For the west’s masters of war, it’s a good time to be in Wales. A military alliance that has struggled for years to explain why it still exists has got a packed agenda for its Newport summit. Nato may not be at the centre of Barack Obama and David Cameron’s plans to ramp up intervention in the Middle East and wipe the so-called Islamic state “out of existence”. But after 13 years of bloody occupation of Afghanistan and a calamitous intervention in Libya, the western alliance has got an enemy that at last seems to fit its bill. Swinging through the former Soviet republic of Estonia today, the US president declared that Nato was ready to defend Europe from “Russian aggression”.
Nato’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen – who insisted as Danish prime minister in 2003 that “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction … we know” – has released satellite images supposed to demonstrate Russia has invaded Ukraine. Not to be outdone, the British prime minister has compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler.
The summit is planning a rapid reaction force to be deployed across eastern Europe to deter Moscow. Britain is sending troops to Ukraine for exercises. In Washington, Congress hawks are squealing appeasement and demanding action to give Ukraine “a more capable fighting force to resist” Russia.
Any hope that today’s talk of a ceasefire agreement by Ukraine’s president might signal an end to the conflict was sunk when his prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk – an American favourite in Kiev – described Russia as a “terrorist state” and, encouraged by Rasmussen, demanded that Ukraine be allowed to join Nato. It was precisely the threat that Ukraine would be drawn into a military alliance hostile to Russia, despite the opposition of most Ukrainians and its then elected government, that triggered this crisis in the first place. Instead of keeping the peace, Nato has been the cause of escalating tension and war.
Which is how it’s been since Nato was founded in 1949, at the height of the cold war, six years before the Warsaw pact, supposedly as a defensive treaty against a Soviet threat. It’s often claimed the alliance maintained peace in Europe for 40 years, when in fact there is not the slightest evidence the Soviet Union ever intended to attack.
After the USSR collapsed, the Warsaw Pact was duly dissolved. But Nato was not, despite having lost the ostensible reason for its existence. If peace had been the aim, it could have usefully been turned into a collective security arrangement including Russia, under the auspices of the United Nations.
Instead, it gave itself a new “out of area” mandate to wage unilateral war, from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Libya, as the advance guard of a US-dominated new world order. In Europe it laid the ground for war in Ukraine by breaking a US pledge to Moscow and relentlessly expanding eastwards: first into ex-Warsaw Pact states, then into the former Soviet Union itself.
But the “biggest prize”, as the head of US-funded National Endowment for Democracy put it last year, was ethnically divided Ukraine. After the EU made its military-linked association agreement with Ukraine exclusive of a Russian deal – and Ukraine’s corrupt but elected president, who refused to sign it, was overthrown in a US-backed coup by any other name – it was scarcely paranoid for Russia to see the takeover of the neighbouring state as a threat to its core interests.
Six months on, Moscow-backed eastern Ukrainian resistance to the Nato-backed nationalists in Kiev has become full-scale war. Thousands have died and human rights abuses have multiplied on both sides, as government troops and their irregular auxiliaries bombard civilian areas and abduct, detain and torture suspected separatists on a mass scale.
The Ukrainian forces backed by western governments include groupssuch as the neo-Nazi Azov battalion, whose symbol is the wartime Nazi stormtroopers’ wolf’s hook. The increasingly repressive Kiev regime is now attempting to ban the Ukrainian communist party, which won 13% of the vote at the last parliamentary elections.
But then Nato, whose members have often included fascist governments in the past, has never been too fussy about democracy. Evidence for its claims that Russian troops have invaded eastern Ukraine is also thin on the ground. Arms supplies and covert intervention in support of the Donbass rebels – including special forces and state-backed irregulars – are another matter.
But that’s exactly what Nato powers such as the US, Britain and France have been busy doing all over the world for years, from Nicaragua to Syria and Somalia. The idea that Russia has invented a new form of “hybrid warfare” in Ukraine is bizarre.
That’s not to say the proxy war between Nato and Russia in Ukraine isn’t ugly and dangerous. But it’s not necessary to have any sympathy for Putin’s oligarchic authoritarianism to recognise that Nato and the EU, not Russia, sparked this crisis – and that it’s the western powers that are resisting the negotiated settlement that is the only way out, for fear of appearing weak.
That settlement will have to include federal autonomy, equal rights for minorities and military neutrality as a minimum – in other words, no Nato. With the scale of bloodshed and the centre of political gravity in Kiev shifting to the right as Ukraine’s economy implodes, only its western sponsors can make that stick. The alternative, after Crimea, is escalation and disintegration.
Nato likes to see itself as the international community. In reality it’s an interventionist and expansionist military club of rich-world states and their satellites used to enforce western strategic and economic interests. As Ukraine shows, far from keeping the peace, Nato is a threat to it.
A related article:
Strengthening the NATO alliance: article by David Cameron and Barack Obama
From:Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and The Rt Hon David Cameron MPWritten on:4 September 2014History:Published 4 September 2014Part of:NATO Summit Wales 2014: announcements and documents, NATO Summit Wales 2014, Defence and armed forces, Foreign affairs and + others
September 05, 2014 “ICH” – The Prime Minister and US President wrote an article for the Times about the need to work together to face evolving global challenges.
When NATO last met in Britain in 1990 the Cold War was ending. As Margaret Thatcher and President George H.W. Bush pledged to continue to stand together, many might have thought – even hoped – that a new era of peace and prosperity would make this great security alliance less relevant and less needed. But the truth is that today NATO is as vital to our future as it has ever been in our past.
We meet at a time when the world faces many dangerous and evolving challenges. To the east, Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal, self-declared annexation of Crimea and its troops on Ukrainian soil threatening and undermining a sovereign nation state. To the South, there is an arc of instability that spreads from North Africa and the Sahel, to the Middle East.
The growth of technology and globalisation, for all its great benefits and opportunities, has put power once reserved for States in the hands of the individual, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm. The utterly despicable murders of two American journalists by ISIL are but the latest evidence of a brutal and poisonous extremism that murders indiscriminately and risks exporting terrorism abroad.
Of course there are some who say that we shouldn’t get involved in addressing these threats, that in Britain and America we have done our bit for the world and we should leave today’s problems for others to sort out. There are others who doubt whether an institution such as NATO can ever really adapt to meet the challenges of the new threats we face. These are vital questions that go to the heart of how we keep our people safe and it is crucial that we address them head on.
First, those who believe in stepping back and adopting an isolationist approach misunderstand the nature of security in the 21st century. Developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria threaten our security at home. And NATO is not just an alliance of friends who come to the aid of each other in times of need, it is also an alliance based on national self-interest.
Whether it is regional aggression going unchecked or the prospect that foreign fighters could return from Iraq and Syria to pose a threat in our countries, the problems we face today threaten the security of British and American people, and the wider world. Our nations have always believed that our children and grandchildren are more prosperous and secure when the world is more prosperous and secure.
So we have a real stake in making sure they grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped, women are not raped in conflict and families aren’t slaughtered because of their faith or political beliefs. That is why we have decimated core al Qaeda and supported the Afghan people. And it is why we will not waver in our determination to confront ISIL. If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats they could not be more wrong. Countries like Britain and America will not be cowed by barbaric killers. We will be more forthright in the defence of our values, not least because a world of greater freedom is a fundamental part of how we keep our own people safe.
Second, we believe that NATO can adapt to meet the new challenges we face and that this summit can be a landmark in shaping this transition. The changes we need are clear. With Russia trying to force a sovereign state to abandon its right to democracy and determining the course of its future at the barrel of a gun, we should support Ukraine’s right to determine its own democratic future and continue our efforts to enhance Ukrainian capabilities.
We must use our military to ensure a persistent presence in Eastern Europe, reassuring NATO members in Eastern Europe and making clear to Russia that we will always uphold our Article 5 commitments to collective self-defence. And we must back this up with a multi-national rapid response force, composed of land, air, maritime and special forces, that could deploy anywhere in the world at very short notice.
All this will also require investment from NATO countries in the necessary capabilities. Britain and America are two of only four NATO members to meet the target of spending 2% of our GDP on defence and other states must urgently step up their efforts to meet this too. This would send a powerful message to those that threaten us that our collective resolve is as strong as ever.
But while a strong security response is essential, we cannot rely on our military strength alone. We must use all the resources at our disposal – military, economic and political.
We know that terrorist organisations thrive where there is political instability and weak or dysfunctional political institutions. So we must invest in the building blocks of free and open societies, including the creation of a new genuinely inclusive Government in Iraq that can unite all Iraqis, including Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian and other minority populations.
When the threats to our security increasingly emanate from outside the borders of our Alliance, we must do more to build partnerships with others around the globe who share our values and want to build a safe, tolerant and peaceful world – that includes supporting the partners who are taking the fight to ISIL on the ground, as we have done by stepping up support for Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces.
And we should use our expertise to provide training and mentoring to forces elsewhere, whether in Georgia or the Middle East, strengthening the capacity of forces there to tackle local threats.
We must also work with international organisations like the OSCE to ensure a comprehensive approach to upholding democratic norms, which is why they have been invited to attend this Summit. And we must recognise that we can and should use all our levers, including those outside of the Alliance, like the economic pressure that is being brought to bear on Russia’s economy.
Ultimately by working together we are stronger, whether in standing up to Russia or confronting ISIL. So in Newport today we must summon up the shared resolve that inspired NATO’s founding fathers. With more than sixty countries represented at the Summit, we can build this proud alliance of transatlantic nations into a more effective security network that fosters stability around the world.
A network that Britain and America will continue to lead not just because it is morally right to do so, but fundamentally because it is only by supporting peace, democracy and human rights around the globe that we will keep British and American families safe today.