The Atlantic Alliance has no reason to be, observed former Polish MP Mateusz Piskorski under History. It merely defends US interests and violating the sovereignty of its member states. Can we get out?
by Mateusz Piskorski
- General Philip M. Breedlove, Nato Supreme Allied Commander
The presence of Poland in NATO is justified dogmatically, necessarily using the belief in a constant external threat for the continued functioning of this alliance.
Meanwhile, the history of the last 24 years of this organization proves that not once did a threat to national security come to any of its member countries, nor was there a justifiable need to use Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America will be considered an attack against them all, and consequently they agree that if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, exercising the right to individual or collective self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the party or parties attacked by forthwith taking, alone or in concert with other parties, actions deemed necessary, including the use of armed force to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
Not one of the member countries of the Alliance became an object of aggression after 1991, i.e., after the formal collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, no threats of military aggression were made against them, nor were there any officially reported territorial claims. The only conflict related with demands for revising existing borders and new territorial divisions was the Greco-Turkish dispute over Cyprus, which was in fact a dispute between member states of the Alliance.
The aggression of NATO against Afghanistan in 2001, which was based on article 5 of the Treaty, was a clear over-interpretation of its provisions. Even if the official version is accepted, many doubts are raised as to the perpetrators and attacks in the US in September, 2001. These terrorist attacks did not constitute an act of aggression on the part of Afghanistan, but were examples of non-state actors in international political relations.
Thus, holding the Afghan state, which was even in a state of partial bankruptcy, responsible for them, was an abuse and a departure beyond mandatory compliance with the wording of the Treaty.
The next missions of NATO after 2001 were carried out in countries not belonging among and not threatening in any way its members, such as Libya for example, where NATO joined terrorist actions aiming to overthrow the legal authorities and which as a consequence led to the disintegration of existing state structures.
The only case in which the obligations of NATO were fulfilled in recent years was Operation Ocean Shield, which has lasted since 2009 and was designed to protect ships in transit near the Somali coast from pirates. This concrete case was strongly defined in Article 6 of the Treaty, and it is recognized that entities flying under the flag of NATO member states should be guaranteed protection by NATO, under similar terms, as with their land territory.
Quite another question is the level of reliability of security guarantees provided by NATO. Even a cursory analysis of the content of the above-quoted Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty allows doubts to be expressed as to the nature of existing obligations.
Its wording refers to the taking by each party of actions which are “deemed necessary” in the event of an armed attack on one of the members of the organization. That necessity, as it should be understood, is defined in an arbitrary and situational way, depending on the current interests of a member state and implicitly above all the United States.
Even if we then accept the excessively reckless thesis than armed aggression of some third country against Poland is likely today, one can doubt allied aid, especially in a country which has historically experienced the “guarantees” of Western allies.
It’s therefore difficult to be surprised by perceptions of NATO reflected in successive public opinion polls in Poland in 2014, when the 15th anniversary of Polish membership in the Alliance had passed. On this occasion, CBOS conducted an opinion poll, the results of which above all showed that the decisive majority of those polled do not recognize membership as a particularly important turning point in history.
Additionally, 30% of those polled felt that membership brings additional threats to the national security of Poland, and 26% claimed that the presence of NATO is associated with the subordination of Polish national interests to a foreign power.
In March, 2015, IQS conducted a telephone survey on perceptions of the Alliance, the results of which show that the largest group of respondents (35%) do not believe that NATO has provided any of the aid that Warsaw needs; 33% who participated in the survey disagreed with this, while the rest (31%) had no opinion on the matter.
Interestingly, the largest percentage of those surveyed who were skeptical towards NATO are found among the groups showing the greatest interest in and understanding of general political issues (men between the ages of 25 and 34).
In a survey conducted over the same period by Millward Brown, 49% of participants expressed a lack of confidence in the security guarantees provided by NATO in the event of an armed conflict. The proportion of skeptics is clearly growing with increasing international tension, primarily that surrounding the immediate vicinity of Poland, i.e., Ukraine.
The involvement of the North Atlantic Alliance in the latter country is a clear manifestation of NATO’s departure from the scope of tasks for which implementation has been established.
Ukraine is not a member of the Alliance, and does not possess any prospects for membership for at least several reasons. At the same time, Poland is one of the most essential adherents to the NATO program aimed at training the Ukrainian army in line with NATO standards and procedures. It’s interesting that these courses are funded in part by the budget of this organization and in part by the Polish Ministry of National Defense.
The training of the Ukrainian Army is taking place in accordance with the procedures and principles of the alliance, although Ukraine does not have prospective membership at least on the basis of official announcements by NATO representatives. This clearly indicates an effort to establish a cordon of countries connected technologically, militarily, and politically with the state playing a hegemonic role in the bloc – the United States.
The North Atlantic Alliance in this context becomes an instrument for the realization of the strategic tasks of American policies. These are interests, we’ll add, realized partly by taxpaying member states such as Poland. NATO, with the US at the head, is leading a large-scale training and arming not only of the army, but also the so called volunteer battalions, composed of extreme Ukrainian nationalists, formations accused of committing a whole series of war crimes during the so-called anti-terrorist operation in the south-east of Ukraine.
In Yaroviv near Lvov, 230 US paratroopers will lead the local training center, which will be attended, according to the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs Arseny Avakov, by the Azov, Kulchysky, Jaguar, and Omega battalions. This means that the Americans, in the framework of the NATO program, will train paramilitary units which in fact have the character of terrorist formations practicing state terror sanctioned by the authorities in Kiev.
On the symbolic and ideological level, these units represent a clearly anti-Polish, neo-Banderite identity.
The civil war in Ukraine, triggered by Washington and de facto led by people directly subordinated to American services, such as head of the Security Services of Ukraine, Valentin Nalivaychenko, is not only an element of the geopolitical concept of destabilizing Eurasia, preached for years by, among others, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
It is equally a pretext for transforming NATO into an alliance with a clearly offensive, aggressive character, which is in fact contrary to the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty. The assumptions adopted at the 2014 summit in Newport, Wales, do not leave this in any doubt.
They assume not only the need to increase expenditures for purposes related to national defense to a level of at least 2% of GDP, but also, in a certain way, define directions for the development of NATO units.
The primary objective for the coming years is to create so called rapid reaction forces, composed mainly of member states’ airborne troops. This underlines the aggressive nature of the Alliance’s strategy and its real objectives. Mobile reaction forces are to be ready to carry out operations in various locations in Eurasia. Their structure and character leave no doubt that this is about offensive capability and offensive actions on the territory of an opponent.
Extremely symbolic is the fact that since the inception of the organization, all Allied Commanders of NATO’s defense forces in Europe were US military men. The leading role of the US in this system leaves no doubt. Its proponents justify this with theories that the Americans come from Mars, and Europeans come from Venus (this was Robert Kagan’s formulation, who incidentally is the husband of the famous Victoria Nuland from the American State Department).
This approach is supposed to justify the need for actual military occupation of the Old Continent by the US Army according to the conviction that it is fulfilling its role as defender of defenseless Europe.
Washington is the central commander of the pact also on a symbolic level: in accordance with Articles 11, 13, and 14 of the Treaty, applications for membership, as well as notifications of withdrawal from NATO, are to be submitted to Washington.
Ratifying the agreement on Poland’s accession to NATO, Warsaw recognized that – according to the preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty – it is part of the “common heritage and civilization of its peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”
Of course, such lofty and vague words are used in the Treaty that it is difficult to devote an analysis to them. There is also no point in formulating and repeating the rather obvious point that Poland – similar to many other member states – has little in common with this heritage, the benchmark of is supposed to be the system of values and political structure of the United States.
At this point it is worth recalling the words of the Italian philosopher Julius Evola: “The Americans propose mechanistic conceptions against organic conceptions of human life. In a society which ‘started from scratch,’ everything bears the marks of artificiality. In American society, the image is not the face, but the mask.
At the same time, admirers of the American way of life are hostile towards individuality.” The American dream is criticized from the Left in a very harsh way by Noam Chomsky, who points out that the political system and state ideology of the USA is essentially oligarchical capitalism based on the dominance of large corporations, including the defense industry sector.
No grounds exist for concluding that Anglo-Saxon, individualist liberalism can be regarded as the foundation of Europe’s civilization. Hence, the rhetoric of the existence of a single civilization of the “West” is an artificial creation, having nothing to do with the political philosophy and world views dominant on the Old Continent, especially in the central and eastern parts.
The justification of “civilizational unity” in this way falsifies the picture of reality, denying the separate identity of the whole continent and of each of the peoples living on it separately. This above-mentioned thesis applies to all of the historical and cultural regions of Europe, except possibly Great Britain which, as its political practice and contemporary attitude towards European integration shows, is situated beyond the borders of this Europe and shows more in common with the USA than with Germany, France, or even more so Poland.
The humanitarian aspects of the civilizational formula of the contemporary United States can be acquitted simply by quoting data collected by the American organization Physicians for Social Responsibility, which showed that in the last 13 years, Washington’s so-called War on Terror in the Middle East has claimed more than 2 million civilian victims. The Pentagon does not deal with statistics on civilian deaths, which in itself shows the attitude of its superiors towards the value recognized in European culture as the highest – human life.
Since the end of the Second World War, Europe finds itself under the cultural (Hollywood, popular culture), political (Atlanticist and Euro-atlanticist ideology as well as neo-liberalism), and financial (casino capitalism and the Washington consensus) control of Washington.
The guarantee of this control is the presence of the American Army on the Old Continent, which is carried out under the pretext of ensuring the security of NATO allies. According to official data, around 65 thousand American soldiers are permanently stationed in Europe in the majority of European Union countries.
In accordance with the NATO-Russia agreements of 1997 taking into account the stability of the region in the area of the former Warsaw Pact states, there should be no dislocation of any units. This arrangement is regularly broken today not only in the case of Central European states, but even in the former Soviet Baltic republics.
The recent actions of the Americans on the territory of Poland are a clear testimony to the constant presence of US military units in our country. PR actions, involving meetings with the residents of Polish cities, and the rather recent, triumphant passage of American units among the halo of defenders on Polish roads are evidence of Washington’s long-term plans in our part of Europe.
These plans will be realized with the support of the local Polish political class, whose representatives have called publicly and directly for a permanent presence of foreign troops on the territory of the country which they themselves administrate. Voices even appear calling for the deployment of US nuclear forces on the territory of Poland, which could cause the complete destruction of the country in the event of any armed conflict on a global scale.
Such a conflict is certainly unlikely. However, such a decision would dramatically increase the risk of Poland becoming one of the main theaters of eventual military operations.
Costs and risks
Voluntary submission to American occupation in its military dimension raises a whole range of different kinds of threats, although the most important of them was already presented above. In Italy in November, 2013, a drunken American soldier raped a local teenager in a dark alley. On the night of July 14, 2014, near the city of Vicenza, two American soldiers from an airborne-descent unit kidnapped and brutally raped a pregnant woman, who was left beaten in the forest.
In August, 2014, in Baumholder, Germany, three American soldiers set fire to the local town hall, and then kidnapped a taxi driver, brutally beat him, and stole the driver’s earnings. The list of offensives by soldiers of US Army units could be multiplied endlessly.
Interestingly enough, usually under agreements with countries which they occupy, they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the local judiciary, and if problems are sent back across the ocean, no legal consequences await them.
The situation looks similar in the case of our country, where in relation to them, agreements were adopted in 2010 on the status of American soldiers in Poland. The agreement, known as SOFA, involves a whole series of regulations picked by the occupying US forces above and beyond the laws of the Republic of Poland.
As for legal jurisdiction, the Polish government presented the provisions of the agreement as a major success. Meanwhile, perhaps in a more veiled way, Article 13 of Section 1 states that Polish authoritative organs “graciously and immediately dealt with the proposition of US military authorities on waiving the primacy of the Republic of Poland’s criminal jurisdiction.”
In practice, such benevolence means that Polish authorities agreed to avoid responsibility for criminal offenses committed by US soldiers on the territory of our country. In the case of a decision by a Polish court on precautionary measures in relation to the arrest of an offender, an American citizen will be able to take advantage of the possibility to remain on his military base, where authorities there are theoretically obliged to inform the Polish side of the place of detention of the suspect.
Article 6 of the agreement states that the US will not be subject to Polish laws on construction, which means they will be able to create buildings and installations which do not meet Polish building, safety, and environmental protection standards.
This implies that costs related to the remediation of the territories of American bases after their eventual closure will of course rest on the Polish side. Article 7 of the agreement states that military and civilian employees of US armed forces may carry a firearm, not only on the territory of military object where they belong, but also outside of them, which would obviously reduce the level of security of the Polish civilian population on and around bases.
Article 28 of the agreement ensures that the American side can also import any amounts of currency, subject only to notification procedure, without requiring consent or a declaration of intent. In the context of the above-mentioned information, it is quite difficult to understand the logic of Minister of National Defense, Tomasz Siemoniak, who said with alarming frankness that “Poland wishes for itself the presence of American soldiers.”
Membership in NATO is associated with specific costs for the Polish budget. Direct expenses associated with presence in this organization —membership fee and salaries for the officer corp assigned to organs of the alliance— are not too high. During the NATO summit in Newport in 2014, a directive was adopted once again under pressure from the United States which requires member states’ defense budgets to reach at least 2% of GDP.
In the Polish case, in the budget law for 2015, that figure reaches 2.27% of GDP, or more than 38 billion zloty. With this, an additional 5.3 billion zloty remains as a security to be repaid for the American F-16 fighters purchased by Warsaw. Purchases of new equipment for the last few years are incidentally the most significant item in the budget.
It is no surprise that most of these purchases are made in the United States. It is estimated that over the next few years, Poland will be credit the accounts of American armament corporations to the amount of tens of billions of dollars. In the near future, among other things, Tomahawk missiles are to be bought, which are now found only in the armories of the US and Great Britain.
The price of each such projectile (usually without the high margin enforced by the US government in the case of exports) is approximately 8 million zl. The Ministry of National Defense has announced the purchase of dozens of products from the US company Raytheon. A reduction of military spending, which would anger the lobby of American arms manufacturers, would allow savings to be made in the Polish budget of around 10 billion zloty per year.
The way out
Deciding to withdraw from NATO necessarily means making a notification of such a step and sending it to Washington. The North Atlantic Treaty designates an organ which decides its adoption, and that is the Sejm. A simple majority of votes could be achieved, and then be rejected by an eventual veto of the President by a 3/5 majority.
Additional legitimacy for such a step could be provided by a universal referendum in which Poles would be able to answer the question: “Are you for Poland leaving the structures of the aggressive political-military pact of the the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?”
The likely result of such a referendum would open the way for breaking political resistance against this fateful decision. The transitional period for the decision to withdraw from NATO coming into force is 2 years.
Article 36 of the SOFA agreement with US soldiers provides for a two-year period of execution in the form of a notification. What would be needed is the consent of the Sejm, which ratifies the agreement.
These decisions would open the way for further discussion of defense doctrine and possible international alliances for the sovereign Polish state. They would put an end to the period of another occupation of Polish territory by foreign military units, simultaneously opening a new chapter in the relations of our country with the outside world.