Is NATO’s European honeymoon on the rocks?
The year 2015 came to a screeching, white-knuckle end for the 28-member states that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
As Europe struggles to accommodate a tidal wave of refugees escaping the blood and violence of its former colonial lands, right-wing parties are winning over the hearts and minds of Europeans who are increasingly wary of multiculturalism, neo-liberal reforms, austerity measures - and now, it seems, even NATO itself.
Just this month, Polish military police, accompanied by Antoni Macierewicz, the new defense minister of the newly elected Law and Justice Party, conducted a dramatic midnight raid on a NATO-linked counterintelligence center in Warsaw. Yes, you read that right: Polish authorities conducted a raid on a NATO-linked facility on their own territory.
According to the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, authorities entered the complex using a duplicate key and then unceremoniously dismissed the director in absentia, Col Krzysztof Dusza and replaced him with Col. Robert Bala. Dozens of other bureaucrats and assorted paper-shufflers were also relieved of their shadowy duties on the spot.
The former Polish defense minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters: “Nothing like this has happened in the history of NATO, where a member state attacks a NATO facility.”
One NATO official attempted to downplay the unprecedented event, calling the night raid “an issue for the Polish authorities.”
But clearly there is much more to the story than what the public is being told.
After all, what would cause a traditionally pro-Western country like Poland to ignore constitutional due process and risk relations with Brussels, NATO - not to mention the group’s top dog, Washington - by conducting a crack of dawn, neo-Nazi-style raid? For those who were surprised by Warsaw’s tough tactics fail to see which way the political winds are blowing not just in Poland, but across the EU.
Much of the winds of change howling through the streets of Europe can be connected to the failure of US foreign policy, and the repercussions that has had on the European status quo.
For much of Europe: No hope, no change
First, the promise of ‘hope and change’ that failed to materialize under US President Barack Obama has been a major letdown not just for millions of Americans, but for countless Europeans as well. On April 5, 2009, 20,000 people jammed in front of the Prague Castle to listen to America’s first black president seduce his audience with tele-prompted tales of peace, prosperity, non-proliferation and promises, promises and more promises.
In fact, Europe was so giddy about the arrival of Barack Obama that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him the Peace Prize just nine months into his first term as president. Today, the reality of the farce is painfully conspicuous: Guantanamo Bay detention facility is still open for business, Libya is in dire straits, while the US military is operating in Syria, albeit it with little or no effect on Islamic State, its proclaimed target.
Clearly, what Obama has delivered over the course of his two terms in office has been strikingly different from the advertisement. Instead of being relieved from the warmongering insanity of the Bush era, the world is still embroiled knee-deep in crisis – and in new places (Libya, Syria and Pakistan) that exploded on Obama’s watch, as well as in Russia, where the Kremlin wised up fast to the fairy tale known as ‘reset’ (The one bright spot in US foreign policy has been the Obama administration’s conclusion of a controversial nuclear deal with Iran, yet judging by recent events – which included the US Navy accusing Iran of firing missiles in proximity of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Persian Gulf – charges Tehran has slammed as “psychological warfare”).
But the crisis now enveloping the world is not limited to those of a military nature: Ever since the 2008 Financial Crisis, the worst economic setback since the Great Depression, Europe has been mired in dismal economic growth and high unemployment, compounded by an insane influx of millions of refugees that are only serving to erode Europe’s financial prospects, to say nothing about demographics.
And in order to ‘cure’ the disease of insolvency, many once-proud, self-sufficient European countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, to name a few) are forced to rely on impossible-to-return loans from the very same global bankers that wrecked these national economies in the first place (the fact that only isolated Iceland was politically independent enough to punish its bankers and restructure its economy without suicidal austerity measures proves that Europe is under the influence of powers far beyond the control of democratic procedure).
The lesson that Europeans learned was an old one: ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’ Ever since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Washington (and by extension, NATO) has only delivered Europe a series of global military debacles that the Old World – already suffering under the brutal dictate of IMF debt and World Bank measures – can now ill afford. Now toss a few million desperate refugees into the mix and you have awakened the raw spirit of right-wing political parties – from Le Pen’s Front National in France to Golden Dawn in Greece.
The Financial Times, sympathizing with the neo-liberal globalists, summed up the scenario that is playing itself out in national elections across the EU: “All over the world, globalisation is under challenge from resurgent nationalist forces. One of the great political challenges of the coming year will be to defend the benefits of globalisation — while fending off the arguments of nationalists such as Mrs Le Pen, Donald Trump in the US and his new admirer, President Vladimir Putin of Russia.”
FT failed to mention, of course, that globalization thus far has been a boon for the transnational corporations and a total bust for the denizens of the global village.
Personally, I can’t imagine that, in a situation where nearly every US foreign policy initiative over the last 15 years has resulted in utter chaos and catastrophe, the European people (still highly educated despite biting austerity) will fail to correctly add two-plus-two and conclude that NATO as an institution designed to defend their interests is also failing them in dramatic fashion.
The Western military bloc continues to agitate Russia, pushing smack against the very border of NATO’s Cold War nemesis, while recklessly hampering one of Europe's most reliable trading partners.
The Cold War, according to reliable history books, has been over for about a quarter-of-a-century, yet the Western military bloc continues to incite Russia with clearly threatening moves, most notably the US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, which Russia has warned will upset the strategic balance and invoke a new arms race.
But judging by the frustration and even anger of many European people, which is manifesting itself in the rise of far-right movements that are serving up the heady cocktail of national patriotism and economic protectionism, NATO’s European honeymoon really may be hitting the rocks.
In addition to the Polish midnight raid on the NATO-linked center comes this news: German politicians slammed the Merkel government as well as NATO command after it emerged that German troops will be sent to help NATO-member Turkey defend its border - without notifying parliamentarians in the Bundestag.
"The government must immediately inform parliament of the details of this deployment, in particular what missions will be assigned to these planes and the destination of any data they collect," Tobias Lindner, the Green party's head of defense issues, stated in the German daily Bild.
Yet Berlin - sounding every bit as arrogant and self-important as Washington these days - declared it has no intention of consulting the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament for approval.
The unilateral, undemocratic transfer of German troops (units of the AWACS data-collecting aircraft) on the part of NATO and the Merkel government comes amid smoldering tensions ever since Ankara shot down a Russian fighter jet that Turkey claims entered its airspace for a whole 17 seconds.
Although these two events in two major European countries may be nothing more than mere blips on the radar screen concerning NATO's relationship with Europe, they could also be warning signals of an approaching earthquake in which the steady encroachment of nationalistic political demands begin to seriously clash with NATO's global objectives, which, at this stage, don't seem remotely concerned with the true well-being and security of the European people.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.