The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation Ltd.
Russell House, Bulwell Lane, Nottingham NG6 0BT, England
The leaders of 28 NATO member countries and others gather for a summit meeting in Newport, the third city of Wales, on 4-5 September 2014. For days together, this small city has been besieged while fences, gates and barricades are erected to protect those attending. The cost is substantial, and there is considerable inconvenience to the people of Newport and to the activists of the international peace movement who have organised a counter-summit there. NATO’s uselessness is never more apparent than when it rudely disrupts people’s lives in order to exult in 65 costly years of existence.
It was with some foresight, in 1949, that the distinguished Irish Foreign Minister, Seán MacBride, rejected an invitation, sent through the American Ambassador in Dublin, to participate in a meeting to discuss the formation of the North Atlantic Alliance. Later, MacBride gave several reasons for his opposition:
‘First of all I regarded NATO as being a rather dangerous military alliance that might well involve Europe in another war at more or less the wish of the United States. I could quite well see the American anti-communist view pushing NATO into a cold war first, and then into an active war.’
How prescient MacBride was. Nowadays, Russia may no longer be communist, but it remains the target of large-scale NATO expansion; in the Baltics, in Poland and elsewhere in central Europe, in the Balkans (Serbia included), around the Black Sea, especially in Georgia and Ukraine. Ukraine shares a long border with Russia. Planned missile ‘defence’ installations in Poland and Romania underline the aggressive posture towards Russia which the US maintains.
It should never be forgotten that the United States runs NATO in its own interests. When the US wanted to go to war in Afghanistan in 2001, immediately after 9/11, it spurned NATO’s offers of assistance, made by the then Secretary-General, George Robertson. Only later, did the US identify a useful, and expensive, role for NATO in that theatre of operations.
Be that as it may, Ireland had a particularly compelling reason not to join NATO, according to Mr MacBride:
‘… it was completely illogical for us to enter into a military alliance with Britain while a part of our country was still being occupied by British forces. We would be condoning and accepting the British occupation of Northern Ireland by entering a military alliance with Britain.’
The fundamentals of that situation endure, notwithstanding the real achievements of the peace process in Ireland. MacBride went on:
‘I can’t think of any good reason why Ireland should join NATO, then or now. NATO is a dangerous military alliance and I have noticed that there is a great deal of hesitancy among many of the NATO countries. I am very glad that we didn’t join and that we didn’t spend vast sums of money on quite unnecessary armament.’
There have been few statesmen with such clear vision. Seán MacBride developed his critique of NATO when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1974. He said:
‘ … It would be foolish to underrate the massive influence of the organized lobbies of military-industrial complexes in the United States and Western Europe. They constitute an unseen and unmentioned powerful force operating silently in the corridors of NATO and of most Western governments. Their resources are unlimited and their influence is great. This constitutes a huge vested interest which works silently against General and Complete Disarmament.’
The world is much in need of statesmen with MacBride’s experience and vision. Are there any to be found in Newport this week?
Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
3 September 2014