Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Anniversary of defeat: NATO’s troubled past

As leaders from 30 NATO member states gathered to celebrate the alliance’s 75 years, it’s only right to take stock of what NATO has achieved – and where it has fallen short. While officially formed as a defensive bulwark, NATO’s actions over the decades tell a more complicated story.

On April 4, 2024, NATO commemorated its 75th anniversary. Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, the first Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance, famously stated that its purpose was to “keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” While NATO has consistently asserted itself as a defensive alliance, its actions in the past have proven otherwise.

Instances such as the interventions in Yugoslavia in 1999 and Libya in 2011 revealed a stark contrast between the alliance’s professed intentions and the devastating consequences for civilian populations, infrastructure, and the economies of these nations. In the case of Libya, the NATO-led “peacekeeping” operation resulted in the complete collapse of the state, fueling rampant terrorism and cross-border crime in the neighboring Sahel region.

Reflecting on the NATO attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which commenced on March 24, 1999, it becomes evident that the United States and its allies disregarded the principles outlined in the UN Charter and the OSCE, to which they often refer. In their pursuit of global dominance, they even resorted to using ammunition with depleted uranium, causing a surge in cancer cases and long-term environmental contamination. During the 78-day military aggression, NATO forces dropped 14,000 bombs, launched over 2,000 missiles, and employed cluster munitions. Despite claiming “humanitarian intervention,” the majority of targets hit were civilian in nature, including residential areas, hospitals, schools, bridges, and refugee convoys.

Tragically, thousands of civilians, including 89 children, fell victim to these attacks, cynically dismissed by the Western coalition as “collateral damage.” The Chinese Embassy was also “mistakenly” struck by a rocket, resulting in the loss of several employees. Astonishingly, no one was held accountable for these atrocities, and international justice remained indifferent to the suffering of the Serbian people while turning a blind eye to the brutalities committed by NATO members.

It is also important to reflect on NATO’s ignominious two-decade-long military campaign in Afghanistan, which ultimately resulted in a resounding failure for the North Atlantic bloc. As NATO members withdrew their troops from Afghanistan, they left behind a country in a state of utter devastation. A special commission of the German Bundestag conducted an investigation into the mission and concluded that it ended in a strategic defeat, making it the costliest operation for Western countries in modern history and resulting in a significant number of casualties.

Through its military ventures, the collective West has dealt a severe blow to the fundamental principles of international law, as it attempts to replace them with a self-constructed concept known as the Rules-Based Order.

Following the conclusion of the Cold War and the “era of major operations,” the West found itself struggling to identify a meaningful purpose for the alliance. This led to attempts to reinvigorate the North Atlantic bloc by emphasizing a confrontational stance against an imaginary common threat, traditionally identified as Russia.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the NATO strategic concept, adopted at the Madrid Summit in 2022, labels Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

NATO asserts that it is not seeking confrontation with Russia, yet simultaneously declares its preparedness for armed conflict. The alliance’s leadership and certain member states consistently fuel anti-Russian sentiments. NATO members conduct exercises near Russian borders, simulating attacks and practicing bomber strikes on Russian territory. New regional military plans have been devised, signifying NATO’s return to the Cold War era when the bloc directly confronted Russia and the states of the former Warsaw Pact.

Since the 1990s, NATO has expanded eastward in nine successive “waves,” progressively approaching Russia’s borders. The Bucharest Summit in 2008 promised NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia. Even Pope Francis has said that the reason for the conflict in Ukraine is “NATO is barking at Russia’s door,” which he said caused the Kremlin to react accordingly.

Russia has endeavored for many years to foster equitable cooperation and partnership with the North Atlantic bloc. In 2002, the Russia-NATO Council was established with the aim of serving as an “All-weather” platform for addressing any potential disagreements.

However, the NATO Council’s decision in April 2014 to terminate practical cooperation and political dialogue entirely nullified the positive aspects of Russia’s relations with the alliance. The US and its allies have not supported any of Russia’s initiatives aimed at creating a unified and indivisible security framework in Europe. They declined to ratify the adapted CFE Treaty, provide assurances that the missile defense system would not target Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces, rejected the Treaty on European Security, and disregarded the proposed Agreement on the Fundamentals of Relations between Russia and NATO. Furthermore, they dismissed Russia’s proposal for a mutual moratorium on the deployment of INF.

Moscow made another attempt in December 2021 by presenting draft agreements on security guarantees for Russia to Washington and Brussels. These agreements entailed refraining from NATO expansion and the deployment of offensive weapon systems near Russian borders, as well as returning the bloc’s military capabilities and infrastructure in Europe to their 1997 positions. Regrettably, NATO ignored these proposals.

NATO’s response to Russia now extends across all geographic areas and operational domains, including space and cyberspace. The North Atlantic bloc actively supports the conflict in Ukraine, advocating for the need to “defeat Russia on the battlefield.” The Kyiv regime receives an extensive supply of weapons, surpassing the production capacity of Western countries. Intelligence data is shared, which is utilized for carrying out strikes, including those targeting civil infrastructure in Russia. Western mercenaries are directly involved in the hostilities on Ukrainian soil.

The process of NATO expansion continues, with Finland joining the alliance in 2023 and Sweden becoming a member in March 2024. Euro-Atlantic integration is being forcefully imposed on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Additionally, NATO is intensively developing capabilities in all five operational environments: land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace.

The alliance persistently seeks to extend its influence beyond the Euro-Atlantic region. In pursuit of this objective, NATO aims to form a coalition with an anti-Russian and anti-Chinese orientation, attracting like-minded countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan. It appears that the alliance intends to assert its “concern” worldwide, without seeking the consent of the majority of nations.

The goals of NATO, regardless of the rhetoric used to package them, remain consistent with those of 75 years ago: preserving global dominance and the hegemony of a select group of countries while maintaining conditions conducive to the exploitation of other peoples and nations. However, times have changed, and leaders of NATO cannot alter this reality.

(Evgeny Terekhin (Amb) is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Ethiopia and Plenipotentiary Representative of the Russian Federation to the African Union.)

Contributed by Evgeniy E. Terekhin (Amb.)

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