This week Nato's political and military elite will descend on Newport to plan more military intervention - creating the greatest threat of another major war since 1945 argues Lindsey German
The barriers are going up across South Wales. Huge steel fences block off buildings, including Cardiff castle. Roads are closed. Children are promised a shorter working day or maybe no school at all. Rail services are disrupted.
All so that a group of politicians and military men can meet in a country hotel outside Newport to plan more of the military intervention that has contributed to a world now more seriously threatened by major wars than at any time since 1945.
Nato might regard this summit as an occasion for reflection on what exactly has gone wrong with its policies. There is plenty to choose from. Afghanistan may be preparing for the exit of most Nato troops this year, but the news that the Taliban has once again taken control of Sangin province (site of the majority of British casualties in the country) hardly looks like success.
It pales into insignificance next to Libya, though. Here two lots of militias are fighting one another. One has taken control of the airport at Tripoli and destroyed it. Meanwhile planes from the UAE, operating from Egyptian bases, have just bombed the Islamic militia. Europeans have, by and large, fled the country, bombed only three years ago in the name of humanitarian intervention.
Those who might expect a word of contrition over these interventions obviously don’t realise that Nato doesn’t do apologies. Looking back at past disasters only hinders the need to move on to pastures new.
So it was again this morning. My heart always sinks when I hear the Nato Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as I did this morning on the BBC Today programme. Rasmussen seems incapable of opening his mouth without urging more conflict.
He boasted of the extensive military exercises taking place throughout Eastern Europe this summer, as Nato makes a show of strength against Russia. When asked a question about the war in the Ukraine, Rasmussen responded by saying that if any Nato member were attacked it would be defended by Nato as a whole, as agreed in its charter.
Except that Ukraine is not a Nato member, so the terms of Nato membership do not apply. In reality this is all about Nato’s conflict with Russia, its historic cold war opponent.
Nato’s strategy since the end of the Cold war has been one of enlargement in the former Warsaw Pact areas of Eastern Europe. Its member states now stretch right up to the Russian border, its manoeuvres there are aimed almost exclusively at rehearsing future conflicts with Russia. Nato membership is regarded as de rigueur for those who have joined the European Union over the past decade.
The association agreement signed between the EU and Ukraine is rightly seen as a prelude to closer military alliance. Nato talks about stopping a Russian invasion of Ukraine, but says nothing about the Ukrainian government’s refusal to accept a ceasefire, despite well over 2,000 dead already, nor of its use of ‘volunteer’ (read far right) militias who are carrying out a lot of the killing of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine.
Rasmussen went on to say that at the Nato summit next week, the military organisation would take further measures to strengthen its presence in Eastern Europe. He also told the Financial Times that additional Nato forces would remain in Eastern Europe ‘as long as required’ adding, ‘you will see a more visible Nato presence in the east in the future.’
The conflict in Syria and Iraq has been much worsened by western intervention, both overt and covert. The same is true in Afghanistan and Libya. We are seeing now just what a terrible price is being paid by the people of the region. Nato is promising us more of the same, this time in the heart of Europe.
That’s why many thousands will be turning out to protest against Nato over the next week. It’s the humanitarian thing to do.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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