NATO gathering this week did nothing for world peace and progress
A papier-mâché figure in the shape of a NATO officer sits in a trash can, followed by a top-hatted capitalist and an Uncle Sam, during an anti-war march in Munich, Germany. | Matthias Balk / dpa via AP

This week, the heads of the NATO countries have been meeting in London to “celebrate” the 70th anniversary of the military alliance. The main news coverage coming out of the gathering revolves around Trump demanding that the members up their contributions to the alliance piggy bank, tales of how leaders of many countries are gossiping about the behaviors of the American president, and Donald Trump’s description of the Canadian prime minister as “two-faced.”

The so-called liberal media, reflected by MSNBC, goes a bit further in its commentary, but, unfortunately, it too parrots the false description of NATO as the long-time guarantor of democracy and peace in Europe and around the world. In the eagerness to lampoon whatever Trump says or does, the knee-jerk response for some in the media is to support or praise anything the president might criticize.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy for seven decades, has never been the good-guy guardian of world peace and progress. Instead, it has been the instrument by which U.S. and transnational corporations can dominate the planet through military, economic, and political means.

When the situation called for it—whether in Iraq, Serbia, Croatia, Libya, Syria, or Afghanistan—NATO could be counted on to step forward in full support of U.S. foreign policy. Today it plays that role by planning, under the leadership of the U.S., war games on the borders of Russia that involve hundreds of thousands of troops and weapons and by backing up U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

NATO policy, like most of U.S. foreign policy over the last 70 years, has resulted not in peace and democracy but in war, massive human suffering, displacement of millions of refugees, and, not least, incredible numbers of deaths.

In addition to being a military protector of capitalism and guarantor of its export to formerly socialist Eastern European countries, NATO is also an international outlaw organization.

Like the U.S., it has conducted many illegal wars. In violation of its own constitution, it goes to war without UN authorization and almost always in cases where there has been no military attack on one of its members. Essentially every single military exploit undertaken by NATO has been just as illegal under international law as have been the wars conducted by the United States since NATO was founded.

Instead of bringing these truths to Americans, the media was busy this week talking about the fight between Trump and French President Macron over France paying its “fair share” into the alliance piggy bank. They never bothered to touch on where those NATO dues go once they’re paid up.

When the corporate media does talk about the alliance, they usually put forward false narratives. They say, for example, that NATO was formed in response to Soviet aggression.

A Soviet era poster depicts the U.S. beating the money out of Europeans to fund NATO. President Trump is railing about the need for NATO members to pay more to the alliance, but few in the media every question just what it is that NATO does. | Soviet Visuals via Twitter

When the alliance was founded in 1949, the Soviet Union had just lost 25 million of its people fighting Hitler and the Nazis. The countries that founded NATO, with the exception of Germany of course, had been allied with the Soviet Union in that fight. What changed by 1949 was that the capitalists in control of NATO’s founding members were alarmed that in one European country after another, the left was growing and often taking political power.

Around the world, former colonies were breaking away from their masters. NATO was created to foster the unity of the capitalist Western countries to enable them to maintain economic and political control of as much of the world as possible. The need, as far as NATO was concerned, was to make sure the 20th century would be the century that saw capitalism triumph over socialism. The truth is that when NATO began in 1949, there was no threat of aggression coming from the Soviet Union.

If the reason for starting NATO was to counter Soviet aggression, then why did NATO not disband after the Soviet Union and the socialist countries were defeated? The reason, of course, is that maintaining capitalism and imperialist control of the world was always the real goal. From the time of the end of the USSR and the socialist countries in Europe until now, NATO has continued in this role, becoming capitalism’s global military arm.

After the defeat of the socialist countries, Russia was promised by the U.S. that NATO would not be expanded to include Soviet-allied states. That pledge was of course ignored. Instead, the alliance expanded from a dozen to 29 countries, including many on the borders of Russia. And they haven’t stopped, pushing now to grab Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine—all former republics that made up part of the Soviet Union itself. On top of that, they are also expanding into Latin America, with their eyes on Colombia and Brazil.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in London, Dec. 3. | Evan Vucci / AP

Trump bragged this week that he had a good meeting with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg was happy about Trump’s push for higher NATO spending by member countries, who have now pledged to hike the NATO coffers by some $400 billion.

It should frighten us that where the people rise up for economic justice, like in Venezuela and Bolivia, for example, the progressive forces have to be ready for the U.S. and NATO to pounce. It is no accident that NATO is putting the moves on countries that surround Venezuela and Bolivia, countries that have rejected U.S. imperialism. Free elections, democracy, and human rights are not the criteria for NATO action. The alliance acts whenever and wherever the interests of imperialism or capitalism are threatened.

Yet today, we unfortunately see liberal lawmakers who join in support for NATO even though the defense of that alliance and support for the U.S. military budget threatens world peace and the funding for progressive programs here at home. Even the best in the U.S. Congress, among them Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, voted for the NATO Support Act earlier this year.

We know that for some the vote was a tactical one—they figure it will pass anyway so why go out on a limb? At some point, however, the line must be drawn and the truth must be told. NATO is a dangerous and international military strike force for capitalism. U.S. generals operating under NATO cover at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany are sitting on top of nuclear missiles that they say protect against “aggression from the East.”

The direction we have to move in is one that creates a new international order involving bodies that use diplomacy rather than war to resolve disputes. This might involve strengthening the UN or perhaps creating new bodies with the power to prosecute any country that violates human rights or tries to foment war. Unlike NATO’s focus on military action, there has to be a focus on ending the threat of war, particularly nuclear war.

NATO has done nothing to make the world safer in this or any other way. Instead, it poses a clear and present danger to humanity.



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.