NATO wants Europe to upgrade its roads, bridges and rail networks. Not because of dilapidated infrastructure, global competitiveness, or to make it easier for people to travel across the continent – let alone their own countries – but so they can handle the weight of its heavy tanks and military equipment for what it deems an inevitable invasion of Russia. Though it has yet to commit a single crime, up to 10,000 NATO troops have amassed on Russia’s border states, in lieu of a war that hasn’t happened yet. 

Illustration by Rachael Bolton

NATO is itching for a war with Russia, though it has yet to commit any crime for which we have evidence justifying military invasion.

During a press conference in Brussels this week, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said it is vital that European roads, bridges and rail networks are up to date. Not because of dilapidated infrastructure. Or the need to make it easier for people to travel across the continent – let alone their own damn countries – for love and commerce. Or even for global economic competitiveness. But so that their roads, tunnels, bridges and rail networks can take the heavy loads of its tanks and military equipment. (Bridges, tunnels, roads and rail which NATO implies will likely be destroyed in the event of a military conflict, but first they need to get their heavy gear across).

If NATO’s request of the European Community to upgrade their most basic infrastructure isn’t the most obvious metaphor for late-stage capitalism, I don’t know what is.

Just remember that next time your government asks “but how are we going to pay for it?” (The answer is, through deficit spending, which is apparently only acceptable in times of war).

So just to recap: When public spending is acceptable:

When advancing the military industrial complex.

When public spending is unacceptable:

– Upgrading infrastructure so people do not have to spend hours commuting just to get to their place of work so they can earn a living, (commuting hours for which they will not be paid).
– Job creation.
– Education.
– Health.
– Police, fire and ambulance.
– Providing services, emotional, psychological and financial support for our existing servicemen and women, and the generations of veterans who have been abandoned by the governments they signed up to or were conscripted to serve.
– The welfare state and providing for the most basic needs of ‘civilians’ – a term dripping with condescension as it is.

Though Russia has yet to commit a single crime, up to 10,000 NATO troops have amassed on Russia’s border states, in lieu of a war that hasn’t happened yet.

More than 800 UK-led battalion troops from Denmark and France are deployed in Estonia. 1200 Canadian-led troops are based in Albania, Italy, Poland, Spain and Slovenia. Another 1200 German-led battalions from Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway are deployed in Lithuania. And a 4000-strong battalion of US-led soldiers with heavy armour, including 150 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin Howitzers are based in Poland. Troops are also stationed in Romania and Bulgaria.

 

To quote American writer and journalist, Robert Bridge: “Russia has been found guilty – by the non-jury court of NATO opinion – of carrying out the very same task that every nation performs if it hopes to maintain its sovereignty: spending money on modernising its forces.”

In 2010 Russia committed $610 billion to a decade-long transformation, bringing at least 70% of its military equipment into the modern age, a process which journalist Andrew Monaghan nervously described as “impressive”.

But as Bridge rightly points out:

“The author fails to mention, however, that the US Pentagon spends about that much every month feeding the voracious appetite of its vast military empire.”

NATO’s military expenditure for just last year came in at $918 billion.

And from the throne of opulence that is the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at Guildhall in London, embattled Tory Prime Minister Theresa May paid lip-service to the well-worn myth of Russian aggression. In a speech, she accused Russia of hacking the German parliament and the Danish defence ministry and using fake news and cyber espionage to “sow discord in the west”. (Because nobody has ever lost an election blaming the Russians, though May is a little late to the Cold War chorus which has been playing on repeat for going on eleven months now). All while British NATO forces move ever closer to Moscow.

To add insult to injury, Ms May claimed that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe. Perhaps she wasn’t counting the Yugoslav Wars.

Besides which, plenty of non-European sovereign territory have been invaded or forcibly taken since WWII, often with the help of the allied nations, including Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran, Lebanon, the Belgian Congo, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti and Panama, South Korea, Cuba and the Balkans. The EU may have largely succeeded in preventing another European world war, but it seemingly has fewer qualms about countries outside its remit.

Oh and it’s worth mentioning here that Turkey, a key NATO ally has not only become a safe-haven for jihadists, but is actively funding and sponsoring ISIS.

A former senior counter-terrorism official in Turkey revealed that it, a leading member of the NATO alliance, is providing direct financial, military and logistical support to ISIS at the very same time it claims to be fighting terror networks.

Journalist Nick Turse reported in 2011 that it is almost impossible to calculate the number of overseas US military bases:

“Today, according to the Pentagon’s published figures, the American flag flies over 750 U.S. military sites in foreign nations and U.S. territories abroad,” Turse wrote. “This figure does not include small foreign sites of less than 10 acres or those that the U.S. military values at less than $10 million.”

But sure, it’s Russia that is acting aggressively.

Claire Connelly

Claire Connelly

Claire Connelly is the editor-in-chief of Renegade Inc. An award-winning freelance journalist and speaker, she is the founder of Hello Humans, an experiment in subscription journalism starting at just $1 a month. https://www.patreon.com/hello_humans

Specialising in economics, technology and policy, Connelly is working on her first book and podcast series, How the World Really Works*. (*Title may be due to change). You can pre-order a copy here. #shamelessselfpromotion.

With more than a decade of experience under her belt, Claire has written for leading publications including The Australian Financial Review, The Saturday Paper, ABC, SBS, Crikey, New Matilda, VICE & others. She is the co-host of The Week In Start-Ups Australia, and features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio shows including Radio National's Download This Show, ABC's The Drum, Ten's The Project, and more.

How do you spend your days?

I am the editor-in-chief of Renegade and founder of Hello Humans, a subscription journalism experiment. I also freelance & consult for a number of publications of the editorial and commercial variety.I work from home. I am a bit of a work-hermit. I can mostly be found on the internet and at the dog park.

Why is this important to you?

Now more than ever, it is really important to make sense of the world around us. But in an age of information saturation it is becoming harder to distinguish the truth from bullshit. Part of the reason I am doing this is to help people differentiate between the truth and narratives being sold by people and organisations with vested interests.

I want to help people identify rhetorical red flags and immunise themselves against a sea of bullshit.

What drove you to focus on journalism?

I guess you could say my parents played a fairly big part in my becoming a journalist, much to their despair. Watching the news, reading the paper and listening to the radio was a compulsory activity in my household. My parents read me the paper before I could read.

Being engaged in the world around us was the way we repaid our debt to society.

They channelled the last of their politically active twenties and thirties into fostering our curiosity and distrust of authority. It wasn’t until I reached university that I fell in love with economics, politics and international relations.

Was there a particular moment you can remember that led you to this field?

The day Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated, (the 4th of November 1995). I was 10. It was a weekend and I was in my winter school uniform complete with pinafor and scratchy tights. I played clarinet in the school orchestra and we were due to play at the old folks home. And I was pissed. And I said so.

The phone rang, and with tears rolling down her face, my mum turned to me and said the concert had been cancelled. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister had been killed.

I threw my stuff down and turned to get changed. But before I could my mum grabbed me firmly. I will never forget the look of disappointment on her face. She made some comment about how Rabin did not die for my convenience.
“You live in this house, you have clothes on your back and warm blankets and three square meals a day. You may not do anything with your education that we pay for, but you will be informed.”
She sat me down in front of the ABC and made me watch eight hours of assassination coverage. Little had I known the world was falling apart.

That day pretty much sealed my fate.

You can read more it here if you are interested.

What drives you professionally?

Justice. Egomania. Curiosity. And the fact there is no other profession more suited to my personality.

In your opinion what are the three biggest problems facing the developed and developing world?

Neoliberalism. Economic and social instability and insecurity. Banking fraud. Climate change. (Ok that’s four things. I never was very good at lists).

If you hadn’t become a journalist what would you have done?

My mum wishes I had studied law.

What led us to this moment in history?

We are living proof of a 30 year operation to permanently reduce the responsibility ofgovernment over the wellbeing of its constituents. You can read more about that here. (Link to neoliberalism piece).

What are the lessons we failed to learn during and since the 2008 crisis?

Austerity is a means of redistributing the profits in of productivity in which we all used to share to the world’s uber-wealthy.

The global financial crisis was one small step for man, one giant leap for the banking industry. It cemented financial crises as a permanent phenomenon and the formalisation of corporate revolution.

It signalled to the world that government exists only to support the private sector, triggering a wave of disillusionment which allowed neoliberalism to complete its task at hand: the complete and utter destruction of democracy, replacing it with a market society in which economics permeates every facet of modern life, from education to healthcare to law & order.

Even the military operates as a for-profit model, conveniently privatising any activity that sits outside the criminal justice system.

Some call the bail-outs of 2008 a failure of neo-liberalism. To the contrary, the private sector attained almost exactly what it set out to achieve: a system with no obligation to true economic recovery, that supports only profits and the corporations which generate them.

We keep voting for wealthy populist leaders thinking the knock-on-effects will put dollars in our pocket when the very opposite is true.

So long as voters continue to accept the mythic propaganda sown over the last 30 years that tax breaks & subsidies create jobs, deficits are bad, surpluses are good and that any instability is somehow the fault of the poor, our economic insecurity will only continue to increase.

Can you list some ‘baby steps’ out of the current economic mess?

A return to full employment.

A royal commission into the continuation of subprime mortgage fraud. (It didn’t go away after the GFC. In fact it was pretty much legalised).

Slash the cost of university degrees & create new pathways for the unemployed and underemployed to attain new skills and education.

Deficit spending to create infrastructure that will create the jobs of the future.

Support local agriculture.

Reduce private debt.


If you were a President / Prime Minister what would your first three pieces of policy be?

A job guarantee.
Re-introduce a price on carbon.
Legalise gay marriage.

Tell us something you have been wrong about?

I didn’t think that in 2017 that gay marriage and abortion would still be illegal in Australia.
Claire Connelly

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