NATO and the EU: Inter-state imperialist alliances, inter-imperialist rivalry, expansionism, the threat to peace and the dangers of aggression and war

Gerry Grainger

In March 1946, Winston Churchill, in a speech delivered at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, USA called for the creation of an Anglo-American Alliance to fight “Eastern Communism”. The US President, Harry S. Truman, was present with Churchill on the platform. Churchill declared that “the West” should be prepared to wage such a fight for centuries to come. This was not mere rhetoric. In a rabid and paranoid anti-communist diatribe against “Soviet Russia and its communist international organisation”, which arose from a pathological hostility towards socialism and intoxication with a morbid fascination for what he regarded as US military superiority at the time, Churchill engaged in a dangerous and deliberate provocation designed to strengthen imperialism and lay the foundations for the creation of a new imperialist inter-state alliance.

A year later, in March 1947, Truman propounded what subsequently came to be known as the “Truman Doctrine”, in a speech to the US Congress requesting the appropriation of $400 million worth of aid to Greece and Turkey. The US, under the false pretext of safeguarding its “national security” arrogantly assumed the responsibility of “defending” Europe from the so-called “communist danger”.

In March 1948, Belgium, France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Britain entered the Brussels Treaty as the basis of an agreement for a military alliance. The French Prime Minister, René Plevin, openly raised the concept of a European army and included this in his proposal in 1950 for a “European Defence Community” (EDC) which sought the creation of a European Army “tied to political institutions of a united Europe”. The Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy signed the EDC Treaty in 1952. In April 1949 members of that military alliance (but not West Germany) and the US, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Italy and fascist Portugal concluded a North Atlantic Treaty to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In 1952 it was joined by Greece and Turkey and in October 1954 the members of NATO signed the Paris Agreements which admitted West Germany into this alliance. By this hostile and aggressive device Europe was divided and Western Europe committed to an implacable hostility towards socialism and the socialist states. This apparatus, which of course had nothing to do with defence or the preservation of peace, was designed to create unilateral military advantage for the imperialist powers and to transform the balance of forces in their favour.

This process was replicated by the creation of ANZUS in the southern part of the pacific in 1951, SEATO in South-East Asia in 1955 and the “Baghdad Pact” (its headquarters transferred from Baghdad to Ankara in 1958 and it later became CENTO) in the Middle East. With the creation of these hostile and aggressive blocs imperialism, set on military confrontation, sought to encircle and threaten those states which sought to construct a socialist future.

It is vital to arrive at a proper understanding of imperialism, to fully comprehend its characteristics. Competition is an essential ingredient of the capitalist mode of production. “Competition” wrote Marx “compels the manufacturer to produce more and more cheaply and therefore on a constantly increasing scale .i.e. with more capital, with a continuously expanding division of labour and constantly increasing use of machinery”. [1] As Marx explained, writing at a time of pre-monopoly capitalism, “every one of the destructive phenomena to which unlimited competition gives rise within any one nation is reproduced in more gigantic proportions in the market of the world”. [2]

In the course of this process the character of competition changes. When quantitative growth reaches a certain level qualitative changes occur in the system of capitalist production relations whereby competition leads to the concentration of capital and monopoly. These developments, in turn, give rise to intense rivalry for profits and a struggle for the division and re-division of the world by the leading capitalist powers.

Lenin highlighted the qualitative developments in the structure of capitalism which were the forces behind imperialism. As Lenin stated: “Imperialism is capitalism in the stage of development in which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital has established itself, in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance, in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the great capitalist powers has been completed.” Lenin exposed in a clear way both the growth of monopoly and the associated changes it brought about in the capitalist economy and the need to export capital as distinct from commodities.

Lenin made clear: “Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental attributes of capitalism in general. But capitalism only became capitalist imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development, when certain of its fundamental attributes began to change into their opposites, when the features of the epoch of transition from capitalism to a higher social and economic system had taken shape and revealed themselves in all spheres. Economically, the main thing in this process is the displacement of capitalist free competition by capitalist monopoly. Free competition is the basic feature of capitalism, and of commodity production generally; monopoly is the exact opposite; but we have seen the latter being transformed into monopoly before our eyes, creating large-scale industry and forcing out small industry, replacing large-scale industry by still larger-scale industry, and carrying concentration of production and capital to the point where out of it has grown and is growing monopoly: cartels, syndicates and trusts, and merging with them, the capital of a dozen or so banks, which manipulate thousands of millions. At the same time the monopolies, which have grown out of free competition, do not eliminate the latter, but exist above it and alongside it, and thereby give rise to a number of very acute, intense antagonisms, frictions and conflicts. Monopoly is the transition from capitalism to a higher system.

If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism. Such a definition would include what is most important, for, on the one hand finance capital is the bank capital of a few very big monopolist banks, merged with the capital of the monopolist associations of industrialists; and, on the other hand the division of the world is the transition from a colonial policy which has extended without hindrance to territories unseized by any capitalist power, to a colonial policy of monopolist possession of the territory of the world, which has been completely divided up.” [3]

The imperialist imperative of capitalist expansion remains a reality. Imperialism, as the final stage of capitalism, is not simply an instrument of exploitation and aggrandisement, it is an essential device for preserving the interests of capital and the monopolies. The present era confirms that capitalism is monopoly capitalism, imperialism, the main characteristic of which is the domination of the monopolies and that the abolition of capitalism remains central to the agenda of history. Lenin forcefully stated that the development of monopoly and state monopoly capitalism represented a negation of capitalism as a social system and that its evolution into a higher, regulated form raised the question of its revolutionary overthrow. Imperialism gave rise to the first world wars in human history. Unable to exploit their immense productive capacity and eager to dislodge their rivals, the monopolies relentlessly pressed for expansionism in their quest for new markets, raw materials, cheap labour and investments. Since World War II the creation and extension of monopolies has greatly accelerated.

By the early 1960s the US had 2,230 overseas military bases. The US and NATO provided support to reactionary colonial regimes. Racist South Africa, Rhodesia, south Korea, Chile and Paraguay systematically received NATO military aid and assistance and NATO established a long record of direct and covert aggression against genuine national liberation movements and progressive forces committed to the struggle for peace, independence, freedom and equality.

NATO actively assisted the French colonialists in Indochina, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, Dutch colonialists in Indonesia and Portuguese colonialists in Angola and Mozambique. It was clear from the earliest stages that NATO was bent on military intervention well beyond the scope of its purported original sphere of influence.

By the 1970s NATO was extending its field of operations to the South Atlantic, parts of Africa and the Indian Ocean. In 1978 the US General, Alexander Haig, stated: “NATO interests transcend the NATO area … Even on a regional level we must acquire military capabilities which may serve as a deterrent … in the Third World.” [4] In February 1980 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that: “The Commander of NATO forces in Southern Europe, Admiral Harold Shear, described the whole of Africa, the entire Middle East and the Indian Ocean plus the states bordering on it as belonging to NATO’s southern flank.”

During a speech in Los Angeles on 20 February 1978, the US Secretary of Defence, Harold Brown, referring to the Middle East, stated: “Since this region contains the world’s largest sources of oil, the security of the Middle East and of the Persian Gulf cannot be separated from our own security and from that of NATO and our allies in Asia.”

In the late 1970s the US developed a “rapid deployment” force designed to halt the advance of the national and social liberation movements and to protect and secure positions for the monopolies. In December 1979, the White House Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, envisaged the use of the “rapid deployment” force for the purpose of “first strike”, stating: “The rapid deployment force of the United States, which is currently being assembled, will give us the capability to respond quickly, effectively and maybe sooner than the enemy in those parts of the world where our essential interests are affected and where there are no permanently deployed American forces”. [5]

In October 1973 the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament published information about scientific work in British Universities and colleges which was receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the British Ministry of Defence and NATO. A subsequent pamphlet “Study War No More[6] exposed details of the NATO “science programme” in universities and colleges in Britain and Northern Ireland which covered a wide variety of subject areas including military aviation, military intelligence, biological weapons and naval warfare.

Hand in Glove with NATO: the development of the European inter-state capitalist union

The first phase of the development of the so-called European project commenced with the adoption of the Treaty of Rome in 1956 by the original six members of the Common Market, through the initial tranche of expansions, to the adoption of the Single European Act of 1987. The next phase of development of the EU project – turning the then EEC from a “Common Market” to a unified political and military bloc moved through several phases over the last three decades. The stepping stones in the development were marked by the Maastrict Treaty, the Nice Treaty, the adoption of the Euro, the massive expansion of the group of ten, and the European Union Constitution / Lisbon Treaty.

In the 1980s and 1990s the US and NATO increased their use of international economic stratagems involving trade embargoes, credit and technological blockades, inequitable trade agreements and sanctions to reinforce their interests, intensify exploitation and strengthen the monopolies. Militarisation of the economy, ideology and political life in the major capitalist states was accompanied by a reciprocal decline in the living standards of working people.

The Single European Act (signed in 1986 and formally adopted in 1987) ensured that European common foreign policy provisions became a part of European law. The Amsterdam Treaty in 1992 added defence policy provisions and in 1999 the EU established the Political and Security Policy and Security Committee and agreed to establish an EU military capability, including the creation of an EU “Rapid Reaction Force”. In December 2001 the EU declared itself to be “militarily operational”. In 2003, at a Franco-British military summit it was suggested that smaller EU Battle Groups should be created and this was agreed by the EU at its London Summit later that year. The Lisbon Treaty reinforced the concept of the EU as a distinct legal entity, separate from and superior to the individual member states which were required to support the EU’s foreign, defence and security policy. Increasingly, the EU, as an inter-state capitalist union, has continued to play a greater role in the EU/US/NATO axis. In 1988 NATO was reported to have had 5.4 million active service personnel and more than 7 million reservists.

In 1991, French President, Francois Mitterand, and German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, proposed the Western European Union (WEU) as an integral component of the European Security and Defence Identity, (ESDI). In 1992 the WEU announced three levels of combat intensity – the so-called “Petersberg tasks”. It was envisaged that the ESDI would be created as “separable but not separate” from NATO. This was approved at the Maastricht conference in December 1991 with the WEU to become the military arm of the EU. Prior to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty there were forces which held the so-called “Atlanticist” position which favoured NATO as the primary security arrangement with the so-called “Europeanists” preferring Europe to develop a defence capability at least nominally independent of the US. It was envisaged that the ESDI would be centred on the proposed EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and a revival of the WEU. The development of a single European currency as a device to achieve an integrated European market was also perceived as a challenge to the US position of dominance in the arena giving rise to inter-imperialist frictions.

This was confirmed by the subsequent appearance of a document, a draft Pentagon Defence Planning Guidance, allegedly leaked to the press, which appeared to confirm a deep US suspicion of Japan and Germany and a fear that this could lead to global competition with the US, a crisis over national interests and military rivalry, while emphasising the primacy of NATO over any European-only security arrangements. The document highlighted the requirement for the primacy of US interests asserting that “we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”. This document also suggested that the “most promising avenues for anchoring the east-central Europeans into the West … is their participation in Western political and economic organisations” referencing immediate membership of the EU and “expanded NATO liaison”. [7] Thereafter, the European bourgeoisie rediscovered their essential commitment to NATO and emphasised that the WEU was intended to complement rather than compete with NATO.

The Treaty on European Union (TEU) which was negotiated in Maastricht in 1991 and signed on 7 February 1992, established a European Union that incorporated the European Communities supplemented by “the policies and forms of cooperation established by the Treaty”. [8] One of the stated objectives was to assert the identity of the European Union “on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy which shall include the eventual framing of a common defence policy”. According to Article J.2 the member states agreed to inform and consult each other on foreign and security matters to ensure their combined influence was exerted as effectively as possible “by means of concerted and convergent action”. By reason of the Treaty provisions the Council was permitted to define “Common Positions” and member states were required to ensure that their national policies conformed to the “common positions”. Article J.3 permitted the adoption of “Joint Action” in foreign and security matters and J.4 declared that the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) “shall include all questions related to the security of the European Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy …” It was clear, however, that what was envisaged was the intention not to have a policy which was incompatible with any policy established within the NATO framework or to interfere with collaboration with NATO and the WEU.

In June 1992 the Lisbon European Council set out the objectives for joint actions and particular regions designated for joint actions were Central and Eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union and the Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Maghreb and the Middle East. In 1993 the Permanent Council and the Secretariat-General of the WEU were transferred from London to Brussels with the declared objective of bringing it closer to NATO and the EU.

The concept of eastward expansion was formally proposed in December 1994. In 1999 Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became full members of NATO. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia and Slovenia became full members in 2004 followed by Albania and Croatia in 2009. At the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008 consideration was given to admitting Georgia and Ukraine to membership. In 2011, NATO officially recognized four aspiring members: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Since 1989 all new members of the EU have become members of NATO. Accession countries are accordingly required to align their “defence and security” policies with those of NATO.

In 1994 NATO launched the so-called “Partnership for Peace” (PfP). It was proposed as a US initiative at the meeting of NATO defence ministers in Germany in October 1993, and formally launched in January 1994 at a NATO summit in Brussels. This development was lauded by NATO as undertaking “an important role [in the] enlargement of NATO”. Currently, Cyprus is the only EU member state that is neither a member of NATO nor a member of the PfP. In January 2014 the Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, pledged the government’s determination to initiate procedures to join NATO’s PfP. AKEL has denounced NATO and condemned the increasing militarization of international relations, and NATO-US-EU aggression in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. [9]

In 1998 the Saint Malo Declaration, which constituted another step towards increasing European military capacity, stated that the EU: “must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so …” This device was characterised as a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

Subsequent to Maastricht, NATO permitted the WEU to utilise NATO resources through the Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTFs) and thereafter the Amsterdam Treaty, which made substantial changes to the Maastricht Treaty, and which entered into force in May 1999, copper-fastened the predominance of NATO in these arrangements.

In 2001 the European Council, which sets the EU’s policy direction and agenda, announced the objective of fielding operational combat-ready troops by 2003. By 2006, the EU had engaged in numerous operations, frequently outside Europe.

In 2002 the EU and NATO signed a formal declaration on ESDP. While the US formally welcomed this EU development it remained concerned that this had the potential to damager its interests and to challenge the primacy of NATO in the so-called “security architecture”. In a speech in Brussels in June 2001 George W Bush had stated: “The US would welcome a capable European force properly integrated with NATO that provides new options for handling crises when NATO chooses not to lead”. [10] Since 2001 regular meetings have taken place between the EU and NATO.

At its Prague Summit in 2002 NATO agreed to admit 7 new member states and to launch the NATO Response Force (NRF) capable of rapid deployment for high-intensity operations anywhere in the world. The Prague Summit strengthened the US position and invoked a hostile Russian reaction.

It was also made clear by apologists for imperialism that the US should maintain its hegemony across the so-called Euro-Atlantic space and that enlargement should be the primary goal of both NATO and the EU, that these processes should be conducted, where possible, in parallel, extending the influence of both inter-state imperialist alliances as far to the east as possible.

While there was some disquiet among some EU member states about an overly “Atlantacist” approach arising out of the tensions surrounding NATO and ESDP the EU remained and remains inextricably involved with NATO.

In 2003, Javier Solana, High Representative for the CFSP, (who had been Secretary-General of NATO – including at the time of NATO’s murderous attacks on Yugoslavia) before being appointed Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union) presented a document on strategy to the European Council, diminishing the role of the United Nations, and emphasising the importance of NATO, the World Trade Organisation, the International Financial Institutions and European and non-European regional organisations in “strengthening the international order”, stating that “a number of countries have placed themselves outside the bounds of international society” and “the need to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid … and robust intervention”. He added: “As a Union of 25 Members, spending more than 160 billion Euros on defence, we should be able to sustain several operations simultaneously. We could add particular value by developing operations involving both military and civilian capabilities”. [11]

In 2004 the European Defence Agency (EDA) was created to accelerate the ESDP, to identify military capabilities, propose multilateral projects, support “defence technology” and improve the effectiveness of “military expenditure”. By 2011 the EDA had a budget of 30.5 million euro.

In May 2006, US Vice President, Dick Cheney, described the goal of NATO to expand as far east as possible, including Ukraine and Georgia and not excluding the border lands of Russia. Washington has continually made clear that no arrangement should be developed which is to the detriment of the primacy of NATO.

WEU tasks and institutions were gradually transferred to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union. This process was completed in 2009, when a clause between the EU member states which was similar to the WEU's mutual defence clause, entered into force with the Treaty of Lisbon. The states which were party to the Modified Treaty of Brussels subsequently decided to terminate that treaty on 31 March 2010, with all the remaining WEU's activities to end within a specified period. On 30 June 2011 the WEU was officially declared defunct. The WEU effectively ceased to exist.

The final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the EU in late 2009, after the passing of the second Lisbon Referendum by Ireland in October, marked a major milestone in the development of the EU. It also marked a critical change in the relationship between individual member states and the EU as an power in its own right. The adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, a slightly diluted European Constitution, marks the culmination of the second significant phase of the process of European integration of EU member states into an imperialist alliance.

NATO after the Counter-Revolution

The counter revolution in the Socialist countries and the subsequent restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe enabled imperialism to go on the offensive. The promotion of the concept of a new pro-market world order, the notion of the so-called right of “humanitarian intervention”, the advocacy of the supremacy of private ownership of the means of production, the increasingly developed campaign of anti-communism and the creation of the myth that there was no alternative to capitalism was advanced while exploitation, misery, poverty, inequality and injustice increased. Imperialism promoted the barbarism of war and genocide; exploitation and social discrimination; the abuse of science and technology; threats to national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states; the repression of progressive political development; the perpetuation of the rule of the monopolies; and the widening of the gap between rich and poor.

The adoption of psychological warfare and war propaganda has been and remains fundamental to imperialist designs. This includes covert actions, subversive activities against states, attacks on the peace movement, vicious anti-communist propaganda, and manoeuvres to side-line and sabotage progressive opinion against imperialism and war. Scientists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, political commentators and analysts, media pundits and NGOs are all harvested in the effort to combat and undermine sovereign states which resist imperialist penetration, progressive social movements and the communist and workers’ parties in their anti-imperialist, anti-monopolist struggles. When sovereign states fail to abide by the rules prescribed by capital the first exercise in coercion may be economic but it is quickly followed by threats of physical aggression and then armed force, whether by direct military intervention or by support for coups d’état.

By hiding behind the convenient, yet erroneous, phraseology of “defence”, “security”, “terrorism” and “crisis management” the EU attempts to disguise the fact that it already has enormous military capabilities at its disposal, such as the Battle Groups and that it is spending annually billions of Euros to carry out military missions outside Europe. These developments take place in tandem with NATO. This is the foreign and defence policy that is aggravating the international situation, which constantly threatens peace and security, undermines national sovereignty and which gives rise to tensions and provocations which provide the pretext for interference, intervention and war. By provoking instability and conflict in a region and by expanding NATO and the EU to the East the scope for intervention is increased.

NATO is an aggressive military alliance representing the extension of US military power and acting exclusively in the interests of imperialism. The history of NATO cannot be separated from the history of imperialism and war. During the existence of the socialist states in Europe NATO was a military instrument of imperialism amounting to a permanent threat to the peoples of the world who were building socialism. NATO promotes the militarisation of Europe, the continuation of the arms race and increases the threat of war and nuclear terror.

Imperialist intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yugoslavia and the destruction of the state of Libya are demonstrative of actions which had no legitimacy, no humanitarian objective, and were solely related to an overarching desire of the imperialist powers to create instability and to establish control, either directly or by proxy, opening the way for the monopolies. Imperialism continues to argue that the invasion and occupation has been to the benefit of ordinary citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the mounting evidence to the contrary. In reality imperialism has once again blighted the lives of millions of people in its pursuit of global hegemony. By involving opposition forces in the Middle East into its plans, imperialism hopes to establish compliant regimes across the region. In Syria imperialism continues to intervene. The internal frictions in Syrian society manipulated by the imperialist powers intent upon foreign intervention have created a situation which poses a major threat to Syria, the region and the world. The arming of terrorist groups determined to undermine the state by those same powers which are calling for sanctions against the government has brought war to Syria. Syria has a duty to protect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, provide security for its citizens and preserve the secular nature of the state. In a situation reminiscent of Yugoslavia and the conflict in Kosovo-Metojia the US and the other imperialist powers demand that the Syrian armed forces lay down their arms while the sinister and reactionary anti-state forces are supported and facilitated in launching acts of sabotage, subversion, terrorism and murderous sectarian attacks. These provocations supported by the US, the EU, Israel and NATO in active collaboration with Turkey and a number of reactionary, anti-democratic monarchies in the Gulf region bring only misery and destruction to the people of Syria and the wider region and serve to prepare the way for intervention and occupation with a view to destabilising and neutralising Syria and its strategic importance in the region, altering the balance of power in the area and creating a region of weak but compliant, loyal client states. This would serve the aggressive and expansionist designs of Israel which continues to occupy the Golan Heights and the Sheba Farms in Lebanon, and guarantee unlimited access by the monopolies to the valuable natural resources of those states.

The counter-revolutions of 1989-91 freed imperialism from any global check to its power. The triumphalist term “the end of history”, a phrase coined by an employee of the US State Department, Francis Fukuyama, perfectly expressed the confidence felt by the imperialist powers and the capitalist class across the globe. [12] Stripped of the imaginary threat of a war begun by the socialist states, a new justification was needed behind which to hide the reality of predation, exploitation, and aggression. NATO needed a new mission to justify its continued existence. The solution found was the discourse of humanitarian intervention.

Although the western imperialist powers had previously intervened in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the 1999 war was the first fought explicitly by NATO as an organisation. This was a war of the major and minor western imperialist powers against a country that would not acquiesce quietly in its dismemberment. Germany, reunified despite fears it would stoke German nationalist aggression once again, had begun this process by unilaterally recognising the independence of Slovenia, which had been absorbed directly into the Third Reich during World War II, and Croatia, which had had a fascist puppet regime. The US, UK and France had been opposed to this move, but bowed to pressure from Germany. [13] Once this decision had been made, the western imperialist powers sought to complete the process of disintegration.

On the day after the war on Yugoslavia began, NATO’s Secretary General, Javier Solano, stated that its aim was to “stop further humanitarian catastrophe”. [14] The overwhelming majority of the accusations made against the Yugoslav government were rapidly shown by the UN to be false, propaganda exercises to justify the war. [15] It was of course also noted by observers that NATO had done nothing to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe in Rwanda, a genocide facilitated by the prominent NATO member France for its own economic interests in the region.

The hollowness of the claims to be intervening in Yugoslavia for humanitarian purposes were further demonstrated by NATO’s use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells, by the bombing of civilian installations (for example the national television station), and by its alliance with the sinister and criminal Kosovo Liberation Army. Russian support for Serbia meant that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 was a pretext for the war that inter-imperialist rivalry in Europe, Africa and Asia had made inevitable. Inter-imperialist rivalry meant that the NATO war against Yugoslavia nearly sparked another major war. The NATO commander Wesley Clark was determined to use the bombing of Yugoslavia to send a message about the hegemony of the US, as witnessed by the deliberate missile strike against the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. [16] When as Yugoslav government forces withdrew from Kosovo in June, Russian troops occupied Pristina airport, Clark saw a chance to deliver the same message to Moscow, which looked on Yugoslavia as a friend in the region, and had blocked any UN authority for a war against it. Clark ordered an aggressive response because he wanted to ensure that everything went as Washington and not Moscow desired. However, the UK general in charge on the ground, Mike Jackson (himself notorious for his connection with Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when 14 civilians protesting against internment were murdered) refused the order, telling Clark “I'm not going to start World War Three for you”. [17] The government in London supported Jackson, and Clark’s command of NATO was ultimately cut short.

Inter-imperialist rivalry between NATO and Russia, and within NATO itself (for example, the government of Greece, although it had handed over the country’s territories for the imperialist intervention of NATO, faced with a huge popular movement with the communists at the forefront, was forced by the reaction of the people to demand an early end to the bombing although it nevertheless continued to implement the plans of NATO) had brought the world to the brink of a wider and much more dangerous conflict. The message was clear. While the imperialist powers behind NATO would unite to pick off smaller countries that were capable of mounting little resistance, there was no consensus on how to deal with relations with a powerful opponent such as Russia, with the European powers more likely to seek conciliation. At the same time, the process of NATO and EU expansion into central and eastern Europe supported by all the NATO powers was guaranteed to raise tensions with Russia.

The war against Yugoslavia settled a template for later interventions by NATO. In isolating, attacking, and then dismembering the country in alliance with local terrorist groups influenced by a religious-ethnic ideology, a means had been found of targeting regimes that were seen to stand in the way of western imperialist economic and political interests. In subsequent years, the model would be applied to Libya and Syria, and in a different way to Iraq. What these three countries had in common with Yugoslavia was that they were seen to be allies of a regional power seen as hostile to the interests of NATO’s member states (be it Russia or Iran) and/or in possession of extensive natural resources such as oil. The discourse of humanitarian intervention was melded with the discourse of “democratisation” and the so-called “war on terror” to produce a flexible justification for war in the interests of imperialism.

So flexible and hypocritical is this discourse that it can be used to justify bombing Libya on the grounds of “expanding democracy” at the same time as helping reactionary religious regimes in the Gulf to suppress even the most basic democratic demands for legal equality and political representation. Secular regimes that, while themselves often repressive, at least did not treat women, half of humanity, as inferior beings but instead offered them liberation, have been overthrown and/or their territories balkanized with NATO help, so that power resides in large areas with the most reactionary and brutal Islamists. All this suits the major NATO powers, and especially the United States, as the oil flows out and the Middle East is close to reaching a point where the only stable, functioning states are those reliant on US support. Simultaneously, the removal of regimes with which Russia and China have substantial trading ties leaves the possibility of new contracts in the hands of people happy to do business with corporations domiciled in the major NATO powers. As in Europe in the 1930s and Latin America during the Cold War, the western imperialist powers are maximising profits and controlling more natural resources through backing authoritarian, fascist and quasi-fascist regimes with which they can do business, from Ukraine to the Persian Gulf.

While NATO has been much more active and aggressive since the counter-revolutions of 1989-91, there has also been more scope for the differing interests of its members to emerge. We can see this in the rows over what to do about the reassertion of Russian power under Vladimir Putin where, for example, for a time and prior to the situation created by the recent crisis in Ukraine, Germany was somewhat more conciliatory than countries less dependent on access to Russian natural gas. These tensions within NATO and between NATO and its major imperialist rival in Europe are likely only to worsen as NATO and EU expansion brings Russia into more direct contact with these imperialist alliances closer to its border.

In 2004 in Brussels, NATO and Israel signed a bilateral protocol which paved the way for the holding of joint NATO-Israel military exercises. In 2008 Israel concluded an “Individual Cooperation Programme” with NATO and NATO developed the so-called “Mediterranean Dialogue” involving 28 NATO members, Israel and a number of compliant Arab regimes. Following a meeting between Israel and NATO in 2013 the NATO Secretary-General stated: “Israel is an important partner of the Alliance in the Mediterranean Dialogue. The security of NATO is linked to the security and stability of the Mediterranean and of the Middle East region. And our Alliance attaches great value to our political dialogue and our practical cooperation. Israel is one of our longest-standing partner countries. We are faced with the same strategic challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean.” This took place in the face of the belligerent criminal acts of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon. These developments represent further grave threats to the entire region.

The steady erosion of rights to national sovereignty as well as the restriction of democratic and trade union freedoms in the EU member states have led to the reinforcement of the centralised, militarised, imperialist inter-state alliance which acts in the interests of big capital. In Ireland popular support for Irish neutrality is under attack by these anti-democratic manoeuvres. The attacks on social and economic conditions, the impoverishment of working people, the increased power of the monopolies is evidence of the anti-people political line of the EU and its member states which is further manifested in its persistent attacks on labour rights; social protection; health; education; public employment and the provision of public services. These actions have dealt a devastating blow to working people while serving to increase and expand the power of the capitalist class. It is further demonstrated in its anti-democratic measures, its increasing militarisation and appetite for imperialist intervention and exploitation. The history of imperialism demonstrates that intervention, the subjugation of peoples and nations and the exploitation of their resources has never been motivated by humanitarian concerns. The cause is nothing other than the dominance of the monopolies, the preservation of the capitalist system itself. The current economic crisis has led to increased competition and rivalry and a further sharpening of contradictions between the capitalist states and their respective imperialist alliances to reinforce their geopolitical positions, their share of the markets, raw materials, energy and other resources and transport routes.

The increased aggressiveness of imperialism poses a real and urgent threat to the interests of all humanity. There has been an immense increase in the militarization of capitalist society since the Second World War. The sustained development of military processes, the maintenance of multi-million strong armies and huge munitions industries in peacetime are a permanent feature of life under capitalism. The latest scientific and technological achievements are used on an unprecedented scale for the development and creation of awesome weapons of mass destruction. The expansion of the military industrial complexes, the partnerships between government, huge corporations and senior military personnel and the deep penetration of militarism into the state apparatus of the NATO countries has led to increased bellicosity on the part of capitalist states and unprecedented profits for private capital through military production and war.

In general terms global military spending in 2005 reached $1.12 trillion, a new world record. The research, conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, revealed that global arms spending indicated a decline in most regions with two notable exceptions – the US and the Middle East. The US remained the biggest spender on arms, accounting for 48% of the $1.2 trillion spent or 80% of the $33 billion increase in global spending.

In a speech at the opening of the “NATO Transformation Seminar” on 25 March 2015 NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said: “We are increasing NATO's presence in our Eastern Allied countries and the readiness of our forces. The NATO Response Force will more than double to up to 30,000 troops. Its centrepiece is the Spearhead Force of 5,000 troops with lead elements ready to move within as little as 48 hours. At the same time, we are setting up command units in six of our Eastern Allies. And this is only the beginning … we need a comprehensive approach, working together with the European Union and other international partners. … NATO leaders last year recognized that we need to invest more in our defence. It is vital that we achieve this.”

The US, EU and NATO which actively promoted and supported the counter-revolution in Europe sought to increase their advantage by pressing further east. In his third term of office Vladimir Putin proposed a Eurasian Economic Union. In Ukraine the existing capitalist crisis led to a political crisis within the Ukrainian bourgeois class concerning its orientation and international alliances. Pressing forward with plans to enlarge the EU eastwards to include Ukraine with the concomitant requirement that accession countries had to align their “defence and security” policies with those of NATO, and deliberately disregarding the history of the region, the EU and US through their interventions provoked a situation in Ukraine which led to a coup d’état, the overthrow of the elected government and the violent accession to power by a rightist elite (which contained a number of neo-fascists) in Kiev. This, in turn, led to anti-communist repression, the legitimation of fascist forces by the regime and bitter fighting in the country.

This intervention by imperialism took place in the context of a competition with Russia over which monopolies will control the energy resources in the wider region. The working people of Ukraine have become hostages of the inter-imperialist contradictions of the various imperialist groups from the USA, the EU, Ukraine and Russia and their imperialist allies in the continuing competition amongst them for their predatory interests for the re-division of the spheres of influence in the conditions of the crisis. The imperialist powers have also taken the opportunity to increase their military presence in the region. Even the US Foreign Affairs magazine spoke of how US and European leaders “blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border”. [18] Capital further seeks to extend its sphere of influence by utilising the policies of the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other inter-state institutions.

NATO has enlarged rapidly and significantly and designed a global remit for its operations. It constantly strives to expand its influence both in terms of the breadth of its agenda and its global reach. The role of NATO and the EU, through the device of the CSDP poses ever new dangers for the entire region. The head of the fascist “Right Sector” was appointed as an advisor to Ukraine’s Defence Ministry. In April 2015, Oleksander Turchynov, head of the Ukrainian “national security and defence council”, told a session of the body that Ukraine was set on attaining NATO membership, stating: “European and Euro-Atlantic integration was now a priority for Ukraine's policies and the country would aim to coordinate its armed forces and intelligence services with those of the Western alliance”. [19]

History, including recent history, has shown that imperialism and its agents will use any means to advance its objectives and will ruthlessly destroy nations and peoples without qualm. The object is to obtain power and dominion over nations and their resources, to steal the wealth and natural resources of those nations and to prevent and obstruct the free political, social, economic, cultural development of peoples.

Capitalism is unable to solve the problems confronting it. Widening inequality, poverty, deprivation, unemployment, homelessness, environmental decay together with myriad social, economic and political issues which capitalism remains unable to resolve infect and deepen the capitalist crisis exposing and sharpening its contradictions. These, in turn, impact directly on the alignment of the class forces.

The capitalist crisis continues to deepen, intensifying and exposing its main contradiction – the struggle between capital and labour. The inevitable inter-imperialist competition continues and intensifies. The complications and complexities of capitalist reproduction and the intensification of international competition have rendered the circumstances for inter-imperialist competition and rivalry more acute. The general crisis of capitalism intensifies imperialist aggression. While the capitalist states have a common strategic interest, namely, reproduction of the capitalist system, history has shown the fierce imperialist rivalries between the monopoly groups and their willingness to impose their interests by force of arms.

Lenin, in a speech on the Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution, stated: “The question of imperialist wars, of the international policy of finance capital which now dominates the whole world, a policy that must inevitably engender new imperialist wars, that must inevitably cause an extreme intensification of national oppression, pillage, brigandry and the strangulation of weak, backward and small nationalities by a handful of “advanced” powers—that question has been the keystone of all policy in all the countries of the globe since 1914. It is a question of life and death for millions upon millions of people. … And the millions who are thinking about the causes of the recent war and of the approaching future war are more and more clearly realising the grim and inexorable truth that it is impossible to escape imperialist war, and imperialist peace (if the old orthography were still in use, I would have written the word mir in two ways, to give it both its meanings) which inevitably engenders imperialist war, that it is impossible to escape that inferno, except by a Bolshevik struggle and a Bolshevik revolution.”[20]

We recall Marx’s declaration in his Inaugural Address to the First International: “Past experience has shown how disregard of that bond of brotherhood which ought to exist between the workmen of different countries, and incite them to stand firmly by each other in all their struggles for emancipation, will be chastised by the common discomfiture of their incoherent efforts. This thought prompted the workingmen of different countries assembled on September 28, 1864, in public meeting at St. Martin’s Hall, to found the International Association.”[21] The cause of international proletarian solidarity, organised by the communist and workers’ parties, remains the spearhead of the anti-capitalist and anti-monopolist forces and the cornerstone for an anti-imperialist strategy against exploitation, oppression and war and for lasting peace and social progress.

At a time of increasing aggression by NATO and the imperialist powers proletarian internationalism remains a unique weapon in the hands of the Communist and Workers’ parties against imperialist aggression and threats to world peace and democracy. Socialism alone is the alternative.

[1] Karl Marx, Collected Works, Vol 8, p 266, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1977

[2] Karl Marx, Speech on the Question of Free Trade, delivered to the Democratic Association of Brussels, 9 January 1848

[3] Ibid at 265-266

[4] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 4 January 1978

[5] Washington Post, 20 December 1979

[6] Written in 1974 by Zoe Fairbairns, editor of the CND magazine “Sanity” and published by CND

[7] Excerpts published in The New York Times, 8 March 1992

[8] TEU, Title I, Common Provisions, Article A

[9] For example, AKEL C.C. Press Office, 9th March 2015, Nicosia

[10] The Economist, 14 June 2001

[11] European Security Strategy, Document proposed by Javier Solana and adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the European Council in Brussels on 12 December 2003.

[12] F. Fukuyama, ‘The End of History?’, The National Interest (Summer, 1989). Later expanded as The End of History and the Last Man





[17] For Jackson’s account of this incident, see

[18] Foreign Affairs September/October 2014

[19] Reuters, 9 April 2015

[20] V.I. Lenin Speech on the Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution Pravda No. 234, October 18, 1921 (Collected Works Vol. 33, pages 51-59)

[21] Karl Marx, Inaugural Address to the First International, October 1964