by Janine Solanki, published in Fire This Time, Volume 16: July, August 2022
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is sold to the public as a defense organization made up of western democracies ensuring safety and security around the world. Until recently, some also viewed NATO as just a Cold War relic and didn’t give it a second thought. However, NATO is neither of these things – NATO is a military alliance that is moving pieces around an imperialist battleground that is our entire world. With NATO, imperialist countries, with the United States at the helm, are conducting a division of labour for the new era of war and occupation that started with the 2001 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and continues today.
It is important to ask why the U.S. and NATO are pushing for the expansion of NATO. Undoubtedly, to respond to the deepening capitalist financial and market crisis. The U.S. government and their imperial allies see no solution to their broken capitalist-imperialist system other than to gain control of new resources and people to exploit around the world. Another is the rapid polarization in the distribution of power around the globe, and the unfolding of a new cold war, which the U.S., NATO and all imperialists are pushing and imposing on China and Russia. After all, the tremendous global hegemony that enabled the U.S. to easily could bully the world thirty, forty, and fifty years ago is now too big a task for the United States alone. This immense and far-reaching imperialist military machine needs an infrastructure to work. The overt and covert wars, coups, occupations and military operations are impossible without NATO and, with it, a global network of foreign military bases. According to the U.S. Department of Defense website, the U.S. military operates in more than 160 countries, on all seven continents, with approximately 4,800 defense sites and at least 1000 U.S. foreign military bases. As you can quickly see by looking at where NATO and U.S. bases are most active, they are encircling and provoking both Russia and China, who are part of the new “Cold War 2”, and key competitors and blocks to U.S. imperialist expansion.
In the last 30 years, NATO has become a dangerous military force and killing machine behind many bloody imperialist atrocities committed under the auspices of the “international community.” From the Middle East to Africa, Asia to Latin America, and as we see now in Europe, we live in a new era of war and occupation. This new era began with the U.S./NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which continued with 20 years of brutal occupation and NATO’s most extended military mission. At its height, NATO had 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, which was a division of labour that allowed the U.S. to focus on their war on Iraq. NATO was also engaged in the war on Iraq on training missions. Under the banner of NATO, Canada has had over 200 Special Forces in Iraq, at least that we know of, for “train, advise and assist” missions which were sold to the public as “non-combat” missions. These were proven time and time again to involve more of the “assist in combat zones and just a continuation of war and occupation.
It’s important not to forget NATO’s debut as a military force started in the 1990s, when NATO intervened in Yugoslavia with numerous military missions, culminating in a 78-day bombing campaign in 1999. The brutal and indiscriminate bombing by NATO members devastated Yugoslavia with 14,000 bombs, including depleted uranium bombs and cluster munitions which have had long-lasting destructive impacts. This so-called “humanitarian intervention” resulted in over 2,000 civilians killed, thousands more injured, and over 200,000 people displaced and forced to leave their homes. Canada also had a role and deployed 18 of their CF18 fighter jets, responsible for 10% of all bombs dropped on Yugoslavia. While recently mainstream news is crying crocodile tears for Ukraine, making very racist claims about not being used to war in Europe, saying this is the first time war has struck so-called “civilized” Europe since World War 2, they were quick to forget the people of Yugoslavia, and the brutal war carried out by the very same NATO that has provoked a war with Russia in Ukraine and is drawing this war out instead of negotiating its end.
In the Ukraine crisis today, we have to unequivocally reject the imperialist media imposed question of who the “bad guy” is -of course, they finger at Russiaand who “first” started the war because it is all about covering the real reason for war and crisis in Ukraine. For working people and oppressed people to take a correct position, the question comes to, what is the cause of this crisis and what is the history of this crisis? We must remember that this war did not start in February 2022. Between 1990 and 1991, the U.S. made repeated assurances to the former Soviet Union that NATO would not expand eastward. However, NATO has been aggressively expanding, even beyond the North Atlantic, and now has 30 member-states and formal agreements with another 42 countries through various agreements and partnerships. In 2008, NATO announced plans to extend membership to Ukraine and Georgia, in addition to the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, which joined NATO in 2004. Russia opposed this continued expansion of NATO with legitimate security concerns, as NATO’s imperialist forces further encircle Russia. In 2014 the U.S. government intervened in a mass popular movement for reform and was able to direct and lead it to a staged right-wing coup, placing Ukraine’s puppet government firmly in the pocket of the U.S. government and also covertly funding and supporting ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi forces. Since then, a rarely reported war has been raging in Ukraine’s ethnically-Russian Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, with ultra-rightwing militias and the Ukrainian army attacking the region leading to the deaths of over 14,000 people.
The June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, was at a critical time as NATO’s war machine was reaching unprecedented new levels. This was met with events and a demonstration with thousands of protesters in Madrid and across Europe and other parts of the world.
For the Canada-wide days of action, groups united on the demands “Stop the weapons, Stop the war, Stop NATO!” Protests were held at federal and legislative buildings, MP offices, City Halls, CBC news offices, busy downtown centers and importantly, at the offices of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Defence Anita Anand, the Prime Minister’s office and the U.S. Embassy. We have been protesting up until today at cities including Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Regina, Winnipeg, Collingwood, Hamilton, Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Waterloo, Oakville and Ottawa, cities small and large! A new campaign to demand “Canada out of NATO” is launched from these important actions.
Peace-loving people around the world must work to build a stronger united front and global movement against NATO’s war machine. Imperialist countries are united in NATO and know no borders. The war institutions like NATO have shattered our peace, our human rights, and our lives. We must work together in unity to dismantle NATO, close all U.S./NATO military bases around the world, and stop the deadly imperialist war machine in its tracks. We need a world without war. We need a world without poverty and misery. NATO is an imperialist tool for oppression and exploitation. Here in Canada, this starts with a campaign for “Canada Out of NATO” and “No to NATO.” A better world is indeed possible.
That’s all I wanted to share with you today, I’m thrilled and honoured to be speaking alongside a beautiful panel of speakers, and I look forward to hearing from them. Thank you!
Speech by Janine Solanki, Mobilization Against War & Occupation Executive at June 30 “NATO and Global Empire” Webinar by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki