With President Obama announcing his new strategy for US/NATO escalation in Afghanistan, the April 3-4 NATO Summit in Baden-Baden and Kehl, Germany, and in Strasbourg, France, takes on added urgency — as will the demonstrations by thousands of protestors from over 20 European countries and the US.
Member states will attempt to use the summit as an occasion to celebrate the alliance’s 60th anniversary, France’s return to NATO, and perhaps offer a new “Strategic Concept” as an interventionist force around the world. Activists will articulate an alternative vision focused on securing global peace and confronting domestic challenges at home, including a call for the dissolution of NATO.
Beginning April 1, a diverse coalition of activists will participate in training camps, demonstrations, conferences, workshops, and non-violent blockades. At a moment when international cooperation on economic and human security interests is needed more than ever, the protestors view a US-led, expansionist NATO as destabilizing and dangerous. What was originally designed as a defense alliance against the Warsaw Pact has taken on a very different post-Cold War, global interventionist role.
Activists see a NATO with bases on every continent; a military force that organizers say accounts for more than 75 percent of global military expenditures and drains resources that might otherwise address needs like education, job creation, and poverty; “out of area” operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, the Mediterranean Sea, and a training mission in Iraq; a destabilizing presence pushing a “missile defense” system, ignoring international law, expanding to Russia’s doorstep, and maintaining a first-strike option — all fueling a renewed arms race. (Recently, popular opposition to the proposed Czech-based radar system for US missile defense was a key factor in bringing down the ruling government there. Peace activist Jan Tamas led a hunger strike that galvanized opposition and he will be speaking at the “counter summit” in Strasbourg.)
Elsa Rassbach, a US citizen and filmmaker who has lived much of the time in Berlin since the mid-1990s, is a member of the International Coordinating Committee that is planning many of the activities of this broad coalition. She said that the need to respond to the occasion of NATO’s 60th anniversary has brought “a lot of different strands” together to collaborate since last June. “For example,” she said, “in the German peace movement — not only the large peace organizations and some Members of the German Parliament, but also smaller groups concerned about military bases used to conduct US/NATO wars, people concerned about atomic weapons…the social movements — the fact that militarization is costing too much. German youth and people concerned with soldier resistance and conscientious objector issues…. We’re bringing disparate movements and organizations together — both large and small — for the NATO action.”