Above photo: NATO Heads of Government at Madrid NATO Summit.
NATO’S Summit in Madrid and Lessons of War at the City’s Museums.
I was one of hundreds who attended the NO to NATO peace summit June 26-27, 2022 and one of tens of thousands who marched for NO to NATO in Madrid, Spain a few days before the leaders of the 30 NATO countries arrived in the city for their latest NATO Summit to map out NATO’s future military actions.
Two conferences, the Peace Summit and the Counter-Summit, provided opportunities for Spaniards and international delegations to hear the impact of ever-increasing military budgets on NATO countries that give weaponry and personnel to the war mongering capabilities of NATO at the expense of health, education, housing and other true human security needs.
In Europe, the disastrous decision by the Russian Federation to invade Ukraine and the tragic loss of life and destruction of large parts of the industrial base of the country and in the Dombass region is seen as a situation precipitated by a US sponsored coup in Ukraine in 2014. Not to defend or justify the Russian attack on Ukraine, however, NATO, the US and the European Union’s endless rhetoric of Ukraine joining their organizations is acknowledged as is the often-cited Russian Federation’s “redlines” of its national security. The continuing large-scale US and NATO military war maneuvers, creation of US/NATO bases and deployment of missiles on the border with Russia are identified as provocative, aggressive actions by the US and NATO. Ever more powerful weapons are being injected into the Ukrainian battlefields by NATO countries which could inadvertently, or purposefully, quickly escalate to the disastrous use of nuclear weapons.
In the peace summits, we heard from people directly affected by NATO’s military action. The Finnish delegation is strongly opposed to Finland joining NATO and spoke of the relentless media campaign by the government of Finland that has influenced traditional No to NATO Finns to acquiese to the government’s decision to join NATO. We also heard by zoom from speakers from Ukraine and Russia who both want peace for their countries not wars and who urged their governments to begin negotiations to end the horrific war.
The summits had a wide-range of panel and workshop topics:
Climate Crisis and Militarism;
The War in Ukraine, NATO & Global Consequences;
The New Lies of the Old NATO with Ukraine as Background;
Alternatives for a Demilitarized Collective Security;
Social Movements: How Imperialist/Military Policy Affects Us on a Daily Basis;
The New International Order; What Kind of Security Architecture for Europe? Common Security Report 2022;
Anti-Militarist Resistance to Wars;
NATO, Armies and Military Spending; Women’s Unity in the Struggle Against Imperialism;
Women’s Unity in Conflicts and Peace Processes;
Stop Killer Robots;
The Two-Headed Monster: Militarism and Patriarchy;
and Perspectives and Strategies of the International Peace Movement.
The Madrid Peace Summit ended with a final declaration that stated:
“It is our obligation as members of the human species in order to build and defend peace 360º, from north to south, from east to west to demand our governments give up militarism as a way of dealing with conflicts.
It is easy to establish the connection between more weapons in the world and more wars. History teaches us that those who can impose their ideas by force will not try to do so by other means. This new expansion is a new expression of the authoritarian and colonial response to the current eco-social crisis, because wars have also led to violent expropriation of resources.
NATO’s new security concept called NATO 360º radius, calls for military intervention by NATO anywhere, anytime, all around the planet. The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are singled out as military adversaries and, for the first time, the Global South appears within the scope of the Alliance’s intervention capabilities,
NATO 360 is prepared to intervene outside the imperative mandates of the UN Charter, as it did in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. This violation of international law, as we have also seen in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has sped up the pace at which the world becomes insecure and militarized.
This southward focus shift will bring about an extension in the capabilities of US military bases deployed in the Mediterranean; in the case of Spain, the bases in Rota and Morón.
NATO 360º strategy is a threat to peace, an obstacle to progress towards shared demilitarized security.
It is antagonistic to real human security that responds to the threats faced by the majority of the planet’s population: hunger, disease, inequality, unemployment, lack of public services, land grabbing and wealth and climate crises.
NATO 360º advocates increasing military spending to 2% of GDP, does not renounce the use of nuclear weapons and thus encourages the proliferation of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.”
NO TO NATO international coalition statement
The NO to NATO international coalition issued a strong and extensive statement on July 4, 2022 contesting NATO’s Madrid summit strategy and its continuing aggressive actions. The coalition expressed “outrage” at the decision of NATO’s heads of government to further increase confrontation, militarization and globalization instead of opting for dialogue, disarmament and peaceful co-existence.
The statement states that “NATO propaganda paints a false picture of NATO representing the so-called democratic countries versus an authoritarian world to legitimize its militaristic course. In reality, NATO is stepping up its confrontation with rival and emerging superpowers in pursuit of geopolitical hegemony, control over transport routes, markets and natural resources. Although NATO’s strategic concept claims to be working toward disarmament and arms control, it is doing just the opposite.”
The coalition statement reminds that NATO member states combined “account for two-thirds of the global arms trade that destabilizes entire regions and that warring countries like Saudi Arabia are among NATO’s best customers. NATO maintains privileged relationships with gross human rights violators like Colombia and apartheid state Israel… The military alliance is abusing the Russia-Ukraine war to dramatically increase the armament of its member states by many tens of billions and by expanding it’s Rapid Reaction Force on a massive scale…Under the leadership of the US, NATO applies a military strategy aimed at weakening Russia rather than bringing a swift end to the war. This is a dangerous policy that can only contribute to increase the suffering in Ukraine and can bring the war into dangerous levels of (nuclear) escalation.”
Addressing nuclear weapons, the statement notes that: “NATO and the nuclear member states continue to see nuclear weapons as an essential part of their military strategy and refuse to comply with the obligations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They reject the new nuclear ban treaty (TPNW) which is a necessary complementary instrument to free the world of genocidal weapons.”
The international NO to NATO coalition “rejects NATO’s further expansion plans which are provocative. Any country in the world would see it as a violation of its security interests if a hostile military alliance would advance towards its borders. We also condemn the fact that the inclusion of Finland and Sweden into NATO, is accompanied by the acceptance and even support of Turkey’s war policy and human rights infringements against the Kurds. The silence on Turkey’s violations of international law, invasions, occupations, looting and ethnical cleansings in northern Syria and northern Iraq bears witness to NATO’s complicity.”
To underscore NATO’s expansive moves, the coalition said “NATO invited several countries from the “Indo-Pacific” to its summit with the purpose to strengthen mutual military ties in what is framed as meeting “systemic challenges” that would emanate from China. This regional military build-up is part of NATO’s further transformation into a global military alliance that will increase tensions, risk dangerous confrontations and can lead into an unprecedented arms race in the region.”
NO to NATO and the international peace movement “calls on social movements such as trade unions, environmental movement, women’s, youth, anti-racism organizations to resist the militarization of our societies that can only come at the expense of social welfare, public services, the environment, and human rights.”
“Together we can work for a different security order based on dialogue, cooperation, disarmament, common and human security. This is not only desirable, but necessary if we want to preserve the planet from threats and challenges posed by nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty.”
The irony and Insensitivity of the Photo of NATO wives in front of the famous Picasso painting “Guernika”
On June 29, 2022, wives of NATO leaders had their photo taken in front of one of the most famous 20th century paintings, Guernica, created by Picasso to express his outrage over the Nazi bombing of a Basque city in northern Spain, ordered by General Franco. Since then, this monumental black-and-white canvas has become an international symbol of genocide committed during wartime.
On June 27, 2022, two days before the wives of NATO leader would have their photo taken in front to the Guernika painting, Extinction Rebellion activists from Madrid had a die-in in front of Guernika—portraying the reality of the history of Guernika ..and the reality of the deadly actions of NATO!!
Museums of War
While in Madrid, I took advantage of going to some of the great museums in the city. The museums provided great history lessons that are relevant to today’s international situations.
As war in Ukraine continues, some of the massive paintings in the Prado Museum provide a glimpse into the wars of the 16 and 17th centuries-brutal for the hand-to-hand combat as conflicts raged across the continent. Kingdoms fighting other kingdoms for land and resources.
Wars that ended in victory for some countries or in stalemates between other countries..with tens of thousands killed in the miscalculation of hoped for victory that never happened and instead a settlement after all the deaths.
In the Regina Sophia museum, not only is there Picasso’s world famous war painting of the 20th century- Guernika that was used as a background by the NATO wives, but in the upper gallery of the museum is a powerful gallery of 21st century resistance to the brutality of authoritarian governments.
On display are hundreds of hand-embroidered cloth panels with the names of the 43 students murdered in Mexico and hundreds of persons who have died on the US border. Videos of resistance are played in the exhibit including videos of resistance in Honduras and Mexico which has resulted in legalized abortion, while in the same week, the US Supreme Court struck down woman’s reproductive rights in the United States.
NATO in the Pacific
In the Naval Museum of Spain, paintings of naval armadas, huge fleets of ships sailing into battle off Spain, France, England reminded me of the massive Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) war maneuvers that are taking place in the waters around Hawaii from June 29-August 4, 2022 with 26 countries including 8 NATO members and 4 Asia countries that are NATO “partners” sending 38 ships, 4 submarines, 170 aircraft and 25,000 military personnel to practice firing missiles, blowing up other ships, grinding across coral reefs and endangering marine mammals and other sea life to practice amphibious landings.
The museum paintings showed scenes of cannons fired from galleons into the masts of other galleons, sailors jumping from ship to ship in hand-to-hand combat remind one of the endless wars humanity has waged on itself for land and riches. The extensive trade routes of the fleets of ships of the Spanish kings and queens evoke the reminder of the cruelty toward indigenous peoples of those lands who mined the riches of silver and gold in Central and South America and the Philippines to build the remarkable cathedrals of Spain-and today’s cruelty of wars waged on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Ukraine. And they are also a reminder of the current day “Freedom of Navigation” armadas that ply through the South China Sea to protect/deny resources to an Asian power.
The museum’s paintings were a history lesson in imperialism, both Spanish and U.S. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the U.S. added its wars and occupations of other lands to its colonization of the indigenous people of North America with the excuse of “Remember the Maine,” the war cry after the explosion on the U.S. ship Maine in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. That explosion began the US war on Spain which resulted in the U.S. claiming Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines as its war prizes—and in the same colonization epoch, annexed Hawai’i.
The human species has continued its use of wars on land and sea from the 16th and 17th centuries onward adding air wars to World War I and II, the war on Viet Nam, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on Syria, on Yemen, on Palestine.
To Survive the Threat of Nuclear Weapons, Climate Change and Poverty, We must have a Different Security Order Based on Dialogue, Cooperation, Disarmament for Human Security
The week in Madrid at the NO to NATO events underscored the current threats of war to the survival of humanity.
The NO to NATO final statement summarizes our challenge that “Together we MUST work for a different security order based on dialogue, cooperation, disarmament, common and human security. This is not only desirable, but necessary if we want to preserve the planet from threats and challenges posed by nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty.”
Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was also a U.S. diplomat and served in U.S. embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in 2003 in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”