by Joseph Gerson
July 05, 2016
"In the face
of what may be the slow motion breakup
of the European Union
under pressure from Euro skeptics,
look for U.S. and
allied European elites
to increase their
the sixty-seven year
Our interests and survival
depend on Common Security
rather than the repeated and
In his first public response to
the Brexit vote that has shaken
Europe and much of the world, President
Obama sought to reassure Americans and others.
He urged us not to give into hysteria
and stressed that NATO did not disappear with Brexit.
The Trans-Atlantic alliance, he reminded
the world, endures. 1
In the face of what may be the slow
motion breakup of the European Union under pressure from Euro
skeptics, look for U.S. and allied European elites to increase their
commitments to the sixty-seven year NATO alliance.
The hysteria that was manufactured in
the wake of Russia's seizure of Crimea and intervention in eastern
Ukraine and fears of the fallout from the continuing wars and
catastrophes in the Middle East will serve as NATO's selling points.
As we face the future, either/or thinking and NATO need to be left
But, as we face the future, either/or thinking and NATO need to be
left behind. As even President Carter's National Security Advisor
Zbigniew Brzezinski taught, since its inception NATO has been an
imperial project. 2
Rather than creating a new, full-blown
and extremely dangerous Cold War, our interests and survival depend
on Common Security diplomacy 3 rather than
the repeated and deadly failures of militarism.
This does not mean turning blind eyes to Putin's assault on
free speech and democracy, or to Moscow's nuclear saber rattling and
But it does mean that we should be
mindful that Common Security diplomacy ended the Cold War, that
repressive and brutal though Putin may be, he arrested Russia's
calamitous Yeltsin-era freefall, and he played critical roles in the
elimination of Syria's chemical weapons and the P-5+1 nuclear deal
We also need to acknowledge that with
two million people in U.S. prisons, including Guantanamo, the
embrace of the Poland's autocratic government and Saudi monarchy,
and the militarized "Pivot to Asia" the U.S. leads a not-so-free
Zero-sum thinking is not in anyone's interest. There are Common
Security alternatives to today's increasing and dangerous military
We oppose NATO because of its neo-colonial domination of most of
Europe, its roles in imperial wars and domination, the existential
nuclear threat it poses to human survival, and because it diverts
funds from essential social services, truncating lives in the U.S.
and other nations.
William Faulkner wrote that,
"the past isn't dead, that it isn't
...a truth that reverberates with the
Our approach to the present and to the
future must thus be informed by the tragedies of history.
Central and Eastern European nations
including Poland have been conquered, ruled and oppressed by,
...as well as by home grown despots.
And Poland was once the imperial power
Given this history and other considerations, it's madness to risk
nuclear annihilation to enforce the borders at any given moment. And
as we learned from the Common Security resolution of the Cold War,
our survival depends on challenging traditional security thinking.
Spiraling tensions that come with
military alliances, arms races, military-industrial complexes and
chauvinistic nationalism can be overcome with commitments to mutual
This is an era with similarities to the years preceding the First
The world is marked by rising and
declining powers anxious to retain or expand their privilege and
power. We have arms races with new technologies.
Resurgent nationalism, territorial
disputes, resource competition, complex alliance arrangements,
economic integration and competition, and wild card actors including
a U.S. Secretary of Defense who prepares for the NATO summit by
imitating gangster movies by saying,
"You try anything, you're going to
be sorry", 5
...as well as right-wing forces across
the U.S. and Europe, and murderous religious fanatics.
Competing NATO and Russian military exercises are ratcheting up
military tensions to the point that former U.S. Secretary of Defense
Perry warns that nuclear war is now more likely than during
the cold war. 6
Carl Conetta was right when he
"NATO's militaristic response" to
Russia in Ukraine "is a perfect example of reflective
Moscow, he explains, lacks,
"the will to suicide… it has no
intention of attacking NATO." 7
Anaconda-2016, involving 31,000
NATO troops - 14,000 of them here in Poland - and troops from 24
countries was the largest war game in Eastern Europe since the Cold
Imagine Washington's response if Russia
or China conducted similar war games on the Mexican border.
Given NATO's expansions to its borders; its new tactical
headquarters in Poland and Romania; its increased military
deployments and provocative military exercises across Eastern
Europe, the Baltic states, Scandinavia and the Black Sea, as well as
by the U.S. quadrupling its military spending for Europe, we
shouldn't be surprised that Russia is attempting to "counterbalance"
And, with Washington's first-strike
related missile defenses in Romania and Poland and its superiority
in conventional, high-tech and space weapons, we should be alarmed
but not surprised by Moscow's increased reliance on nuclear weapons.
Remembering the consequences of the bullets fired by an
assassin's gun in Sarajevo a century ago, we have reason to
worry about what might happen if a frightened or overly aggressive
U.S., Russian or Polish soldier, pushed beyond their limits, in
anger or by accident, fires the anti-aircraft missile that brings
down a U.S., NATO or another Russian warplane.
As the trilateral European-Russian-U.S.
Deep Cuts Commission concluded,
"In the atmosphere of deep mutual
mistrust, the increased intensity of potentially hostile
military activities in close proximity - and particularly air
force and naval activities in the Baltic and the Black Sea areas
- may result in further dangerous military incidents which...
may lead to miscalculation and/or accidents and spin off in
unintended ways." 9
People are human. Accidents happen.
Systems are built to respond - sometimes automatically...
NATO is an imperial alliance.
Beyond the ostensible goal of containing
the USSR, NATO has made it possible to integrate European
governments, economies, militaries, technologies and societies into
U.S. dominated systems.
NATO has ensured U.S. access to military
bases for interventions across the Greater Middle East and Africa.
And, as Michael T. Glennon wrote,
with the 1999 war against Serbia, the U.S. and NATO,
"with little discussion and less
fanfare... effectively abandoned the old U.N. Charter rules that
strictly limit international intervention in local conflicts… in
favor of a vague new system that is much more tolerant of
military intervention but has few hard and fast rules."
It is thus understandable that Putin
adopted the slogan,
"New rules or no rules, with his
commitment to the former." 10
Sometimes the U.S. "national security"
elite tell the truth...
Since the war on Serbia, contrary to the U.N. Charter, the U.S. and
invaded Afghanistan and Iraq,
destroyed Libya, and eight NATO
nations are now at
war in Syria.
But we have the irony of NATO Secretary
General Stoltenberg saying that there can be no business as
usual until Russia respects international law. 11
Recall that NATO's first secretary general, Lord Ismay
explained that the alliance was designed,
"to keep the Germans down, the
Russians out and the Americans in",
...which is not the way to build a
common European home.
It was created before the Warsaw Pact,
when Russia was still reeling from the Nazi devastation.
Unfair though it was, the Yalta
agreement which divided Europe into U.S. and Soviet spheres, was
seen by U.S. policy makers as the price to be paid for Moscow having
driven Hitler's forces across eastern and central Europe.
With the history of Napoleon, the Kaiser
and Hitler, the U.S. establishment understood that Stalin had
reason to fear future invasions from the West. The U.S. was thus
complicit in Moscow's repressive colonization of Eastern European
and Baltic nations.
Sometimes the U.S. "national security" elite tell the truth.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, formerly
President Carter's National Security Advisor, published a primer
describing how what he termed the U.S. "imperial project" 12
Geostrategically, he explained,
dominance over the Eurasian heartland is essential to being the
world's dominant power.
To project coercive power into the
Eurasian heartland, as an "island power" not located in Eurasia, the
U.S. requires toeholds on Eurasia's western, southern and eastern
What Brzezinski termed "vassal state"
NATO allies, make possible,
"entrench[ment of] American
political influence and military power on the Eurasian
In the wake of the Brexit vote, U.S. and
European elites will rely even more heavily on NATO in their effort
to hold Europe together and to reinforce U.S. influence.
There is more than integrating European territory, resources and
technologies into the U.S. dominated systems.
As former Secretary of War Rumsfeld
put it, in the tradition of divide and conquer, by playing New
(Eastern and Central) Europe against Old Europe in the West,
Washington won French, German and the Dutch support for the war to
depose Saddam Hussein.
And with what even the New York Times describes as,
"right-wing, nationalist assault on
the country's media and judiciary" and the "retreat from the
fundamental values of liberal democracy" by the Kacynski
...the U.S. has had no hesitation in
making Poland the eastern hub of NATO. 13
Washington's rhetoric about its
commitments to democracy is belied by its long history of supporting
dictators and repressive regimes in Europe, monarchies like the
Saudis, as well as by its wars of conquest from the Philippines and
Vietnam to Iraq and Libya.
Washington's European toehold has also reinforced its hold on
Southern Eurasia's resource rich periphery.
NATO's wars in Afghanistan and the
Middle East follow in the tradition of European colonialism. Before
the Ukraine crisis, the Pentagon's strategic guidance 14
tasked NATO with ensuring control of mineral resources and trade
while reinforcing the encirclement of China as well as Russia.
Thus NATO adopted its "out of area
operations" doctrine, making what Secretary Kerry termed "expedition
missions" in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond the alliance's
primary purpose. 16
Essential to "out of area" operations has been U.S. drone warfare
including the Obama kill lists and U.S. and NATO
extra-judicial drone assassinations, many of which have claimed
This, in turn, has metastasized rather
than eliminated extremist resistance and terrorism.
Fifteen NATO nations participate in the
Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) drone system operated from
a NATO base in Italy, with NATO's Global Hawk killer drones
operated from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. 17
An increasing number of U.S. strategic analysts, including former
Commander in Chief of the U.S. Strategic Command General Lee
Butler have said that U.S. post-Cold War "triumphalism,"
treating Russia like a "dismissed serf," and NATO's expansion to
Russia's boarders despite the Bush I-Gorbachev agreement
precipitated today's spiraling military tensions with Russia.
Russia did not precipitate the Ukraine
crisis. NATO's expansion to Russia's borders, Ukraine's designation
as a NATO "aspirant" country, and the Kosovo and Iraq War precedents
each played their roles.
What have the coup and civil war brought us?
One set of corrupt oligarchs replacing
another. Death and suffering. Fascist forces once allied with Hitler
now part of Ukraine's ruling elite, and hardliners in Washington,
Moscow, and across Europe reinforced.
This is not to say that Putin is innocent as he revitalizes his
corrupt neo-Tsarist state and campaigns to reassert Russian
political influence in its "near abroad" and Europe itself, and as
he hitches Russia's economy and military to China.
But, on our side, we have Secretary
Kerry's Orwellian doublespeak.
He decried Moscow's "incredible act of
aggression" in Ukraine, saying,
"you just don't in the 21st
century behave in 19th century fashion by
invading another country on [a] completely trumped up pretext."
Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya
disappeared down his memory hole...!
Great powers have long intervened in Ukraine, and this was the case
with the Maidan coup. Leading up to the coup, Washington and the E.U.
poured billions of dollars into developing and nurturing Ukrainian
allies to turn the former Soviet republic away from Moscow and
toward the West.
Many forget the E.U.'s ultimatum to the
corrupt Yanukovych government:
Ukraine could take the next steps
toward E.U. membership only by burning its bridges to Moscow, to
which eastern Ukraine had been economically tied for decades.
As tensions built in Kiev, CIA Director
Brennan, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland
- famous for her "fuck the E.U." disrespect of Washington's vassals
- and Senator McCain journeyed to Maidan to encourage
And, once the shooting began, the U.S.
and the E.U. failed to hold their Ukrainian allies to the April
Geneva power sharing agreement.
The truth is that both the Western political interventions and
Russia's annexation of Crimea violated the Budapest Memorandum of
1994, which committed the powers to,
"respect the independence,
sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine," 20
and to "refrain from the threat of use of force against the
territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine."
What was it that Hitler said
about treaties being just scraps of paper? What have the coup and
civil war brought us?
One set of corrupt oligarchs replacing
another. 21 Death and suffering. Fascist forces
once allied with Hitler now part of Ukraine's ruling elite, and
hardliners in Washington, Moscow, and across Europe reinforced.
From early on, the realistic alternative was creation of a neutral
Ukraine, tied economically to both the E.U. and Russia.
NATO - A Nuclear
In addition to the Ukraine crisis, we now have Washington's and
NATO's campaign to topple the Assad dictatorship and Russia's
military intervention in Syria to reinforce its Middle East military
and political toehold.
Russia won't abandon Assad, and enforcing the "no-fly"
Hillary Clinton advocates would
require destruction of Russian anti-aircraft missile, risking
Ukraine and Syria remind us that NATO is a nuclear alliance, and
that the dangers of a catastrophic nuclear exchange did not
disappear with the end of the Cold War.
Once again we hear the madness that,
"NATO will not be able to leave
things at conventional armament" and that a "Credible deterrent
will involve nuclear weapons…" 22
How serious is the nuclear danger?
Putin tells us that he considered the
possible use of nuclear weapons to reinforce Russian control of
Crimea. And, Daniel Ellsberg reported that U.S. and Russian
nuclear forces were on high alert in the early stages of the Ukraine
Friends, we are told that U.S. nuclear
weapons are deployed only to deter possible nuclear attacks. But, as
Bush the Lesser's
Pentagon informed the world, their primary purpose is to prevent
other nations from taking actions that are inimical to U.S.
Since they were first deployed, these
weapons have been used for more than classical deterrence. Former
Secretary of War Harold Brown testified that they serve
With nuclear weapons, he testified, U.S.
conventional forces became,
"meaningful instruments of military
and political power."
Noam Chomsky explains that this
"we have succeeded in sufficiently
intimidating anyone who might help protect people who we are
determined to attack." 25
Beginning with the Iran crisis of 1946 -
before the Soviet Union was a nuclear power - through the Bush-Obama
"all options are on the table"
threats against Iran, nuclear weapons in Europe have
served as the ultimate enforcers of US Middle East hegemony.
U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe were
placed on alert during Nixon's "madman" nuclear mobilization to
intimidate Vietnam, Russia and China, and they were likely placed on
alert during other Asian wars and crises. 26
NATO's nuclear weapons serve yet another purpose:
preventing the "decoupling" from the
During the 2010 Lisbon Summit, in order
to limit NATO member states' options,
"widely shared responsibility for
deployment and operational support" for nuclear war preparations
More, it was proclaimed that,
"Any change in this policy,
including the geographic distribution of NATO nuclear
deployments in Europe, should be made… by the Alliance as a
whole… Broad participation of the non-nuclear Allies is an
essential sign of transatlantic solidarity and risk sharing."
And now, on the eve of the NATO summit
and the deployment of new
B-61-12 nuclear warheads in Europe,
General Breedlove, until recently NATO's Supreme Commander,
has insisted that the U.S. must enhance its nuclear exercises with
its NATO allies to demonstrate their "resolve and capability."
Security Alternative to NATO
Friends, history is moved and governmental policies are changed by
popular force from below.
That's how we won greater civil rights
in the U.S., led Congress to cut off funding for the Vietnam war,
and together we forced Reagan to begin the disarmament
negotiations with Gorbachev. It's how the Berlin Wall was
breached and Soviet colonialism was relegated to history's dustbin.
The challenge we face is to respond to NATO's imperialism and to the
increasing dangers of great power war with the imagination and
urgency required by our times.
Neither Poland and Russia nor Washington
and Moscow will be living in harmony any time soon, but Common
Security provides a path to such a future.
Common Security embraces the ancient truth that a person or a nation
cannot be secure if their actions lead their neighbor or rival to be
more fearful and insecure. At the height of the Cold War, when the
30,000 nuclear weapons threatened apocalypse, Swedish Prime Minister
Palme brought together leading U.S., European and Soviet
figures to explore ways to step back from the brink. 29
Common Security was their answer. It led
to the negotiation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which
functionally ended the Cold War in 1987.
In essence, each side names what the other is doing that causes it
fear and insecurity. The second party does the same. Then, in
difficult negotiations diplomats discern actions each side can take
steps to reduce the other's fear without undermining their country's
As Reiner Braun explained, it
"the interests of others are seen as
legitimate and have to be taken into account in [one's] decision
making process…Common security means negotiation, dialogue and
cooperation; it implies peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Security can be achieved only by a joint effort or not at all."
What might a Common Security order look
Negotiations to create a neutral Ukraine
with regional autonomy for its provinces and economic ties to both
Russia and the West would end that war and create a more secure
foundation for improved relations between Europe and Russia and
between the great powers.
Deep Cuts Commission recommends
that enhancing the role of the OSCE is,
single multilateral platform on which dialogue on relevant
security concerns can and should be resumed without delay."
In time it should replace NATO.
Other Deep Cuts Commission
Giving priority to U.S.-Russian
negotiations to restrain and address the intense military
buildup and military tensions in the Baltic area.
military incidents by establishing specific rules of
conduct… and revive dialogue on nuclear risk reduction
U.S. and Russia committing to
resolve their differences of compliance with the INF Treaty
and eliminating the growing dangers of nuclear-armed cruise
missile development and deployments.
Addressing the growing danger of
hyper-sonic strategic weapons.
And, while the Commission calls for
restraint in nuclear weapons modernization, clearly our goal should
be an end to the development and deployment of these omnicidal
With reduced military spending, Common Security also means greater
economic security, with more money for essential social services, to
contain and reverse the devastations of climate change, and
investment in 21st century infrastructures.
Another world is, indeed possible. No to NATO. No to War!
Our thousand-mile journey begins with
our single steps.
2. Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Grand Chessboard, Basic Books, New
3. The Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security
Issues. Common Security: A Blueprint for Survival. New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1982. The Commission, initiated by Prime
Minister Palme of Sweden, brought together leading figures from
the Soviet Union, Europe and the United States at the height of
the Cold War. Their Common Security alternative provided the
paradigm which led to the negotiation of the Intermediate
Nuclear Forces Agreement which functionally ended the Cold War
in 1987, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and implosion of
the Soviet Union.
4. David Sanger. "As Russian Hackers Attack, NATO Lacks a Clear
Cyberwar Strategy", New York Times, June 17, 2016
6. William J. Perry. My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 2015.
7. Carl Connetta. Blog, "RAMPING IT
8. Alex Dubal Smith. "Nato countries
begin largest war game in eastern Europe since cold war." The
Guardian, June 7, 2016
9. "Back from the Brink: Toward
Restraint and Dialogue between Russia and the West", Brookings
Institution: Washington, D.C., June, 2016,
10. Michael J. Glennon. "The Search
for a Just International Law" Foreign Affairs, May/June, 1999,
11. Carter on NATO vs. Russia: 'You Try Anything, You're Going
to Be Sorry', PJ Media, June 1, 2016,
12. Zbigniew Brzezinski. Op Cit.
13. "Poland Deviates from Democracy" Lead editorial, New York
Times, January 13, 2016/
14. John Pilger. A World War is Beckoning", Counterpunch,
15. Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st
Century Defense, January, 2012.
16. John Kerry. "Remarks at the Atlantic council's ‘Toward a
Europe Whole and Free' Conference", April 29, 2014,
17. Nigel Chamberlain, "NATO Drones: the ‘game changers" NATO
Watch, Sept. 26, 2013.
Neil MacFarquhar. "Reviled, Revered, and Still Challenging
Russia to Evolve", International New York times, June 2. 18
19. John Kerry. Kerry on Russia: "You just don't" invade another
country "on a completely trumped up pretext", Salon.com,
20. Jeffrey. "Ukraine and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum",
29 April, 2014.
21. Andrew E. Karmer. "Elected as Reformists, Ukraine's Leaders
Struggle with Legacy of Corruption." New York Times, June 7,
22. Bern Riegert. Op Cit.
23. Daniel Ellsberg, talk in Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 13,
2014. Ellsberg was a senior U.S. nuclear war planner in the
Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations before making the
Pentagon's secret history of Vietnam War decision making public
24. Department of Defense. Doctrine for Joint Nuclear
operations, Joint Publication 3-12, 15 March, 2015
25. Joseph Gerson, Op Cit. p. 31
26. Ibid. pp. 37-38
27. "NATO 2020: assured security; dynamic engagement", May 17,
28. Philip M. Breedlove. "NATO's Next Act: how to Handle Russia
and Other Threats", Foreign Affairs, July/August, 2016
30. Reiner Braun. International Meeting, 2014 World Conference
against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs, Hiroshima, August 2, 2014.
31. "Back from the Brink" op. cit.