On 26th June 2022 tens of thousands took to the streets of Madrid in a rejection of NATO and imperialism. In addition to the people mobilised by the organisations and groups of the anti-NATO movement in Madrid, numerous buses were chartered from all over the state. The NATO Summit that was about to be held in Madrid (28 and 30th) has made it possible, after an important effort, to begin to revitalise and rebuild a movement opposing the armed wing of imperialism.
The groups attending with their slogans were many, from the anti-imperialist movement to some pacifist groups, through numerous organisations of the labour and popular movement, such as combative trade unionism or pensioners’ groups. Also noteworthy were representatives from abroad, such as a group of South Koreans against NATO, people from other European countries or groups from the Arab world, highlighting those who defend occupied Palestine and Western Sahara.
The repression has intensified during the previous two weeks and days: the city of Madrid has been militarised, organisers have even been arrested, they have been detained and threatened in their homes or they have been singled out in the press. Another demonstration called for the day of the summit, Wednesday the 29th, has been banned by the Government.
In addition to slogans against NATO (OTAN in Spanish), imperialism and war, one can also hear slogans specifically calling for the dismantling of NATO bases.
Not only will this huge demonstration and other acts in opposition to the summit lead to an intensification of general anti-imperialist struggle and against Spanish state repression but it will also likely encourage the forces for independence among the nations within the Spanish state, the Basque and Catalan nations and the Celtic nations of Galiza and Asturies.
On 2nd June a number of Left anti-imperialist organisations and individuals held a public rally in Bilbo/ Bilbao. The municipal authority refused them use of a building and they held it in the open air in the Etxebarrieta Square. The organisers issued a statement in Euskera (Basque language) and Castillian (Spanish) calling for unity against the war plans of NATO and the EU and denounced the equivocating posture of the ‘official’ left Basque movement, denounced also the militarism of the Spanish coalition Government and advertised a joint demonstration for 18th June in Moyua, on the south side of the river in Bilbao1.
STATEMENT ISSUED BY COORDINATING GROUP (translated by D.Breatnach from Castilian Spanish version published in Ecuador Etxea)
For several weeks, various people and groups from Bilbao, Meatzaldea, Uribe-Kosta, Ezkerraldea and Busturialdea2 have been coming together in this broad initiative to respond to the escalation of war that we are seeing around us. An escalation of war promoted by NATO, with the aim of shielding the world hegemony of the United States against the rise of emerging powers such as China, India, Iran or Russia. A strategy that is doomed to failure, but that will cause, if we do not prevent it first, destruction, misery and death throughout the planet.
In relation to the conflict in Ukraine, we believe that in no case can one speak of an inter-imperialist struggle between the NATO countries and Russia. Rather, it is an offensive planned for years to overthrow the legitimate government led by Vladimir Putin and gain control of Russian energy resources and markets. A policy of looting and plundering that the current Russian President put a stop to, no matter how hard it is for some to admit it. Ukraine is nothing more than the operations base and the cannon fodder of Atlanticist imperialism against its historical enemy, Russia.
Many on the Left say that the Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. And they are completely correct. The problem is that even the slightest economic planning for social purposes by any State has become an obstacle to the viability of the parasitic capitalism that we live under. There we have the cases of Slovdan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, sadly imprisoned and/or executed in the face of complicit silence or the enthusiastic support of what they call the “international community.”
Those of us who are here today have already learned our lesson: first they demonize the currently out of favour ruler through the media, and then they justify military offensives and imperialist massacres. That is why at this time we cannot make the mistake of placing ourselves at equidistance. Both Russia and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have every right in the world to defend themselves against the aggressions of NATO and the EU, which conspire and supply weapons to fascist governments like Zelensky’s to harass Russia and destabilize the region. Not to mention the openly Nazi battalions captured in Azovstal, whose release France and Germany now demand in order to advance in the negotiations. What do European governments owe the Nazis in Azov? What do they have to hide and why do they intend to buy their silence?
The truth is that we still do not know the exact reason why the States of the European Union have completely bowed to the interests of the United States. It is evident that the sanctions against Russia and the new oil and gas supply routes imposed by the US only benefit the Yankee tycoons, the Arab sheikhs and the absolutist monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. NATO vassals like Borrell have definitively cast the old European project into History’s dump. They prioritize profit and military spending to the detriment of the health and living conditions of the broad masses and announce a future of misery and sacrifice for a war in favor of a capitalism that is against us. The European Union is definitely a rotting political corpse, in case anyone ever thought that it could have been a progressive alternative or for oppressed nations like ours.
Precisely here in the Basque Country, the official position of the institutional Abertzale Left3 regarding what is happening in the Ukraine is especially embarrassing. It seems unbelievable that those who proclaim themselves heirs to the historic struggles of the Basque Working People, a people of which the majority in 1986 opposed remaining in this criminal organization4, now wave the flag of “no to war” and of ambiguity. It seems immoral to us, both the pacifism that denies the just right to defense of those who are attacked by imperialism, as well as the lukewarm posture of those who do not take a stand, thus facilitating the advance of imperialism. Anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism must be cultivated day by day, if we do not want the ideological and cultural offensive of NATO and the EU to continue having effect, in particular among the sons and daughters of the working class. Thirty-six years later we unambiguously reaffirm ourselves in NO to NATO, no to FASCISM, no to GENOCIDAL IMPERIALISM.
As we said, we are witnessing an implacable propaganda to make us part of this imperialist strategy, so that we do not rebel against what is happening. While they continue to spread one-sided thinking through the big media, television channels that question the official story — such as Russia Today — are closed without the slightest shame, content on the Internet is censored by appealing to supposed “verified information”, journalists like Pablo González5 are imprisonedor political information is systematically eliminated from our streets. They not only want to indoctrinate us, they directly deny us the right to be informed. Where are the defenders of freedom of expression? Are we already living in a hidden state of emergency?
It is our obligation, therefore, to denounce, not only the rise of international fascism, but also the fertile ground that the fascists have in the Spanish State of the bannings, the GAL6, the closure of newspapers and the systematic torture of political dissidents7. Atlantic capitalism will never be able to find a better ally than the PSOE8, veritable experts in the art of manipulating and deceiving the working and broad masses. Sadly, there are times when collective memory seems too fragile. Of course, for this new phase they have found a faithful shield-bearer, the party of Yolanda Díaz9. Seconds were never good, we are already seeing where these wolves in sheep’s clothing are leading us…
We said at the beginning that different people have come together to counteract this hegemonic discourse that manipulates consciences and protects the sequestration of rights and freedoms. From Muskiz to Gernika we rebel today here against this ominous imperialist offensive. All this suffering is not necessary, there is no reason to accept the misery and the war to which NATO and the EU want to condemn us. It is also not the time to stay at home watching, or to follow the war as if it were a video game.
We therefore issue a call to all the towns and neighborhoods of Euskal Herria and other nations to continue organizing the fight against imperialism, capitalism and fascism. And we also invite all the people who are against the imperialist offensive of NATO and the EU to participate in the demonstration that we will carry out in Bilbao, on June 18 at 6:30 p.m. from the Plaza Elíptica.
NO TO NATO! NO TO THE EUROPEAN UNION! NO TO IMPERIALISM!
1Which is also the location of the representation of the Spanish State in Bizkaia and guarded by armed police.
2A number of towns and districts across the SW Basque province of Bizkaia.
3The ‘official’ leadership of the left-Basque independence movement, e.g the EH Bildu party under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi and others.
4In the 1986 referendum on whether to remain in NATO, the Basque Country gave the highest majority for No, with the Canaries and Catalonia coming behind. For the whole Spanish state, nearly 57% voted Yes against 43.15%.
5Basque freelance journalist reporting for Publico (Spanish left online media) and La Sexta, threatened and advised to leave Ukraine by state intelligence services, which he did but arrested by Polish intelligence on 28 February as he was about to re-enter Ukraine with a group of journalists. Poland has charged him with spying for Russia but to date produced no evidence and even denied him access to his lawyer. The Spanish State sent intelligence service agents to question his wife, mother and friends.
6GAL: A Spanish state terror and assassination organisation of the 1980s operating against the Basque resistance which was exposed as led by the Prime Minister (though never even questioned) Felipe Gonzales and directed operationally by the Minister of the Interior and senior Army and Police officers, a number of which received prison sentences.
7The Spanish state has long been accused by human rights organisations of torturing political dissidents and convicted in the European Court of Human Rights a number of times of failure to investigate complaints of torture. The State has closed newspaper and social media sites, jailed rappers, banned political parties, banned demonstrations, closed political cultural centres, disqualified political activists from representation in elections and jailed political activists.
8The main Spanish social-democratic party, currently in coalition government with Podemos.
9Yolanda Díaz resigned from Izquierda Unida (United Left – a broad coalition) but remained a member of the Communist Party of Spain; she is currently Deputy Prime Minister in the Spanish coalition government.
FromLa Izquierda Diario (the Daily Left) by Carlos Rubio (Translated by D.Breatnach)
Foreign Affairs and Interior Departments spare no expense when it comes to strengthening the Atlantic Alliance summit, scheduled for June 29 and 30th. The budget increase of 1.95 million euros for the State Security Forces includes the purchase of 6,000 Taser chargers for the convened protests.
On October 8, 2021, the next NATO summit meeting in Madrid was officially announced, where Prime Minister Sánchez announced that “they would have all the capabilities” to “guarantee security”, at a key “historic moment” for the organisation.
Two months before the official date, Ministers of the Interior Marlaska and Exterior Albares are already anticipating some of the measures to be taken to prepare for the Summit. €37 million will be the budget limit, which will include the cost of assembly and adaptation of Ifema (Madrid festival organising consortium — DB), the catering and the security of the meeting.
More specifically, the State Security Forces will have almost 2 million euros to reinforce their equipment, which includes the purchase of 6,000 chargers for Taser pistols, to guarantee “a safe environment in the face of a possible threat”, according to the Marlaska himself.
Together with this acquisition, the purchase of metal detector arches, parcel inspection scanners, digital personal video cameras and computer graphics equipment for the preparation of three-dimensional plans of complete buildings is expected.
The National Police will be the body deployed for this summit, which will be involved in “establishing a comprehensive security arrangement for it that will cover, in addition to the place where the meetings are held, travel and all those places of accommodation where the delegations of different countries that are planning their assistance will be staying”.
According to the Government, all these measures are a priority since “several organisations and social groups are already announcing protests.”
The leading issue at this summit, given the context, is the war in Ukraine and the position that NATO is to take against Putin’s reactionary invasion. This time, there will be 50 delegations, some of them invited from outside NATO but close to it, as in the cases of Ukraine, Sweden or Finland.
At this summit, it is foreseeable that the main trend that has already been taking place in recent months and has been justified by the war between Kyiv and Moscow will be strengthened: imperialist rearmament.
In recent months, from the various partners of the alliance and from the EU, weapons have been sent successively to Ukraine, defending the interests of the alliance, arming the Ukrainian Security Forces and militias, among which are groups such as the well-known Azov Battalion and the Pravy Sektor, to name a few examples. While Russian troops remain… on their battlefronts, these armed far-right groups are strengthening their hegemony and repression in the parts of the country they control.
In this regard, as Sánchez stated: “Madrid and Spain are going to play a determining role”. Last Thursday, the President of the Government announced that Spain was going to double military aid to Ukraine, at the same time that the Army ship “Ysabel” is sailing to Poland with 200 tons of ammunition and war material of various kinds.
Since March 2nd, when the first shipment of weapons by the Spanish State was approved in Congress, the efforts of the “progressive government” (i.e social-democrat and Podemos coalition – DB) to actively participate in the escalation of war have continued uninterruptedly.
Sánchez seems to reinforce his intention to turn the Spanish state into one of the main partners of NATO and the US in Europe. In accordance with the positive historical diplomatic relations between the US and Morocco, Spain legitimised less than a month ago the illegitimate occupation of Western Sahara by the Alaouite monarchy, selling the Saharawi people in exchange for a diplomatic relationship that maintains a strong border policy between Africa and the EU; and to ensure the economic interests of Spain over her former colony.
Spain is the seventh ranking country in contribution of money to the organisation and which, in line with the other members of the Treaty Organisation, raised its defence budget by 1.5 billion euros between 2020 and 2021, which is still far from the 2% requested by “the White House” from its partners.
With the 2018 budgets the “progressive government” approved from the beginning an increase of almost 11% in defence and 6.5% in the National Police and Civil Guard, so it is expected that this trend will continue to rise.
The United States could immediately take direct actions that would de-escalate the over-arching nuclear threat that haunts Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. A few such actions would demonstrate good will and indicate a real intention to reduce tensions in the crisis which seems every day to grow more dangerous.
1. U.S. hydrogen bombs stationed in Europe could be withdrawn and their planned replacement cancelled.
The United States and Germany are formal states parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Articles I and II of the NPT flatly prohibit the transfer of nuclear weapons from one states party to another. Any fourth grader can understand that the NATO practice of “nuclear sharing” with Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Turkey — which together have over 100 U.S. nuclear weapons — is an open violation of the clear, unambiguous, unequivocal and binding prohibitions of the NPT.
The United States stations an estimated 20 of its B61-3 and B61-4 thermonuclear gravity bombs at the German Air Force Base Büchel, 80 miles southeast of Cologne. These B61 H-bombs at Büchel are identified as “intermediate-yield strategic and tactical thermonuclear” bombs, and “the primary thermonuclear gravity bomb in the U.S.” according to the NuclearWeaponArchive.org.
Calling these weapons “intermediate” or “tactical” is shocking disinformation. The maximum yield of the B61-3 is 170 kilotons, and the maximum B61-4 yield is 50 kilotons, as reported by the Bulletin of the atomic Scientists. These H-bombs respectively produce over 11 times and 3 times the explosive blast, mass fire, and radiation of the 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb that killed 140,000 people. (For background, see Lynn Eden’s “Whole World on Fire,” or Howard Zinn’s “The Bomb.”
The effects of detonating B61-3 or B61-4 bombs would inevitably be catastrophic mass destruction involving disproportionate, indiscriminate and long-lasting devastation. Plans to replace the current B61 with a new “model 12” could be cancelled now, and constitute a real ratcheting down of tensions in Europe.
2. The U.S. can discontinue its nuclear attack courses underway at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The U.S. studies and plans nuclear weapon attacks at classrooms of its Defense Nuclear Weapons School (DNWS), and the one branch school outside the U.S. is at Ramstein in Germany, the largest U.S. military base outside the country, headquarters of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and NATO Allied Air Command. Outlines of nuclear attack coursework can be read on the DNWS website, which boldly declares the school: “is responsible for delivering, sustaining and supporting air-delivered nuclear weapon systems for our warfighters …every day.”
One class outlined on the DNWS website is for “Theater Nuclear Operations,” described as “a 4.5-day course that provides training for planners, support staff, targeteers, and staff nuclear planners for joint operations and targeting. The course provides an overview of nuclear weapon design, capabilities, and effects as well as U.S. nuclear policy, and joint nuclear doctrine…. Objectives: … Understand the U.S. nuclear planning and execution process…; Understand the targeting effects of nuclear weapon employment….”
Dispensing with this nuclear attack planning school would reduce tensions and help eliminate Russia’s dread of the U.S./NATO nuclear posture.
3. NATO can suspend its provocative military exercises.
Attacks with U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe are regularly simulated or “rehearsed,” as is often reported. Recent headlines noted: “German Air Force training for nuclear war as part of NATO” (Kazakh Telegraph Agency 2020), “Secret nuclear weapons exercise ‘Steadfast Noon” (German Armed Forces Journal 2019), “NATO nuclear weapons exercise unusually open” (2017), and “NATO nuclear weapons exercise Steadfast Noon in Büchel” (2015).
Giant NATO war games routinely zero in on Russia. In 2018, there was “Trident Juncture” with 50,000 troops in Norway, and “Atlantic Resolve” was conducted in Eastern Europe. In 2016, some 16,000 troops gathered in Norway for “Cold Response,” and in “Anaconda 2016” another 31,000 troops from 24 countries were again in motion across Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In 2015, there was “Atlantic Resolve,” “Dragoon Ride,” and “Spring Storm,” all conducted across Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In 2014, the routine “Cold Response” game in Norway involved 16,000 troops, and “Atlantic Resolve” took place in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Beyond the annual “Steadfast Noon” simulations, complex, multinational NATO exercises in Eastern European countries just recently ballooned in number. In 2019, there was a single big exercise called “Atlantic Resolve.” In 2020 there were five. In 2021 the number leaped to eleven, and NATO that year made plans for a total of 95 exercises. Individual NATO states had plans for another 220 of their own war games. Nothing justifies Putin’s naked aggression, but the marked increase in NATO war practices would even make the Dali Lama defensive.
4. The U.S. and NATO could end their nuclear weapon “first-use” policy.
The public policy of readiness to initiate attack with nuclear weapons — not as a deterrent against being attacked with nuclear weapons, but its exact opposite — is at the heart of both U.S. and NATO “nuclear posture.” This perpetual threat to start nuclear attacks during a conventional conflict, especially in the context of routine NATO nuclear war exercises, is unnecessarily destabilizing and reckless. In view of the enormously overwhelming power of U.S. and NATO conventional military forces, the nuclear option is grossly redundant and militarily useless.
After he retired, Paul Nitze, a former Navy Secretary and personal advisor to President Ron Reagan, wrote “A Threat Mostly to Ourselves” where he observed: “In view of the fact that we can achieve our objectives with conventional weapons, there is no purpose to be gained through the use of our nuclear arsenal.”
Now that the U.S. public as a whole has been transformed into one big anti-war group, it should recognize that it can influence our own government but not Russia’s. Our demands for negotiation, cease-fire, de-escalation and a peace agreement need to be directed in a way that has some chance of success. ###
John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.
We are taking the Ukrainian side, naturally. No, I don’t pay any attention to what Putin has to say.
Yes, I do look at the whole situation before I decide what’s right.
Well, of course I’m on Ukraine’s side, they got fucking invaded, right? By that fucking bastard Putin.
Yeah, I know his excuse about NATO squeezing him. Yes, I am saying it is just an excuse. He’s out to build an empire — doing what his corrupt oligarchs want.
Yes, of course Ukraine has businessmen too. And probably corrupt. And yes, I did know that they are called “oligarchs” as well.
Well, yeah, they are mostly NATO countries in Eastern Europe. But that’s those countries’ choice, right? And if Ukraine decided to join NATO, that would be their democratic choice too.
Yes, I have heard about the fighting in Donbas and other areas since 2014. Russian separatists against Ukrainian military.
Really? Up to 14,000 killed there? Around 30% of them civilians? Yes, it is a lot. Well the Ukrainians don’t want Russians taking over a part of their country and before you say anything, we do know that they are mostly Russian-speaking people in that region and that the fighting started after the change in government in 2014.
Well, yes, the Azov Battalion were fighting the Russians there and yes, they are quite right-wing …
ok, some are outright nazis …. But they are helping the Ukrainian government hold their country together. And yes we do know that the Azov are now integrated into the Ukrainian military.
It is true that the elected Ukrainian Government was overthrown in 2014. No, I don’t believe fascists managed that. NATO may have favoured the next government, ok but so what?
Yes, I did hear about some fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian separatists in Kyiv and other places during the coup.
And yes, I did read about the 40 or so Russian supporters burned to death in the trade union building. Terrible! But that doesn’t make the Ukranians as a whole fascist.
No, not their government either. Their President and Prime Minister are both Jewish, for God’s sake!
Yes, I know the Ukrainians are naming streets after national heroes, that’s pretty usual. Some from WWII.
It’s true that some of those were Nazis and Nazi collaborators. But it’s just the past, national heroes …. No, of course we don’t like it. But it doesn’t make the State fascist.
Yes, you’re right, Stephen Banderas was an outright Nazi, anti-semite, war criminal. Of course he shouldn’t be commemorated.
I wouldn’t support torchlight processions in his honour through Kyiv. But that’s not the Government.
Yes, we do know that some Ukrainian Left organisations have been banned. Some of them are Russian supporters …. No, of course, they shouldn’t be banned. But there IS a war on ….
No, I’m not worried about Russia being censored – they are in the wrong.
What two sides? There’s a right side, Ukraine and a wrong side, Russia.
Yes, well, people like Hedges and Oliver Stone are being blocked on social media. And we don’t feature Chomsky any more – they’re just wrong, that’s all.
You can call it censorship or just us not publicising irrelevancy.
No, we are not making the decision to take them off social media – that’s the social media companies.
Naturally they are Western capitalist companies – what else would they be?
Of course we understand that NATO is a western imperialist military bloc. That is not the point.
Yes, the biggest imperialist military bloc in the world. But the point is that Russia is in the wrong – it’s not our fault that NATO is backing Ukraine for their own reasons.
I already said it doesn’t worry us that Russia or some NATO critics on the Left are being blocked or sidelined. Look, whose side are YOU on? You’re beginning to sound like a Putinista!
“Wars and rumours of wars …”1 The sabres are rattling around Eastern Europe. The mass media in our latitudes largely takes the position of the USA under the guise of democracy; however with some text and the use of a few maps I hope to show that Russia’s position is essentially defensive in this regard and that the USA is the main aggressor. I hope to do that without expressing any support for the Russian regime.
WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?
The USA sees Russia as its main opponent or competitor in Europe and has been working since the post-WWII decades to neutralise it, earlier under the guise of stopping the spread of “communism” and defending “democracy”. Since the fall of the USSR system the talk is no longer about defeating “communism” but “defending democracy” continues to used in anti-Russian rhetoric. Russia is no democracy but the notion that the US, the world superpower, the biggest imperialist power on the planet since WWII, cares about democracy should make us laugh. It would perhaps, except that the mass media keeps feeding us the USA’s rhetoric and shaping us to support it in war.
The USA is actually squeezing Russia from two directions — from Europe and from the Middle East. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a US-led military alliance which now has the membership of most states in the EU, along with the UK and nearly every state of the former USSR to the west of Russia. A look at the map of NATO states will demonstrate that2. Nearly every state in the Middle East is also formally or informally in the sphere of influence of US imperialism3.
“Russia says it wants Western guarantees that Nato will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. Moscow has also demanded the alliance halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from eastern Europe – demands flatly rejected by the West.4”
So the Russian ruling class is naturally worried and feeling besieged. On or near their European borders they only have Sweden, Finland, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine which are not formally part of NATO and Ukraine has clearly indicated an interest in that direction. Beyond those last three aforementioned, all the states through central Europe are NATO members right through to the UK: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania actually bordering on Russia, with – heading generally westward and south-westward– Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and UK. In addition, some of those states have highly-developed military power such as Germany and two of them have nuclear armament of their own — UK and France – while the US has ready-to-launch nuclear missiles on the lands of many of the NATO states — Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey5.
Sweden, Austria and Switzerland may remain nominally neutral but are in general politically aligned with the EU and the USA rather than with Russia, while non-NATO Finland is definitely, for historical and geographical reasons, extremely wary of its Russian neighbour.
The smaller non-NATO states of the former Yugoslavia – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Montenegro and Kosovo are in some cases friendly towards Russia (or not overly-friendly towards NATO) but they are completely surrounded by NATO states.
On its borders with the Middle East, Russia is also being squeezed. Turkey has long been a major NATO state in the region and only Georgia is located between it an Russia to the latter’s south-west, with Armenia and Azerbaijan to its south-east. Nearly all of the states in the Middle East are in formal or informal alliance with the West and therefore with the US: Cyprus, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Yemen is embroiled in its own Saudi and West-proxy war, while Syria is threatened by Israel, Turkey and NATO. Only Iran is fairly safe for the moment on that part of Russia’s border, which is why Russia will take its side in any conflict with the West, despite the Russian ruling class’ dislike of and vulnerability in some regions, as in Chechnya, to militant fundamentalist Islam.
Syria is next to Iran which is also why Russia has been supporting the Assad regime and why, during the past week, it has warned Israel about its bombing raids into Syria as the latter attacks Hizbollah bases there. In fact we may see the invasions by western alliances of Iraq and Libya as part of huge US/NATO ‘domino’ plan to attack Syria with Iran next; then the pressure on Azerbaijan and Georgia on Russia’s doorstep. While on the eastern side of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are also allies of the West ….
Further east, there is India which has long been friendly to Russia and in tussles with Pakistan — and China, which is not openly hostile to Russia as a rule but which is not a real friend either, though its competition and contention with the US keeps it friendly enough towards Russia for the moment.
What the Russian ruling class is doing is attempting to bring a halt to its encirclement by NATO at the point of Ukraine. And the US-NATO and EU are issuing a counter-threat – an open one of sanctions and a more veiled one, in the case of US-NATO, of armed action.
This week it appears that some parts of Ukraine have sought to break away from the main part, probably instigated by Russia or at least promised support if they did – which has materialised in Russian diplomatic recognition and in troop movements. This may amount to an annexation or may not but what is clear is that Russia, in the face of what it considers a threat to its existence and NATO intransigence, has decided to take some decisive action.
WHAT IS REPORTED
The western mass media reports the situation painting a picture of big powerful Russia threatening its much smaller neighbour, by threat of invasion seeking to force it into submission to Russia’s regime, in denial of the small nation’s democratic rights. And the democratic West, through NATO, is moving troops to support the Ukraine, warning Russia of consequences.
The picture contains much truth but overall it is a lie. Russia is much bigger than the Ukraine and it is threatening it with troop movements. And NATO is moving troops up to counter-threaten. But to evaluate a situation properly, we need to know its antecedents, what led up to it. We also need to see the situation through the eyes of the participants, whether we agree with them or not. The mass media, apart from a couple of honest analysts tucked away inside a newspaper, far from the headlines, does not supply us with that information.
The Irish Times, one of Ireland’s main daily newspapers, on 12 February reported that “Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine and a surge of Russia’s military activity has fueled fears that Russia could invade the country. Russia denies having any such plans. However a US official has said that the US had picked up intelligence that Russia is looking at Wednesday as a target date for an incursion.”
So on the basis of the quoted paragraph, we were to draw the conclusion that Russia was threatening to invade Ukraine. OK, Russia denied it but then why the military buildup near Ukraine? Finally, the authority voice of the USA, quoting what we are supposed to see as excellent intelligence sources (which we cannot of course question), predicting a probable Russian invasion four days away. So which state are most people in this part of the world likely to believe, the Russians or the US?
Some weeks earlier, on 25th January, another Irish daily newspaper, the Examiner, reported on reactions to a Russian naval fleet exercise in the Atlantic. The Irish Government told the Russians the exercise was not welcome although not illegal6, because the area of the exercise is regarded as international waters. This from the same government that facilitates US military flights via Shannon airport, i.e on its own national territory. And NATO carries out at least one major exercise in European waters annualy, with the UK doing so twice yearly without complaint from the Irish Government.7
The Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Gerasko moved to take advantage of the situation “A plan to hold a major exercise by the Russian navy and air force in the Atlantic off the southwest coast of Ireland is yet another demonstration of the threat that Russia poses for the world,” she said, in a statement to the Irish Examiner.” 8
Attempts were made at the same time to whip up Irish offshore fishermen against the Russians and to whip up the Irish public in defence of “our fishermen”. The latter project failed miserably since the Russian Ambassador to Ireland met and negotiated with the fishermen, leading one of their leaders to comment that the Russians had treated his members better than their own (Irish) government.
We might expect an alternative discourse about the Ukraine crisis from Al Jazeera but its report on the 24th of January, although emphasising US military movements in the area, attached a number of articles which were generally relaying the western line. The Irish Independent carried a much more in-depth explanation, though based on the position of the UK through its premier, Boris Johnson; however it did list the Russian demand that NATO cease pushing towards them and that Russia considered Ukraine joining NATO “an existential threat” while in general still following the general anti-Russian pattern9.
POSITION OF THE IRISH STATE
An analysis piece in its business section by the Irish State’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, concentrated on the possible economic impact of loss or drastic reduction in gas and oil exports from Russia, either as a direct consequence of conflict or through imposition of sanctions by the West. “Russia produces 11% of global oil supplies and according to David Horgan, managing director of Petrel Resources, any significant loss of Russian energy exports would result in a further spike in prices.”10
Russia is the biggest supplier of gas in the world and the largest to Europe with a third of of its gas pipeline supply to Europe crossing Ukraine. Ireland’s electricity supply is highly dependent on gas for its generating stations so any disruption will impact heavily of prices which “have already gone from $2 to about $30 per million BTU”, according to the Petrel managing director.11
It is clear that while the USA is driving the agenda through its dominance of NATO and the the threat of sanctions on Russia, which the USA regularly insists upon when teaching other countries a lesson, its own economy would suffer little as a result. However, it is a different question for the European states, which would be obliged to bear the weight of economic impact. Mícheál Martin, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish State felt obliged to comment on this possibility but, rather than criticise the USA and NATO’s expansionism, spoke about the need to break from their dependence on Russian energy supplies.
Micheál Martin said the EU is unified in responding “very strongly” to any Russian invasion of Ukraine and stated that in Europe’s view the huge build-up of troops by Russia on the Ukraine border is “not justifiable” in any circumstances. While calling for “diplomacy and de-escalation” he clearly sided with the USA in the conflict as both the Irish ruling class and the EU’s would expect of him.12
Despite many criticisms to the contrary, the policy of the Irish state during WWII was essentially one of neutrality in favour of the Allied forces while the government of the Six Counties was of course wholly aligned with the UK. Nevertheless Irish commercial shipping was sunk by Nazi German action and cost many Irish seamen their lives.
So far the Irish state has remained outside NATO but over the past decade there has been discussion envisaging the creation of an EU rapid deployment force made up of personnel contributed from all member states. It would hardly be surprising if such a move appealed to some within the career personnel in the Irish armed forces, envisaging taking part in wider military action, alongside varied forces, employing advanced weapons and systems and with possibly better promotion prospects. Additionally in recent weeks there has been media discussion of greater funding for those forces.
Ireland – and not only the UK’s colony here – can be dragged into war more easily than we perhaps imagine and also into being targeted for retaliatory action. Indeed, the facilitation of US military personnel and materiel through Ireland’s airport at Shannon, along with CIA transport of secret prisoners (“rendition”) has already exposed the State (and succeeding governments) to accusations of military partisanship.
Contrary to popular belief, the Irish State’s ‘neutrality’ is in general a matter of government policy rather than a requirement of the Constitution or Statute law.13
The principal statute governing the Irish Defence Forces is the Defence Act 1954, which did not oblige members of the Irish Army to serve outside the state (members of the Air Corps and Naval Service are not so excused). A 1960 amendment intended to allow deployment in United Nations Peacekeeping missions requires three forms of authorisation, since the 1990s often described as the “triple lock”:
A UN Security Council Resolution or UN General Assembly Resolution;
A formal decision by the Irish government;
Approval by a resolution of Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas, to which the government is responsible).
From those last two it is clear that the 26 Counties can be put on a war footing by a decision of the Irish Government or even a majority vote in favour in the Dáil. Anyone who believes that the party with most TDs would necessarily vote against such a motion is fooling themselves since the SF party has been at pains to portray itself as a safe pair of hands for Irish capitalism and recently called for greater funding for the armed forces of the Irish state; in addition it has long had an uncritically friendly relationship with the USA, in particular – though not only – with its Democratic Party.
A resolution from the UN Security Council obliging the Irish state to go to war against Russia is impossible and though such from the General Council might be possible, albeit unlikely.14
These provisions were modified in 1993 to allow for UN Chapter VII missions and again in 2006 to allow for regionally organised UN missions.
WHAT WE CAN DO
There seems no middle way — either NATO will back down or Russia will. No doubt the Western powers think it reasonable that Russia be the one to blink but as commented earlier, for the latter NATO creep to their borders is seen as a threat to their very existence. The same people who thought it reasonable for John Kennedy as President of the US to threaten war on the Soviet Union for the location of some missiles on the Caribbean island of Cuba think Russia should accept the advance of NATO to its borders.
In practical terms there seems little we can do in Ireland except struggle to resist the state and colony in which we live being dragged into war – for which we need to mobilise the opposition we can on the street. Sadly the anti-imperialist war movement in Ireland of years ago was allowed to deteriorate — but we should work to rebuild it.
In order to assist in this it is essential that we expose the reality of what is going on in the world. Some will say that because the USA is the main aggressor in this case and the biggest bully, we should support Russia but to do so would be a big mistake. Not long ago, while joining others in anti-fascist solidarity with people in the Donbas region in SE Ukraine, I found us being increasingly nudged towards support for Russia which I did not view as being the same thing at all.
Russia has its own crimes against people and workers and calling for support for it now will cause confusion when in future we will need to condemn it. Our position should be that while neither the USA’s regime or Russia’s is to be supported, the biggest danger of war comes from the USA and therefore it will be the main target of our hostility – besides which it is the power with which the ruling classes of Ireland and the UK are aligned. It is the biggest imperialist power in the world by far along with being the biggest military power in most of the world.
Most Irish people have no wish to be dragged into an armed conflict anywhere where they do not feel threatened. On the other hand our society is conditioned not only by decades of strong cultural influences from the USA, in particular through film but also by media reporting that is biased towards the dominant western European view and that of the USA. In that paradigm, the Russians are the bad guys, the gunfighters in the black hats, while the US and the West in general are on the side of the angels.
With the 1916 Rising in the middle of WWI, Ireland became the first country to carry out an uprising against world war15, against the dominant trend throughout Europe at the time — a tradition worth upholding. As long as imperialism exists, the world will continue to suffer smaller wars and the danger of another major war. It is necessary to overthrow imperialism and we can best contribute towards that aim by coordinating our struggles with the aim of carrying out a revolution in Ireland, thereby depriving imperialism of one of its supporters in Europe.
FOOTNOTES 1“And you will begin to hear of wars and rumors of wars. Behold, do not be alarmed; for it is necessary to take place, but the end is not yet” — Christian New Testament Bible, Matthew, Chapter 24:6.
14Resolutions of the UN Security Council, the only ones binding on all member states, require unanimous agreement by all five Permanent Members: UK, France, USA, Russia and China. Forcing a vote such as this in the UN General Assembly would likely lead to the fracture of the organisation.
15The following year there were two in Russia and in 1918 another in Germany.
Foster Islamic fundamentalist groups and arm them to overthrow a competitor’s puppet government. Use a nearby ally as a conduit.
Portray the fundamentalist insurgency as a liberation war and keep supplying them with weapons, training, through your nearby ally. This might cost as much as US$20 billion. Have a film made about it in which a former male porn film star is the USA hero with the local fundamentalist Islamic militias (underplay the Islamic part).
When they’ve overthrown the competitor’s puppet, attempt to instal your own puppet instead.
When your Islamic fundamentalist warlords don’t accept this and become a problem, invade the country. You have to get lots of your own soldiers killed because you armed and trained the opposition, they have grown more powerful and why should anyone fight them for you?
Keep telling the relatives of your dead soldiers (and those not yet dead) that they are fighting for democracy and to protect their homes (although they are nowhere near their homes).
Set up your own puppet regime, build a local army, let your investors back home in to gobble up what they can, dispense bribes (even to notorious warlords, torturers, murderers).
Use airpower to bomb your previous allies, even though you will be killing a lot of uninvolved people (and even though airpower didn’t work in the end for the other’s puppet government).
When it’s clear you are not going to win without an even more massive investment of money and your soldiers’ lives (which will make your politicians unpopular at home), pull out. Leave your puppets and local employees behind (shoot some as they try to get on your planes).
Then blame your puppet government for running. Blame the puppet army soldiers for surrendering, ignoring the fact that thousands of them have been killed even when you gave them air cover and that was then withdrawn or that surrounded units fought on for days on promises of relieving columns that never came.
You might lose some superpower status and get criticised at home. BUT your arms industry has increased its profits at least TEN TIMES since the invasion. After all, who really matters in all this?
https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2021/8/17# (For Afghanistan jump to Haran Rahoumi at 17.19 mins. on video to 31.4 mins; and again to from 37mins. with Azmat Khan to 46mins. In my opinion much more informative than ex-US Col. Amy Wright, now in Codepink, Vets for Peace.)
Iran has informed the International Atomic Agency that it is stepping up its uranium enrichment to 20% purity, which significantly exceeds that set by the restrictive 2015 Agreement and which according to media reports places it one step away from achieving weapons grade. This has set off concerns and what might even be interpreted as threats from other states but whether we agree with the existence of nuclear weapons or not, what gives some states the right to have them and to tell others that they can’t?
Iran entered into that Agreement in exchange for ending of the economic blockade on it by the USA. However, recently Trump withdrew the USA from the Agreement, leaving little incentive for Iran to continue restricting its development of nuclear fuel.
Three big European powers signed a public call on Iran to return to the Agreement levels in the hope that Biden will bring the USA back into the Agreement (which he has indicated he will). Meanwhile, some media are reporting that a similar step by Iran prior to the Agreement led Israel to prepare to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And Israel is in fact believed to have assassinated Iran’s foremost nuclear scientist, Mohseh Fakhrizadeh last year.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS GATEKEEPERS
Whether we agree with any state having a nuclear arsenal (and I don’t), what gives some states the right to dictate to others that they can’t have them? And what is the record of these “nuclear weapon gatekeepers”? The partners in the 2015 Agreement were: USA, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China. These are, if we believe the slant of much of the mass media, the states that are justified in telling others that they cannot be permitted to have nuclear weapons.
The USA is one of the states with most nuclear weapons in the world (according to some estimates, Russia has the most, followed by the USA), a state which has been involved in wars of aggression against other peoples and states almost since its creation (10 directly – not through proxies — in the last 20 years alone). Furthermore, it is the only state to have attacked another with not only one but two weapons of mass destruction, causing at least a million casualties of mostly civilians.
The European states that made that public call on Iran are Germany, France and Britain, of which only Germany does not have nuclear weapons of its own (though it permits them to be sited there). The reason that Germany does not have them is probably because its European neighbours and in particular world powers France and the UK would not allow them to have them, with memories of two world wars in four decades during the last century.
France and the UK are imperialist states with massive armed forces which, when they have not been at war with the other, have attacked nations and peoples across the globe.
The other owners of nuclear weapons are Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. And Israel, a Zionist occupation-settler state established through ethnic cleansing and which, since its inception, has been at war with its neighbours. And massively supported by the USA, financially, militarily and politically.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other hand, has been at war with no-one since it came into existence except Iraq, when the Western powers were supporting Saddam Hussein and all his atrocities because he was attacking Iran. Saddam attacked Iran very soon after the latter’s revolutionary change of regime but within three months its offensive stalled and it began to get pushed back despite the support of the Western powers (including the supply of chemical weapons by the USA and Germany) and the international isolation of the Iranian clerical leadership. Nevertheless the war lasted eight years and was extremely draining for Iran, in particular since it was also facing US-led economic and financial sanctions.
Currently Iran has full diplomatic relations with 97 states and although it has some territorial disputes with the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf and some Caspian sea disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, along with some outstanding issues from the Iraq-Iran war, these are being dealt with on the whole peacefully.
In the midst of slanted or even hysterical “reporting” — or beating of war drums — we should be aware of these facts.
NOTE: NOT “NATIONS”
By the way, the news report headline “European nations urge Iran” etc. (see below) is inaccurate: France and Britain (sic, actually the UK) are not “nations” but states, each one containing a number of nations and for example in a number of sporting bodies the existence of nations within the UK is recognised. That a number of such states are permitted to call themselves “nations” for membership of various bodies does not change that fact and journalists should be more exact in using the term.
It is reported in the news today that Trump has ordered the deregistration on the Stock Exchange of three China companies in the belief that they are basically fronts for the Chinese military. It is reported also that the incumbent, Joe Biden, is unlikely to take a different line and that “US officials have complained that China’s ruling Communist Party takes advantage of access to American technology and investment to expand its military, already one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed.”
China’s military may indeed be one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed but there is no question of which power isthe most heavily-armed, far above all others: the USA. According to statistics supplied by an EU armed forces comparison site (see SOURCES below), China spends $288 billion on its military, which is much more than doubled by the USA’s $610 billions. And the USA’s military share of its GDP (Gross Domestic Production), at %3.1 is way ahead that of China’s 1.9%.
One of the few areas in which China’s military outstrips the USA’s is in active personnel, at 2,300,000 against 1,281,900. Which is hardly surprising, as China’s population is more than four times that of the USA’s (1.43 billion, compared with 329 million). And that too would account for its reservist imbalance, 8,000,000 versus the USA’s 811,000.
Another area in which the Chinese military outstrips the USA’s is in tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, self-propelled artillery and rocket artillery (that last by not so large a margin). But the USA has three times the total military aircraft of China, twice the number of attack aircraft, nearly four times the number of multirole aircraft and over four times the number of helicopters. Only in fighter aircraft does China outnumber the US’s and that by a significant amount: 1,150 against 587 – but multirole aircraft, of which the USA has 2,192, are designed for air-to-air combat as well as missile launching against ground targets.
In naval power, although China’s total of 780 looks impressive next to the USA’s 437, the USA has 20 aircraft carriers while China has …. two. The USA is not bothered with frigates or corvettes, of which China has respectively 54 and 42 but the USA’s 85 destroyers are more than double China’s 36. In submarines they are not far off level pegging, with China’s 76 against the USA’s 71.
These figures tell us that the USA far outranks China in military hardware and also that its military production per head of population is vastly greater than China’s. But when we look at the type of weapons in which one predominates over another (without regard to quality or modernity), it tells us something else: the USA is far better fitted for long-range warfare than is China. No state is safe from long-range attack by the USA military but many parts of the world are relatively secure from such an attack by China’s current military capability.
Furthermore, in a war between both powers, the USA would rely on hitting China from afar with bombing raids from air bases in countries with US-friendly regimes (e.g Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Japan) and from its fleet of aircraft carriers.
China could perhaps overrun the USA’s defences on the ground but how could their troops and vehicles reach America?
Of course, the USA vastly outnumbers China in nuclear warheads too: 6,500 against 280.
MILITARISATION OF THE ECONOMY
Lenin and others wrote that increasingly in the capitalist countries, finance capital had become merged with industrial and whereas finance had earlier fed industrial development, it was towards the end of the 19th Century deserting industry at home to invest in super-profits available through exploitation of natural resources and labour power in the developing world. Countries that had large colonial territories and foreign investment preferments or monopolies were neglecting their industries in the time of imperialism while capitalist countries without the same outlets were concentrating their capital on modernising their production models and methods.
In the USA, finance capital merged long ago with industrial but, since WW2, with military expenditure also. But not only merged — the military side has come to dominate. Not necessarily in actual production statistics, though these are pretty high – according to industrial analyst Louise Echitelle writing in 2017, Roughly 10% of the $2.2 trillion in factory output in the United States goes into the production of weapons sold mainly to the Defense Department for use by the armed forces. But in addition, over half the World’s arms sales in 2013, according to a SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) pie chart quoted by Wikipedia, were by the USA and this share is likely to have increased since.
Military production is publicly funded in Government purchasing and also in allocation of production sites – Echitelle wrote three years ago that the bidding to get a major company to locate in a municipality
“can sometimes top $100 million per factory location. A manufacturer who finally accepts a municipality’s bid collects tax breaks, a gift of land on which to put a factory and sometimes the cost of building and equipping the factory itself at taxpayers’ expense.”
Incidentally, that level of reliance on military production also makes for a militarisation of the labour force, a binding of workers and trade unions to military production. This will be reflected also in cultural products such as war films (documentaries of US Wars, fictional or semi-fictional war films, Sci-Fi with US military in the future), war games and novels, USA Armed Forces Day barbecues and street parties on the third Saturday of each May, all together resulting in social support for war, invasion of other countries and …. further military expenditure.
Although the figures here have concentrated on military production and its public funding in the USA, one has to take into account many other aspects, such as that expended on raising and educating a child to military age and all that is involved in that huge investment over a period of 18 years or so.
Another factor in the calculation is what is not being produced because of the concentration on military production and its secure source of public funding. Or no longer being produced. Echitelle points out that at the end of WW2, US industry produced cars and appliances, clothing, shoes, houses and furnishings for the home market and exported many of them too. The reliance on military spending in production facility and its public funding has seen the US give way to foreign competitors in those consumer goods not only abroad but in its domestic economy too. On the other hand, China is increasingly producing such goods for its huge home market and even exporting some, for example in communication technology products.
One does not need to be a supporter of the Chinese regime to burst out laughing at the irony when a US President or US officials accuse the Chinese of militarising their economy.
Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach
Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach (Reading time: 3 minutes)
For original version in Castillian (Spanish) click on link.
Greece today suspended the right to asylum. An unprecedented measure in the history of Europe.
How soon we forget. During World War II, thousands of Greeks crossed the Mediterranean in the opposite direction and sought refuge in Middle Eastern countries. That was the most accessible route of escape from Nazi troops.
A program called “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East”, launched in 1942 and led by the United Kingdom, helped tens of thousands of Greeks, Poles and Yugoslavs escape eastbound.
The refugees were taken to camps located in Syria, Egypt and Palestine. The city of Aleppo, (yes, you have not misread, Aleppo) became one of the main reception centers.
A number of official reports on the state of the camps were written in March 1944. A study conducted by Public International Radio includes the protocol for the entry of refugees and their daily lives:
“Once registered, newcomers made their way through a thorough medical inspection. The refugees were heading to what were often makeshift hospital facilities, usually tents, but occasionally empty buildings reused for medical care, where clothes and shoes were removed and they were washed until the authorities believed they were sufficiently disinfected.
“Some refugees, such as the Greeks who arrived at the Aleppo camp from the Dodecanese islands in 1944, could expect medical inspections to become part of their daily routine.
“After medical officials were satisfied that they were healthy enough to join the rest of the camp, refugees were divided into homes for families, unaccompanied children, single men and single women. Once assigned to a particular section of the camp, refugees enjoyed few opportunities to venture outside. From time to time they could leave under the supervision of camp officials.
“When refugees in the Aleppo camp made the multi-mile trip to the city, for example, they could visit shops to buy basic supplies, watch a movie at the local cinema, or simply distract themselves from the monotony of country life.
“Although the camp at Moses Wells [in Egypt], located on more than 100 acres of desert, was not within walking distance of a city, refugees were allowed to spend time each day bathing in the nearby Red Sea. “
The “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East” was part of a network of refugee camps around the world that were administered by governments and international NGOs.
And refugees arrived not only in the Arab region: Iran received 200,000 Poles between 1939 and 1941.