NATO Summit 2017 in Brussels – a familiar but as yet undated affair
It is already clear that the next NATO Summit will be one of the most significant summits in the organisation’s long history – even if the exact date of the meeting in Brussels is not yet clear.
It certainly will not be a summit where the organisation decides to wind itself up. Rather, it will celebrate its continued existence – specifically in the form of its new headquarters, which cost 750 million euros to construct. NATO will also continue to exist under the new US president. He wants anew burden sharing between the NATO countries. General Secretary Stoltenberg described him as a “big fan of NATO” and said during their first telephone call the two spoke of the “enduring importance” of the US-NATO relationship(see also some of his interviews). Furthermore, in their confirmational hearings in the Senate, Trump’s designated Secretaries of State and Defense both emphasised the necessity of NATO for the new US administration.
The 2017 Summit’s particular importance can be seen in the following points:
- It will conduct an evaluation of the previous Warsaw Summit’s resolutions. At the heart of these was NATO’s aggressive further expansion to the east with the stationing of troops and hardware in previously unknown scales on the borders to Russia, especially in Poland and the Baltic States. Surely no further proof is really needed than the historically remarkable US troop and vehicle deployment via Bremerhaven, Germany, and the stationing of German soldiers only 250km from St. Petersburg. [Please allow me a personal comment here: Considering the past, I could never have imagined seeing images of German troops on the Russian border again.] The continuation of this confrontation will be the subject matter of decisions at the Brussels summit.
- Ensuring the stability of efforts to modernise nuclear weapons will also be a topic (including those stationed in Europe). Statements so far from the new US administration indicate it will continue the modernisation policies of the Obama administration, but they are also characterised by the President-elect’s utterances which suggest an increase in the risk of uncontrolled use of those weapons. In fact, he appears to have ideas about proliferation which clearly contravene international law.
- Another point on the summit agenda is the new distribution of the burdens of further armament among the NATO members. This refers to the “2% rule” – re-emphasised at the summits in Wales and Warsaw – and might also include another increase. Only in this way can the USA, which is busy modernising and increasing its armed forces, keep enough ‘hands free’ for its war policy regarding China.
- This new ‘division of labour’ also includes a new role for EU-Europe. EU-Europe will become an increasingly military superpower with its own significant military undertakings and its own intervention policies, at least in Europe but also in Africa. Indeed, Brexit has opened the floodgates for this militarisation, whose practical implementation is reflected in important resolutions from the subsequent EU Summit. These refer to the militarisation of R&D, science and economic policies, the maintenance of rapid reaction forces, improved communication and coordination, further interventions (Mali) and further armament in individual countries. All of this should be seen in the light of a propaganda offensive against the ‘aggressive Russians’.
- Further development of the ‘Global NATO’. In particular, in Latin America this refers to Columbia and in the Asian sphere this means new intensive cooperation (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore) or the consolidation of existing partnerships (Japan, South Korea). Considering the potential for conflict in Asian regions, this surely cannot be seen as promoting peace.
The signs are pointing to confrontation, continued intervention, and unbridled arms build-up. So the Belgian peace movement and the international network “No to War – No to NATO” (which has organised actions at all summits since 2009) issued an early invitation to a planning meeting in Brussels on December 17, 2016.
More than 60 activists from 11 countries attended, and quickly agreed the need for actions to highlight the summit and its issues. There was a basic agreement on the points described above.
It was agreed to prepare the following actions:
- An international counter-summit
- A large-scale international demonstration
- Civil disobedience actions
- A camp, subject to further consideration of possibilities and relevance
International working groups were set up for these preparations. The Belgian peace movement will host a secretarial office. The next meeting has been agreed for February.
Everyone agreed that the ‘hard’ preparation will begin when the exact date of the summit is publicised. We are in the starting blocks and the first infrastructure preparations have been made. Here, the “No to NATO” network has an important initiatory, coordinating and international networking role, but what actually happens in the end will depend on the actions and preparations in individual countries, and particularly in Belgium itself. Joint international actions, mutually supportive international work, and national activities and actions are all dependent upon and strengthen each other. A unilateral emphasis on either national or international aspects would weaken the movement against the international monster NATO.
The preparations for peaceful actions are a challenge to be taken on by the whole peace movement, especially for the groups and initiatives which have dedicated themselves to the rejection or dissolution of NATO, or the withdrawal of their country from the alliance.
Reiner Braun is Co-President of the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and member of the International Coordination Committee of “No to War – No to NATO”.