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Protesters in Newport on Thursday. (Photo: Andy Davies/@adavies4)

'No New Wars, No to NATO': Demonstrators Challenge Role of Western Military Alliance

From Afghanistan to Syria to Ukraine, U.S. and European nations criticized for being destabilizing force

Deirdre Fulton

Calling for peace and an end to ever-expanding military intervention, up to one thousand protesters joined a march in Newport, Wales on Thursday, protesting the NATO summit taking place there September 4-5.

As world leaders met inside the Celtic Manor Resort — discussing the crisis in Ukraine, the rise of the Islamic State, and the ending of NATO's combat mission in Afghanistan — demonstrators marched three miles from a monument at the center of the city to a roundabout near the hotel. There, they were met by police in riot gear behind a large metal barrier. A small group of international peace activists was allowed through the metal fence to hand-deliver messages of opposition and a bouquet of flowers. Some of the activists had been participating in a counter-summit "peace camp" since August 30.

"As Ukraine shows, far from keeping the peace, Nato is a threat to it."
—Seumas Milne

"Far from promoting security, NATO is a destabilizing global force," said Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament general secretary Kate Hudson, a member of the delegation that was permitted to go beyond the cordon. "Its war of aggression in Afghanistan has killed tens of thousands and left that country fragmented: the ripples of which are being felt across the region. Through its insatiable expansion into eastern Europe, capitalizing on the vacuum left following the collapse of the USSR, NATO has contributed to heightening tensions around Russia and Ukraine, and risks provoking a new Cold War. It's time to say No to NATO."

Protesters carried a banner that read, "No New Wars, No to NATO," and chanted, "They say warfare, we say welfare." Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament press officer Luke Massey told Common Dreams that "it was a peaceful protest."

"Through its insatiable expansion into eastern Europe, capitalizing on the vacuum left following the collapse of the USSR, NATO has contributed to heightening tensions around Russia and Ukraine, and risks provoking a new Cold War."
—Kate Hudson, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

In a column for the Guardian, Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition — an organizer of the protest — wrote that at the summit, "Sixty world leaders will swig champagne and work their way through several banquets. But the purpose of the summit is deadly serious and dangerous. Its stated aim is to increase the amount that each Nato country spends on defence to at least 2% of every country’s GDP. It will also agree further military operations in eastern Europe and in the Middle East. Billed months ago as a summit to manage the withdrawal of (some) Nato troops from Afghanistan, that issue has been consigned almost to a footnote."

She continued:

As the EU expanded eastwards, with its neoliberal message of privatisation and free markets, membership of Nato and greater spending on the military was seen as part of the package. Nato member states now extend to the Russian border.

The conflict in Ukraine has everything to do with this process. Nato plans exercises in Ukraine, and what amounts to permanent bases in Poland and the Baltic states. By backing the Ukraine government’s bombardment of the eastern part of the country, and largely ignoring the humanitarian crisis which has arisen there, Nato has made war with Russia a real threat.

The danger is that this week’s summit will also increase the pressure for war in Iraq. It seems almost unbelievable that none of the lessons of previous wars have been learned. More bombing of Iraq will do nothing to stop Isis.

Also in the Guardian, Seumas Milne expressed similar outrage: "Nato likes to see itself as the international community. In reality it's an interventionist and expansionist military club of rich-world states and their satellites used to enforce western strategic and economic interests. As Ukraine shows, far from keeping the peace, Nato is a threat to it."

According to the BBC, another protest is planned for later Thursday in the capital, where NATO delegates are expected to have dinner at Cardiff Castle.

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