Public opposition to NATO is extremely rare. Among the majority of Western governments, such a statement of opposition would go down as well as MENSA testing at the Labour party conference. Private opposition has, however, been brewing out of sight for the last sixty years.
Only in the 2016 American presidential elections did NATO scepticism truly rear its head. Such scepticism is often falsely attributed solely to the left. Remarkably; Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and Donald Trump all shared a distrust of NATO; though largely for different reasons. A quick Google search on the opposition to NATO does not draw much- many are keen to make the case for an opposition- but none stand behind it.
Adrian Bonenberger -veteran-cum-communist (I suppose the trauma of a NATO-led war can break the most hardened of men)- attempts somewhat valiantly to frame the argument. He quite rightly makes the case that a distrust of this treaty is a truly cross-platform issue. When such a parity occurs across platforms, chiefly by the reformists of each movement, it usually marks the beginning of something much larger.
I have long been a critic of establishment politics, I am certainly not afraid to criticise the Conservative party (there is plenty of subject matter there) or any other organisation- friend or foe. I become particularly suspicious when almost all the political parties in the United Kingdom remain eerily silent on this issue. Jeremy Corbyn in his backbench days declared NATO as a “danger to world peace”, before being forced to issue a grovelling apology on daytime television upon election as party leader. Conservative scaremongering on the subject is equally testament to a lurking discontent. Mike Penning, former minister of the armed forces, declared that Mr. Corbyn had been “Collaborating with Russia” for merely suggestion a non-committal to NATO. Why would both major parties be so twitchy on the issue? Would the slightest weakness allow for Britain to become the next annexed oblast of the evil Russian machine? Would a mere discussion evoke a bloody civil war? There is clearly something amiss.
History will not look kindly upon NATO. That is not to say that NATO was never necessary -the Russian threat was all too real in the 1960s. Just like all organisations born out of a pragmatic goodwill, NATO has morphed beyond recognition. A movement dedicated to “peaceful resolution of disputes” and “crisis management” now hurls itself into foreign conflict and prods the Russian bear at any given opportunity. “Safe areas” in Bosnia, the corrupt and ineffective KFOR in Kosovo and the disastrous Afghan War represent some of the incompetency of this organisation. While claiming to act in the interests of world peace, NATO deliberately escalates and provokes conflict to further the United States geo-political stranglehold over Europe and further beyond. To claim that NATO is a moral celestial being is naïve and short sighted. As I write this article, Turkey is actively ethnically cleansing its Kurdish population with NATO equipment. Edorğan grows more despotic every day while being effectively protected from any criticism due to its military value as a treaty member.
With the amount anti-Russian hysteria circulating around western media, I already foresee the criticism I’m likely to receive of my opinions on this subject: “Russian Propaganda!” cries a liberal banshee, “Traitor!” shouts a blinkered Conservative. If my views have stemmed from some subliminal Russian propaganda machine -I must say- it is extremely convincing. Russia has cause for concern. Its military is weaker than it would care to admit and has been racing to mobilise against the US led threat on its doorstep. Mutual assured destruction has, in effect, been eliminated by the US. In flagrant violation of the INF treaty on non-proliferation, America has lined Russia’s borders with missile defence systems to counter any effective deterrence to war. All the while, the US creeps closer to Russia’s borders, spreading its influence into the Baltic and Artic; flexing its military might through invasion drills at every possible opportunity. By air, NATO has provoked a tit-for-tat cycle of provocation through the resumption of provocative nuclear-equipped incursions into Russian airspace.
One man who foresaw the dangers of this aggressive eastward expansion was Michael Mandelbaum, author of “Preserving the New Peace: The Case against NATO Expansion.” Mandelbaum notes, as far back as 1995, that this expansion would be done under the pretext of “assuring democracy”; yet NATO control of the Eastern European states would be the worst way of achieving this. NATO policy has, and always will, been about the intimidation of Russia. I do not, however, primarily focus my opposition to NATO upon the Russian issue. In fact, while Russia’s concerns are well warranted, its response is rarely appropriate. It is not my prerogative to defend the actions of Russia. I merely raise the point that the larger we build alliances, the larger any conflict is likely to be. The losers of any such war, will be the Baltic states that NATO claims to protect.
Bonenberger, while not excused for his articles inciting left-wing violence, rightly raises the issue of economic feasibility. We should not kid ourselves for one minute that Britain risks being instantaneously invaded after an exit from NATO. We would likely maintain the same level of military spending and still be able to participate in cross-nation exercises. Our military would not need to occupy stations in foreign territory and could focus on national defence. The U.K would still have the authority to involve itself in foreign conflicts, if it so desired, and would remain accountable for its actions. Leaving NATO behind does not mean closing our hearts to the plight of others, rather, it enables us to better justify any military action under a truly British foreign policy. Furthermore, it is unfair that we are obliged to maintain our military spending target while other nations consistently underpay. If we choose to leave, we could even decrease our own military budget as we trim the excess of stationed soldiers in Europe.
However, ever the pessimist, I do not feel that this generation’s politics will likely share my concerns. Mounting British realpolitik shows that Britain is still willing to punch above her weight, clinging on to her role as “world police” at large. I’m afraid to say, that this role is no longer feasible or desirable. We are merely an American auxiliary force. To quote Putin: “Sometimes I feel the US does not want allies. They only want vassals.”
My greatest concern is the mounting enthusiasm for military involvement in British politics. The unceremonious U-turn on Syrian military action shows that British politicians have largely learnt nothing from the mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan; highlighting the lack of a truly humanist foreign policy. Instead of voting on military action and weighing up an appropriate response, we remain a lap-dog to the US’ foreign policy of brinkmanship. If, at the very least, we begin to focus on our own strategic interests and moderate our response- then perhaps Britain will avoid more pointless foreign wars. By remaining a player in the ever warming “cold war” to come, we will undoubtedly suffer hardship in the future.
Written by Dylan Carter
The ideas represented in this article are not reflective of the values held by UCL Conservatives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely representative of the author.