Nato’s continued growth in Europe increases the threat of western war in Asia, Africa and Latin America, argues David Jamieson.
Sweden and Finland’s bids to join Nato has been greeted as common sense by much of the world’s media – an apt response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Little about the case for Nato membership makes sense, and it forgets everything about Nato’s actual role in world events.
Russia, struggling in Ukraine where it has faced serious reversals, cannot launch a similar invasion against Finland, let alone Sweden, at the same time (a point conceded by Finland’s premier). Nor are Finnish and Swedish leaders embarking on a new journey to the west.
Both countries collaborated with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union during WW2. Though formally neutral after the war, both countries have been moving deeper into the western orbit for decades. Now rulers of both countries are seeking payed-up membership of Nato.
Nato is the most powerful military alliance in world history. Its combined forces of some 3.5 million personnel understates the true extent of this power, as this massive force is complemented by the world’s richest and most technologically advanced economies and a giant arsenal of nuclear weapons. In addition, Nato powers control much of the world system of trade through dollar hegemony, powerful banks and transnational trade organisations like NAFTA and the EU. This is quite simply the most powerful empire in world history, without meaningful comparators in the past or present.
The propaganda line is, of course, that it is an entirely defensive alliance, securing its members against an attack from Russia. Yet Nato has never fought a war to defend a member state. It has only ever launched unprovoked assaults against countries that do not, and cannot threaten Nato members. This is the very definition of predatory imperialism.
Nato’s three major engagements have all occurred since the end of the Cold War. This is not a mistake. It was only once the Soviet Union was removed from the picture, and Russia lay broken, that Nato felt it had a free hand to reshape the Eurasian chessboard as it saw fit.
Its first bombing raids were against Serbia in the 1990s. It intervened in the torrid rounds of conflicts in the Balkans not, as is often mis-remembered, to protect human rights, but to extend western influence into a vital geostrategic region of a changing Europe. To bolster its aims, it made alliances with some of the forces driving ethnic violence in the region.
Its next two wars weren’t even in Europe. In 2001 Nato powers invaded and occupied Afghanistan. The Nato occupation wouldn’t end until 20 years later, with the restoration of the Taliban in a war-torn and ruined country, now experiencing mass starvation as the departing Nato powers stole the country’s bank reserves.
Next, Nato bombed Libya in 2011 on the pretext of another ‘humanitarian’ mission, and helped plunge that country into a protracted civil war. This war not only made Libya ungovernable for many years (and it is still in disarray), but spilled south into Mali and north into the Mediterranean, where thousands drowned in the passage to Europe.
None of these wars were arbitrary nor wholly responsive to events (the Balkan wars, 9/11 or the Libyan Revolution). They were part of a strategy for western military, economic and strategic influence in the ‘Eurasian landmass’, the central concern of US and Nato mandarins for decades. They, along with western wars and proxy wars in Iraq and elsewhere, represent a concerted attempt to secure western dominance into the 21st century.
So to describe what Finland and Sweden are doing as an exercise in ‘national self-determination’ is perverse. The right of nations to self-determination, for socialists, has never meant the right to imperialism – to the destruction of the rights of small nations in Africa, Asia and beyond.
The consequences for Nato solidifying hegemony in Europe will be felt everywhere around the world. It could be a preamble to a harder pivot – already underway – to China and the Pacific theatre. Indeed, this is what western journals and thinkers are already saying – that closing down the challenges posed by a declining power like Russia, are essential to the US, UK and allies facing-down a rising China. Future wars by Europe and North America for influence in Asia is a terrifying prospect, and a real one.
So in addition to the immediate threats of escalating war tensions across swathes of Europe itself, there is every danger of war spilling out into other sectors of the globe. It is a danger re-enforced by the nuclear standoff between powers, which has seen the spread of proxy wars in recent decades waged – as in Vietnam, Iraq and now Ukraine – in the world’s weaker and poorer nations. The cost of Nato expansion in Europe could easily be felt most harshly in Africa, Asia or Latin America.
What we are witnessing is a civilisational catastrophe in its preparatory phase. Future generations will wonder at the complacency with which western imperial prowess was greeted in some quarters. To ward-off the growing threats of war, consistent opposition to Nato in its own heartlands is essential.