Europeans oppose NATO, US policies
While NATO leaders attempted to answer the question of why the Cold War alliance needs to exist in the 21st century, thousands of protesters took to the streets to make their response clear.
“I think there is no place for NATO,” said Reiner Braun, a German organizer of the anti-NATO protest organizer. “I think there is no place for military alliances any longer in the world because you can't solve any of the global problems with military, none."
NATO members still trying to show they believe they can, introduced a “new” strategic concept for the first time this century, and rolled out a carpet for its one-time foe, Russia, in order to seek its help and try to put a new foot forward.
"Together we've worked hard to reset the relationship between the US and Russia, which has led to concrete benefits,” said US President Barack Obama. “Now we are also resetting the NATO -Russia relationship. We see Russia as a partner not an adversary."
Yet all of this talk does little to change the criticism of a military bloc, whose effectiveness and power has been challenged by a near decade long war in Afghanistan, that seems to only be getting worse.
"Now in Afghanistan and other places in the world we are seeing the consequences of the lack of NATO’s ability to transform and adapt,” argued Dmitry Suslov, a political analyst with the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.
Perhaps there is no better example of the international discontent over NATO and its policies than seen on the streets of Lisbon, where citizens came from all over Europe to protest the alliance and the goals being set at its summit.
"We don't want it, we don't think it's necessary,” said a protester of NATO. “[Portugal] is a country in crisis spending so much money, and it's for war. It’s supporting war."
"What we're calling for is withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and end to nuclear rearmament of Europe, and getting involved in a process of nuclear disarmament to bring about a more peaceful world," said protester Jeremy Corbyn, also a member of the British Parliament.
When protesters talk about those tactical Cold War nukes in Europe, those belong to the US. When they talk about that mission in Afghanistan, that’s led by the US. And when they protest NATO, they’re protesting an organization led by the heavy hand of one member.
“The US is trying to use NATO directly and indirectly,” said Suslov. “Directly in Afghanistan to fulfill American missions."
“It enables the us to do two things,” said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC. “One to assure American people that threats they’re dealing with for example in Afghanistan are not just against the us, and that the US, while it’s still world’s greatest power is no longer a power that can do everything by itself.”
And while the US uses NATO for its purposes, so too do activists for their complaints.
“I don't want see a military alliance that will kill more soldiers, civilians and lead to a divided world,” said Corbyn.
But behind their protests are US policies. US policies brought to light in Portugal as much through am American President’s attendance, as through protest.