As of the time of writing, the death toll from COVID-19 has exceeded 40,000 and the number of people infected by this pandemic is approaching one million. Given the scale of this health crisis, there is no doubt that emergency measures, in particular to help the most vulnerable, are necessary.
However, the billions of dollars mobilized to respond to COVID-19 mean very little in the face of the colossal sums that the Western imperialist states are constantly pouring out to incubate another virus just as deadly, if not more, than COVID-19: NATO.
NATO has killed 400,000 people in Syria since 2011 and left more than a million dead in Iraq alone since 2003. Its members spend more than $1 trillion on arms each year, or 56% of total military spending worldwide. There are more than a thousand foreign military bases globally. The military is the most significant source of pollution on the planet.
Contrary to what French President Emmanuel Macron asserts, NATO is not in a state of “brain death.” Today it is the main threat to world peace and, therefore, a threat to the whole of humanity. Mark Esper, US Secretary of Defence, said at a Munich Security Conference in February that the competition between “great powers” was the “first priority” of the United States. Esper stressed that America would adopt a strategy of national defense which distances itself from “conflicts of low intensity” to better prepare for “high intensity” wars with China and Russia. He reiterated that the secondary priority of the United States was the fight against the “rogue states” that are, among others, Iran and the DPR of Korea.
Even though these announcements were made before the COVID-19 crisis broke out, to date they have not been contradicted by anyone in the United States (not even by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders) or anywhere else in the world. Trudeau, for his part, has still not considered rolling back the 73% increase in military spending announced in 2017.
With the billions of dollars mobilized to wage war around the globe and prepare for conflicts of “high intensity” we could easily have maintained health services able to meet the needs of this crisis. Italy, a member of NATO, has become the centre of the pandemic after China. The Italian health system is regionalized, so each region is put in competition with the other, and for the past 10 years cuts to healthcare have amounted to €37 billion, which has resulted in the closure of 150,000 beds. Meanwhile, the annual Italian military budget has risen, according to official sources, to €28 billion.
According to NATO guidelines, military spending should amount to 2% of the GDP of each country. This would mean nearly $35 billion for Canada as apposed to about $25 billion currently. Reducing the military budget would fund public health and free up money to invest in scientific cooperation projects around the world. Such projects would allow countries like Cuba to receive the financial and scientific support necessary to develop their potential vaccine (Alpha-2B) rather than appealing to the greed of the pharmaceutical companies, as Donald Trump does when he offers German scientists tempting sums if they work on behalf of the United States.
Unlike COVID-19, NATO is a virus that does not develop in human cells. It is growing thanks to the cells of Big Capital. It is clear that the measures taken by the western capitalist governments, if they serve to curb the health crisis of COVID-19, also serve as an incubator for imperialist warmongering, including that of NATO. Indeed, all the economic indicators are showing that the post-COVID-19 era will be pockmarked by an economic depression and an even greater concentration of capital than that which we saw in 2008 – 2009.
However, this concentration of capital is precisely what fuels imperialism and militarism. As markets become increasingly saturated, they must extend beyond national borders in order to satisfy the needs of their monopolies. War and occupation are the products of this drive by the most powerful countries to divide the world into zones of influence.
Unlike COVID-19, getting rid of the NATO virus is relatively simple. For us in Canada, it is about fighting for the withdrawal of our country from NATO, which can be achieved through a simple unilateral declaration. It is scandalous that Trudeau and his government speak of solidarity and “national” effort when it does not touch on Canada’s participation in NATO or on military spending.
COVID-19 evolves in disconcerting lock-step with the other virus of NATO and imperialist war-mongering. This is why anyone who cares about real social solidarity – one that does not stop at Canada’s borders, but is internationalist – must not fall into the traps set by the ruling class, which aim to manipulate the COVID-19 health crisis to better place their pawns on the world geopolitical chessboard and ensure better domination of the world.
PV readers are encouraged to visit sign the petition calling for Canada’s immediate withdrawal from NATO.
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