NATO & G8 Imperialism

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NATO & G8 Imperialism


NATO (or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is, according to its website, a political and military alliance founded in 1949 to protect its member states from attacks by non-member states.  It “promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defense and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.”  As the birds on the site twitter, one might conclude that NATO is, in fact, committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes.  Indeed, when NATO is in the news, it is invariably invoked as engaging in a “peace-keeping mission.”  However, lest a visitor to the interactive web page or a renegade nation think that NATO is only interested in diplomacy, we further read that NATO has sufficient military capacity to undertake crisis management operations.


That is putting it mildly. In order “to be sure that we can walk around freely in a safe and secure environment,” the countries that comprise NATO spend billions and billions.  The combined military spending of the 28 countries that make up NATO equals 70% of the world’s defense spending.  The United States alone spends 43% or the world total.


During the cold war, NATO maintained secret paramilitary armies throughout Europe. Intended to be activated in event of a Russian invasion, some cells engaged in terrorist attacks against leftists, staged military coups, and plotted political assassinations under the direction of NATO members’ intelligence agencies. The collapse of the Soviet Union left NATO without a purpose, but it lingered on, absorbing former Warsaw Pact countries to use as a buffer zone between Western European countries and Russia.


NATO has lately become more active in advancing the military and economic interests of its member states around the world. Following the American invasion of Afghanistan, NATO eventually took over the role of occupying the entire country. Since 2009, NATO has occupied the sea lanes near the Horn of Africa to protect its merchants and fishing vessels in Somali waters. During the 2011 Libyan civil war, NATO intervened in behalf of the rebels by  establishing a naval blockade and a no-fly zone, then conducting a bombing campaign that frequently failed to distinguish between civilian and military targets. None of these campaigns were intended to safeguard NATO countries from military threats, but were instead motivated by politics and business.


The G8 and NATO can be seen as related organizations.  Indeed, many view NATO as the military arm of the G8, a forum of eight of the world’s largest economies.  Founded in 1975 with 6 member states (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US), the group expanded the following year by inviting Canada and again in 1997 with the inclusion of Russia.  The term G8 can refer to both the member states, as well as the annual summit meeting of the G8 heads.


The president of the G8 (which rotates among the member states) hosts the meeting and sets the agenda.  When the G8 meets at its annual summit, the members may discuss issues of mutual or global concern, such as health, labor, economic and social development, energy, the environment, trade, terrorism, etc.  There is also discussions of how the G8 might use its military (NATO) or financial (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and/or the World Trade Organization) arms.  However, the decisions that are made by the G8 do not only affect the member states, the G8 affects the non-member states as well, the other 49/50ths of the globe.


Unlike NATO, the G8 does little to further the imperialist aims of its member states by itself, but helps countries coordinate imperialist economic policies. G8 countries dominate the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The World Bank and IMF ostensibly work to reduce poverty through development aid to poor nations; however, they do not provide grants, but rather loans that collect interest. Nations that receive development loans are often forced to institute austerity, slashing social services to ensure that they can afford to repay these loans.  These policies have the effect of immiserating the masses while enriching comprador elites as national industries are privatized.


Eight countries may not seem that intimidating.  After all, 8 would be approximately 1/50th of the total number of nation states on the globe.  However, these 8 states, while representing only 14% of the world’s population, produce 60% of the gross world product, 53% of the global nominal GDP, and 42.5% of the global GDP.  The nations of the G8 rank in the top 13 export nations and most are among the top 10 countries possessing the greatest gold reserves.


More chilling, perhaps, than the G8’s collective wealth is the fact that a large portion of their treasuries is funneled into war machines.  Indeed, the G8 has some of the largest, most technologically advanced militaries, accounting for 70% of the world’s military spending.  Four of the 8 nations have nuclear weapons, 3 others have the capability to produce nuclear weapons, and some have nuclear-weapon sharing programs.  Four of the 8 (UK, US, France, and Russia) account for 96 to 99% of the world’s nuclear weapons.


At yearly summits such as the upcoming NATO meeting in Chicago this May, member nations introduce new policy and initiatives (such as launching an international database on terrorism) and/or invite members into the alliance. For activists who stand up against institutions that perpetuate war and poverty, these summits are a prime opportunity to showcase NATO and G8 crimes and to decry our politicians who plan and sanction them.

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