75 Years of NATO = 75 Years of Denial

German parliamentarian Sevim Dagdelen says for NATO, denial of its true nature is part of the essence of the organization.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holding a press conference in Brussels ahead of the NATO 2024 Summit in Washington. (NATO/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Sevim Dagdelen
World BEYOND War

The following is an abridged version of speech that Dagdelen, a member of the German Bundestag, gave  at “No to NATO – Yes to Peace“ symposium in Washington, D.C. on July 6. 

Just in time for its 75th anniversary, NATO has dropped its mask. And the NATO summit beginning Tuesday in Washington is one particularly illuminating moment in this revelation. 

The history of the Enlightenment teaches us never to accept a person’s or an organization’s self-image at face value. So do the early sources of Enlightenment ideas in ancient Greece. The Greeks already possessed that insight. Inscribed above the Temple of Apollo was the maxim: Know thyself.

If we take that injunction not lightly as a gentle reminder of the limits of human thought but also as meaning what the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclis insisted — that “It belongs to all men to know themselves and think well” — then we must regard self-knowledge as an essential human quality, which perhaps also ought to apply to our organizations.

With NATO, however, it seems to be exactly the reverse.

For NATO, denial of its true nature is part of the essence of the organization. Or to put it another way, an almost meditative immersion in its own self-image is part of the essence of the military alliance.

It is all the more astonishing, then, that Western media are so often content to reflect a thousand iterations of this self-image back to the public, without question and without pausing to consider whether the image adequately represents reality.

In fact, 75 years of NATO is equivalent to 75 years of denial, albeit with a dramatic expansion of scale and scope in recent years.

Self Defense & International Law

First is the central myth of a NATO organized as a defense community committed to international law: a NATO that is a community of constitutional states upholding the law, allowing international law to rule its actions so that it exists for no other purpose but to defend the territory of its members.

Yet if we interrogate NATO’s actual policies, what do we find?

In 1999, NATO itself conducted a war of aggression, in breach of international law, against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. NATO’s war crimes included the bombing of a television station in Belgrade and an allegedly accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy which killed three Chinese journalists.

In 2011, NATO attacked Libya. It misused a U.N. Security Council resolution to fight a war for regime change, one result of which was that part of the country came under the rule of Islamists; Libya on the whole was plunged into a state of appalling misery, and even suffered the return of slavery.

Map showing the coalition intervention in Libya. (Jolly Janner, Wikimedia Commons, CC0)

In Afghanistan, NATO involved itself from 2003 in a war far from Alliance territory, only to hand power, 20 years later, to the Taliban — whose overthrow had been the invasion’s stated objective.

That 20-year war in Afghanistan was marked by numerous war crimes — such as the October 2015 U.S. airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz – which, needless to say, went unpunished.

NATO has assumed the musketeers’ motto: all for one and one for all. This means in practice that the deeds of individual NATO members must also be ascribed to the organization itself.

Brown University [at the Watson Institute’s Costs of War Project] puts the death toll of the U.S.’s wars in the Middle East over the last 20 years alone at 4.5 million people — wars, like that in Iraq, based on lies and which were nothing but egregious violations of international law.

NATO’s self-image as a community for defense in adherence to international law simply does not match reality. We must rather draw the opposite conclusion.

NATO is a community of illegality and of the violators of international law who, either separately or as an organization, conduct wars of aggression on a politically opportunistic basis.

Rule of Law 

A second myth, perhaps the one most insistently impressed upon the public, is that of NATO as a community of democracies grounded in the rule of law. But if we examine the past with any care, this flattering self-presentation is immediately deflated by an ugly and shameful record. 

[Related: German Lawmaker Calls for Nord Stream Probe]

Until 1974, NATO member Portugal was ruled by a fascist dictatorship which waged blood-soaked colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique. Those who resisted were driven into concentration camps like Tarrafal in Cape Verde, where many Angolans and Guinea-Bissauans were tortured to death.

Like fascist Portugal, Greece and Türkiye both were members of NATO in the aftermath of their respective military coups.

Entrance in 2009 to the old Tarrafal concentration camp, which closed in 1974. (Gagum, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

NATO itself, as we now know, put into motion Operation Gladio, a clandestine organization to be activated whenever democratic majorities threatened to vote against NATO membership. In Italy, for example, terrorist attacks were carried out in the name of far-left groups so as to discredit the Italian Communist Party in its efforts to form a government.

One might object that here we’re referencing a bygone era, and that NATO now stands ready to be called up in the global fight by democrats against autocrats. But on this point too, any serious observer must conclude that something is amiss in that aspect of the 21st century Alliance’s self-image.

Take Türkiye under President Recep Erdogan. It has repeatedly conducted illegal wars against Iraq and Syria, supported Islamist terrorist groups in Syria and, according to the German government’s own assessment in 2016, is a launchpad for Islamists; yet Türkiye has always been and remains to this day a valued NATO member.

Bilateral security agreements, such as those struck with Franco’s Spain, are now in place with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, even in the full knowledge that these states are avowedly anti-democratic. Clearly, the only meaningful criterion for dealing with the Alliance is geopolitical advantage. NATO is neither a community of democracies, nor does it exist to defend democracy.

Human Rights

Third: NATO presently claims to be safeguarding human rights. Even if we were to overlook how NATO’s actions trample on the rights to work, health and adequate housing a million times over – amidst growing poverty and a historic upward redistribution of wealth domestically – such a self-serving image does not withstand scrutiny in international matters.

As we debate here, prisoners taken in the U.S.’ “Global War on Terror” still languish in Guantánamo Bay, where they have been kept without trial for nearly a quarter century. That is the reality of “human rights” in NATO’s leading state. When it comes to freedom of opinion and the press, the U.S., supported by its NATO auxiliaries, attempted to make an example of Julian Assange by tormenting him for 14 years.

Assange supporters outside Belmarsh Prison in London, Jan. 22, 2022. (Alisdare Hickson, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

His sole crime was having revealed U.S. war crimes to the public. A smear campaign was then launched against him; Hillary Clinton and Mike Pompeo openly contemplated his murder. This is a bit of the reality of NATO’s relationship to human rights.

I am thrilled to be able to say finally that Julian Assange is now a free man. And Julian is undefeated.

The international campaign for Assange, all of the confidential talks and the like, were in the end successful. But we must also realize that the fight for Julian Assange’s freedom was also part of the struggle for freedom as such. And this struggle continues to rage here at the very heart of the NATO system.

Given the density of the propaganda, how tireless it operates in celebration of the NATO mythology, day in and day out, it is almost a miracle that not only is support for NATO crumbling worldwide, but that it is precisely those most exposed to its propaganda who are increasingly skeptical of the military pact.

In the United States, public approval of NATO has been falling continuously over recent years, while majorities in Germany question the principle of defending all members; that is, they are no longer prepared to commit themselves to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Why is that? Why are people starting to have doubts about NATO — despite the onslaught of propaganda?

The answer is simple enough: NATO is itself causing this crisis, and people sense that.

While its defenders speak of the alliance as if it were eternal, the organization’s drive toward escalation in Ukraine and its expansion into Asia is exceeding the Alliance’s own capacities. 

Just as with most empires, NATO is falling into a self-made trap of overextension. In this regard, NATO is a political fossil, unprepared to learn from the defeat of the German Empire in the First World War and appears to be repeating the gross miscalculations of the Kaiser’s Germany, only on a global scale.

The German Empire believed it could wage a war on two fronts. Today, a similar conviction is gaining traction within NATO that it must not only confront Russia and China, but that it is also to involve itself in the Middle East. This is a claim to global hegemony now under formulation. What hubris!

Three Fronts & Three Meetings 

NATO evidently sees itself waging a war on three fronts. But if it were to do this, its defeat would be certain right from the start.

Given this, it is only logical that three particular meetings are planned for this week’s NATO summit. 

The first is a working session devoted to further ramping up the Alliance’s own rearmament. 

The NATO-Ukraine Council is next on the agenda. It is to discuss how the lavish financial transfers and pledges from NATO to Ukraine can be augmented, with an increase in arms deliveries and eventual NATO membership for Ukraine. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky at the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council on July 12, 2023. (NATO/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Third, there will be a session with the AP4, or Asia-Pacific partners — Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea — and a meeting with the leaders of the EU.

Seventy-five years after it was founded, NATO is to push for stepped-up belligerence in Ukraine and expansion into Asia. The intention is to advance the NATO-ization of Asia, and to put the strategy it believes it has already deployed successfully against Russia in place there.

For the moment, the primary focus in the Pacific is not on direct NATO accession for Asian countries, but rather on the expansion of NATO’s sphere of influence via bilateral security agreements — and not only with the AP4, but also with the Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore.

[See: NATO’s Pacific War Games]

Just as Ukraine was erected as a frontline state against Russia, NATO is hoping to transform Asian countries like the Philippines into challenger states vis-à-vis China. The initial aim is to engage in a cold proxy war, but at the same time to prepare for a hot U.S. and NATO proxy war in Asia.

And just as NATO enlargement was pursued under the “boiling frog” principle with regard to Russia, with enlargement proceeding incrementally so as not to arouse Russia’s suspicion too much, the policy of containing China now is comprised of lining up states one-by-one into a phalanx ready for war. 

The goal is, as ever, to avoid having to fight such a war oneself, but to be able to access Allies’ resources so as to conduct these cold, and then hot, wars. These developments are flanked by economic warfare, which is now also being directed against China and the main burden of which is borne by the economies of U.S. client states.

The U.S. and NATO are in fact pursuing a method of war laid out by the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, who counseled that warfare not employing one’s own resources was that type a state should aspire to wage.

The problem for NATO strategists here is not only their willingness to set fire to the entire world, but also the self-imposed risk posed by their global pretensions, which only fosters alliances among those states rejecting NATO.

Indeed, NATO policy played a major role in the rise of the BRICS countries, as that grouping is for many states a means of protecting their own sovereignty.

Paradoxically then, if there are forces now promoting a multipolar world, the U.S. and its NATO Allies must be considered among the most significant. Even states like India and Vietnam are refusing to subordinate themselves to NATO strategy.

And with its unconditional support for the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu, NATO is losing all moral legitimacy in the Global South, as it is seen to be complicit in Israeli war crimes.

NATO’s myths are losing their luster.

The Alliance’s strategies are succumbing to their own imperial overextension. What we need now is an immediate end to arms deliveries to Ukraine and, at long last, a ceasefire there. Those who seek peace and security for their own populations must halt the aggressive policy of expansion into Asia.

Ultimately, the fight against NATO is a fight for one’s own sovereignty. As an alliance of client states, Europe is in danger of collapsing. Emancipation as seen in Latin America’s has yet to materialize.

A first step would be to stop letting ourselves be played for fools by a military alliance that funds its aggressive strategy with a social war waged by its constitutive governments against its own population.

Sevim Dagdelen is a member of the German Bundestag.

The original version of this article was published by World BEYOND War.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

22 comments for “75 Years of NATO = 75 Years of Denial

  1. A draft dodger
    July 10, 2024 at 15:01

    NATO is a mechanism to keep the Europeans from starting another World War. As long as the US has an excuse to meddle in Europe, it will keep the Europeans from trying to kill each other. If they can’t kill each other over religion, which they did for three hundred years, they will find a way to start global wars over a few square miles of territory. The Europeans have shown themselves unable to govern without resort to violence, and until they can do so, they will need Uncle Sam to regulate.

    • joey_n
      July 11, 2024 at 17:32

      That has not stopped NATO from launching war in Yugoslavia or in Ukraine. That’s when I let go of the foolish idea that NATO has kept the peace since 1945.

    • joey_n
      July 11, 2024 at 23:05

      Hitler was said to have received financial support and inspiration from the United States, the alleged intention being for the Nazis to fight against the Soviets while the US sits idly by and takes over afterward. So it’s safe to say that the US had a hand in starting the second World War. I will add that the Soviets bore the biggest brunt in defeating fascism in Europe.

  2. Tony
    July 10, 2024 at 08:24

    A truly superb article.

    NATO, we are repeatedly told, is a ‘defensive’ alliance.

    So why has it attacked other countries?

    • Dogs of war
      July 11, 2024 at 01:11

      Because its a war machine.

  3. wildthange
    July 9, 2024 at 20:57

    The western empire wears no clothes!

  4. Eddie S
    July 9, 2024 at 17:07

    I still recall being taught in my high school’s civics class in the late 1960’s that the prevailing wisdom regarding the causes of WWI were three main reasons: Nationalism, Militarism, and Interlocking Alliances…. check, check, and check. But of course now we have even more powerful weaponry and the deaths from a full-blown war would (will?) be in the billions not ‘merely’ millions…. ‘Progress’ I guess?

  5. John Woodford
    July 9, 2024 at 16:07

    I’d like to hear what she has to say about the curious lack of official interest in Germany in identifying and prosecuting whoever destroyed the Nord Stream pipeline in 2022. Apparently, a NATO member must submit to this sort of gang-style self-mutilation to prove one’s worth to the gangleaders.

    • blimbax
      July 11, 2024 at 11:49

      This then may interest you: hXXps://consortiumnews.com/2023/02/21/german-lawmaker-calls-for-nord-stream-probe/

  6. July 9, 2024 at 12:53

    A sick reality. NATO’s mission, rather than defensive appears to be commercial. To milk tax dollars, primarily from United States tax payers, and to transfer them to the military industrial (now intelligence as well) complex against which Dwight David Eisenhower (who ironically organized NATO) warned us. With the money diverted, all Americans could enjoy free health care, free education at all levels, a livable social security stipend and a world class infrastructure. Donald Trump’s initial instincts with respect to NATO were absolutely on point but they were quickly beaten down.

    • joey_n
      July 9, 2024 at 17:06

      I thought Trump’s intentions were to continue NATO, and therefore US subjugation of Europe, but this time to extort the Europeans for money for “defense” against a threat that hasn’t existed since 1991 (if it ever did).

    • July 10, 2024 at 00:28

      True, but that is only a fraction of it’s true mission which is to extend U.S. hegemony to cover the earth.

    • Gordon Hastie
      July 10, 2024 at 05:46

      Follow the money, indeed. A lot of very sick in the head people doing very well from the misery inflicted on the rest of humanity. Curses on them, and the media who perpetuate the NATO mythology.

    • joey_n
      July 10, 2024 at 16:39

      I seemed to remember Trump’s complaint with NATO (that it’s obsolete) being more about European members not spending 2% of their GDP on defense and less about how the Soviet “threat” NATO was purported to defend against has ceased to exist in 1991, assuming it existed at all.

  7. Andrew Thomas
    July 9, 2024 at 11:48

    Only one quibble with this wonderful presentation: the U.S. has openly sought total global full-spectrum domination at least since 1997, when the Project for a New American Century was announced. The use of NATO and abuse of other NATO members in furtherance of that demented scheme may or may not have been a thing then. However, whether or not it is of recent vintage, I would think it to be tactical, rather than strategic. In other words, other NATO states, prepare to be kicked to the curb like roadkill once your usefulness to the center of the empire in DC has ended.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      July 9, 2024 at 17:05

      That has already happened in Europe. The destruction of Nord Stream was an attack on Germany by the United States, making the obtaining of cheap oil impossible and destroying the German economy, resulting in the rise of fascist ideologues, just as the Versailles Treaty at the end of WWI drove German economic collapse and paved the way for the demagogue Hitler.

    • Andrew Nichols
      July 9, 2024 at 18:51

      NATO is the USForeign Legion

  8. Paul
    July 9, 2024 at 10:33

    75 years of shame-blood-lies. Down with nato warmongers.

  9. Khalid Roche
    July 9, 2024 at 10:08

    No Action Talk Only!

  10. Valerie
    July 9, 2024 at 09:10

    Some clear thinking people don’t agree with the idea of making Ukraine a member of NATO: (search — The Guardian for The Nato alliance should not invite Ukraine to become a member)

  11. susan
    July 9, 2024 at 08:40

    NATO = Warmongers…

  12. Em
    July 9, 2024 at 08:04

    Spoken from the belly of the snake, by a person who embodies truthful leadership skills.
    She is the epitome of concious and fearless courage; the likes of which are sorely lacking at this critical moment in humanities time, with potentially irreversible catastrophe on the immediate horizon.

Comments are closed.