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“It’s Not About Security”: Belgian Peace Activist Says NATO Has Outlived Its Purpose

StoryFebruary 01, 2022
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Image Credit: Vrede vzw

To speak about the key role NATO is playing in the Ukraine crisis, we speak with Ludo De Brabander, spokesperson of the peace organization Vrede vzw in Belgium, where NATO is headquartered. De Brabander says NATO has outlived its purpose, and touches on how activists in NATO countries like Belgium are pushing against narratives in the media that war with Russia is necessary.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to bring — in addition to Reiner Braun, go to Belgium, where we’re joined by Ludo De Brabander, who is with the group Vrede, which is the Flemish word for “peace.” You are the country that is the home base of NATO. Talk about the response there.

LUDO DE BRABANDER: Well, as you said, Belgium is hosting in Brussels the headquarters of NATO and also is the capital, let’s say, from the European Union, with the commission, for example, its headquarters in Brussels. So, well, let’s say it’s similar to what Reiner said concerning Germany. You know, the first thing that our government says — and they’re also Greens and social democrats in the government — is that we need to fulfill our obligations towards NATO. So, and if NATO asks us to deploy troops, for example, towards the Russian border, towards the east of Europe, then Belgium will do this. This is the message we are given.

And maybe to give you an example how the Ukraine crisis is playing also into the — let’s say, into the interests of the military-industrial complex and is used, just recently, last Friday, our government decided to increase military budgets, referring to the crisis with Russia, to 1.54% of the gross domestic product, which is an increase from 1.1 today. So, it’s about, in eight years’ time, 14 billion euros, which is a lot of money, especially with the health crisis and the energy crisis now today. And you see there is almost no debate in media. It seems like to be almost the political consensus that this one is needed. And I think this is due to the NATO policy and also to the propaganda, almost, we read in press. The voices that are standing for peace and trying to give alternatives to military confrontation are almost not heard. So, this is a little bit the atmosphere in Belgium.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ludo De Brabander, I wanted to ask you: For those listeners here who may not be familiar with the origins and evolution of NATO, could you talk a little bit about the original reason why NATO was created, and especially why it chose, following the collapse of the Soviet bloc, to expand eastward?

LUDO DE BRABANDER: Well, NATO has — you know, when it was first created in '49, it was to keep the Russians out, the Russians — the Germans down and the United States in. That's the very famous phrase that is often used. And, of course, the Warsaw Pact has been established six years later, but it was in the middle of, let’s say, when Truman gave his speech in '47, let's say, that made the difference, that started the Cold War. It was like, yeah, always with accompanying what I call the propaganda of “We have to be careful for Russia. Russia will invade us,” like similar — that time similar to what happens now.

And after, you know — it has already been said, I think, in the program today, but going further on in the '90s, when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, and the Soviet Union also became dissolved, with 10 states coming out of it, many in even mainstream politics thought NATO is not needed anymore. But NATO — just the opposite happened. NATO, let's say, reinvented itself. It started, in late '90s, to expand its territory to the east. It's changed, let’s say, its policy of a pure defense organization, through Article 5 — you know, when one country is attacked, all countries will help and support the country attacked. This is the central, let’s say, task of the NATO. Suddenly, there was talk about non-Article 5 tasks, which became intervention policy of NATO. And third, it started to be global by making a lot of cooperation agreements with countries and regions worldwide.

So, NATO reestablished itself as a global actor now, more and more, as a global force. And as Reiner said, NATO, half — more than half of military spending is done by NATO. And now you see a big push towards all NATO countries, because this was decided in Wales in 2014, to increase their defense military budgets, and it will become even, in a few years, 60, 65% of all military expenditures in the world. And so it became a very important military force, and, I think, mainly to defend geostrategical interests. It’s not about security. If it would be about security, let’s say, the relationship with Russia would be treated differently. As Reiner said before, then it would be more cooperative. We would look for what is called common security, because security is indivisible. Security of the other is in the interest of the security of the one. So, it is — but this policy is undermined by NATO, this principle.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And to what degree is there an opportunity for the peace movement to be able to affect the policies of some of the key players, European players, within NATO?

LUDO DE BRABANDER: Well, it’s very difficult. As I said, I mean, there is not much coverage of the positions of a peace movement. What we try to do, we have also, as Medea announced already in the United States on the 5th of December — 5th, sorry, of February, so next Saturday, a vigil in Brussels. And what we try to emphasize is that NATO is not in our interest, not in the interest of security and peace, but also not in the interest of, let’s say, the needs of people. This announcement of military spending, to increase it, this is what we try to use, you know, because at the same time there’s a huge discussion in government — or, we had a huge discussion in government, how to solve the bills of the — you know, they go up two, three, four times up for energy.

AMY GOODMAN: Ludo, we have 10 seconds.

LUDO DE BRABANDER: OK, for energy, and how to solve that. So, we want to oppose that military spending to what — the real needs of the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Ludo De Brabander is with the peace group Vrede, which is based in Belgium, where NATO is based. And thank you to Reiner Braun, who is with the International Peace Bureau, speaking to us from Berlin. Both will be involved with peace vigils as the escalation of militarism continues between Ukraine and Russia and the United States and NATO.

I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Remember, wearing a mask is an act of love.

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