After Lisbon: A Report on the No to War – No to NATO Lisbon Counter-Summit

, , Comment closed

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

The international network No to War – No to NATO was founded in Stuttgart in October 2008. More than 650 organizations from over 30 countries signed the establishing call, the “Stuttgart Appeal”.

Our network conducted international protests (with international congress, demonstration, village camps and actions of Civil Disobedience) against NATO at the Strasbourg / Kehl Summit in April 2009 and, more recently in Lisbon last November.

Below is an information article about the Lisbon Counter-Summit and a preliminary analysis of the new NATO Strategy document discussed and agreed in Lisbon.

The Lisbon NATO Counter – Summit (November 19-21 2010)

NATO means war! More than 250 participants from 21 countries discussed, over three days, the new NATO strategy and peaceful civilian alternatives at the counter-summit organized by the international network “No to War – No to NATO” [1]. It was a counter-summit full of new arguments, which bolster up the decision to decisively fight the implementation of the new NATO strategy. The final declaration of the two-day international counter summit on occasion of the official NATO summit in Lisbon states “no” to the new NATO strategy (see details of the new strategy in Part II of this document).

It was our unanimous opinion that the international peace, anti-war and anti-militarist movement must endeavour to establish further cross-linkages to better coordinate its effort against the global military alliance NATO.

Words were followed by deeds from the participants of the counter-summit. Nearly 100 activists took part in a series of successful actions of civil disobedience on Saturday morning, including a non-violent blockade of one of the access roads to the Convention Centre where the “leading heads of the world” discussed wars. The police responded with arrests but not with brutal violence as was the case in Strasbourg 18 months ago.. All protesters were released after 14 hours.

About 30,000 (according to the organizers “Paz sim – NATO nao”) answered the call of the Portuguese Peace Committee, the international network “No to War – No to NATO”, many other organizations and parties, and took to the streets in a peaceful, non-violent demonstration in Lisbon. The No to NATO slogan was heard all over the Portuguese capital city. Red flags dominated this peace demonstration.

The “violence” conjured up by the media took place in real terms: in the form of barring the entry  to the country of nearly 200 active peace-committed people and the arrest of 41 civil disobedience activists who were detained illegally without access to a lawyer. This proves once again that democracy and NATO are not compatible. NATO means both outward aggression and internal degradation of democracy .

A very successful press and public relations work brought the dangers of  NATO closer to a wider public. The peace movement and its actions in Portugal were reflected worldwide in the media – NATO countries did comprehensive reports. The Irish media was, as expected, absent from this process. This illustrates a significant success of the continuous protest actions of the international network and of the peace movement’s commitment even  between summits. Our own live broadcasts via the internet certainly have contributed to this. The level of engagement was encouraging and shows that we have overcome the paralysing fear of  violence generated by the actions of few in Strasbourg and that the real facts of a war policy could be once again moved back into the centre of attention – to this end, non-violent actions are indispensable.

It is good and great that we were in Lisbon and have moved forward towards a further small step to delegitimisation. Where NATO holds its meetings, where military build up and war are discussed and propagated, the international peace and anti-war movement will be there as well. We will keep on and on – until NATO is dissolved.

The successful international cooperation across many political and ideological boundaries, political parties and organizational contexts, as reflected in the international network “No to War – No to NATO” is obviously necessary against the most powerful military alliance in the world ..

The continuation of protests after the Strasbourg summit was right, necessary and successful. Problems of international cooperation will be continuously reduced through further discussions.

The anti-NATO alliance has agreed to also accompany the NATO summit 2012 in Washington with a variety of joint operations. We are also having our annual conference in April 15-17 2011 in Dublin [2] where our plans shall be further detailed and practical steps taken.

The delegitimisation of NATO is a permanent and long-term challenge.

NATO’s new Strategic Concept

Since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact on July 1st 1991, NATO is confronted with a problem – it has lost its perceived enemy. In its Strategic Concept agreed on April 23rd/24th 1999, i.e. during the Kosovo War, this fact was relatively easy to hide. However, this time it gradually became clear that “new enemies – and threat scenarios” were needed.

The military expenditure of the 28 NATO member countries, as indicated in the SIPRI Yearbook 2010 for 2009, amounted to $ 875 billion, equal to 57% of the total world military expenditure of over $ 1.5 trillion.

The core of the new Strategic Concept, as discussed and agreed in Lisbon during November 19-21st, is as follows:

I.  NATO and EU

Paragraph 32 of NATO’s new Strategic Concept states: “The EU is a unique and essential partner of NATO. We welcome the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.” NATO is frank in its understanding that for this new strategic partnership, the full implementation of the Lisbon Treaty is a crucial aspect.

This means, firstly, that our criticism of the Lisbon Treaty, considered by some close to the Labour Party and the Greens as too  extreme is once again confirmed. And secondly, that the EU is perceived by NATO as a military alliance as well. We need to address the NATO-EU cooperation and its importance to Europe and Irelandmuch more in the near future.

Reference is made to a necessary division of responsibilities: set up and deployment of civil capacities are to be taken over more by the EU and OSCE, whereas military activities are to be undertaken more by NATO. How a division of labour between two such differently structured organisations could look like in detail is not seriously discussed. The new Strategic Concept does not include an explicit proposal regarding the division of responsibilities but instead suggests that NATO itself builds civil capacities and additionally claims that in certain situations, it is to coordinate all civilian actors (meaning beyond the NATO countries) – yhis reference  does not resolve the problem and the contradiction –  on the contrary it further exacerbates it, particularly for a country like Ireland, or say Cyprus, which are members of the EU but not members of NATO.

Therefore, there is a justified risk that in reality, a “Europe for global peace” is not strengthened, but instead the militarisation tendencies of the EU that have been laid down in the Lisbon Treaty are made more explicit. The fact that the new Strategic Concept explicitly welcomes the entry into force of this treaty further reinforces that suspicion. We must follow this aspect of the concept very closely

II  Nuclear Deterrence

NATO still considers nuclear weapons to be an absolute necessity for the policy of deterrence. Nuclear weapons shall continuously be stationed in Europe and modernised, while an independent role of deterrence is ascribed to the “independent strategic nuclear forces” of the British and French. The total costs for this process is estimated to be about 1 billion US dollars. The Bundestag vote on the withdrawal of nuclear weapons stationed in Germany has apparently not been incorporated as an essential point by the Federal Government regarding the negotiations on the new Strategic Concept.

In the new NATO Strategy, the proliferation risk is strongly emphasized as the key risk. However, the close relationship between the so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the risk of proliferation is not further investigated. Probably for good reason, because this would entail the close examination of the nuclear Non-Proliferation-Treaty and its respective obligations of the official nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, as well as the implementation of these obligations.

However, there is plenty about the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal in the new Strategic Concept. Upgrading in order to downgrade? A good question methinks……At any rate, there is a clear contradiction between the pursued aim “global zero” and the insistence on deterrence capacities “as long as nuclear weapons exist”. In other words, this means that the USA and NATO assume that their nuclear weapons will be abolished last or at least in parallel to the end of other official or unofficial nuclear weaponry. This renders negotiations on a complete nuclear disarmament very difficult if other nuclear powers take the same point of view. This is an issue of key importance to the various campaigns of nuclear disarmament in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

The nuclear armament strategy gains particularly explosive nature through the takeover of US plans to have its own missile defence as a key NATO project. This is tantamount to the deployment of missile defence systems in Europe.

III.  NATO and Missile Defence System (MD)

The MD system is a cornerstone of the new NATO doctrine. US plans to have its own missile defence integrated as a central NATO project. This project represents the second defeat of German policy, which until now held sceptical or even hostile thoughts on a NATO MD system.

Russia’s position on this issue is of significance. Thgere are views coming from Moscow that the MD system is likely to triggers further destabilization in Europe. The withdrawal of Russia from this project is an option, since Russia has attached its involvement to the ratification of the START treaty.

A missile shield is supposed to guard Europe, the question remains: against whom? Even now – in its initial phase – the missile defence project costs €200 million, while the total cost will most probably amount to €10 billion.. It is a billion-euro-grave for many European economies, but a huge procurement program for the defence industry.

IV.       Enlargement of Partnership

A further expansion to the east – if more cautious than in previous documents – is formulated as a goal by the new NATO strategy. This includes new partnerships with the former southern republics of the Soviet Union, Indonesia and Malaysia, but also Australia and New Zealand. Japan is also to be integrated into a new collaboration. In emphasizing the regional nature of NATO, de facto its capacity for global intervention and its expansion strategy is codified – or it goes, if its intentions were indeed peaceful, into direct competition with the UN. In other words, NATO increasingly seeks to become more than a military alternative to the UN.

The main problem in NATO’s eastward expansion and its various partnership programmes is that it creates an ever more powerful military bloc, likely to appear threatening to all those countries of the world who are not integrated. Particularly as long as this military bloc continues to arm and also explicitly takes the right, in case of doubt, to mandate itself for military operations around the world, It is likely to provoke a massive increase in arms procurement.

V. Out of Area – Operations / Interventional wars

The war in Afghanistan is seen as a current and crucial challenge for NATO and is to be continued with increased civil-military efforts to victory. NATO is determined to “create conditions for success in Afghanistan”. Besides a list of desirable goals (stability, no haven for terrorists) and a discrete reference to “lessons learned” (which equals an implicit concession of massive errors), there is nothing showing that there is an explicit Afghanistan-strategy of NATO. In the run-up to the adoption of the Strategic Concept, NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen has talked about a “truly comprehensive approach” that includes in the context of military intervention civilian NATO personnel for “early reconstruction and stabilization tasks”. In other words, this would be the staff for a civilian occupation infrastructure under NATO command.

The “withdrawal option” announced on Nov. 21st is a double bluff.

  • Even after 2014/15, 50.000 troops are to remain in Afghanistan. So it’s only about the “Iraqization” of the war.
  • By 2014, the war in from NATO as threatening perceived regions is to be further expanded and intensified (drones, tanks), with all the murderous consequences for the civilian population and soldiers. Hence, the “withdrawal option” is a mere sedative pill for the “home front”, but in reality it is the even more aggressive continuation of war policy. This fact cannot be hidden by the (minimal) withdrawal numbers.

VI. New Security Tasks

Due to the fact that NATO capabilities for the defence of any classic-military threats are oversized, new tasks are “discovered”. There is no distinction made between risks and threats (which is common in the civil context), nor convincingly explained why of all things such a military alliance is the appropriate structure to respond to the invoked threats. Hence, it is conceded that the scenario of a classic military attack of NATO countries becomes less and less likely; yet missile attacks out of the blue, terrorist attacks, piracy and “cyberwar” (i.e. attacks on information technology infrastructure) are evoked. But that is not enough. Problems which obviously cannot be mitigated by military force – poverty, hunger, illegal migration, pandemics, environmental problems, climate change, and finally, the global financial crisis – could, according to NATO experts, directly or indirectly cause people to resort to arms, and thus – because the road from weapons to war is not far – quickly become a “security problem“, which is a task for NATO. In other words, we have reached the point where the further arming of NATO countries is motivated by and legitimised through the problems which have been caused or aggravated by the high costs for military and armament, by arms export and the consumption of resources by the military in the first place.

The discussion on “cyberwar” gets particularly explosive by the Trojan “Stuxnet” which attacks industrial control systems and, according to press releases, was targeted against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The creator of the Trojan is not yet known with certainty; IT-expert Ralph Langner explained in an interview with the web information service that by his count, 50 people had worked for a year on this Trojan and its costs could be located in the single-digit millions. The U.S. military intelligence is in the narrow circle of suspects.

VII.   Capabilities

Considerable attention is paid by the Strategy document to the debate on necessary investments and reorganizations in the field of military structures and equipment. Noteworthy keywords are:

  • interoperability
  • multi-national units
  • rapid response forces
  • special operation forces
  • maritime surveillance capacities
  • comprehensive approach / networked security
  • experts in the defence of “major cyber attacks”.

Each one of these investments and institutional changes is costly and increases the further shift of NATO into a global intervention alliance.  Each of these areas necessitates further thinking and analysis of the anti-war and peace movements

VIII. NATO/Russia relations and disarmament

In order to not address the question which may have a fatal impact on the eastern enlargement and upgrading / weaponry modification programs of NATO had and its relations to Russia, the new document recommends a strategy of political symbolism. NATO says it intends to find a unified position vis-à-vis Russia, including enhanced cooperation. Behind this, there is a hidden dissent: on Russia’s  accession to NATO, as the former member countries of the Warsaw Pact and respectively the former Soviet republics set great value upon it- as a last resort to a  militarily secured protection against the previously superior neighbouring state.

For this reason, the responsibility for the deadlock in conventional arms control, notably the CFE Treaty, is implicitly pushed towards Russia; despite the fact that the convention on the adaptation of the CFE Treaty from 1999 was ratified by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in 2004, while the NATO countries have not yet ratified the treaty. The reason given for this phenomenon was that Russia did not comply with the NATO request of withdrawing the Russian troops both from Transnistria and Georgia.

Final and provisional assessment

The NATO countries do everything possible to keep the “peace dividend” almost 20 years after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact as low as possible. Once again, great efforts are made to justify why “security” is primarily the responsibility of the military. The vast majority of our politicians unbroken idea that state power is directly linked to military capacity has until now prevented a broader social debate on the question what role the military and military alliances could or should play concerning the most pressing problems of the future.

The “securitization” and thus militarization of clearly civilian problems (climate change, dealing with refugees, protection of information systems and networks, dealing with organized and terrorist crime, energy- and natural resources supply) must be countered with equal vehemence as the plans of NATO to engage its own civilian task forces as a coordinator for civilian operations in crisis regions. This is particularly true when NATO is still not willing to link “out of area” operations to a mandate by the UN Security Council.

The document above is a first approach to what is likely to become a key issue for Europe, the world and Ireland over the next couple of years. The positions argued above are of my own, worked in conjunction with our ICC comrades abroad. Once the current frenzy of meetings and pre-election work subsides, it is certainly my intention to organise a meeting with a number of organisations as part of preparing the International ICC Conference planned for Dublin next April 15-17.



[2] The three Irish organisations that have so far agreed to host this get-together  are the Campaign for Social Europe (the No to Lisbon Campaign rebranded), PANA and the IAWM. Please contact us if you want to help.

Image courtesy of Indymedia Netherlands.

The following two tabs change content below.