NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries, by Brian Coughley

“I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost. I refuse to do that, but it is beautiful”    —  President Trump

 

According to NATO, the cost of its new building in Brussels was 1.1 billion Euros (1.23 billon dollars).

2019 is a year of interesting commemorations, among them the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of D-Day, the landing of allied troops in France that, along with Russia’s Operation Bagration (which “inflicted the biggest defeat in German military history by completely destroying 28 out of 34 German divisions and completely shattered the German front line”), heralded the end of the Second World War. Then there was the anniversary of the first landing on the moon, which was fifty years ago in July.

Additionally, on March 9 there was the sixtieth birthday of the Barbie Doll, an expensive puppet-like figurine that can adopt any number of postures.

Which brings us to the US-NATO military alliance that celebrates two anniversaries of its own this year in its new headquarters in Brussels that cost 1.23 billion dollars. It commemorates its creation 70 years ago and the occasion when “On March 12, 1999, in the presence of their US counterpart, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the foreign ministers of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic finally signed the protocols of NATO accession.”

Twenty years ago the NATO grouping began its eastwards expansion, purposefully menacing Russia, contrary to assurances given to Mikhail Gorbachev by the Bush administration and other Western leaders in 1990.  There were declarations alleging that such a pledge was not given, but researchers have shown these to have been misinformation.  Indeed, it has been revealed that “President George HW Bush, West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the CIA Director Robert Gates, French President Francois Mitterrand, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, British foreign minister Douglas Hurd, British Prime Minister John Major, and NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner” gave “assurances that NATO would not expand.”

But expansion is the name of the game, and naturally prompted protests from Russia.  For example, at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2007, as reported in the Washington Post, President Putin said “I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation to modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?  Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them. But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said.  I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said ‘the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.’ Where are these guarantees?”

The answer is that the guarantees were subjected to a cynical campaign of attempted deletion, denial and destruction.

It was a classic set-up, and it is patently obvious, in hindsight, that NATO’s Godfathers had no intention whatever of abiding by the solemn assurance that the alliance would “not expand one inch to the east.”  Because eastwards it has advanced, and in 2004 it came smack up against Russia’s borders when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania  (along with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) hopped on the bandwagon.

None of these countries had or has any cause whatever to fear a threat from Russia, which continues to encourage mutual trade and has no intention of taking military action against them.

Yet the NATO military alliance announced that it “has enhanced its forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, with four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.”

Of all the countries that have joined NATO in its expansion jamboree, it is Poland that is most intriguing.  In this anniversary year, the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, made a point of visiting Warsaw where “he praised Poland’s strong commitment to the Alliance, which includes hosting a NATO battlegroup, leading the Baltic Air Policing mission in Lithuania and contributing to NATO’s training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Stoltenberg rejoiced that NATO has “been the most successful alliance in history” which is probably the most absurd claim he has ever made, and expressed delight that “Poland is helping to strengthen our Alliance” while being “very grateful for the contribution Poland makes to NATO every day.”

This is the valuable NATO member that Human Rights Watch notes in its 2019 Report has a government that makes “efforts to undermine the rule of law and human rights protections” with a prime focus on “curbing judicial independence.” Last December the EU Court of Justice ruled that Poland must immediately suspend implementation of legislation that would have resulted in removal of nearly one-third of the Court’s judges.”

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That’s just the sort of country that is important to the US-NATO  military alliance. And it’s treasured (literally) in other ways.

Last March, Reuters reported that “Poland signed the largest arms procurement deal in its history” when it agreed to buy the  Raytheon Patriot missile system for $4.75 billion, but according to Boeing has bought only three “Next-Generation 737s” for VIP transport, although they cost a tidy $523 million.  And a few weeks ago Poland’s Prime Minister announced purchase of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems made by Lockheed at a cost of 414 million dollars.

In September 2018 came news of plans for a permanent US military base in Poland, about which President Trump was enthusiastic, and on March 14 Stars and Stripes told us that “Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood is meeting with his Polish counterparts to work on the plan” so it seems that ‘Fort Trump’ is destined to be a forward stronghold of NATO’s military expansion.

It does not matter that, as the Guardian observes, “right-wing, nationalist, populist illiberalism . . . has taken root” in Poland, and that even the Washington Post is disturbed that “Poland’s democracy remains in danger: The politicization of the security services, transformation of state-owned media into propaganda organs, and pressure on independent journalists and civil society continue”, because NATO will continue to ignore evidence of growing subjugation.

Poland will continue to be prized as a valuable member, no matter what level its domestic repression might reach. And while Trump insults other NATO members by being “uniquely poisonous” and making such nonsensical declarations as “Germany is a captive of Russia. I think it’s something that NATO has to look at” it is obvious he has no worries about Poland.

2019 is a great double-anniversary year for NATO.  The fact that it still exists after seventy years shows enormous dedication to maintenance of an organization that should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991.  Its disastrous failures in Afghanistan and Libya have shown that it is militarily naïve and administratively incompetent, while its celebration of Poland’s 20-year “strong commitment” and creation of a luxurious Emerald City are evidence of moral humbug and commitment to glitz and bling. Barbie Dolls would feel at home in the new NATO palace in Brussels.

A version of this piece appeared on Strategic Culture Foundation on March 18.

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