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NATO is sanitising its intentions


After building a reputation for foreign intervention and collateral damage — the most recent example being Libya — the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is asserting its influence during the COVID-19 pandemic, this time by exploiting the humanitarian paradigm. 

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO speaks at a press conference (Getty images/Handout)

Just one day after the September 11 attacks in the US, NATO invoked Article 5 of its founding treaty, which states that an attack against one of its member states will be considered as an attack on all members, thus paving the way for a coalition and foreign intervention. Since the aggression against Afghanistan, NATO deemed itself to have become 'far more experienced at conducting operations far from home' and credits itself with applying its tactics in other countries marked and destroyed by foreign intervention, specifically Libya in 2011.

Following the NATO intervention — the aim being the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — the country plunged into mutating instability which is now best reflected in the ongoing civil war between the UN-backed Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj, and the House of Representatives, which seeks to assume control of Libya through General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar has enjoyed the military backing of France, also a NATO member, since 2015.

Stoltenberg has described NATO’s humanitarian charade regarding its COVID-19 response as ‘solidarity in action.' Yet the actions which NATO will be most remembered for involve failed states, human carnage, bombs and millions of people forcibly displaced from their homes and countries. NATO creates humanitarian deprivation in the name of democracy. 

NATO has been delivering supplies to its allies Italy and Spain, in a bid to ‘help in this common fight against an invisible enemy,' according to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The aid is organised and delivered through the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), which also provides the alliance with delivery of munitions as necessary and when needed. To put it succinctly, NATO’s emergence as a key humanitarian player during this time is merely to protect its own interests. 

NATO’s Secretary General is proud to see the allies ‘supporting each other' in the same vein as the alliance is proud to be bombing countries together. Within Europe in particular there have been several requests for international humanitarian intervention. NATO’s response to such requests has been militarised, as seen in its statement, ‘NATO continues to deliver credible and effective deterrence and defence. Our ability to conduct operations has not been undermined, our forces remain ready and our crucial work goes on.' It is NATO itself that damages the humanitarian paradigm it is currently seeking during the pandemic — the statement reflects the security operations which are being conducted in Afghanistan, for example, at the same time as it aids European countries in delivering humanitarian assistance.


'It is easy for NATO to capitalise upon the rhetoric of a global health crisis, yet maintain its intervention and surveillance policy. After all, the alliance was not created to promote humanitarian aid, but rather to create the conditions which require maintaining such cycles.'


The pandemic has already impacted countries which have, in the past, participated in NATO’s intervention operations and which also host victims of NATO wars. The virus may not discern between victims, but the politics employed by NATO member-states ensure a hierarchy which leaves vulnerable people, including refugees in host countries, at additional risk and with fewer opportunities to alleviate sickness and poverty. 

It is easy for NATO to capitalise upon the rhetoric of a global health crisis, yet maintain its intervention and surveillance policy. After all, the alliance was not created to promote humanitarian aid, but rather to create the conditions which require maintaining such cycles. In 2016, NATO and the European Union signed a joint declaration which sees both entities collaborate on defence and migration, among other issues. Operation Sea Guardian — a joint exercise agreed by NATO and the EU in July 2016, contributed to the militarisation of the Mediterranean under the guise of disrupting human trafficking — the result being hiding refugees from sight in Libya’s failed state. The operation would tie into pushback policies preferred by most EU member-states. 

In Libya, NATO’s failed state creation, the situation for refugees is dire. From foreign intervention to civil war and a thriving human trafficking business; the latter is the last of the international community’s concerns if refugees are prevented from reaching Europe. Libya does not have the resources or financial capabilities to curb the virus spread. In the refugee camps where trafficked people suffer torture, the pandemic would have disastrous consequences. 

European countries, including those which are NATO member-states, have already exploited the coronavirus pandemic to promote the closing of borders and, as a result, refuse safe entry to refugees. 

In a press conference on April 14, Stoltenberg declared, 'our Alliance is helping to get the right support to the right places at the right time. Helping our nations save lives.' The virus knows no borders, Stoltenberg reminded. Unlike NATO, which is cognisant of borders and violates state sovereignty to create humanitarian crises and promote the politics of exclusion in terms of aid and relief. 

NATO may be helping governments to save face in order for them to choose which lives to save. It is ridiculous to entertain the notion that an alliance profiting from war can alter its agenda to one that promotes inclusive values. Individual governments are oftentimes lacking on this front, let alone an organisation that thrives upon human rights violations. Based upon recent history, it is safe to say that NATO’s solidarity stops at the creation of failed states under the auspices of democracy.



Ramona WadiRamona Wadi is a freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger. Her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America.

Main image: Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO speaks at a press conference (Getty images/Handout)

Topic tags: Ramona Wadi, NATO, COVID-19, coronavirus, Libya



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