On June 14, 2021, NATO will host its annual summit in Brussels, Belgium. On this occasion, the Democratic Socialists of America International Committee affirms its solidarity with the demands of anti-militarist campaigners, European left-wing parties and movements who take a clear position against NATO, and those suffering from the results of disastrous Western-led military interventions around the world. The DSA IC positions itself firmly against this war-mongering Cold War holdover: The United States should immediately withdraw from NATO for the following reasons.
1. NATO will lead Americans into foreign wars on Europe’s behalf
Article 5 of the founding document that binds NATO members stipulates that “an attack on one is an attack on all.” A hypothetical attack on small Baltic nations that border Russia, although all the way across the Atlantic from the US, would force Americans to fight on European soil. Given that the US and Russia are the world’s largest nuclear powers, NATO risks nuclear escalation.
While many American citizens struggle to pay for childcare, healthcare and college tuition, Washington war hawks play geopolitical games to mount tensions with perceived adversaries. Despite the fact that the U.S.’s military budget is more than 12 times the size of Russia’s, the U.S. has long discussed NATO accession with Ukraine and Georgia, which directly border Russia. Brinkmanship with perceived enemies of NATO will lead to the loss of American lives on European or Turkish soil.
2. NATO has already dragged Europeans into America’s forever wars
Over 1,000 non-US NATO soldiers have died since the beginning of intervention in Afghanistan (which Joe Biden sought to extend for four months from May 1 to September 11, 2021), while the Iraq War saw the deaths of 286 non-US NATO soldiers. These direct casualties do not take into account the incalculable emotional trauma and human suffering associated with the sacrifice of human lives for US “forever wars” with lack of tangible benefits.
3. NATO encourages the militarization of Europe with the “2% rule”
NATO requires that member countries spend 2% of their annual GDP on defense—which is an enormous part of national budget spending. Since NATO member states have been laggards in the application of this rule, the Trump administration’s rhetoric pushed member states to revitalize their military spending to show commitment to the alliance. For example, in 2018, France saw a notable jump in military spending. This year, Germany has reached a record high in its military spending. This artificially high floor for a minimum of military spending is dangerous—it encourages militarization of countries that could spend public funds on necessary goods and services that benefit the material needs of their citizens.
4. NATO is a waste of money that fails to defend Europe as it promises
While private weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin secure military contracts to build missile defense systems in Poland, even the war-hawk think tank RAND Corporation states that currently existing missile defense systems in Romania, Poland and the Baltic Sea would fail to prevent missile attacks on Europe. Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Rezikowo, Poland, which in 2016 aimed to be completed by 2020, will see its completion delayed to 2022 despite a price tag of 1.8 billion dollars in 2021. This blatant incompetence on the part of weapons manufacturers shows that NATO is neither serious nor capable of defending citizens of its member countries from threats.
5. NATO is an imperialist mechanism and its interventions across the world have disastrous results
NATO ideologues will often portray themselves as defenders of liberal-democratic values and human rights, however:
- NATO training missions in Iraq in 2004 clearly failed to engender lasting security, since ISIS and other extremist groups were able to take hold of large swaths of the country years after Western coalition forces trained Iraqi police and armed forces.
- NATO’s intervention in Libya did not result in the country becoming a thriving liberal-democracy with a strong middle class either. Framed as another ‘humanitarian’ intervention, NATO led the absolute destruction of a leading African nation with the explicit goal of accessing its oil wealth. Years after the NATO-led intervention, Libya still does not have a central government and slaves are sold in open air markets in Libyan port cities. NATO’s war in Libya serves as a prime example of U.S. and European neocolonial ambition achieved through military force, untold atrocity and human suffering of a horrific scale.
- NATO’s bombing of Serbia and Montenegro in 1999 was premised on humanitarian pretexts. Yet cruise missiles are no less deadly when fired in the name of humanitarianism than other causes. The NATO bombing campaign, illegal under international law, killed civilians. NATO was criticized by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for its striking of civilian infrastructure, including a hospital, a passenger train full of civilians, tv station, a power plant, and bridges, among other civilian targets. Such attacks are war crimes under international law. The NATO bombing used tons of depleted uranium, irradiated land, and caused a major environmental and health disaster for tens of thousands of people. NATO also bombed the Chinese embassy in the country, heightening international anxiety. Today Serbia’s far-right president Alexander Vučić cooperates with illiberal states and lasting problems of ethnic animosity remain.
For these reasons, the DSA IC rejects NATO’s militarism and calls for the United States’ immediate withdrawal from the alliance.
On misuse of anti-NATO rhetoric and DSA IC’s principled anti-NATO stance
In recent years, Donald Trump called NATO “obsolete” and French president Emmanuel Macron called NATO “brain-dead.” While these rhetorical statements generate buzz for media outlets, the neoliberal and far-right politicians who make them continue to actively maintain and fund the NATO alliance with increased military spending and belligerent actions of their governments abroad. The DSA IC takes a principled and definitive stance against NATO based on the concrete, material realities faced by workers in the countries of the alliance. Workers in the United States and abroad have nothing to gain from militarist and interventionist foreign policy crafted by elites in Washington, Ankara, Warsaw, and elsewhere.
Disguised as a defense pact, NATO is a tool for imperialist expansion and plundering, serving primarily in defense of capitalism and Atlanticist international dominance.
DSA IC encourages its members and allies in the US and abroad in the UK, continental Europe, Turkey and Canada to join meaningful and productive anti-militarist activist campaigns against NATO and its disastrous interventions.