How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!
William Shakespeare, from “King Lear”
How can we dance when our earth is turning;
How do we sleep when our beds are burning?
Midnight Oil, from “Beds Are Burning”
NATO is sad. Just when it seemed as if the world had been made safe for democracy, freedom and unbridled capitalism…some members of the alliance went squishy. One appeared – in the persona of its president – to have been smoking jimson weed, and taken leave of his senses. The other evidently aspires to be a pirate itself, and is little better than the ravening hordes it was admitted to the alliance to help hold at bay.
Or so Christian Leuprecht would have you believe, in an opinion piece the Munk Senior Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute penned for the Globe & Mail, entitled, “NATO has bigger problems than Trump”. The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is described online as ‘right-leaning’, but that may not do it justice – suffice it to say it includes Stephen Blank (Canada-US relations, North American economic integration and co-operation) and Nathan Law (Canada-Hong Kong policy) on its board of Experts. As well as being a registered charity in Canada, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute is supported by ‘a variety of foundations’; its international funding is not disclosed anywhere that I could find, but it is a partner in the Atlas Network, which associates it with the American Enterprise Institute, the America’s Future Foundation, the American Conservative Union Foundation, the American Principles Project, the Ayn Rand Institute, the Cato Institute and a variety of other do-gooders who seem, for one reason or another, to have the furthering of American foreign-policy goals at their heart.
I frequently start these posts with a bold declarative statement, which I invite the readers to disprove, and I’m going to do so on this occasion, as well. And it’s this: NATO in its current iteration exists to further the achievement of Washington’s aims and aspirations around the world. Perhaps it wasn’t always that way, and I’m still enough of a romantic to believe global organizations often started up in the framework of altruism and the betterment of the human social condition, regardless of country of residence. But if that was ever true of NATO, it is true no longer. NATO is an instrument of American policy, which Washington whistles up when it wants to internationalize a national goal or ambition, and so camouflage its pursuit of the interests of the investor class.
Let’s try an illustrative excerpt, shall we?
As NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, we are reminded not only of its contribution to bringing down the wall by containing the Soviet threat, but its continued utility in preserving peace, security and prosperity.
Ha, ha! As I believe I mentioned before on other occasions, that kind of presumptive statement reminds me of the ‘zombie hunter’ meme. What do you do for a living? I kill zombies. You see any zombies around here? You’re welcome.
What evidence is offered for the assumption that NATO prevented Soviet attempts to dominate the west? As I’ve also mentioned before now, Russia applied to join NATO in 1954. Historians report that it expected to be rejected – which it was – and used the rejection to support its allegation that “the governments of the three powers will have exposed themselves, once again, as the organizers of a military bloc against other states and it would strengthen the position of social forces conducting a struggle against the formation of the European Defense Community”. The Soviet Union considered itself a part of Europe, which it most emphatically is; far more than the United States, which rarely shows interest in joining organizations it cannot run. But that wasn’t the last time. According to Russian president Vladimir Putin, he proposed Russia’s joining NATO to Bill Clinton on the occasion of Clinton’s 2000 visit to Moscow. In his words, “Clinton said ‘Why not?’ But the U.S. delegation got very nervous”. Was Putin serious? There’s no way of knowing, but the proposal – if such it was – obviously went nowhere.
Anyway, the Soviet Union never attacked a NATO country. Not even when NATO blasted the shit out of a Soviet ally, and broke it up into constituent republics. Although the Soviet Union possessed weapons which could strike countries around the world, there is no reason to believe such weapons were not solely for its own defense if we are to accept America’s assurances that its own long-range weapons are purely defensive. Let me know when Russia is caught lying more often than Washington.
Well, I just wanted to hold that statement up to the ridicule it richly deserves. NATO did not ‘contribute to bringing down the wall’ in any meaningful way other than restraining its saber-rattling enough that the Soviet Union believed peace was possible; the Soviets accepted American assurances that if it withheld objection to the reunification of Germany, there would be no further eastern encroachment of NATO. Almost immediately, NATO added the countries of the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland), followed by the Vilnius Group (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia) and finally the Adriatic Charter (Montenegro). A promise from Washington – and about $2.10 USD – will get you a large Americano at Starbucks.
Remember when the west was in love with Emmanuel Macron, the French president? I certainly do: the New York Times swooned that Macron had ‘handily’ won victory, ‘decisively’ defeating Marine Le Pen as voters ‘rejected her hard-right message’. The Macron triumph ‘offered significant relief to the European Union…his platform to loosen labor rules, make France more competitive globally and deepen ties with the European Union is also likely to reassure a global financial market that was jittery at the prospect of a Le Pen victory’. All these giddy modifiers are the west’s way of telling you it likes the cut of your jib – you never see western reports of Vladimir Putin ‘handily’ defeating his sad-sack opponent, whom the voters spurned like trash.
Oh, but then Macron shit the bed. In technicolor. He announced, in an interview with The Economist, that what we are currently experiencing is the ‘brain death of NATO’. Well, he instantly became like your crazy uncle who is chained to an old piece of farm machinery beside the barn. The Globe & Mail tried to soften it by suggesting he ‘quipped’ that NATO is brain-dead, making out that Macron was only joking. But the statement obviously sent shock-waves through the western community – France can no longer be trusted to uphold the Western Dream. Further, Leuprecht interprets Macron’s statement as ‘a jab at Donald Trump’.
What? Oh, I’m not unreceptive to the association of Donald Trump with brain death – in fact, the two go together like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump was wont to say. But it seems far more likely to me that M. Macron views NATO as moribund in its current state, kept alive by machines which regulate its bodily functions, but unthinking and vegetative. His suggestion that Europe stands on the edge of a precipice, and must start thinking of itself strategically as a geopolitical power, argues if anything for much less influence from the United States and much more thinking for itself, with its own goals and plans which not necessarily echo Washington’s diktat.
The other weasel in the woodpile is Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has lately made several decisive moves which have upset the staid partners of NATO, such as agreeing to purchase the Russian S-400 air-defense missile system, compounding his error by not bursting into tears on being told Turkey was no longer allowed to buy the USA’s premiere fighter, the F35. Perhaps Mr. Erdogan shares a fairly broad opinion that the F35 is a fighter like a fishbowl is a helmet; he didn’t say, although he gave the pot another stir by musing that maybe Turkey will buy the Russian-built SU-35 instead.
But it’s not Erdogan’s eccentricities that piqued my amusement; no, it was the bristling outrage directed his way by Mr. Leuprecht for ‘invad[ing] a neighbouring country, in brazen violation of international law and the rules-based order NATO claims to defend’.
Well, I’ll be dipped. Invading a sovereign country is a brazen violation of international law! Who knew? I mean, because to the very best of my knowledge, Mr. Leuprecht said nothing at all when the United States of America brazenly invaded the sovereign state of Syria in September 2014, inviting its NATO pals (the UK, Turkey, France and Canada) along for the ride. Washington’s justification that it must intervene (remember that; it’s an ‘intervention’, not an ‘invasion’) was the Bush-era self-permission the USA granted itself to invade Iraq without national or international approval – that, by the way, was also against the law. And for at least two years prior to its ‘intervention’, the USA supplied Syrian ‘opposition’ groups – *cough* al Qaeda *cough* – with vehicles, logistic support, ammunition, weapons and money.
Here’s Leuprecht’s wrap-up: “The demise of NATO would deprive Canada of its most important multilateral institution. Without this force multiplier, Canada’s standing in the world, and its ability to assert its interests, would be vastly diminished. For France to gamble on collective defence is indefensible.”
Canada currently has more or less no ability at all to ‘assert its interests’ beyond the normal courtesies accorded to democratic countries by their fellow democratic countries, unless the United States endorses such assertion. It provides Canada with the occasional pat on the head, such as Trump’s offer to pursue the cases of Canadian detainees Spavor and Kovrig in his discussions with the Chinese leader, to reward Canada for illegally detaining Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and enabling her extradition to America to stand trial for whatever Washington decides to accuse her of having done. Maybe it never will – maybe she’s just a bargaining chip in Trump’s pursuit of a ‘deal’ with China. Whatever the case, faithful sidekick Canada blew its credibility and impartiality by playing along. If Trump actually did bring up Spavor and Kovrig’s captivity to China, it made no difference whatsoever.
NATO was formed to counter a military adversary in the Warsaw Pact. Well, actually, it happened pretty much the other way around – the Warsaw Pact was formed in 1955, six years after NATO, and owed its formation to a perception that the allied countries were organizing against the Soviet Union. I don’t know where they would ever have gotten such a crazy idea. But in the beginning, NATO sort of made sense; a powerful military alliance to counter another powerful military alliance.
However, the Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1991. Suddenly, NATO found itself without a substantial reason for being. It had no perceived enemy which was anything like capable of matching the entire alliance. Gosh, what to do?
What it did do was quickly morph its purpose into battling international terrorism and sponsors of terror. That never proved a very satisfactory rationalization, and so the alliance had to invest in periodic invasions – sorry; interventions – such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, to sort of keep its hand in and stay in practice. That also proved to be a problem; the latter two military interventions were not only unauthorized, the western taxpayers began to muse out loud about why the fuck they pay taxes to the government if it is going to ignore their express will, and hare off abroad to bomb the shit out of some other hapless foe when the electorate was against it.
And so the ongoing and calculated campaign to set Russia and China up as a terrifying military enemy emerged. Or regained its momentum, since it never completely went away.