The UK Election Result: Nato’s Preferred Outcome:

A nightmare scenario”: That was how Josh Glancy, the Sunday Times Washington correspondent, on 1st December described how many US senators viewed the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming British Prime Minister. Particular concern, observed Glancy, was being expressed about Corbyn’s perceived tendency to sympathise with some of America’s most implacable enemies and whether intelligence sharing and defence co-operation could be continued if the UK electorate installed a left-wing Labour Government.

On the same page, Caroline Wheeler, the newspaper’s Deputy Political Editor, quoted five prominent British military commanders” who warned that Corbyn in 10 Downing Street would be “dangerous” for national security and could “wreck” the morale of the country’s armed forces. There have long been doubts in particular about his support for NATO. As Channel 4 TV’s “Fact Check” has pointed out, although the Labour Party’s official policy is for Britain to continue as a member of NATO, Corbyn himself (prior to becoming the party’s leader) has called for the organisation to be disbanded, depicting it as “an engine for the delivery of oil to the oil companies” and asserting that after the Cold War ended in 1990, it should have “shut up shop, gone home, gone away”.

During the General Election campaign, the UK Defence Chief, Sir Nick Carter, riposted (reported the Sunday Express columnist Alessandra Scotto di Santolo on 10th November) by sending “ a stern message” to Corbyn that NATO plays a fundamental role in protecting Britain from external threats.

Boris Johnson, in contrast to Corbyn, has made it clear that he is “rock solid” in his commitment to NATO. In his opening statement welcoming the organisation’s leaders to their summit at the Grove Hotel in Watford on 4th December, he hailed it as “ a great shield of solidarity that protects 29 countries and a billion people”. The simple proposition at the heart of the Alliance, he emphasised, is that by standing together “no-one can hope to defeat us and therefore no-one will start a war”. The Conservative Party’s election win on 12th December, providing a majority of 80 in Parliament, has ensured that it will be Johnson’s view of NATO, not Corbyn’s, that will prevail for at least the next five years.

Several  Heads of State & Government – including the Prime Ministers of Canada (Justin Trudeau), the Netherlands (Mark Rutte), North Macedonia (Zoran Zaev) and President Andrzej Duda of Poland – also attended the “NATO Engages: Innovating The Alliance” Conference held at the Central Hall in Westminster on 3rd December. Among the key issues that featured on the agenda were: “NATO’s Role in an Insecure World”, “Defence and Deterrent For a New Era”, “The Impact of Climate Change on the Alliance” and “From The Baltic to the Black Sea: Security on NATO’s Frontlines”.

It soon became evident from the debates and speeches that the organization is now focusing as much on potential  “provocations from the east” (namely China) as on tensions with Russia. As the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged in a press conference in New York on 29th November, the Alliance now “needs to take into account China’s significant military modernisation: Its increased presence from the Arctic to the Balkans and in cyber space”.

The Observer columnist, Simon Tisdall, noted on 17th November that, according to the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, China has established “ a nefarious web already spanning Asia, Africa and Latin America” and is using economic means to coerce countries into lopsided deals that mainly benefit Beijing.

NATO has insisted in its “2020 Analysis: New Strategic Concepts”, that, with the possible exception of  humanitarian emergencies, it doesn’t foresee the organisation being directly involved in the Latin American or Caribbean regions. This has been somewhat contradicted, however, by Stoltenberg, who informed David Brunnstrom, a contributor to the Reuters News Agency, that NATO is looking into the possibility of other Latin American countries, in addition to Colombia (with whom a Partnership and Cooperation Programme was signed in 2017) becoming partners.

Indeed, following the visit by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the White House in March, it seems that Brazil could soon be awarded the status of a NATO “global partner”.Bolsonaro and Trump are fierce critics of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and strongly opposed to the apparent increasing Russian involvement that country. The US Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein, has made it clear to Newsweek magazine that the US & NATO “are certainly keeping a close eye on Chinese and Russian activities in Latin America” and that they would “push back aggressively if we must”. 

The Strategic Culture Foundation analyst, Alex Gorka, believes that the partnership with Colombia indicates that NATO is expanding its traditional zone of responsibility and has ceased to be just a European entity. The geopolitical expert and author, Paul Antonopoulos, agrees. “Decidedly (he declares), NATO and the US have turned their attention to South America”.

Filed under: Politics | Posted on December 16th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon

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