Saturday, April 20, 2024

75 Years of NATO: A History of Coups, Wars and Terror

 By Nikos Mottas
The 4th of April marked the 75th anniversary since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty by 12 countries in Washington DC. The pretext for the foundation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was the protection from “Soviet aggression” as well as the – supposed – consolidation of peace in the severely injured by the Second World War European continent. However, as history showed, the actual reasons behind the alliance's establishment had nothing to do with defense or peace. 
Although NATO was officially created in 1949, the idea of its birth had already been prepared several years ago. In fact, in his emblematic speech in Fulton, Missouri on 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill set the basis for the formation of an anti-communist military “Holy Alliance” against the Soviet Union and the socialist countries. Talking about the “Iron Curtain which lies across Europe”, Churchill had underlined that “the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization” (1).

A year later, on 12 March 1947, in a speech before the U.S Congress, President Truman presented his famous doctrine over American foreign policy that pledged “US support for democracies against authoritarian threats”. Concerning the significance of the Truman Doctrine, the notorious Henry Kissinger wrote: “Had Soviet leaders been more aware of American history, they would have understood the ominous nature of what the president was saying. The Truman Doctrine marked a watershed because, once America had thrown down the moral gauntlet, the kind of realpolitik Stalin understood best would be forever at an end, and bargaining over reciprocal concessions would be out of the question. Henceforth, the conflict could only be settled by a change in Soviet purposes, by the collapse of the Soviet system, or both” (2).

Days before the official foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Soviet Union had warned about the alliance's aggressive character. On 31 March 1949, in a memorandum addressed to the governments of the United States, Western Europe and Canada, the Soviet Union was pointing out the following conclusions (3):

1) The North Atlantic Treaty has nothing in common with the aims of self-defense of the states parties to the Treaty but on the contrary, this Treaty has a clearly aggressive character and is directed against the USSR.
2) The North Atlantic Treaty not only does not contribute to the strengthening of peace and international security which is the obligation of all members of the United Nations organization but is in direct contradiction with the principles and aims of the UNO Charter and leads to the undermining of the United Nations Organization.
3) The North Atlantic Treaty is in contradiction with several agreements signed between the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Great Britain and France in 1942, 1944 and 1945 under which the signatory parties agreed “not to conclude any alliance and not to participate in any coalition directed against one of the Contracting Parties.” (3)

From their side, the U.S and their allies never provided an answer to the Soviet concerns about NATO's actual character. On the contrary, they set in motion a multifaceted  propaganda of presenting the North Atlantic Treaty as a “project of peace”. From his side, Lord Hastings Ismay, NATO's first General Secretary, is credited as having said that the purpose of NATO  was “to keep the Soviet Union out, the American in and the Germans down”.

Based on the above, the obvious question that arises about the foundation of NATO is the following: If the North Atlantic Treaty was indeed created as a counterbalance of the capitalist states to the “Soviet threat”, then why it wasn't self-dissolved after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the de facto cancellation of the Warsaw Pact?

What was the purpose of NATO's existence after 1990, as long as the socialist camp ceased to exist? The answer is simple: NATO was never a “defensive alliance” but an imperialist organization, aimed at safeguarding and expanding the interests of its capitalist member-states throughout the world. In 1916, more than four decades before NATO's establishment, V.I. Lenin had described the prospect of an imperialist alliance: “The imperialist tendency towards big empires is fully achievable, and in practice is often achieved, in the form of an imperialist alliance of sovereign and independent—politically independent—states. Such an alliance is possible and is encountered not only in the form of an economic merger of the finance capital of two countries, but also in the form of military “co-operation” in an imperialist war” (4).

The victory of counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe in the beginning of 1990s provided the “green light” for the new, more aggressive role of NATO. Imperialism, led by the United States and its allies, proceeded to a new phase of interventions and wars, something that was expressed in the infamous “New World Order” proclaimed by U.S President George H. W. Bush. This “new order” essentially reflected the common strategy of the U.S and Western Europe bourgeois classes to reap the fruits of counterrevolution, to extend the rule of monopolies in new regions, to find new natural resources and new cheap labor for exploitation.

Dictatorships and Fascist Coups

NATO's bloodstained history isn't marked only by imperialist wars. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is supposedly based among others on the ideals of “democracy” and “liberalism”, bears significant responsibility for supporting, or at least tolerating, the imposition of fascist regimes in a series of states, including some of its members! The cases of Portugal, Greece and Turkey are indicative.

Portugal was already under the “Estado Novo” dictatorship, led by Prime Minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, when it became one of the founding signatories of NATO in 1949. Despite the deeply authoritarian character of the Salazar dictatorship, the Portuguese government didn't experience isolation from the western capitalist states. On the contrary, acknowledging the role of the Portuguese dictatorship as an ally in the Cold War against Communism, the country became one of the 12 founding members of NATO.

Greece, which was a focus point of the Truman Doctrine, became a NATO member on 18 February 1952. The imposition of the seven-year Junta, following the April 1967 military Coup, didn't affect the country's NATO membership at all. Furthermore, the imperialist alliance tolerated, if not indirectly encouraged, the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in July 1974 which led to the partition of the island.

Like Greece, neighboring Turkey joined NATO on February 1952. For the U.S and its western European allies, Turkey had been a valuable ally mainly due to its strategic location at the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union. That explains why NATO remained silent towards successive authoritarian governments, including the one of Adnan Menderes and the 1980 military Coup by General Kenan Evren.

NATO is certainly not free of blame for a series of imperialist involvement, mainly led by the United States, in forced regime change in various countries. Some of the cases include: Congo-Leopoldville (1960-65), Dominican Republic (1961), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965-66), Chile (1973), Angola (1975-91), East Timor (1975-1999), Argentina (1976), Chad (1981), Nicaragua (1981-90), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989-94), etc.

Imperialist barbarism “from Vancouver to Vladivostok”

On the 50th anniversary of NATO, the Washington Summit held in April 1999, at the height of the criminal bombing of Yugoslavia, ratified a revised version of the alliance's “Strategic Concept”. According to the then Secretary General, Javier Solana, the Washington Summit was based “on the lessons learned by NATO from the management of complex crisis, such as the ones in Bosnia-Herzegovina and more recently in Kosovo. It will reflect the experience we have gained in developing highly complex models of communication an cooperation with literally all the countries located in the Euro-Atlantic region which stretches from Vancouver to Vladivostok”. In fact, the new Strategic Concept extended the activity of NATO far beyond “Europe's safety”, turning the alliance into a global sheriff of imperialism.

In Spring 1999, NATO committed the last massacre of the 20th Century; the imperialist intervention and bombing of Yugoslavia, where more than 2,000 civilians were killed. Two years later, the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 in the United States provided the necessary pretext (“War against Terrorism”) for the imperialist attack in Afghanistan, a war that lasted almost 20 years and led to thousands of dead civilians, millions of displaced people and the destruction of a whole country. Following two decades of NATO's devastating military presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban recaptured Kabul in 2021. Another country which experienced the imperialist barbarism of the North Atlantic alliance was Libya in 2011, a war which resulted to more than 30,000 deaths, 4,000 missing persons and more than 50,000 wounded civilians.

The process of NATO's transformation into a global watchdog of western imperialism's interests has been reflected in the decisions of several important summits; in the 2002 Prague Summit seven states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were invited to begin accession talks, while the alliance set the basis for the planning of the NATO Response Force (NRF). The following Summits, especially those of Istanbul (2004), Riga (2006) and Lisbon (2010) contributed to the further enhancement of NATO's aggressive military capabilities by elaborating and finally adopting a revised “Strategic Concept”.

The continuous expansion of NATO to the East has led to the rapid sharpening of the inter-imperialist competition with Russia and China, which are the two major powers of the Eurasian imperialist camp that is being formed. The ongoing war in Ukraine is a reflection of this competition, while NATO continues to concentrate military forces and perform military drills in Eastern Europe, the Nordic countries and the Baltic Sea thus adding more fuel to the fire of the confrontation. The recent accession of Sweden to the alliance is definitely an extremely negative development, the effects of which will become visible in the upcoming future.

NATO's leading powers also bear huge responsibility for the bloodshed that currently takes place in the Middle East, mainly by encouraging and actually supporting Israeli government's massacre in Gaza, leading to more than 32,000 dead Palestinians since October 2023. The extremely dangerous situation that has been formed for the region's peoples is a result of the imperialist plans for the “New Middle East”, which have been designed for years by the Euro-Atlantic powers.

Unyielding struggle against NATO

Today, 75 years since the foundation of NATO, the struggle against the imperialist alliance is more timely than ever. More and more people throughout Europe and the world understand that NATO isn't a force that produces “peace and democracy” but the armed arm of Euro-Atlantic monopoly capitalism. Therefore, the struggle against NATO shouldn't be simply a slogan but a contemporary and necessary revolutionary task, not only of communists, but of every honest working man and woman who loves peace and people's prosperity.

This revolutionary task shouldn't, in any case, be handed over to various reactionary groups, like the Taliban or Hezbollah, which are linked, one way or another, to imperialist interests, or to bourgeois, anti-communist regimes, like for example Putin's Russia or Khamenei's Iran. The working masses must not be entrapped in deeply erroneous, opportunistic, anti-leninist theories which treat imperialism as an aggressive foreign policy and deliberately underestimate, or even ignore, its economic essence, that is the monopoly.

The perception of “supporting the least aggressive imperialist” is a blatant distortion of Lenin's theory and against the popular interests. Indeed, NATO is the most criminal, the most barbaric imperialist alliance since the Second World War with dozens of bloody interventions in the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa. Indeed, the U.S governments, with the complicity of the EU, have been and remain the number one enemy for human peace. Yes, the struggle against the imperialist alliances of NATO and the EU is more timely and necessary than ever. But all these do not negate, for example, the objective role of capitalist Russia as a powerful imperialist power that competes with the Euro-Atlantic bloc. And as such, an imperialist power, Russia is also an enemy of the people's interests.

The contemporary struggle against NATO and the Euro-Atlantic imperialism cannot have a generalized and vague “anti-imperialist” context focused merely on foreign policy but must contain an anti-monopoly, anti-capitalist direction. It can't be detached from class exploitation. Only the organized struggle of the working people towards the overthrow of capitalist barbarism can lead to the defeat of imperialism. In the 21st century, Lenin's words remain more timely than ever: “Only a proletarian communist revolution can lead humanity out of the deadlock created by imperialism and imperialist wars. No matter what difficulties the revolution may have to encounter and in spite of temporary failure of waves of counter-revolution the final victory of the proletariat is inevitable. (5)”

(1) Iron Curtain Speech, 5/4/1946:  
(2) Henry Kissinger, Reflections on Containment, Foreign Affairs, 01/05/1994:
(3) Text of the Soviet Memorandum on the Atlantic Pact,
(4) V.I. Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism, The Example of Norway, 1916,
(5) The 1919 Lenin Program of the CPSU (Bolsheviks).

* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.