Igor Ahlefeldt (1963-2012)
This essay is an adaptation of the lecture Security Considerations Along The European Rim, held at the conference on Post-US America - Cataclysm or Opportunity in Chennai February 2009. Igor Ahlefeldt was Senior Research Fellow in Human Logistics, The Ahlefeldt-Holst Center.
Knowledge and acknowledgement about the fundamental nature of NATO is more needed than ever, yet still desperately lacking. As the fall of the Soviet Union caused the balance of power in Europe to fundamentally shift in a matter of a few years, an enlightened discussion is sought on all aspects of this new strategic situation. First of all, does the new balance of power in Europe bring about an increased level of security to small nations there? Convincing arguments for the opposite abound.
It is sometimes difficult to see who your friends are. Others have an equally hard time recognizing their enemies. Some cannot identify either, and resort to clairvoyance to find partners and adversaries in the underworld. In August 2008, the Swiss Foreign Secretary Micheline Calmy-Rey declared her will to negotiate a peace settlement with Osama Bin-Laden1, who died in 2001. Shortly after, Norway's Deputy Foreign Secretary Raymond Johansen followed suit and declared Norway's willingness to hold similar talks2. (The Foreign Ministries of both countries were quick to retract these statements.) In the rational realm of Western European politics many hold Russia as their favourite enemy, and for all its imperfections it is a more worthwhile one. First, unlike the Ghost of Tora-Bora, Russia is real, it is actually there. Secondly, Russia has a long-standing tradition of invading smaller neighbouring countries. (Okay, that was Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, but they are all the same, right?) Last but not least, Russia has just overrun yet another small country, Georgia, so why look any further? Russia it is.
What spurred Russia's fervent military action in Georgia? South Ossetia and Abkhasia had been quiet for years, in a state of de facto mutual disdependence, with Tbilisi pretending to be in control and the provincial capitals Tskhinvali and Sukhumi pretending to be independent. A large part of the explanation seems to be that Georgian forces had advanced first, as they crossed into the renegade provinces of Abkhasia and South Ossetia, badly damaging the South Ossetian capital city of Tskhinvali, resulting in about 1500 civilian casualties and 100 000 refugees3, leaving Russia with no choice but to intervene to protect the Russian majority population within the two provinces. Once a Soviet republic, Georgia is now approaching NATO membership4. NATO forces were already present prior to the Georgian advance, and American Humvees were found by Russian forces inside Georgia5. Israel is furthermore not making a secret of the fact that the Georgian army had been trained by the IDF for seven years prior to the Georgian advance6, 7, and that Georgia even aspired to model its army after the IDF8, although Georgia and the IDF unsuccessfully tried to keep some military hardware and information secret9.
NATO is year by year inching towards Moscow, in a very physical sense. Most countries formerly allied with Russia in the Warsaw Pact are now either full NATO members or have applied for NATO membership, the latest among them Ukraine and Georgia. The Russian reactions appear to be fear-driven, but what is there to fear from NATO? Perhaps a roundup of NATO's most conspicuous accomplishments will provide some answers:
Operation Gladio and the Strategy of Tension10
The CIA and the British secret service MI6, in collaboration with the military alliance NATO and European military secret services set up a network of clandestine anti-communist armies in Western Europe after World War II. The secret soldiers were trained on remote islands in the Mediterranean and in unorthodox warfare centers in England and in the United States by the Green Berets and SAS Special Forces. The network was armed with explosives, machine guns and high-tech communication equipment hidden in underground bunkers and secret arms caches in forests and mountain pastures. In some countries, the secret army linked up with right-wing terrorists who in a secret war engaged in political manipulation, harassment of left-wing parties, massacres, coup d'etats and torture.
Code-named "Gladio" ('the sword'), the Italian secret army was exposed in 1990 by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti to the Italian Senate, whereupon the press spoke of the "the best kept, and most damaging, political-military secret since World War II" (The Observer, November 18, 1990) and observed that "The story seems straight from the pages of a political thriller." (The Times, November 19, 1990). Ever since, so-called 'stay-behind' armies of NATO have also been discovered in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Greece and Turkey. They were internationally coordinated by the Pentagon and NATO and had their last known meeting in the NATO-linked Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) in Brussels in October, 1990.
Operating in most NATO member countries and even in some neutral countries or in Spain before its 1982 adhesion to NATO, Gladio was first coordinated by the Clandestine Committee of the Western Union (CCWU), founded in 1948. After the creation of NATO in 1949, the CCWU was integrated into the Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC), founded in 1951 and overseen by SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), transferred to Belgium after France’s official withdrawal from NATO in 1966 — which was not followed by the dissolution of the French stay-behind paramilitary movements.
Next to the CPC, a second secret army command center, labeled the Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC), was set up in 1957 on the orders of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR). This military structure provided for significant US leverage over the secret stay-behind networks in Western Europe as the SACEUR, throughout NATO's history, has traditionally been a US General who reports to the Pentagon in Washington and is based in NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium. The ACC's duties included elaborating on the directives of the network, developing its clandestine capability, and organizing bases in Britain and the United States. In wartime, it was to plan stay-behind operations in conjunction with SHAPE. According to former CIA director William Colby, it was 'a major program'.
The role of the CIA in sponsoring Gladio and the extent of its activities during the Cold War era, and its relationship to attacks perpetrated in Italy during the years of Gladio and other similar clandestine operations is the subject of ongoing debate and investigation. Italy, Switzerland and Belgium have had parliamentary inquiries into the matter.
The most incriminating testimony came on November 30, 2007, as former Italian president Francesco Cossiga in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera stated11:
"Democratic elements in America and Europe, with the Italian center-left in the forefront, now know that the 9/11 attack was planned and executed by the American CIA and Mossad in order to blame the Arab countries, and to persuade the Western powers to undertake military action both in Iraq and Afghanistan."
On the weekend of August 23rd and 24th 2008, American forces in Herat Province, Afghanistan once again massacred scores of civilians, this time finishing it off by killing more than fifty children. This slaughter stands out even among many in later months, not because of the condemnation it attracted from the former UNOCAL advisor Hamid Karzai, but because the Americans subsequently insisted for days that they were in fact targeting the Taliban. The intelligence the occupational forces in Afghanistan receives from Washington is completely and wilfully distorted to fit the political agenda of the day. All resistance in Afghanistan counts as Taliban-lead and all resistance in Iraq is spun as Al-Qaeda-trained or Al-Qaeda-funded or at the very least Al-Qaeda-guided or Al-Qaeda-inspired. As the odd widowed woman in Diyala, Kirkuk or Baghdad takes up arms, this is spun as Al-Qaeda by default by the combined directed voices of US intelligence and unintelligence (media)12. This furtive twist of good old American branding renders the forces in the field unable to avoid hitting civilians as they are told to target Al-Qaeda and Taliban. The mere scale of this inavoidable civilian trauma is just one reason why the continued occupational war in Afghanistan is in violation of international law. (Another reason is of course that international law does not sanction occupation for the sole purpose of strategic gain or oil.)
As for Iraq, the historian Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed documents in his book Behind the War on Terror that the civilian casulties from the start of the the First Gulf War stands at half a million. Worse still, NATO forces under American command during both Gulf Wars and during the surveillance of the no-fly zones in between these wars purposefully targeted Iraqi civilians, drinking water facilities, bomb shelters and other essential civilian installations without any military significance whatsoever. Ahmed also documents how NATO planes used goat herders in Iraqi Kurdistan for target practice. This is not only in violation of international law - that would be an overly mellow and academic label. This is terror on a scale which approaches genocide.
These incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq are all reported in the Western media as "accidents", but when will we start to acknowledge that they are not accidental? NATO targets civilians because the enemy are the civilians and the civilians are the enemy. "Taliban" and "Al-Qaeda" are American brand labels glued onto every and any part of the broad popular resistance against US-lead occupational forces, whereever they may be. The similarity to popular resistance in occupied Europe during the Second World War is striking and not coincidential. And as the civilians become the enemy, women and children are targeted, shot and killed. And because all of this happens according to a predictable pattern, these "accidents" in sum constitute violations of international law, they constitute war crimes and genocide. NATO soldiers have publicly expressed their lack of knowledge about who the enemy is and about how to differentiate them from civilians. This goes to show that intelligence fed to NATO forces in the field is tailored to target civilians.
Extending the Strategy of Tension to China
According to the US-based organizations SITE Intelligence Group and IntelCenter, the hitherto unknown Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) has threatened to detonate bombs on public transportation in China during the Olympic Games13. The group is said to be based in Pakistan and to have received training from al-Qaeda. Both IntelCenter and SITE are widely viewed as instruments in the present US administration's ongoing disinformation campaign14 concurrent to the wars in the Middle East, and Chinese authorities has consequently denied any TIP involvement, in spite of that TIP has assumed responsibility for recent bomb explosions both in Shanghai and Kunming. The Turkistan Islamic Party can thus safely be assumed to be a paper creation of US intelligence, and there is every reason to label any US intelligence about it as intentionally false and to treat it as an attempt of extending the Strategy of Tension to China.
The rocket shield
One element of the ongoing Strategy of Tension is the American rocket shield that the last two US administrations have sought to deploy in Eastern Europe. Even if the shield in all of its proposed fashions technically speaking is a defensive one, it will render retaliation to a nuclear first strike impossible. It is for this and no other reason that such a shield in whatever shape will elevate Europe's security risks. It is for this and no other reason that Russia will oppose Georgian NATO membership.
While transparency about what NATO is and about NATO's operations are lacking, we only need to look to this sudden shift in the balance of power in Europe that we have witnessed since the fall of the Soviet Union to understand that NATO cannot bring security to the European Rim. All strategy manuals concur that such a swift and encompassing shift in the balance of power significantly increases the likelihood of war.
Between a rock and a hard place
A point sometimes raised is "we need the alliance with America to protect us from Russia", but then who will protect us from America? It makes just as much sense to be allied with the US against Russia as it would make sense to be allied with Russia against the US. Both Russia and the US are major geopolitical players who ruthlessly pursue their objectives. Neither of them are true democracies. Both are sustained by non-principled economies favouring oligarchs and monopolies. None have a functioning fourth estate. The US has even descended into Abrahamic theocracy where the judiciary's attitude to abortion, the teaching of evolution and sexual offenses is well aligned with its extensive application of the death penalty, institutionalized torture and extra-judicial detainments, renditions and killings.
The small nations on the European Rim ought to reconsider their strategic options: Non-alignment is perhaps the most proven of all available recipes. The worst choice for the smaller countries bordering on Russia would be to continue to rely on NATO for their security.