NATO: Should Britain leave? What is NATO for – Peace or War?

28 June 2023 , categories: Democracy, Free speech, Manchester, Meetings, NATO

NATO was formed in 1949 with Britain as a founding member but is it about time to reconsider our membership?

On Wednesday 28th June 2023, Politics in Pubs met at the Welcome Inn in Whitefield to discuss the following topic:  NATO: Should Britain leave? What is NATO for – Peace or War?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed in 1949 with Britain as a founding member.  NATO claims that its initial purpose was to secure peace in Europe, to promote cooperation among its members and to guard members’ freedom from the threat of the Soviet Union.  After NATO’s formation the Soviet Union first expanded and then collapsed in December 1991. Yet NATO continues to not only exist but take part in wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan … and hold military exercises near Ukraine, Russia, China and Korea.

Our guest speaker Jim Hughes firmly believes that NATO is for war rather than peace, and that Britain should leave the organisation.

Introduction – key points

NATO’s remit

There are two common perceptions of NATO.  Firstly that it exists to keep the peace, And secondly that it acts in the best interests of its members. But Jim believes these perceptions are misinformed.  NATO’s original remit has expanded considerably and, rather than keeping the peace, the organisation has been involved in a number of conflicts.  Jim believes it is time for Britain to withdraw its membership because it does not serve the best interests of Britons.  Jim also believes that a majority of his countrymen would agree with him. In 2016 – despite intense pressure from the establishment – the British electorate defiantly voted to leave another supra-national organisation – the EU – revealing the Brits’ true feelings about being told by an unelected body what is in their best interests.

A member state mentality

The outcome of the EU referendum created a majestic opportunity for Britain to become self-governing once more – able to turn its attention to matters which truly relate to its people’s best interests, such as correcting the decline in public services.

Unfortunately, British politicians have not capitalised upon that opportunity, seemingly unable or unwilling to shift away from their status as ‘dependents’.  They are therefore failing to take responsibility for leading the country as a sovereign independent nation serving its people.  Politicians retain their ‘member state’ mentality, reliant upon international ‘member clubs’ to tell Britain what to do.  Hence they are committing the UK to supra-national policies, narratives and diktats, like Net Zero, without any public discussion or influence.

Supra-national policy

Britain’s participation in the international race to Net Zero is a clear demonstration of a supra-national policy which is not in our country’s best interests.  We are required to turn away from fossil fuels before the infrastructure for ‘greener’ alternatives is ready.  Last month, on the hottest day in June, the National Grid had to fire up coal-powered stations in order to sustain the nation’s electricity supply: alarmingly, solar panel are not reliable in hot weather.  So what will happen when we are told by the supra-national captains of Net Zero that coal-powered energy is no longer permitted?

Supra-national policies are affecting many areas of British life:  our work, travel, food supply, leisure and peace.  Yet these policies have not been voted upon by the UK electorate.

Proxy war

The present conflict in Ukraine has been building up for decades, exacerbated by NATO’s expansion near the Russian border.  Jim describes Russia as being a shadow of its former self, but is still seen as a threat to Western thinking.  And capitalists want Russia’s resources.  Putin invaded Ukraine’s sovereign territory and the West saw it as a welcome opportunity to conduct a proxy war using the Ukrainian people.  Where are the efforts by diplomatic channels and ‘peacekeeper’ NATO to negotiate Russian withdrawal?

Both Russia and Ukraine are suffering.  But not only them:  the British government is sending taxpayers’ money, and tanks, planes and equipment paid for by taxpayers to Ukraine.  In the meantime, the quality of life for some Britons is deteriorating rapidly: patients are increasingly having to wait for NHS services, the housing shortage is becoming dire, energy bills have spiralled, people are resorting to food banks, and some of our most vulnerable people in the over-75s age group no longer qualify for their free TV licence.

Masked aggression

In 1949 eleven European countries banded up against Russia, and NATO began the process of weaponising Africa.  The Simonstown agreement focused upon the defence of Africa.  From what?  NATO said it was defence against Russia.  Jim sees it differently – that the old ‘colonisers’ including Belgium and the UK were colluding against Africa’s wishes and that NATO was using the former USSR to mask its own aggression, in violation of United Nations charters.

1991 saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and formation of the Warsaw Pact.  In Jim’s view, this was the perfect opportunity for NATO to de-escalate its operations but instead it expanded its membership from eleven countries to thirty-one.  NATO’s most recent documentation published in 2022 describes its strategic purpose as defending the rules-based international order.  It perceives threats as coming from Russia and China.  The UK has been participating frequently in NATO operations including British aircraft flying to Estonia and Romania.

Sovereignty, self-defence and democracy

Jim emphasised the importance of openly discussing the role of NATO and questioning Britain’s continued membership of it.  He firmly believes that it is in the best interests of our country to leave – not from a position of pacifism: aside from other military threats, leaving NATO could result in the UK becoming a pariah and it would need to be able to defend itself.  However, the deployment of Britain’s armed forces and weaponry, paid for by the British taxpayer, should be under the sovereign control of our democratically elected parliament.

Jim ended his introduction by explaining that the UK is currently a key player in NATO, acting as its brains (the US provides the brawn).  Our heads of service attend all the NATO meetings.  Leaving NATO would be a huge challenge – bigger even than leaving the EU.  But Jim firmly believes that in order to be democratically accountable to voters, to serve their best interests, and become less likely to engage with military aggression towards other nations (unless it is in our best interests), Britain must free itself of NATO membership.

Discussion – key points

  • NATO is a force for good and defended us against the USSR.
  • The expansion of NATO near the Russian border is equivalent to placement of Russian missiles in Cuba in the 1960s, when it is understood that we came within 8 hours of nuclear war.
  • The Monroe doctrine formulated in 1923 is still the prevalent geopolitical strategy with the US leading NATO to protect its own interests.
  • Russia sees NATO as a threat, not as a peacekeeper.
  • In 1990 US Secretary of State James Baker said NATO wouldn’t move an inch closer to the Russia border – but it did.
  • Crimea and Cuba are strategically similar in that they both control the southern area of Russia/America.
  • NATO is needed because since Nazi Germany, no countries have invaded Russia but Russia has invaded many.
  • Sweden wants to join NATO.  The Nordic countries were neutral until the invasion of Ukraine.  This illustrates the value of NATO.
  • If NATO is truly about keeping the peace, why has Sweden’s application to join NATO been vetoed by Turkey?
  • Eastern European countries joined NATO because of communism and to show disobedience to Russia.
  • We talk about British and American Imperialism but what about Russian Imperialism?  NATO is the Eastern European defence against that.
  • Putin is threatened by NATO’s opposition to Russia.
  • NATO was the West’s bulwark against the Soviet Union so why does it still exist?
  • Russia has shown itself to be militarily weak in Ukraine – it is no longer a powerful threat.  Putin is exposed as a vulnerable leader.
  • Why not ask the Ukrainian people if they wish to be Ukrainian or Russian?
  • The US Civil War revealed the desire of Americans to operate as independent states not a centralised power taking control of state assets and inflation.
  • Is NATO acting as America’s ‘henchmen’ to keep Western economies afloat?  Examples might include the invasion of Libya to overthrow Gadaafi’s plan to challenge the US petrodollar and efforts made to effect regime change in order to destabilise Afghanistan and Iraq.  If true, this illustrates NATOs nefarious purposes beyond its role as ‘war police’.
  • Will NATO’s role be expanded again to become the UN’s enforcer?
  • Would Russia have invaded Ukraine if Germany hadn’t made itself dependent upon Russian gas?
  • Does Putin see himself as Peter the Great and has he made a massive mistake by invading Ukraine, a sovereign nation?
  • In recent decades, the British army has required its soldiers to appreciate how frequently and relatively recently the region of Russia has been invaded and how that affects the Russian psyche – compared with our own reconciliation with the last invasion of Britain (the Normans in 1066).
  • We are experiencing a huge democratic deficit from the influence of unelected supra-national organisations like NATO – we have no say over its activities or how money is spent.  Unelected bodies like OFCOM are also undermining democracy and freedom of speech by acting to regulate UK media coverage into compliance with certain narratives and compelled speech eg the Ukraine war, climate change, Covid policies etc.
  • The British elite keeps us in such unelected bodies and this robs us of our democratic rights.  Decisions are being made behind closed doors without any democratic accountability.  Does the UK have any control over the nuclear weapons based on its soil?   Do populations need to find a way of taking back control of their own countries?
  • NATO and WHO are representative of the culture of elites, creating new agenda and empires which are fundamentally corrupt and exploitative.  NATO is using British forces but not in British interests or with the active consent of the UK Parliament.  City of London think-tanks support globalisation and support NATO against Russia and China.
  • NATO was struggling to be relevant prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Why is there money in war but not in peace?  Who benefits?  The banking industry benefits from financing war then lending money to re-building war zones afterwards.
  • In the 1930s, the retired US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler summarised conflict in the following way: “War is a racket.  It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

Tonight’s discussion was animated with many different points of view being expressed regarding NATO’s role as peacekeeper or aggressor.  Jim encouraged Politics in Pubs to continue the scrutiny and debate of NATO’s remit and consider whether membership of this organisation truly serves the interests of the British people.  Thank you, Jim for a thought-provoking introduction, to Politics in Pubs members for an informative debate, and to our hosts at the Welcome Inn for their wonderful hospitality.  Cheers all!

Footnote:  President Joe Biden is backing Ursula Von Der Leyen (President of the EU’s European Commission) to become the next NATO Secretary General.  From one unelected supra-national organisation to another.  Did you vote for her?

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FREE SPEECH: A Radical History (Manchester Thurs 20th July)

And finally, the Free Speech Union is holding a meeting and discussion on the history and importance of free speech. Tickets are free to members and £5 to non-members.  Book your place here

Historically, from communists to slavery abolitionists, suffragettes to religious minorities, freedom of speech was considered an indispensable value for radical movements, and indeed democracy more generally. Yet today, free speech is more likely to be considered a potential problem than a core value, and concerns about free speech are often dismissed as a right-wing talking point.

Freedom of speech is, and has been throughout history, used to challenge injustice, overturn tyrannical regimes, expose crimes and corruption, challenge orthodoxies, and drive scientific debate and progress. At its broadest, free speech implies the right to decide for yourself what is right and wrong, true or nonsense, beautiful or ugly, good or evil.

Manchester’s radical past provides plenty of examples of how the struggle for free speech is always at the heart of political struggles against injustice and oppression. An expert panel of three speakers will help attendees explore the lessons we can learn from the bravery of our forebears.