Ageing is a natural process, but some age faster due to a variety of reasons including ill health, lack of good nutrition and troublesome children who raise their blood pressure. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) established primarily to counter the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) has aged quite fast due to some of these reasons. So much that when its 12 biological and 17 adopted children gathered in Britain to mark its 70th, it was difficult to say whether it was really a social party or a gathering of grumbling children amongst whom there was no love lost.
Europe, due to a good standard of living and improved healthcare, has an aging population many of who at 60-70, are in good shape and independent. Not NATO, which at 70 is looking quite old, ragged and dependent on children, many of who do not seem to care about its wellbeing. In fact, one of them, Emmanuel Macron who presides over France, declared NATO, brain dead to which the richest, strongest and wealthiest child, the United States, issued a sharp reprimand for being “very disrespectful”. Ironically, it was American President Donald Trump who pronounced three years ago, that NATO was obsolete.
NATO suffers chronic pains especially in its Ukrainian and Turkish joints and may be suffering from dementia trying to remember whether it was partly responsible for its problems in Ukraine, and played not too elegant parts in the crises that has turned countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen upside down. Even as its birthday party was on, NATO was struggling to remember the fact that its children spearheaded the establishment of the Islamic State (ISIS) and whether its European ISIS children who are prisoners of war in Syria have returned home or are still being held in crowded prisons unfit for human beings. In fact at the birthday party, four of its children still got together to threaten Syria for the on-going war in the Idlib province; still thinking of some military intervention in a war they should cover their faces in shame.
It is due to NATO’s dementia that it has difficulty completing normal tasks like bringing its grandchildren who joined ISIS, home from Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
Not unexpectedly, young, impetuous Macron and old but rascally Donald Trump dominated the headlines mainly for the wrong reasons. Macron who in his zeal to make a mark, had mobilised the French population into ‘Yellow Vests’ who gave him a red card, had taken on America slamming technology taxes on its companies. While Trump emphasized that the immediate issue in NATO is members increasing their defence budget to at least two percent of gross domestic product, Macron retorted: “Our debate should concern things other than financial questions alone.” He also made a fundamental statement at the party; that his primary interest is not the larger NATO family, but France and Europe. So for him, big brother America can go hang.
Macron had also taken on Turkey, slamming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for turning its weapons on the Kurds who are NATO allies: “When I look at Turkey, they now are fighting against those who fought with us shoulder to shoulder against [IS]” Referring to Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 Russian missile defence system, Macron casted doubt about that country’s allegiance to NATO wondering: “How is it possible to be a member of the alliance… and buy things from Russia?”
Erdogan seemed unperturbed. He threatened to oppose a NATO plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack unless other members accept his terrorist label of the Kurds and join in caging them.
The alliance’s leaders are gathering in London to mark its 70th anniversary amid growing tensions.
Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, amongst other NATO leaders were caught on camera making fun of Trump, whom Johnson handled like a disaster waiting to happen. An angry Trump, turned on young Trudeau telling the press: “Well, he’s two-faced,” “And honestly, with Trudeau, he’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy. But, you know, the truth is that I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying 2 percent and I guess he’s not very happy about it.” He also called Germany and some other countries delinquents: “Some are major delinquent, some are way below 1 percent, and that’s unacceptable, and then, if something happens, we’re supposed to protect them, and it’s not really fair.”
Boris Johnson had begged Trump before he came for the NATO party not to comment on the British elections coming up on December 12, as it could be counterproductive.
At first, it seemed Trump would comply, so when asked about the elections he said: “I have no thoughts on it. I don’t want to complicate it.” Then as if lost in thought, he said: “I’ve won a lot of elections for a lot of people. But this is a different country.” After promising to stay out of the election, he blurted: “ I was a fan of Brexit… I think Boris is very capable and will do a great job.” On Johnson’s political rival, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Trump claimed: “I know nothing about the gentleman, honestly. I know nothing about him.” This is what a Nigerian academic will describe as a “truthful lie”
At the meeting, Johnson who seemed to have avoided close meetings with Trump, told his guests: “As long as we stand together, no-one can hope to defeat us.” The reality however, is that the greatest challenges of NATO are within; its defeat may be more of an implosion.
After wining and dining in the Buckingham Palace at the expense of Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday, the children of the celebrant gathered next day to announce they had concluded that: “To stay secure we must look to the future together.” They saw Russia and China as their immediate challenges and that they would take “stronger action” against terrorism.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg reacting to the disagreements, claimed: “The strength of NATO is that we have always been able to overcome these differences and unite around our core task to protect and defend our children.” Toasting to the birthday boy, he claimed: “NATO is the most successful alliance in history because we’ve changed as the world has changed.” I am not sure any NATO member believes this; NATO appears allergic to change. It seems incapable of understanding the new reality; that it cannot continue going around the world imposing its will.
NATO should be headed for an old peoples home where it can spend the rest of its life; I have no doubt that the world will be a better place without this war-monger.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of African workers, is a human rights activist, journalist and author.