One of the main objectives of the 24th NATO Summit in Lisbon1 is the adoption of a new strategic concept. With the reason for its existence in question at the end of the Cold War, in 1991, NATO needed a first “new strategic concept” to ensure that the Alliance would continue to function. The disintegration of what had been Yugoslavia provided the excuse – in view of the alleged failings of Europe – to “legitimate” a declared new function for NATO: ensure the stability of the new world order on the continent of Europe.
In 1999, the stated objective of a second “new strategic concept” for NATO was to “safeguard – by political and military means – the freedom and security” of Europe and North America, in other words, to become the armed wing of Western interests and of the market economy. From then on, the role of NATO would no longer be limited to its historical Euro-Atlantic framework. September 11 would confirm this strategy and, with the war in Afghanistan, mark the passage to a globalised NATO.
What is the third “new strategic concept” for NATO? To develop it, a Group of Experts was created in September, 2009, with Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, as Chair and Jeroen Van der Veer, former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell as Vice-Chair – a perfect reflection of NATO as a military instrument of Atlanticist ideology and as protector of the economic interests of transnationals. This Group of Experts has issued a Report: “NATO 2020: Assured Security, Dynamic Engagement” which spells out the strategic orientation of the North Atlantic Treaty for the next 10 years.
Which threats take precedence? Terrorism, piracy and nuclear proliferation, as always, but other priorities now are identified as well: the need to defend against the danger of cyber attacks that could paralyse a country (since attack is the best defence, NATO anticipates a cyber war) and the security of pipeline or maritime supply. The Report specifies that “the Alliance has an interest in protecting global lifelines that sustain modern societies”. It could not be clearer: The role of the North Atlantic Treaty is to assure the security of energy supplies to less than 15% of the world’s population.
The Report states that poverty, hunger, water, migratory movements and climate change must be taken into account – not because these scourges and threats must be eradicated but because they are the source of trouble and crisis. As the armed wing of neoliberalism, NATO must also serve to repress populations struggling to survive.
NATO is assigned three “core tasks”. The first is a reminder of the basis for the creation of NATO in 1949: “to defend member states against any threat of aggression” (Article 5 of the Treaty). It is obvious that the new balance of power in the world, along with the financial, economic and social crises that affect it, require the new strategic concept to go beyond a simple reminder of the founding principles of the Alliance, with corresponding impact on its objectives, strategy and structure.
In particular, the Report confirms that NATO must “deploy and sustain expeditionary capabilities for military operations beyond the treaty area” thereby justifying its “commitment” to intervention throughout the world, clearly anywhere that the interests of “modern societies” are under threat. In a letter to NATO, Dr. Albright furthermore points out that this proposition goes “well beyond what had been envisaged” in the preceding version of the “strategic concept”. Three facets sum up the new direction of NATO: global missions with global impact and global partners.
The first stage of this process was the enlargement of NATO on the continent of Europe by integrating Central and Western Europe. With the adhesion of 12 new members since 1999, NATO has practically doubled in size. But today, NATO is looking to operate globally less through integration and more through partnerships.
What are these partnerships? A list makes it possible to grasp the extent of the network built by NATO inside and outside the Euro-Atlantic area:
In addition to these partnerships that extend beyond the 28 NATO member states to cover the entire Euro-Atlantic area, there are partnerships or ad hoc alliances outside the area, like the:
Beyond these partnerships, the NATO network extends to “operational partners”; the Albright Report emphasises that 18 non-NATO member countries take part in operations in Afghanistan, that “Australia, in fact, contributes more troops to Afghanistan than half the NATO Allies, New Zealand is also a significant contributor, the Republic of Korea has pledged to deploy a sizable contingent…” that there are contributions from Japan, India, Indonesia and ties with Africa and Latin America. The Report also points out that China takes part in joint patrols to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
Short of moving to a planet-wide NATO, which some would like to see, these partnerships and ad hoc alliances cover war zones and major areas of instability, and the network is considered a priority in the global strategy of NATO to militarily assure the defence of Euro-Atlantic financial, economic and statist interests, as well as of the overall market economy.
NATO’s third task: Military interventions to “assure international security”. In this context, it is astounding that the Experts’ Report does not take into account the consequences of the failure of the war in Afghanistan. “If NATO did not exist today, Afghanistan might once again be ruled by the Taliban…” Such unwillingness to confront the evidence is staggering.
Nevertheless, since the war’s failure is a reality, the Report proposes that NATO, in future, combine military and civilian missions in a “global approach” that would draw on the “skills and know-how of international institutions and NGOs”. The concept of civilian-military interventions constitutes a dangerous confusion between military and humanitarian interventions, leading populations to confuse humanitarian action with that of occupying armies. Although the pernicious consequences of the war in Afghanistan are known and condemned, the bottom line is not economic and social development, nor a break with the rationale of conflicting civilisations, but rather the fact that a civilian umbrella is deployed to cover acts of war!
The Report provides other insights into the global strategy set for NATO over the next ten years. Concerning the withdrawal of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe, the Report’s conclusions are unambiguous. A strategy of deterrence demands the continued presence of the nuclear component; no plan for withdrawal of the US arsenal in Europe is envisaged and the Group of Experts is against any unilateral withdrawal. What’s more, antimissile defence is considered “an essential military mission” and it is stated that “the U.S. systems to be deployed will be much more effective … than those previously envisioned”. Strategically, their deployment is considered to be reinforcement of the principle of the indivisibility of Euro-Atlantic security and, therefore, signifies an even stronger U.S. military influence on the European continent. In this context, here is what NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had to say at NATO’s Central Military Club: “I think that the moment has come for us to go forward and for us to make antiballistic missile defence a real mission of the Alliance. This is my objective for the Lisbon NATO summit”.
With regard to the organisational structure of NATO, a unified command is a recurring demand and it is stated that “to the maximum feasible extent, NATO’s military forces should operate under a unified chain of command”. New steps are taken towards this objective, including a multinational general staff for the special operations forces. In the same direction, the creation of multinational formations under unified command is recommended; this goes against one of the arguments in favour of the return of France to an integrated military command, which was that the European Union would create a European command headquarters capable of planning European Union military operations. Instead, something completely different is envisaged: a Euro-Atlantic general staff for NATO.
The effects of the financial and economic crisis are real and the Report qualifies NATO’s budgetary problems as a source of “concern”. It is pointed out that only six out of 28 NATO members have met a spending target of a minimum 2% of gross domestic product on defence, that less than half the Member States meet deployability targets set in the overall policy directive (of NATO) which calls for at least 50% of member states’ land forces to be deployable on NATO missions, 10% of them on long missions, or that allocate 20% of their defence budget to investment (notably in the purchase of “high tech” weapons or in means to reinforce the interoperability of armies). Having made these assessments, the Experts purely and simply demand an end to lower military spending.
In the Report that sets out NATO strategy until 2020, there is one word that is never mentioned, that is not even alluded to anywhere: that word is “people”. It is, therefore, more important than ever for the people to remind the experts, military general staff, politicians and Atlanticist ideologues of their existence, that they express their opposition to NATO and its military objectives, and that they demand the disbanding of NATO and the respect of Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, which is based on a multilateral vision of the world and states that only the forces of the United Nations are authorised to “repress any act of aggression or other breach of peace”.
Contrary to what is written in the Conclusions of the Report, NATO does not respond to an “enduring need”. The only enduring need of the people is a policy of peace and not a rationale for war.