Briefing on NATO PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 August 2008 15:05

nato_in_europe.jpgThe North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949, as a defensive organisation, in the early years of the Cold War. Its initial members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Warsaw Pact was founded in response, by the then Soviet Union and its allies, in 1955. In the 1950s, Greece, Turkey and West Germany joined, followed by Spain in 1982.

At the end of the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, but NATO was not. The hopes of many people at the time – that a peaceful new world order would develop – were not fulfilled. Rather than scaling back its global military presence, the US moved to fill the positions vacated by its previous rival. Nowhere is that more clearly demonstrated than with the expansion of NATO. As the countries of eastern Europe embraced free market economics and multiparty democracy, the US moved rapidly to integrate them into the US sphere of influence via NATO. This was an effective strategy – indicated by the ‘new Europe’ issue at the time of the war on Iraq – with Poland vigorously backing the US, against the ‘old Europe’ of Germany and France. The first steps towards full-membership were taken via the Partnerships for Peace programme from 1994.

In March 1999, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were all admitted to full membership. Ten days later they found themselves at war with their neighbour Yugoslavia, as part of NATO’s illegal bombing campaign. But the change at that time was not limited to NATO expansion. At NATO’s fiftieth anniversary conference in Washington in April 1999, a new ‘Strategic Concept’, was adopted. This moved beyond NATO’s previous defensive role to include ‘out of area’ – in other words offensive – operations. The geographical area for action was now defined as the entire Eurasian landmass.

In March 2004, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to NATO – not only former Warsaw Pact members, but also former Soviet republics. This has contributed to international tension as Russia sees itself being surrounded by US and NATO bases, including in the Balkans, the Middle East and central Asia.

Out of area activity
Over the last few years, the US drive for global domination has become increasingly active in military terms. NATO has become a vehicle for this process, in particular with the war on Afghanistan. This has been a NATO-led war since 2003, when NATO assumed control of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), established in 2002. By May 2008, there were around 47,000 troops from 40 countries in Afghanistan under the auspices of ISAF, with NATO members providing the core of the force.

Further expansion
Recently, the US has turned its sights on the strategic area of the Black Sea and south-western Asia. This region is very significant in terms of energy production and transportation. The US backed the change of government in Georgia in 2003, which has led to an increasing pro-western orientation. In 2005, Georgia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace scheme, and Georgia signed an agreement supporting and aiding transit of NATO forces and NATO personnel.

At the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008, Albania and Croatia were invited to join. President Bush called for Georgia to be allowed to join the membership Action Plan, which is the next stage towards full membership. This was rejected due to opposition from several countries, led by Germany and France. But Georgia was assured in a special communique that it would eventually join NATO and a review of the decision has been pledged for December 2008.

A nuclear-armed alliance
NATO is also a nuclear-armed alliance, and between 150 and 240 US B61 nuclear bombs are stationed in five countries across Europe – Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and Turkey. There is strong campaigning opposition to the nuclear weapons in those countries. Until earlier this year there were 110 US nuclear bombs located at RAF Lakenheath in East Anglia, under the auspices of NATO and outside any the control of the British government. It is reported that these have now been removed.

NATO’s nuclear policies conflict with the legal obligations of the signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Articles 1 and 2 of the NPT forbid the transfer of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapon states, but US/NATO nuclear weapons in Europe are located in non-nuclear weapons states. NATO has also rejected a policy of ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons. In other words, NATO would be prepared to use nuclear weapons in a first strike. The UK’s own rejection of a no first use policy is also linked to NATO’s policy – as former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon stated in 2005: 'a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons would be incompatible with our and NATO’s doctrine of deterrence.'

The UK’s nuclear weapons system has been assigned to NATO since the 1960s. Ultimately, this means that the UK’s nuclear weapons could be used against a country attacking (or threatening to attack) one of the NATO member states since an attack on one NATO member state is seen as being an attack on all member states. Potentially, since the 1999 rewrite of NATO’s mission, they could also be used outside the NATO area in a first strike capacity.

The way forward
CND believes that a vital step towards global nuclear disarmament would be achieved with the removal of all US nuclear weapons from European bases. Britain should also withdraw from NATO, and all foreign military bases on British soil should be closed. NATO should not be expanded but should be disbanded and the influence, resources and funding of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) extended towards a nuclear free, less militarised and therefore more secure Europe.

Join the demonstration outside Labour Party conference, Saturday 20 September, 12.30pm. Assemble All Saints, Cavendish Street, Manchester M15.

Visit CND's No to NATO campaign page

Join CND at the international demonstration marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of NATO, on the 3rd and 4th of April 2009 in Strasbourg. More details, including transport information, to follow.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 October 2008 16:35