Jeremy Corbyn and the leaving of NATO
by Christopher Winch
One of the charges levelled against Jeremy Corbyn is that he wants the UK to leave NATO. According to some Blairites (eg a recent article in ‘Progress’ by Richard Arthur and by the neocon journalist Ben Judah in the Guardian) NATO exists to keep the peace in Europe and Corbyn is jeopardising the peace with his maniacal proposals.
To put it kindly, this is playing fast and loose with the truth and anyone who knows about the history of postwar Europe will see this for the nonsense that it is. Keeping the peace in western Europe was the the job for which the EU was set up and which Britain opposed for many years, as maintaining European antagonisms through balance of power diplomacy is its main mode of operation within Europe. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, was formed shortly after the Second World War. It included the United States and most of the EEC as the EU was then called, minus France. The UK was a member. It was conceived of in order to defend Western Europe in the Cold War against the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The US as a hegemon, both financially and militarily in that effort was and remains the leading diplomatic and military power in NATO. The Cold War is over, so the original raison d’etre of NATO has disappeared. So is there a need for NATO?
To answer this question it’s worth looking at what NATO has been up to since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact 25 years ago. NATO helped bring about the disintegration of Yugoslavia, a multinational state in Europe and then illegally attacked what remained of it, bringing chronic instability to southeastern Europe. Some years later it launched an unprovoked assault on Libya, also with disastrous consequences. It has openly threatened Russia and moved into areas that the Russians, with two major European aggressions in two hundred years behind them, feel deeply menaced by. It has helped to foment a violent coup d’etat against a democratically elected government in an area of vital interest to Russia, the Ukraine, and continues to support an aggressive posture against Russia, accusing it of destabilising the Ukraine when it is obvious that this is what the EU and NATO were set on doing. In all of this the United States has played a leading military role. This hardly looks like an organisation bent on keeping the peace in Europe.
The US as global hegemon is interested in neutralising potential obstacles to the pursuit of its own interests. It thus has an interest in weakening or even destroying Russia. Europe does not have an interest in destroying Russia but in having good relations with her, therefore its interests are not the same as those of the US in relation to European security. The post Warsaw Pact NATO as it currently exists has no constructive role to play in promoting the collective security of Europe. The policies promoted by the US and its faithful poodle the UK are not in the interests of Europe and, although some European leaders realise this, practically all of them are prepared to do the US’s bidding. This is the context in which we should consider whether it would be a good idea to leave NATO.
Let us take the pro NATO claims seriously. That Europe needs some collective security arrangements, but there is no good reason why the US should be part of them. So what should collective security be based on?
Here are some suggestions as to the principles that a European Collective Security Union could be based on:
1] Independence of European security arrangements from those of any other power whose interests may potentially conflict with those of the European security zone. This means both military and diplomatic independence.
2] Non-aggression against neighbouring states within the security zone, including non-interference in their politics through fomenting dissent and the violent overthrow of governments.
3] Respect for existing borders. This can only happen when collective security arrangements preclude the violent overthrow of governments within the scope of the agreements between the members of the collective security pact. The only way in which borders may be altered is via a plebiscitary arrangement agreed on by all parties to a disagreement and endorsed by all member states.
4] A mechanism for the peaceful resolution of interstate disagreements through negotiation and ultimately arbitration, which may include the measure described in 3].
5] Non-interference in the affairs of states outside the European collective security zone.
6] As broad based a security agreement as possible within the traditional zones of European conflict, including Russia as soon as is possible.
This proposal would not lead to the abolition of NATO but would turn it into a body along the lines of 1] – 6]. Who could quarrel with that? Well, we know who would – it would be the US and its allies, including Labour politicians who think that British interests depend on doing what the US wants Britain to do or, even worse, support the US’s attempts to promote permanent crisis in Europe. But there is no reason to think that Europe cannot attend to its own security arrangements, it certainly does not need the United States to interfere in its affairs. NATO has adopted a particularly aggressive stance towards Russia, leading to the near (and maybe imminent) disintegration of the Ukraine. If it were to reverse this stand and begin negotiations with Russia for a collective security pact along the lines suggested above, there is little doubt that it would be welcomed by the Russians.
So the answer to Corbyn’s critics should be: ‘let’s turn NATO into the sort of body you say it is, but which it clearly currently is not, namely one to maintain the peace in Europe through collective security arrangements for the continent’.