NATO and the Damage Done: Why We Need Mass Protests When NATO Comes to Britain
The anti-war movement needs to expose NATO’s record further and explain its current belligerence
The London NATO summit comes at a time of increasing instability around the world. It is also a time when NATO is in the news.
The US and the Western powers have proved once again that their Middle East policy is totally cynical. Not only has Trump abandoned the Kurds, as the anti-war movement warned he would, but the West is standing by while fellow NATO member Turkey moves against them. We shouldn't however be under the illusion that the US and the West are pulling out of Syria or the Middle East. For domestic political reasons Trump wants to appear to be honouring his promises for a drawdown on foreign forces. But actually he is redeploying troops. They are going to other parts of Syria and to Iraq where there are still between 5,000-10,000 US soldiers. This is one of the sources of anger driving the protests there.
A Pentagon press release released on October 11, announced that the Trump administration has actually increased its deployments of troops to the greater Middle East by 14,000 since May. There were already 60,000 troops stationed or deployed in the region, so the new deployments have raised the total number of U.S. troops in the region to about 74,000.
According to U.S. airpower statistics, from November 2018 to September 2019 the U.S. has now dropped another 6,811 bombs on Afghanistan and 7,889 on Iraq and Syria. The Western powers are meanwhile pursuing a highly confrontational strategic alliance with the Gulf states and Israel aimed at isolating Iran and trying to bring down its government.
Out of area
Confronting Iran will be a key discussion point at the NATO summit. More generally the talk will be of NATO expansion and ‘out of area’ operations with the aim of challenging the growing influence of Russia and China. Expansion is already taking place on many fronts. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia NATO is deepening relationships with Georgia and with Kazakhstan and its Central Asian neighbours. Colombia has recently become NATOs first official partner in Latin America. Following through on the pivot to the East initiated by Obama, NATO has recently concluded a strategic agreement with Japan - partly facilitated by Britain – that takes another step towards legitimising Japan as a military player.
There will undoubtedly also be discussion about a new and worrying factor for the Western powers; the emergence of mass popular struggles in Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere. It is not just the Iraqis who are challenging western military intervention. The insurgent movements in Latin America clearly threaten US influence in the region by demanding the removal of right wing governments, calling for more thoroughgoing democracy and in the case of Haiti in particular, calling for an end to US meddling.
Popular attitudes towards NATO are changing. Many people rightly associate it with the disasters of the War on Terror and are aware that it ran the occupation of Afghanistan until 2014 and led the disastrous attack on Libya in 2011. The fact that Donald Trump is its leader helps to delegitimise it further. Trump likes to appear as a disrupter and he will be pressuring his European allies to pay more for towards the costs of policing the world for the West. But NATO has always been about harnessing European support for US interests. NATO is actually increasing its importance as a vehicle for Western interests.
In the weeks running up to the demonstration on December 3rd, the movement needs to expose NATO’s record further and explain its current belligerence. The fact that the summit is coming right before and election gives us the opportunity to foreground the need for anti-war politics in Westminster. We also need to put together the widest possible alliance of people who detest the full spectrum of Trump’s policies with all those who oppose war and militarism.