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NATO’s expansion strategy is helping to destroy de facto member Ukraine

April 14, 2022 at 4:00 pm

Fire extinguishing works are underway at a large fuel base located near Ukraine’s western settlement of Klevan in the Rivne region and supplying fuel to Kyiv for the Ukrainian army, which was hit with high-precision air-launched cruise missiles by Russia, on March 28, 2022. [Ukrainian State Emergency Service – Anadolu Agency]

NATO as an organisation and through its thirty individual members has been doing its utmost to help Ukraine against Russia’s invasion ever since Moscow launched its attack in February. Even before the war started, some NATO members were offering Kyiv all kinds of assistance, including what many western officials call “lethal aid”, an American euphemism much like “enemy combatants” and “collateral damage”. While NATO countries have not sent troops to help Kyiv — at least not overtly — they are turning a collective blind eye to their citizens who volunteer to go to Ukraine to defend “freedom and democracy” against the Russians.

The only reason that NATO doesn’t have troops on the ground in Ukraine is because it is not a member of the organisation, which means article five of NATO’s 1949 founding treaty does not apply. The article says, inter alia, that “…an armed attack against one or more” NATO members shall be considered an attack “against them all” triggering a collective response from all members to defend their fellow member being attacked. The NATO response, however, seems to indicate that Ukraine is a de facto member of the organisation in all but name.

Neither article five nor any other clause in the treaty says anything about what would happen if a member state was actually at fault and triggered retaliation by a non-member country. Does the idea of collective security, guaranteed by article five, apply in such a situation?

When talking about Ukraine, many western officials, particularly Americans, use the term “NATO territories” to refer to the territories of all 30 member states. This definition of “NATO territories” includes the former colonies of NATO members around the world including those that are still, in reality, controlled by their former colonial masters. For example, when NATO was created Algeria was such a colony and covered by the treaty because it was known, simply, as the “French department”. It is actually referred to in NATO’s founding treaty.

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In fact, article six of the treaty, in a shallow definition of what “attack” means as described in article five, mentions Algeria as a specific example of how attacks on French colonial forces in Algeria would trigger an automatic response from all NATO members (of which there were only 12 at the time that Algeria was still the “French department”). The reference to Algeria in NATO’s treaty was only dropped after France was forced to accept Algerian independence in 1962. This means that the brutal war of independence that the Algerians fought bravely against their French colonisers was, in a way, a war against NATO, which is why many refer to the Algerian War of Independence as NATO‘s first war in North Africa. And it lost.

If anything, this says that NATO has, since its inception, been seeking to expand its area of operations with the clear intention of global dominance. It is true that Russia started the war in Ukraine and is responsible, ultimately, for whatever comes next. However, the Western narrative that President Vladimir Putin is crazy, irrational and out of touch with reality in taking the decision to invade Ukraine is misleading propaganda.

Over four decades after Algeria, NATO fought its second war in North Africa when, on 30 March, 2011, it launched a bombing campaign against Libya under the pretext of “protecting civilians”. This killed and injured nearly 200 of the very civilians it was supposed to protect, and destroyed infrastructure in Libya.

Between Algeria 1962 and Libya 2011, NATO has expanded in both scope and membership, threatening almost any other country that is not a member of the military bloc. The world’s strongest military alliance has played a disruptive and destructive role in many parts of the world with wide-ranging and ruinous results for its victims.

In 1991, NATO provided air surveillance for Turkey after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August the previous year. Operation Anchor Guard, as it was known, provided air monitoring intelligence along Turkey’s southern borders in case of an Iraqi attack.

NATO, it should be remembered, came into being out of fear of the Soviet Union almost ten years before the communist Warsaw Pact was signed in 1955. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Warsaw Pact was no more, NATO found itself largely irrelevant; its mission as a “defensive” and “deterrent” alliance was no longer needed as the enemy had all but disappeared.

Instead of dissolving itself or recasting its role based on new strategic objectives, though, the alliance looked for new enemies to justify its existence. In doing so it became what its experts call a “proactive” alliance. Essentially, this means that NATO is expanding from its home front of the North Atlantic area covering Europe and North America.

Based on this “proactive” approach, NATO justified its military intervention in former Yugoslavia in 1999, helping Kosovo to gain independence but without actually solving the Balkan problem. Individual NATO members played disruptive roles in Yugoslavia’s disintegration, including in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The war ended and the guns are silent but peace has not been won. The Balkans are a ticking time bomb.

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NATO has been encouraging other countries to join it, or at least work with it through the “partnership” programmes that the alliance launches every now and then. “NATO and its partners” has become used over the past ten years to describe the cooperation between the alliance and other countries beyond Europe. A case in point is the 2011 campaign against Libya, in which countries like Jordan and Qatar took part alongside NATO forces.

Its expansion strategy means that NATO has been involved in numerous global hotspots and, increasingly, voiced concerns about China, for example. NATO’s 2021 summit ended with a communiqué in which China was mentioned ten times, particularly its “growing influence” that might challenge the alliance. On 23 March, NATO’s secretary general had the audacity to warn China not to help Russia in Ukraine.

Ever since the 2001 US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, NATO has been more active in international affairs as it adapts its post-Cold War self to being what it calls “a crisis management organisation that has the capacity to undertake a wide range of military operations and missions.”

Having Ukraine as a de-facto member can only be explained within this NATO expansion strategy, led by the US, and driven by a desire for global hegemony. It is behaving as if Algeria is still the “French department” and India is still part of a British Empire. In doing so, NATO is helping to destroy Ukraine and its people.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.