Let’s Go Back Over the Story
The rationale for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been based on a genial lie from the beginning: that the United States set up and essentially runs NATO in order to protect Europe from potential Russian aggression. It seems to make perfect sense when interpreted in the context of the Cold War, in which we were obliged by Big Brother to perceive almost everything as a Russian plot. The best defense against this looming danger, the story goes, was a military alliance led by the greatest power in the history of the world, the United States.
In the immediate post-World War II period the US, which took more than its share of the credit for the liberation of Europe from the Nazis, saw an opportunity to consolidate its influence over the continent. Given the poverty and disarray of other countries after the war, the Americans saw an opportunity for the United States to advance their world-domination agenda. Their first step in tutoring their European allies, and it was a masterstroke, was to create NATO in Washington on April 14, 1949, and headquarter it in Brussels. This grouping of the Europeans in a single organization made them much more manageable. Casting the organization as a military mutual defense project with the all-powerful US at the head left Europe as a virtual American protectorate. Any significant deviation from the American agenda entailed the threat of American withdrawl of their protection. Of course, that protection had to be paid for. Does this business model sound familiar? It should. It made Francis Ford Coppola rich making movies about it.
The creation of the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1949 laid the foundation of the American neo-colonial infrastructure, along with the Bretton Woods agreements founding the World Bank and the IMF, which guaranteed American economic and monetary dominance. Then, in 1952, came the creation of the National Security Agency (NSA), the greatest electronic eavesdropping agency in the world. With these measures in place the deck was nicely stacked to assure three quarters of a century of American world ascendency. That domination was not seriously questioned until the rise of Chinese industrial, economic and military power in the early 21st century. Today the United States has a new set of defense priorities and the prospect of Russian tanks rolling into Poland is not high on that list.
What Benefits Does NATO Contribute to the United States?
President Donald Trump whinges a lot about European NATO members not contributing enough to the NATO budget. After all, he alleges, NATO exists to protect Europe. It’s only fair that Europeans should pay their fair share. And from his point of view they don’t seem to be doing that.
The President’s point of view, however, doesn’t hold much water. Is the principal mission of NATO really to protect Europe? President Trump and his peripatetic Secretary of State, Mike (El Pompi) Pompeo, pretend to be unaware of the benefits that NATO provides the United States. Here’s what the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenman and the Center for Transatlantic Relations’ Hans Binnendijk write in their issue brief, NATO’s Value to the United States: By the Numbers:
“NATO promotes peace within Europe and deters major US adversaries from launching large-scale conventional wars.
World War II cost the United States more than 400,000 lives and an estimated $4.1 trillion (in 2011 dollars). NATO has been key to preserving peace within the European continent and preventing other adversaries from launching a major conventional war.
According to credible sources, a major conventional war today could cost the United States upwards of $2.5 trillion per year.
NATO is a force multiplier that gives the United States access to military tools in greater numbers than it can achieve by itself.
Non-US NATO members have 1,857,000 active duty service members and 1,232,290 reservists. The seven largest non-US NATO member armies have the same number of active duty troops as the United States (1.3 million).
Non-US NATO members can deploy 6,983 battle tanks, 34,000 armored vehicles, 2,600 combat aircraft, 382 attack helicopters, 252 major naval craft (including submarines), and 1,582 patrol and surface combatants.
France and the United Kingdom alone provide 30 percent of the Alliance’s ballistic-missile-submarine fleet.
NATO’s European members are beginning to host the first stages of the Alliance’s new ballistic-missile-defense system aimed at preventing long-range attacks by rogue states on the United States and Europe.
NATO members frequently share intelligence across the Alliance, aiding US operations and intelligence-gathering. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany alone add 40,000 intelligence personnel to the Alliance’s intelligence capabilities.
Non-US NATO members host twenty-eight US main operating bases in Europe, which cut down on the time needed for the United States to respond to a crisis and are critical for US missions in the Middle East and North Africa.
In 2009, for example, Germany contributed $800 million to offset and improve its US bases.
NATO undertakes numerous missions to protect member states and promote security around the globe.
NATO has five active missions around the world deploying 18,000 troops.
Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has completed thirteen missions including two in the United States (Hurricane Katrina relief and post-9/11 air reconnaissance patrol).
NATO allies contributed thousands of troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, including 38,000 in 2011, saving the United States an estimated $49 billion that year. The operation in Afghanistan was the first and only time NATO’s mutual defense commitment was invoked.
Non-US members sustained more than 1,000 combat deaths in Afghanistan, with an additional one hundred lost by NATO partners.
Non-US NATO members contributed more than 60 percent of assets for Operation Unified Protector in Libya.
Non-US Coalition members flew one-third of all coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Operation Inherent Resolve.
NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield against piracy in the Gulf of Aden has been led at different times by Denmark, Spain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Portugal.
NATO supports and protects the economies of Europe, which are critical to the health of the US economy.
US trade with the European Union reached $699 billion in 2015, only made possible because of the security and stability provided by NATO.
US exports to the former Communist NATO member states (not including East Germany) grew from $0.9 billion in 1989 to $9.4 billion in 2016.
- Troops and Equipment. NATO benefits from being able to draw on the military expertise and capabilities of its members. This includes tanks, submarines and fighter jets.
Non-US NATO members contribute massively to the US defense industry to supply their forces. Currently, European members are planning to purchase as many as 500 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from the United States.” The life-of-the-product cost of those 500 aircraft and their maintenance is in the trillions of dollars, which drop straight into the US Treasury.
What Else Does the US Gain from NATO?
- Collaborative bases all over Europe (in 21 countries) at the expense of the European taxpayer. While it is true that the Department of Defence has to pay more for stationing troops in Europe at a higher cost of living, the host nations pay this back and an extra surplus to the US Treasury (something most American spokespeople forget to mention). On top of that, all infrastructure of these US bases is paid for by the host nation, including maintenance.
- Access to European defense technology. A lot of ‘American’ technology originates elsewhere.
- The proximity necessary to lobby European politicians to buy American weapons systems. All of this without any firm commitment as the NATO Treaty states that an attack on one member state must be considered to be an attack on all member states … it specifically doesn’t state that military action is required … this at the request of the US back in 1949.
- A unified military, political, and economic influence over virtually all of Europe, including constant aerial surveillance.
- A ring of bases and missile emplacements around southern and western Russia.
- A reinforcement of the myth of the US as “protector” of Europe.
- Strategically placed allies prepared to be invited or coerced into joining any American “preemptive”aggression anywhere in the world.
What Are the Benefits for European NATO Members?
On the other side of the ledger, NATO membership also benefits the Europeans. Here’s how one of the NATO websites (nato.int) explains the advantages for European members:
- An International Security Hub. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a political and military Alliance of 28 member countries from Europe and North America. Member states are committed to individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values are at the heart of NATO’s transatlantic bond.
- Collective Defense. The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend NATO territory and populations.
- NATO’s Command Structure. NATO has a permanent, integrated military command structure where military and civilian personnel from all member states work together.
- Standing forces. NATO has a number of standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence on a permanent basis. These include NATO’s four standing maritime group fleets, which are ready to act when called upon. Additionally NATO has an integrated air defence system that links national air defence capabilities together and includes the Alliance’s ballistic missile defence capabilities.
- Deterrence. The Alliance’s deterrence is based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, which remain a core element of NATO’s strategy.
- Crisis Management. The Alliance has frequently acted to uphold international peace and security.
And one frankly frightening disadvantage:
By joining the NATO alliance European countries assume the risk and responsibility of alienating all of the United States’ enemies. In the worst cases, where NATO members permit the emplacement of American nuclear missiles on their territories, they convert their countries into nuclear targets of new enemies they might never before have considered adversaries.
So Who Owes What to Whom?
This quick comparative summary of benefits accruing from NATO membership for both Americans and Europeans does not indicate a net debt of the Europeans in favor of the Americans, rather the contrary. Most of what the Americans deliver are promises, and American promises are not enjoying a bull market these days.
A quick look at the map below also belies the supposed defensive nature of NATO, especially now that newer NATO members, equipped and trained in part by the United States, have completed the semi-circle of bases and missiles that potentially threaten Russia from the west. So European NATO members become accomplices in the American virtual siege of Russia. One wonders, are those bases really necessary? In fact, the whole raison d’etre of the NATO project hinges upon the possibility of a Russian blitzkrieg stomping across western Europe. Is it probable? How probable, 90%? 10%? Is it reality based or a figment of the traditional American anti-communist neurosis, the same malady that has “legitimized” bloody military interventions around the world from Korea and Vietnam to Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Is the phantasmagoric statistical probability of the dread Russian bear pouncing on Europe kept in penumbra in order to justify the ongoing American “defensive” presence there? A similar strategy worked in the 1950s. Now it is being dusted off and expected to work again in the 21st century.
The Frosting on the Cake: The Americans’ Secret Terrorist Army in Western Europe
It was Winston Churchill’s idea to create secret “stay-behind” military units in European countries as resistance fighters against the possibility of Russian invasion. Never mind that the Russians had just lost more than 20 million citizens while winning the war for the Allies on the eastern front. So Churchill sent MI6 agents all over Europe to recruit experienced, right-minded fighters, equip them and train them in guerilla techniques. The agents were looking for battle-seasoned troops.
As it happened the Germans had also prepared a stay-behind presence in Western Europe and one of their units had just been rounded up and jailed by allied troops. When the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) found them, instead of treating them as particularly nasty prisoners of war, they offered them a job. That’s how “Operation Gladio,” as the project came to be known, became a swarm of extreme right-wing goons.
After six years of warfare the UK wasn’t really in shape to run a Europe-wide paramilitary network, so their sometime collaborators, the American CIA, took over until 1952 when the management of Operation Gladio passed to NATO. The much-touted Marshall Plan notwithstanding, American and British concerns after the war were not so much about reconstruction in Europe as containment of the Russians and their collectivist ideology, especially in countries like Italy, France and Greece where communists were actually being elected to democratic governments, based on their exemplary resistance to the Germans during the war.
Not to worry, NATO had a plan. They would activate the Gladio units in those countries whose elections needed “correcting” to carry out seemingly random terrorist attacks and blame them on the communists, thus swinging voters to the right. These terrifying false-flag operations–a bomb that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 in the 1980 Bologna Centrale station, shotgun killings of whole families in supermarkets in Belgium’s Brabant region, and many others–determined the election results against leftist candidates and saved the day for democracy in the Free World. The truth didn’t come out until 1990 when right-wing militant and Gladio operator, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, testified in an Italian court on another case and the whole Gladio story came to light, both in Belgium and across Europe. Vinciguerra is still serving a life sentence for his–and NATO’s– crimes.
This spine-chilling history didn’t receive much coverage nor follow-up in the American press, though the Washington Post did have this to say on Nov. 13, 1990:
A secret army created by the Central Intelligence Agency during the 1950s to organize resistance in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe has finally come in from the cold, and the disclosures of its past actions are producing a political flap that stretches across the continent.
The existence of a clandestine paramilitary network code-named “Operation Gladio” was disclosed last Thursday by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in a speech to his nation’s Senate. Since then, European officials have described similar operations in most of the other NATO countries.
The CIA-backed paramilitary network included units in Belgium, France, Greece, West Germany and the Netherlands, according to European newspaper and news-service reports.
(Source: The Washington Post, November 14, 1990)
Please Accept My Apology
If you were already aware of these sensational events and the outrages perpetrated by NATO and the CIA in Europe in the second half of the 20th century, please accept my apologies for wasting your time. If you weren’t aware, I’m delighted to have introduced you to this ongoing sordid story. NATO is still on the march, still selling its repugnant bulwark-of-democracy bill of goods, still providing troops and infrastructure for American skullduggery around the world. So, the next time you see on the news a seemingly senseless terrorist attack that smells like a false-flag operation, remember NATO and Gladio.
Why do those attacks have to be so senseless? Murdering a whole family of five in the aisles of a supermarket is so unthinkably unreasonable. Vincenzo Vinciguerra has answered this question from his prison cell. He said, “That’s what scares them most.”
by Mike Booth
Author’s note: Here’s a link to a three-part article I wrote on Operation Gladio earlier this year.
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