NATO, the imperialist war machine

War and Lenin in the 21st century, part 3

The smoldering wreckage of a passenger train after being hit by two missiles launched from a NATO F-15 on April 12, 1999. At least 55 commuters were killed.

When Lenin wrote his pamphlet “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” in 1916, the world had a handful of imperialist countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan. Britain was the leading imperialist power, the empire on which the sun never set.


Since 1945, world capitalism has been politically and militarily dominated by the U.S. empire. 

Historian Daniel Immerwahr says in “How the U.S. has hidden its empire”: “The years since the second world war have brought the U.S. military to country after country. The big wars are well-known: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. But there has also been a constant stream of smaller engagements. Since 1945, U.S. armed forces have been deployed abroad for conflicts or potential conflicts 211 times in 67 countries. Call it peacekeeping if you want, or call it imperialism. … 

“One of the truly distinctive features of the U.S. empire is how persistently ignored it has been. This is, it is worth emphasizing, unique. The British weren’t confused as to whether there was a British empire. They had a holiday, Empire Day, to celebrate it. France didn’t forget that Algeria was French. It is only the U.S. that has suffered from chronic confusion about its own borders.”

The relationship between the imperialist powers has changed since 1914, but the list of imperialist capitalist powers hasn’t changed much. The United States is the dominant imperialist power with Britain, Germany, France, and Japan as satellite imperialists.  They made up the Group of Five, and now the G7, which includes Canada and Italy. 

The change in imperialist relations can be summed up with one word: NATO.

Unlike in 1914, there is one military machine that dominates the imperialist world. The U.S.-commanded military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – NATO – includes the armed forces of the U.S. and all other countries in the alliance, including Britain, Germany, and France. 

NATO also includes the armed forces of the “lesser” imperialist countries such as Canada and Italy (the G7 countries) and some smaller countries in Western Europe and now Eastern Europe.

Japan is a partner in NATO through the Individually Tailored Partnership Programme (ITPP) agreement. Japan participates in NATO exercises and training programs, and provides financial support to most NATO operations.

The United States had a double purpose when it created NATO in 1949. The first was to threaten the Soviet Union and its new Eastern European allies and, if necessary, put down any revolutionary movement in Western Europe. The communist parties in France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal were widely popular.

The second purpose was to ensure that neither Germany nor any other European power would challenge U.S. domination. For propaganda during the Cold War, the U.S. claimed its military forces in Europe were necessary to defend these countries against a possible Soviet attack. The last thing the Soviet Union, which had lost more than 27 million people in World War II, would have considered was a military offensive into Western Europe.

NATO’s purpose

The purpose of NATO became apparent after the Soviet Union was destroyed under the Gorbachev regime between 1985 and 1991. While the Warsaw Pact — the defensive alliance formed by the Soviet Union in 1955 — was abolished, NATO was not. Instead, the U.S. swallowed the Soviet Union’s former Eastern European allies and some of the former Soviet Republics into NATO. 

The only former Soviet or Soviet-allied countries in Europe that are not now part of NATO are Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Even though Russia is now capitalist and thus represents no socialist threat to any existing capitalist nation, the U.S. has been tightening its encirclement of Russia through NATO. The goal is to transform Russia, with its vast natural wealth, into a semi-colony of the U.S.

The U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine is about the drive of U.S. imperialism to bring Russia’s and Ukraine’s colossal wealth in natural resources under its control. Both countries are rich in farmland and raw materials such as ores. Already, much of Ukraine’s have been taken over by U.S. finance capital. Russian capitalists are fighting to maintain control of their own natural resources.

U.S. domination of Germany, Japan

The U.S. now has the most expensive military in history. No country even comes close to the U.S. global dominance. The Pentagon’s budget for “defense” in 2023 exceeds that of the next 10 countries (mostly NATO allies) combined.

So why does the U.S. have its largest military occupations in Germany and Japan? There is only one real reason — to ensure the defeated Axis powers remain U.S. satellites.

However, unlike after World War I, the U.S. did not throttle the capitalists of Germany and Japan. The World War I Treaty of Versailles attempted to squeeze the costs of the war out of Germany, which essentially destroyed the German economy. 

NATO war on Yugoslavia

NATO has undertaken eight military actions, all since 1990. The alliance did not undertake any military operations during the Cold War. Since 1990, NATO has engaged in two actions related to the first Gulf War, two in the former Yugoslavia, and military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya.

The NATO war on Yugoslavia in 1999 asserted NATO’s domination of the Balkans. The war was NATO showing other countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics that it is the dominant power. 

The 78-day-long aerial bombing campaign, using more than a thousand aircraft, dropped more than 3,000 cruise missiles and about 80,000 tons of bombs. More than 3,000 people were killed, and up to 20,000 were seriously injured.

NATO did not seek the approval of the United Nations Security Council for the bombing campaign or any other international legal cover; it was openly a war crime, not unlike the Nazi aerial bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

NATO war on Libya

In 2011, NATO bombed Libya and overthrew its government. NATO’s war in Libya was its first major military operation in Africa. NATO bombed Libya 9,600 times over seven months. 

The war against Libya was part of an effort by the U.S. and its satellite imperialist allies, especially Britain and France, to crush the Arab Spring uprising.

The anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions began in Tunisia and then spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.

NATO and the U.S. military-industrial complex

As Forbes magazine gleefully reported in May, the expansion of NATO has opened up a big new market for U.S. military-industrial complex defense contractors. It’s “a big win for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.

“NATO membership means a significant increase in each country’s military spending.  Finland joined NATO on April 4, 2023, and ordered 64 new F-35 warplanes, the elite joint strike fighter developed by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems (BAESY). Each one will cost between $110 million and $135.8 million.

Forbes adds: “More importantly, aligning with NATO is a commitment to interoperability with the American defense ecosystem. This directly benefits the big U.S. contractors. The market for their goods is expanding and they will face no competition for the foreseeable future. …

“The F-35-ification of European armies might be a bigger deal, though. In addition to the cost of the units, corresponding ground support, spare parts and maintenance, there is a lock-in factor. Europe is now committed to America-made gear for decades to come.”

War and Lenin in the 21st century

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