Peace Forces Mobilize as NATO Summit in Madrid Plans for War / by W.T Whitney Jr.

‘Yes to peace, No to NATO’: Anti-imperialist activists organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth march against the NATO Summit that opens in Madrid on June 29. | via WFDY

The NATO Summit taking place in Madridon June 29-30 “will be transformative,”  asserted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg; it will project “a new Strategic Concept for a new security reality.” At its 50th anniversary summit, in Washington in 1999, NATO had expanded its Cold-War era mission of collective defense of Europe to include protection for democracy “within and beyond our borders.”

According to Stoltenberg on June 27, NATO will provide “support to Ukraine now, and for the future.” The “Allies consider Russia as the most significant and direct threat to our security.” NATO “will address China for the first time …[and also] the challenges that Beijing poses to our security, interests, and values.” Pacific nations – Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand – will be attending a NATO summit for the first time.

The Summit provoked opposition beforehand. A “Peace Summit,” described as “the People’s Alternative to NATO and War,” gathered in Madrid on June 24-25. A conglomeration of Spanish and European anti-capitalists, environmentalists, feminists, anti-imperialists, peace activists, and spokespersons for struggles in the global South attended workshops, panel discussions, cultural presentations, and plenary sessions.

The Peace Summit made demands. First, NATO will be disbanded: “NATO violates the UN Charter … authoritarian, fascist, and colonial regimes are included in its alliance …NATO’s military interventions have destabilized and destroyed Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya. Now NATO pursues a new Cold War against China and Russia. … NATO leads the worldwide arms race … NATO’s nuclear agenda greatly endangers our survival.” Regarding environmental contamination: “The U.S. army “is the most contaminating institution on the planet … NATO generates poverty and inequalities.”

The Summit then declared, “Yes, to Peace … we need a non-militarized system of security, without nuclear arms, without foreign bases, and with a drastic reduction of military expenses. We defend a politics of active peace … [We want] investment in social progress, not in war … Europe and North America must commit to disarmament.”

The statement concluded with an invitation: “March with us against NATO and for building a world of peace.” Indeed, on June 26 thousands marched through central Madrid, their banners flying. Organizers claimed 30,000 marchers. The government reported considerably less. 

The Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and the United Left (Izquierda Unida) were the only political parties that joined with dozens of Spanish and international organizations endorsing the declaration and march. The PCE belongs to the United Left electoral coalition that, after the November 2019 general election, combined with the larger United We Can alliance (Unidas Podemos) to form a government under the leadership of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, head of the Socialist Party.

Sánchez issued a statement welcoming the NATO summit to Madrid. He mentioned concerns about Spain’s “southern flank,” a reference, presumablyto migrants from Africa.

PCE member Yolanda Díaz serves as labor minister and second deputy prime minister in Sánchez’s government. Even so, Enrique Santiago, secretary general of her party, on June 7 offered ideas at odds with those of the prime minister: “We don’t want the NATO summit in Madrid. The story of the Ukraine conflict is of a war foretold, what with the continuing expansion of NATO to the East … And in wars, the peoples, the workers, always lose out.” Santiago cited the risk of “nuclear confrontation” and commended the upcoming Peace Summit and “international demonstration against war on June 26.” 

In remarks two days prior to the Summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg greatly heightened the urgency of the peace proponents’ fears. “At the summit,” he said, “we will strengthen our forward defenses. We will enhance our battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance.”

One report predicted that, “NATO allies will decide at a summit this week to increase the strength of their rapid reaction force nearly eightfold to 300,000 troops …  The NATO response force …currently numbers around 40,000 soldiers.” As part of efforts “to shore up the defenses on Europe’s eastern flank,” the NATO Summit will speed up arrangements for the entry of Finland and Sweden’s into the alliance

Stoltenberg spoke of a “strengthened Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine” and “about the military build-up in Kaliningrad … with highly advanced weapon systems.” Partly because of Kaliningrad, “we have modernized our armed forces, our capabilities, and also increased our presence in that part of the region”.

According to the Brookings Institute, Kaliningrad, a tiny Baltic Sea, Russian-controlled enclave, located between Poland and Lithuania, “could become a new flashpoint in Russia’s war on Ukraine.” That’s because Lithuania is blocking the passage of EU-sanctioned Russian goods into the territory for delivery beyond.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

The original version of the article appeared in People’s World, June 28, 2022,