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.  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.  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”.  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.  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.  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”.  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”.  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”. 
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.”
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.” 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.