Posts Tagged ‘NATO expansion’

Imperialist antagonisms, American Military Bases and the Movement Against Them

February 11, 2009

International League of Peoples’ Struggle

by Manolis Arkolakis
Deputy Chairperson, ILPS

In September 2003, at the International Meeting Against Military Bases, organized in the island of Crete in Greece by ILPS, the participants concluded that peoples’ struggle against imperialism and military bases is necessary as part of the general strategy of the international people’s movement. It is evidence today that the global crisis is deepening and together with the intensification of antagonisms between imperialists contribute in the further exploitation and oppression of the toiling masses. State terrorism as well as police and army suppression have become the only way for the various governments to control peoples’ discontent.

Although the big anti-war demonstrations in Europe and North America against the American aggression in Iraq have stopped, we see that people’s resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan continues and is growing exposing the limits of the biggest military machinery ever seen in the world. Despite the imperialists plans and roadmaps, Iraq is as far from pacification as ever while the escalation of war in Afghanistan cannot be kept secret any more. Recently, in NATO Summit in Bucharest, Americans insisted in NATO expansion eastwards, accepting Croatia and Albania as members and promoting Ukraine and Georgia as part of the next wave. The determined French and German reaction against that plan shows the open antagonism inside NATO alliance. It is obvious that the formation of the protectorate of Kosovo, supposedly as a new independent state, will make the Balkans again a field of imperialist rivalries.

More than four thousands American soldiers dead in Iraq is an indication of the US failure to impose their hegemony. Therefore American imperialists adopt new policies, more dangerous, to bring catastrophe to peoples.

Let’s see the main points of this imperialist aggression and how leads humanity to new adventures:

The USA announced the necessity of antimissile shield in Eastern Europe, supposedly to prevent an Iranian attack. Immediately, Poland and Czech Republic accepted and offered the necessary facilities for the new military bases. It is more than obvious that Russia could not accept it without reaction. Putin made it clear that new missiles systems will be developed regarding the new NATO bases as the main threat. The new Russian bourgeoisie feel politically and economically strong enough to face the scenario of a Cold War. As if it had ever ended.

The intensification of imperialist antagonisms in Europe, for example NATO expansion eastwards, new statelets-protectorates prove that the USA want to stabilize their hegemony in the Western Block. Some European states though are not willing to give up their own interests and react against such a development.

Russia use the gas pipelines, its huge resources and adopts a more dynamic strategy, not only on economic level, in order to change correlations and control again its backyard.

Imperialists and Zionists carry on the genocide of the Palestinian people. Palestinian liberation struggle as well as the tensions in other Arab countries create an explosive situation in the Middle East.

In Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, imperialists manipulate nationalism, real or unreal differences between ethnic groups, the phantom of terrorism, on behalf of democratic rights, even in defence of environment in order to protect their own interests. Without hesitation they invade countries, redraw borders, create new statelets controlled easily economically and militarily and finally drive millions of desperate people to immigration.

The US imperialists try to keep Russia confined inside its borders and want to control the pipelines in Black Sea. For that reason, they have imposed their political will and military presence in Central Europe and the Balkans. According to this policy, the Balkans are spread with protectorates like Kosovo and Republic of Macedonia, full of military troops. Keep in mind please that the French chief general of Euro-army expressed the EU indention to send also European troops in the region, while Russians signed new contracts with Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. In other words, imperialist antagonisms in full development.

New military bases spread around the world

According to above geopolitical situation, the strategic target of US imperialism is the global domination (or just hegemony, as some put it after US failure in Iraq). Therefore the US Army has to reconsider the new priorities for military presence in particular countries all over the world. According to media reports, American military premises are over 580,000 on a land of 120,000 km². There are 823 important military bases outside USA, most of them in Germany (287), Japan (130) and South Korea (106).

Military bases have played decisive role in US-NATO expansion, the control and submission of countries and peoples, imposing hegemonic position amongst imperialists. Especially in Europe, during the war which split up Yugoslavia, imperialists used mainly their military bases in Italy and Greece. After the war, the first concern for Americans was the creation of a new base for their own troops. In the borders of Kosovo and Republic of Macedonia 10,000 arcs have been occupied for the creation of the biggest US military base, called Boldsteel. According to various reports, the specific base will control 350 km and 75 bridges. Spread rumours say that Americans call it Little Guadànamo.

Another strategic plan demands the move of various bases from Germany and Italy to Eastern European countries as an apparent indication of NATO expansion. Bulgarian government accepted the presence of 5,000 American soldiers on Bulgarian soil. They’ll move there no later than October 2008. Czech Republic and Poland gave permission for the installation of the new anti-missile system. Romania, as a new NATO member, offered its ports for the further control of Black Sea, while the air-base Papa in Hungary will be centre of the new NATO organization responsible for aviation transportation.

Americans came to stay in the Balkans and the Black Sea region. Boldsteel camp in Kosovo will be also the guardian of the new American pipeline AMBO (from Bulgaria to Adriatic Sea). For the US government, military bases guarantee hegemonic position amongst imperialists, try to prevent people’s struggles for national liberation and democratic rights.

Black Sea is the new field of antagonism for imperialists: for strategic reasons as well as for the control of pipelines and gas production. US and NATO want to set up a new base in Crimea, in order to prevent any deployment of the Russian Navy. Except the Russian reaction, it is the struggle of the Ukrainian people that prevents such an escalation.

US-NATO military bases in Greece, a typical case

It is like a ritual, every new US ambassador appointed in Athens, before anything else, has to visit the Souda Bay US military base in Crete, the biggest Greek island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is a gesture to express how significance is the specific port and military base for the US interests in Middle East and Eastern Europe. At the same time, he provocatively demands the local authorities to show openly their complete subjugation. The final goal is obviously to eliminate people’s determination and stop protesting against the continuation of the US military presence. Local authorities would be the agent-provocateur who argue that local prosperity and development depends on the presence of thousands of soldiers while the anti-war, anti-bases movement is responsible for the increasing poverty.

Isn’t that telling that Stekheart, the new US ambassador in Greece, served before in Iraq? With such an experience, in January 2008 he went to Crete and arrogantly in front of local politicians and entrepreneurs demanded their help for changing people’s anti-imperialist sentiments, smashing the organized resistance of the movement. In his own words, Cretans have to welcome the US troops because they spend money. In other words, the biggest Greek island has to become a huge brothel and this is called economic perspective against crisis and unemployment. Perhaps it is needless to say the bases are responsible for the actual environmental destruction of the region, mainly and most criminally by nuclear pollution. Eastern Crete is the region with the highest percentage of cancers related to nuclear contamination.

You must keep in mind also, that the Greek territories are very important for US and NATO military operations in the Balkans, Palestine and Lebanon as well as in Iraq and Red Sea. There are at least five known US and NATO military bases and camps and their role in the invasion on Iraq are well known, while recently it came out the unanswered question about their use for torture of prisoners from Iraq and Afghanistan and as intermediate stations for transfers to Guadànamo.

Global anti-bases, anti-imperialist movement

The anti-bases, anti-imperialist movement, all these years has given small and big battles against imperialist raids, against the use of various regions as military bases. It is true that after the mass movement in 2003, against the US invasion in Iraq, the situation looks like a retreat, mainly in Europe. Besides the weakness of the real left organized forces that would give to the anti-war movement refreshing perspective and enduring activities, we cannot underestimate the dominant concept within the anti-global movement trying to beautify the European Union and its supposed role as a “peace force”. A fallacy exposed by the European troops themselves involved in the occupation of Afghanistan. However, a new development seems to take place in the former Eastern European countries. New, though weak at the moment, movements appeared against the installation of US-NATO military bases, despite the fact that their governments are competing each other in obedience and subjugation. These movements are facing fierce state repression like in Crimea, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Rumania (during the recent NATO summit in Bucharest, the basic democratic rights of speech and protest disappeared).

From Eastern Europe to South Korea, from the Philippines to Latin America, peoples either spontaneously or organised, resist against war and military occupation as imposed by the presence of US-NATO military bases. The struggle against them, against imperialism and war is a life or death struggle for the peoples and that’s why the progressive, left, and revolutionary forces must lead this struggle. They must relate this struggle with the struggle for the defence of labour and democratic rights. They must hold the fierce attacks of the capitalist-imperialist system. The aggravation of the inter-imperialist rivalries, particularly in the Balkans, brings new dangers for the peoples in the region. In order to impose their domination, imperialists use and spread among the peoples the viral ideology of chauvinism and racism. In contrast, we should develop a broad movement against imperialism and war, against further installation of US-NATO military bases fighting for their closure. Imperialists are redrawing borders with peoples’ blood and the peoples have no other option than paving the way of mass struggle.

June 2008

Paper presented in Third International Assembly of ILPS in Hong Kong.

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Georgia War Rooted in U.S. Self-Deceit on NATO

August 24, 2008


Analysis by Gareth Porter | Inter Press Service News Agency

WASHINGTON, Aug 23 – The U.S. policy of absorbing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, which was enthusiastically embraced by Barack Obama and his running mate Joseph Biden, has undoubtedly been given a major boost by the Russian military operation in Georgia.

In the new narrative of the Russia-Georgia war emerging from op-eds and cable news commentaries, Georgia is portrayed as the innocent victim of Russian aggression fighting for its independence.

However, the political background to that war raises the troubling question of why the George W. Bush administration failed to heed warning signs that its policy of NATO expansion right up to Russia’s ethnically troubled border with Georgia was both provocative to Russia and encouraging a Georgian regime known to be bent on using force to recapture the secessionist territories.

There were plenty of signals that Russia would not acquiesce in the alignment of a militarily aggressive Georgia with a U.S.-dominated military alliance. Then Russian President Vladimir Putin made no secret of his view that this represented a move by the United States to infringe on Russia’s security in the South Caucasus region. In February 2007 he asked rhetorically, “Against whom is this expansion intended?”

Contrary to the portrayal of Russian policy as aimed at absorbing South Ossetia and Abkhazia into Russia and regime change in Georgia, Moscow had signaled right up to the eve of the NATO summit its readiness to reach a compromise along the lines of Taiwan’s status in U.S.-China relations: formal recognition of the sovereignty over the secessionist territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in return for freedom to develop extensive economic and political relations. But it was conditioned on Georgia staying out of NATO.

That compromise was disdained by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. After a Mar. 19 speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Saakashvili was asked whether Russia had offered a “Taiwan model” solution in return for Georgia stay out of NATO. “We have heard many, many suggestions of this sort,” he said, but he insisted, “You cannot compromise on these issues…”

Russia, meanwhile, had made it clear that it would respond to a move toward NATO membership for Georgia by moving toward official relations with the secessionist regions.

U.S. policymakers had decided long before those developments that the NATO expansion policy would include Georgia and Ukraine. They convinced themselves that they weren’t threatening Russia but only contributing to a new European security order that was divorced from the old politics of spheres of interest.

But their view of NATO expansion appears to be marked by self-deception and naiveté. The Bill Clinton administration had abandoned its original notion that Russia would be a “partner” in post-Cold War European security, and the NATO expansion policy had evolved into a de facto containment strategy.

Robert Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to NATO in the Clinton administration and head of a three-year project for the State Department on reform of the Georgian National Security Council, says the U.S. project of Georgia’s membership in NATO “had to be seen by any serious observer as trying to substitute a Western sphere of influence for Russian” in that violence-prone border region of the Caucasus.

Some officials “wanted to shore up democracy”, said Hunter in an interview, imagining that NATO was “a kind of glorified Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe” — a negotiating and conflict prevention body to which the Russian Federation belongs.

But there were also some in the administration who “genuinely wanted to contain the Russians by surrounding them”, he added.

James J. Townsend, director of the International Security Programme at the Atlantic Council and formerly the Pentagon official in charge of European relations, said there was enthusiastic support in both the Defence Department and the State Department soon after Saakashvili took power in 2003 for integration of Georgia into NATO “as quickly as possible”.

Townsend believes the project to integrate Georgia and Ukraine into NATO gained momentum in part because Washington “was underestimating just how sensitive this is to Putin”. U.S. policymakers, he said, had observed that in previous rounds of enlargement, despite “a lot of bluff and bluster by the Russians”, there was no Russian troop movement.

Furthermore, policymakers believed they were proving to the Russians that NATO expansion is not a threat to Russian interests, according to Townsend. They did become aware of Russia’s growing assertiveness on the issue, Townsend concedes, but policymakers thought they were simply “making trouble on everything in order to have some leverage”.

In the end, the bureaucracies pushing for NATO expansion were determined to push it through despite Russian opposition. “I think it was a case of wanting to get Georgia engaged before the window of opportunity closed,” said Townsend.

To do so they had to ignore the risk that the promise of membership in NATO would only encourage Saakashvili, who had already vowed to “liberate” the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions, to become even more sanguine about the use of force.

In the same Mar. 19 speech in Washington, Saakashvili minimised the problem of Russian military power in the region. He declared that the Russians “are not capable of enforcing the Taiwan model in Georgia. Their army in the Caucasus is not strong enough …to calm down the situation in their own territory. I don’t think they are ready for any kind of an adventure in somebody else’s territory. And hopefully they know it.”

It was a clear hint that Saakashvili, newly encouraged by Bush’s strong support for NATO membership, believed he could face down the Russians.

At the NATO summit, Bush met resistance from Germany and other European allies, who insisted it was “not the right time” to even begin putting Georgia and Ukraine on the road to membership. But in order to spare embarrassment to Bush, they offered a pledge that Georgia and Ukraine “will become NATO members”.

Hunter believes that NATO commitment was an even more provocative signal to Putin and Saakashvili than NATO approval of a “Membership Action Plan” for Georgia would have been.

The Russians responded exactly as they said they would, taking steps toward legal recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And Saakashvili soon began making moves to prepare for a military assault on one or both regions.

In early July, Rice traveled to Tsibilisi with the explicit intention of trying to rein him in. In her Jul. 10 press conference, she made it clear that Washington was alarmed by his military moves.

“The violence needs to stop,” said Rice. “And whoever is perpetrating it — and I’ve mentioned this to the president — there should not be violence.”

David L. Phillips, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told the Los Angeles Times last week he believes that, despite State Department efforts to restrain the Georgian president, “Saakashvili’s buddies in the White House and the Office of the Vice President kept egging him on”.

But whether more specific encouragement took place or not, the deeper roots of the crisis lay in bureaucratic self-deceit about the objective expanding NATO up to the border of a highly suspicious and proud Russia in the context of an old and volatile ethnic conflict.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

On the Brink of a New Cold War?

August 17, 2008
Russia is playing for bigger stakes now just as America did in Iraq a few years ago.
By Deepak Tripathi | The Palestine Chronicle, August 15, 2008

The conflict between Russia and the pro-US regime of Georgia has been a decisive turning point in Russia’s relations with Washington and has taken us to the brink of a new Cold War.

For the first time in almost twenty years, the West faces a resurgent Russia that has put the trauma of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the resulting chaos behind. Today’s Russia is run by a younger leadership with autocratic efficiency, confident because of its vast energy resources and determined to resist American hegemony, by force if necessary. The crisis in Georgia goes beyond the Caucasus region. Its roots lie in America’s overwhelming ambition to expand and its tendency to make colossal miscalculations under the Bush presidency.

It is often said that the first casualty of war is truth. Behind the fog of disinformation coming from Washington, London, Tbilisi and, indeed, Moscow, the fact remains that the Russian invasion came after Georgia’s bombardment of the breakaway region of South Ossetia. The vast majority of residents in the enclave are Russian citizens and Moscow had deployed its peacekeepers there. Many experts in Europe are depressed over the events in Georgia and blame hardliners in the Bush administration for provoking the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakasvili, to adopt the aggressive posture that has brought this disaster.

What we see in Georgia is a classic proxy war between Russia and America, which has become heavily involved in the republic since a popular revolt in late 2003 ousted Eduard Shevardnadze from power, with Western help. Today, US troops occupy Georgian military bases of the Soviet era, on the southern fringe of Russia. America provides weapons, training and intelligence to the Georgian armed forces. America’s involvement, which began under the umbrella of the ‘war on terror’ after 9/11, has since become much more. If President Bush had his way, Georgia would be granted membership of NATO as part of the alliance’s expansion around Russia.

The impoverished former Soviet republic is, in effect, a pawn in the broader US design to encircle Russia. It is also located in a region which has some of the largest energy reserves in the world. For the Kremlin, the prospect of NATO coming so close to its southern borders is a step too far. Fortunately, some NATO members, most notably France and Germany, also do not see Georgia either as a full democracy or a stable country. And many in the alliance and the European Union have doubts about Saakasvili’s ability to take mature decisions.

In an era when America has assumed the right to launch pre-emptive strikes, it is difficult to see the Kremlin behaving differently. The prospect of Georgia joining NATO, which might deploy nuclear weapons on Georgian territory, is simply not acceptable to Russia. Remember the Cuban missile crisis of 1962? At the time, Russian nuclear missiles, deployed just 90 miles from the coast of Florida, brought America and the Soviet Union close to a disastrous war and the Soviets were forced to back down. Does the White House not know history? Or do the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration not care?

Saakasvili’s decision to order the bombardment of the Russian-majority South Ossetia gave the Kremlin a convenient cover to invade Georgia, just as the Bush administration had found it expedient to invade Iraq in March 2003 based on claims that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. Russia is playing for bigger stakes now just as America did in Iraq a few years ago.

About one-fifth of Georgia has fallen under Russian military occupation and the Kremlin leadership seems to be in no mood to entertain the idea of Georgia’s territorial integrity in any negotiations sponsored by the West. There are daily condemnations of Moscow in the Western capitals. However, the West is powerless to prevent the Russians doing anything they want in Georgia.

This US-Russia proxy war in the Caucasus region has created a serious humanitarian crisis. President Saakasvili, the pro-US leader of Georgia, has been humiliated. Its chances of joining NATO are negligible after the latest events. They have demonstrated that the West cannot and will not intervene militarily to protect Georgia from the Russian threat. The most important clause in the NATO constitution says that an attack on one member-state will be regarded as an attack on the whole alliance, which will use all possible means to protect the member-state under threat. NATO’s inability to defend Georgia now is a defeat for the West. It is difficult to see how the alliance will accept the republic as a member.

The description by President Bush of the Russian action as ‘disproportionate and unacceptable’ is laughable in the context of America’s own conduct in its foreign wars in recent years. Washington should be more worried about the damage the crisis has done to its authority in the world. Diplomacy was never a strong point of the Bush administration. The blunders in Washington and Tbilisi have made the conduct of relations with Russia much more difficult. They may also have created other problems for the next occupant of the White House, for an increasing number of countries around the world may begin look to Russia now that it has risen again.

-Deepak Tripathi, a former BBC foreign correspondent and editor, is now a researcher and an author. He is writing a book on the Bush presidency. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com.


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