Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Shut Down a Cold War Relic

By Reginald Johnson                                      

    Nearly 25 years after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, many people are wondering, why is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) still around?

   NATO, an alliance of nations including the United States and western European countries formed in 1949 to deter any potential aggression by the Soviet Union and its allies, is not only still around, but has increased its membership and been involved in several military interventions.

   NATO forces led the intervention in Serbia in 1999, took part in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and aided in the bombing of Libya in 2011.

   Defenders of  NATO say the alliance is still needed to provide vital help in combatting terrorist forces around the globe and countering perceived expansionism by Russia.

  But critics, both in Europe and the U.S., claim NATO has become a point organization for protecting western imperial interests around the world.  The bombing of Libya, for instance, they say, was done to make sure that western oil companies could regain access to Libya’s rich oil fields, something they had lost when former dictator Mohammar Quaddafi came to power.

   “NATO is an extension of the Pentagon,” said Henry Lowendorf, a leader of the New Haven Peace Council. “The U.S. calls the shots, and these other countries go along.”

   “Everybody thought, when the Soviet Union fell, that would be the end of NATO. Instead they grew. NATO grew,” Lowendorf said.

    Acting in violation of the agreement U.S.officials struck with the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev --- that NATO would not take on any more members and move its borders to the east towards Russia --- NATO did just that in the last two decades, picking up new members out of the former Iron Curtain group, such as Poland, Lithuania and Hungary.

   The eastward advance has caused great distress among Russian officials, and is fueling the crisis over Ukraine. That country, which borders Russia, is now led by a western-oriented government, which took power after a coup in February. Government forces have been fighting a civil war against pro-Russian dissidents in eastern Ukraine who are refusing to be under the control of the new regime. The Ukrainian government recently applied for NATO membership.

 Lowendorf and a small group of others recently held an anti-NATO protest in downtown New Haven, handing out leaflets to passersby and holding placards that said “NATO, U.S. War Puppet” and “Dissolve NATO.”

Protests are also taking place in Wales, where NATO countries are holding a summit this week. President Obama will be attending.

Nancy Eberg, Mary Compton and Henry Lowendorf protest NATO.

  The Ukraine situation is expected to be a chief topic of discussion, as well as a push by the U.S. and the UK to make other member countries increase their defense spending and meet the NATO requirement that each nation spend at least 2 per cent of their GDP on the military.
   Lowendorf and others say it’s time to fold up NATO.

  “We’re asking that countries of NATO decide that NATO has no positive value in the universe and be dissolved,” he said. “We’re looking for the people of the United States to join the people of Europe, who know more about NATO than we do, and call for its dissolution. Shut it down, get rid of it.”

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