, before it kills US…..!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Silly rabbit…NATO was the creation of the MIC for the purpose of furthering the idea of a political NWO. You know, merge the militarys and the political will eventually follow.

  3. If Americans are being motivated to kill Nato because of what Trump says, they are being misled and are doomed to failure. Trump has no notion on how to do it, much less, likely doesn’t even understand Nato’s operation. And of course, Trump’s reasons are only dog whistles that appeal to the wallets of the dogs who hear him. Saving in taxes is the motivator for the dogs, and of course especially the libertarians who hate all taxation.

    The evil which is Nato, and which we here at antiwar.com should all be able to understand, is not the monetary cost to Americans. It is the plain fact that Nato is nothing more than an arm of the US war machine that legitimizes US led wars. Without Nato, the US would have to wage it’s planned wars under it’s own American flag. That wouldn’t pass muster of the rest of the world.

    Trump would quickly find, if he became president, that getting rid of Nato would be the exact opposite of what he will require to ‘make America great again’. Making that happen will depend on the use of overwhelming military force in countries that resist US hegemony. That will need to happen under the Nato flag of legitimacy.

    luv from Canada.

    1. You seem to know what Donald Trump intends to do in the future. Given his inconsistent statements I can’t disprove your assertion. Second, should it matter what the specific motivation Donald Trump of his supporters have to oppose US government participation and funding of NATO?

  4. There is only one answer to the NATO problem and that’s to dismantle it and it will probably have to be dismantled by the b*tch who bore it AKA USA. Sadly it appears that even the major third party candidates don’t seem willing to take a strong stand against NATO. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have by far been the most vocal critics of NATO expansion but I haven’t been able to find a call by either of them to actually destroy the organization, which must be done. However Jill stands alone in calling to close down all bases on foreign soil which is close but not close enough. Bernie supports maintaining the status quo and Killary of coarse wants rapid expansion and Trump can’t seem to figure out what he wants but he generally seems to advocate turning NATO into an anti-Muslim death squad which is hardly an improvement.

    All and all, best option: Jill Stein.

    I was tempted at one point to say Johnson but since winning the Libertarian nomination he seems to be making a desperate dash to water down his already shaky antiwar credentials for the “Never Trump” Republican center. Tom, once again, you were right.

    Worst option: Killary, naturally.

    Peace, Love and Empathy-CH

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