Ottawa should withdraw from NATO before the alliance draws Canada into an even more destructive conflict. This instrument of US-led imperialism has become more belligerent as its Cold War pretext fades further from view.
In 1948 US, British and Canadian officials met secretly to lay the basis for NATO, which was established the following year. Rather than a defence against possible Russian attack, NATO was conceived as a reaction to growing socialist sentiment in post–World War II Western Europe. In March 1949 External Minister Lester Pearson told the House of Commons: “The power of the communists, wherever that power flourishes, depends upon their ability to suppress and destroy the free institutions that stand against them. They pick them off one by one: the political parties, the trade unions, the churches, the schools, the universities, the trade associations, even the sporting clubs and the kindergartens. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is meant to be a declaration to the world that this kind of conquest from within will not in the future take place amongst us.” Tens of thousands of North American troops were stationed in Western Europe to deter any “conquest from within”.
The north Atlantic pact was also used to justify European/North American dominance across the globe. As part of the Parliamentary debate over NATO Pearson said: “There is no better way of ensuring the security of the Pacific Ocean at this particular moment than by working out, between the great democratic powers, a security arrangement the effects of which will be felt all over the world, including the Pacific area.” For Pearson and some US leaders NATO’s first test took place halfway across the world when 27,000 Canadians fought in a war that left millions of mostly Koreans dead between 1950 and 1953.
Through NATO’s Mutual Aid Program Canada armed France, Belgian and Britain as they violently suppressed independence struggles in Algeria, the Congo, Kenya and elsewhere. Between 1950 and 1958 Ottawa donated a whopping $1,526,956,000 ($8 billion today) in ammunition, fighter jets, military training, etc. to European NATO countries.
Exactly how little NATO had to do with the Cold War is demonstrated by how the alliance has become more aggressive since the demise of the Soviet Union. In 1999 Canadian fighter jets dropped 530 bombs in NATO’s illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia. During the 2000s tens of thousands of Canadian troops fought in a NATO war in Afghanistan. In 2011 a Canadian general led NATO’s attack on Libya in which seven CF-18 fighter jets and two Canadian naval vessels participated.
In a dangerous game of brinksmanship that could lead to a confrontation with Russian forces, NATO is currently massing troops and fighter jets on that country’s border. Alongside 200 soldiers in both Poland and Ukraine, 450 Canadian troops headed to Latvia this summer while the US, Britain and Germany lead missions in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia.
In addition to spurring war, militarists use the alliance to boost socially and ecologically damaging military spending. In one of a string of similar commentaries, a recent National Post editorial bemoaned “Canada’s continuing failure to honour our pledge to NATO allies to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence.” The Trudeau government has also cited the alliance to justify its opposition to international efforts to ban nuclear weapons.
Since its founding NATO has been a highly contentious issues within the NDP/CCF. While outgoing leader Tom Mulcair called the alliance a “cornerstone” of NDP foreign policy, those promoting Sid Ryan’s potential leadership bid called for the party “to revive the NDP’s historic policy to get Canada out of NATO.” (The party adopted this position in the late 1960s but effectively abandoned it two decades later.)
Though it would elicit howls of outrage from the militarists, withdrawing from NATO would not be particularly radical. European countries such as Sweden and Finland aren’t part of the alliance, nor are former British dominions Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Canada’s NAFTA and G7 partners Mexico and Japan.
Withdrawing from NATO would dampen pressure to spend on the military and to commit acts of aggression in service of the US-led world order.
This first appeared in Canadian Dimension