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Expanding NATO - whatever for?

At the end of November 2006, all 26 members of the enlarged NATO met for the first time in the Latvian city of Riga. The main purpose of the meeting was to rally European support for the US led war in the Middle East and central Asia and the strategic battle to secure oil and pipeline corridors.

The Riga Conference brought together political leaders, military chiefs, arms manufacturers, media pundits, policy advisors and academics. The principle themes were NATO’s role in the Middle East (especially an attempt to get members countries to contribute troops to Afghanistan), the issue of ‘energy security’ and the further enlargement of NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia.

The military-industrial complex was represented by key individuals from the huge French/German firm EADS, Italy’s Finmeccanica and American giant Lockheed Martin.

Other participants from outside Europe included NATO’s ‘Mediterranean partners’ such as Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Israel.

What, therefore, are the strategic implications of these developments. Firstly, the venue in Latvia, directly bordering on Russia and Belarus, was a direct challenge to both these countries who would have reason to feel threatened by the new developments.

Secondly, the invitation of Israeli Security personnel and Belarus opposition figures makes very clear the political orientation of the enlarged body.

But despite its steady eastward and southern expansion, all is not well in NATO. It still has not recovered from the deep divisions and effective paralysis which beset it during the war in Iraq. And its operation in Afghanistan is clearly bogged down and taking heavy casualties. Germany, France, Turkey, Italy and Spain have refused to send their troops to support British, Dutch and Canadian troops in the south of the country. Being drafted in to clear up the mess created by the Coalition of the Willing is not every country’s idea of what their armed forces should be doing. And the reluctance on the part of many member states to simply follow a US ‘War on Terror’ agenda is reflected in the ongoing differences over the future of an EU army. The Bush administration clearly wants to expand and consolidate NATO as a counterweight to the political and military consolidation of the EU.

The expansion and the growing role that NATO is playing in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa is largely obscured from the view of ordinary people. It remains a threat to democracy and world peace and should be disbanded.

Alan Mackinnon

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