by Rae Street August 2020
NATO was once described as the ‘military arm of the US empire’. And one might add ‘nuclear empire’. As we remember Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, the horrendous suffering which was brought about on that day to the people of Japan and, later, on the 9th August, Nagasaki day, it is worth thinking about NATO’s policies and, in particular. Its nuclear policies. Since the end of totalitarian communism, unlike the Warsaw Pact which was disbanded, NATO, which now has 30 member states, has been expanding first in Europe, including the Baltic states, right up to the Russian border. Then there are 20 countries in the Partnerships for Peace which include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, surrounding Russia and on China’s eastern flank. It now has global partners in the Asia/Pacific region including Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. More recently, it has been negotiating with countries in Latin America, including Colombia. This is the most flagrant move in the expansion of nuclear armed NATO, as Latin America is a nuclear weapon free zone under the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Currently all 33 states in Latin America and the Caribbean have signed and ratified the Treaty which came into full force in 2002. In an article for the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in May, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, stated he wanted to make ‘our strong alliance even stronger’- so expand even further.
NATO has a policy of retaining nuclear weapons and the first use of nuclear weapons. In the same article Jens Stoltenberg claims that nuclear deterrence is ‘a vital part of keeping our peace and freedom’. This is of course a recipe for proliferation which was the point of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation treaty signed in 1970 – to prevent proliferation which NATO claims it also wants to do. Contradictions. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty also urged the nuclear weapon states to ‘disarm in good faith’. Have they done that? No. they have re-armed in bad faith. The Trident nuclear armed submarine fleet held by the UK at Faslane in Scotland is ‘integrated’ into NATO. Why does the UK continue with grossly expensive project of which the replacement will cost upwards of £205 billion? Because it is not the UK’s; it is dependent on the USA for everything. The missiles are ‘lease purchased’ from the USA. It is an absolute scandal that so many politicians will sign up to replacing these weapons of mass destruction which are no defence against the main threats to our security: terrorists, cyber warfare and, now, a pandemic.
While making no apology for the regimes in Russia and China, both nations have renounced the policy of first use of nuclear weapons. NATO hasn’t. And because we are in NATO, the UK a government Minister stated in Parliament we are also obliged to have the same policy.
Let us now look at NATO in Europe where there is a policy of ‘nuclear sharing’. Five nations – Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Turkey – have US nuclear bombs on their soil. This violates the NPT. But Jens Stoltenberg argues that by providing a ‘nuclear umbrella’ for Europe NATO is preventing proliferation. He seems capable of turning all arguments on their heads. Strange from a man who once opposed the Vietnam war. The pilots from the nuclear sharing countries are trained to fly nuclear capable aircraft and would have to do so in time of war, effectively making those five countries nuclear armed states. At present the USA is in a process of ‘modernisation’ of the air launched nuclear bombs, bringing in the new US B61-12 gravity nuclear bombs to replace the B613 and 4s which are reaching the end of their life. The B61-12s are very expensive (upwards of $28 million each) and have significantly enhanced capabilities, including hitting more accurately. But many now in the ‘nuclear sharing’ states do not want any part of this. ‘Nuclear weapons on German territory do not heighten our security, just the opposite’, said the leader of the German Social Democrats in March this year – a view shared by the majority of the German public. Jens Stoltenberg in his article stated, ‘NATO unites democratic nations in defence of our values – freedom, liberty and the rule of law’. As far as the USA is concerned each of those values could be unpicked. Worse Turkey is in NATO and has nuclear weapons sited at Incirlik. Turkey is fine example under the current President of freedom, liberty and the rule of law.
The UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has now been signed by 40 nation states. It will come into force when 50 have signed. But NATO prevented its member states from signing. Even though NATO claims it wants a ‘nuclear free world’ and many of the government spokespeople say they are in favour of ‘multi-lateral’ disarmament, which is exactly what the Treaty provides.
But behind all the claims of NATO to be a defensive alliance bringing peace, lies of course the power of military manufacturers who want to sell more and more arms, for which they need ‘an enemy’. The Trump administration, echoed by NATO, is working hard to provide the US population with enemies – China and Russia. Recently when an amendment was put to the vote in the House for a 10% cut in the military budget (that would have amounted to $74 billion. The total budget is a whopping $740 billion) it was voted down by 324 to 93. Analysis showed that many of the Representatives who voted it down were receiving funding from military manufacturers.
NATO with its aggressive expansion plans across the globe, the militarism and build -up of nuclear weapons is not going to bring peace and social justice. What is needed is to move to a world where nuclear disarmament becomes a reality and where the insane spending on the military is curbed and reversed.