NATO: a (neo-)imperialist tool — I | Political economics


Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, the issue of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its purpose after the collapse of Communism (Soviet Union) resurfaced. As a treaty specifically signed to evoke a coalition of states to ward off an imminent threat from communist nations, primarily the Soviet Union, it should have ceased to exist when the Soviet Union was disbanded in the early 1990s.

Not only did it continue to exist, but new members were added to it. Why was its scope widened to include Ukraine, after Russia repeatedly warned against NATO expansion into its neighborhood? Another question relates to its role as an instrument in the service of the interests of the Anglo-Saxon nations.

But before tackling these questions, it is necessary to specify the historical context and the circumstances which necessitated the creation of NATO.

In the aftermath of World War II, two developments were of extreme importance: the creation of the United Nations to replace the League of Nations and the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As in the past, European states hedged their bets by establishing military alliances, whereby they pledged to defend each other in case one of them was attacked. Thus, in March 1948, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed the Brussels Pact. It served as the military component of the later Council of Europe which most Western nations joined.

The United States became a member of the Brussels Pact within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. In 1952, Greece and Turkey became members of the Alliance, later joined by Germany of the West (in 1955) and Spain (in 1982). Later, several other European countries also joined the Treaty. These included Italy, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Portugal and, from the North American continent, Canada.

NATO now has 30 members, 28 Europeans and two North Americans. The inclusion of the United States changed the character of the organization. It became anti-Soviet in an unequivocal sense. This intensified US-Soviet animosity, triggering the Cold War. Specifically, NATO assumed the role of advancing US (neo)imperialist interests.

A notable aspect of the arrangement was that the United States seemed to have ensured that potential military engagement would be away from America. Before 9/11, the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s was the closest America had ever come to an attack on its territory. The American response to this crisis has put the whole world in existential danger.

Given the context, a benevolent vision of NATO is that of an international organization whose purpose is to secure the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. It was founded by countries that feared that the Soviet Union would extend its political and economic system, called communism, beyond Eastern Europe. Before proceeding to an overview of its operational aspect, it seems relevant to provide some clarifications on its structure.

While the signing of the treaty had created allies, it had not created a military structure capable of effectively coordinating their actions. This changed when growing concerns about Soviet intentions culminated with the Soviet detonation of an atomic bomb in 1949 and the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. In the treaty’s famous Article 5, the new allies agreed that ‘”an armed attack on one or more of them…shall be considered an attack on all of them” and that following such an attack, each ally would take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force” in response.

Significantly, Articles 2 and 3 of the treaty had important purposes that were not directly related to the threat of attack. Article 3 laid the foundation for cooperation on military preparedness between the allies, and Article 2 gave them some leeway to engage in non-military cooperation.

The creation of the alliance was part of a larger effort to serve three purposes: to deter Soviet expansionism, to prohibit the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and to encourage political integration European. It was during a time called the Cold War, which ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

NATO’s command structure is placed under the authority of the Military Committee, NATO’s highest military authority composed of the Chiefs of Defense of all member countries. The NCS consists of two strategic commands: Allied Command Operations (ACO) and Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

NATO quickly acquired a consolidated command structure with a military headquarters based in the Parisian suburb of Rocquencourt, near Versailles. It was the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, or SHAPE, with US General Dwight D Eisenhower (later US President) as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

Shortly thereafter, the allies establish a permanent civil secretariat in Paris and appoint NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Ismay of the United Kingdom. NATO’s deterrence and defense capability draws on a set of nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities, which complement each other, and relies on a range of civilian and military assets to support these capabilities and the posture wider.

The most recent figures released by NATO show that the United States is the largest contributor to the alliance. Based on NATO estimates for 2021, the United States contributes 1.4 million armed personnel, or 41% of the alliance’s 3.3 million armed personnel. The remaining 59% come from Canada and European countries. It has an essential role for international peace and security.

For decades, the United States has had nuclear weapons on the territory of some European NATO members as part of its deterrence and defense capabilities. These weapons remain in the custody and control of the United States. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Article 5 has only been invoked once, immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In the 1950s, the alliance was a purely defensive organization. In the 1960s, it became a political instrument of detente. In the 1990s, the alliance was a tool for stabilizing Eastern Europe and Central Asia through the incorporation of new partners and allies.

(Tto be continued)

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