NATO as a malignant growth (1)

This article is a translation of "De NAVO als kwaadaardig gezwel (1)"

After the election of Trump panic has broken out in Europe among NATO member states. It appears as if the new man does not consider the new Cold War against Russia a good idea. 
A truly absurd situation has arisen because the EU countries have first allowed themselves to be cajoled into following the Obama sanctions against Russia, for which they already suffered economic damage to the tune of $ 60 billion by the end of 2015. And now the direction in Washington is giving signals that we may have to do things differently after all. 

Perhaps this bizarre situation is best illustrated by the gigantic new NATO headquarters near Brussels, budgeted at 1 billion Euros. Still surrounded by construction cranes, this unfinished, megalomaniac project looks like a malignant growth that has metastasized in all directions, with ugly roots that appear to dig into the soil.
This might well be an apposite illustration of where the organisation is today. A good moment to sum up briefly what NATO actually stands for.

Soon after the German defeat in 1945 certain circles in Britain and the US concluded that the outcome of the war was in fact unacceptable to the West. Winston Churchill, who still hoped the British empire might be consolidated, and the Dulles brothers in the US and their business contacts in Germany, were among the most vociferous advocates of a reexamination of the international situation.

In 1947 the Americans launched two big projects aimed at Western Europe soon after another, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. The Truman Doctrine held that the US would grant aid to any government that would take up the fight with a communist or otherwise leftist opposition. The rightwing governments of Greece and Turkey were the first beneficiaries.

A few months later the Marshall Plan ruled that in exchange for American food and other aid, all trade with the Soviet Union should be suspended. In several countries this led to serious tensions and in Czechoslovakia, which historically traded with both east and west, it led to an acute government crisis in which the communists seized power.

Two months later, in April 1948, de foreign secretaries of Britain, Canada and the US initiated secret talks to counter the threatening situation. NATO was founded exactly one year later; it would take many years before two Dutch researchers, Cees Wiebes and Bert Zeeman, would reveal how the secret negotiations betwen the three Anglophone countries had prepared this.

In 1947-’48 governments of national unity collapsed in both western and eastern Europe. In the west the communists were thrown out of the governments in which they participated, in the east, the non-communists. The elections in Italy in 1948 were won by the Christian Democrats thanks to American threats, a hysterical campaign by the Vatican, and violence by anti-communist vigilantes. But when a year later, the troops of Mao Zedong took the Chinese capital, Beijing, and North Korea in 1950 invaded the south to establish a communist regime too, a real panic erupted in western capitals. This among other things led to the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunt.

The first task for the Western bloc now was to rearm West Germany. France however refused and it took until 1955 before the Federal Republic was allowed to resurrect its own army, via a European shadow structure. In spite of furious protests from Moscow, the country also was made a NATO member, which prompted the USSR to establish its own military organisation, the Warsaw Pact.

Until that time, so until 1955, NATO was mainly a centre for coordinating repression where necessary and that remained its prime remit. Halfway though the 1950s a military organisation was developed as well, under American command. But NATO would only begin to wage wars when its raison d'être, communism, had expired.

In 1958 Charles de Gaulle became president of France in what is best described as a coup d'état to prevent another coup d'état, viz., by fascist elements in the French army in Algeria, which was waging a hopeless colonial war there.

After De Gaulle had come to power, a tug of war over the command over NATO nuclear weapons began. France wanted to have a say about those because it had its own nuclear weapons programme. In addition De Gaulle argued that the US used the Cold War and the nuclear arms race with the USSR to sabotage economic relations between Western Europe and the Soviet bloc, although there were real opportunities for the European economy. Later he would be supported in this position by the West German chancellor, Willy Brandt. In 1966 De Gaulle withdrew France from the military organisation of NATO.

What ensued was possibly the darkest chapter of NATO history, the 'strategy of tension' in Western Europe and in relations with the Soviet Union. This strategy eventually made a big contribution to the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the USSR, and communism in 1989-’91. Only then, like other malignant growths, NATO began to really metastasize (to be continued).

Kees van der Pijl

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