By Owei Lakemfa
The gathering of 32 European countries and their North American first cousins in Lithuania under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, is the clearest indication yet, that they want to put humanity on the path to another World War.
British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, made a truthful summary of the July 11-12, 2023 NATO Summit in little Lithuania, one of the first bolts to loosen from the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which led to its collapse. He said what the summit achieved was to strengthen the military alliance, put it in its most combat-ready form since the Cold War, work out its “comprehensive war-fighting plans,” scale up defence production to “boost our stockpiles” of weapons and reaching a minimum defence spending of two per cent.
He also celebrated the full membership of Finland which has a 1,340-kilometre border with Russia, the longest by any European Union member. This means that NATO is fully peeping into Russia, and Finland would soon warehouse NATO weapons.
Sunak added with glee: “…And very soon we’ll be doing the same with Sweden. We are stronger with them by our side… and in time we will be stronger with Ukraine as a NATO ally too.”
In reiterating British commitment to the military defeat of Russia in the Ukraine War, the British leader announced: “Together with our G7 partners we have agreed to provide the long-term bilateral security commitments that Ukraine needs.”
The more recent commitments of the United States, US, for instance, was President Joe Biden’s Friday, July 7, 2023 announcement to provide Ukraine with cluster bombs which represents perhaps the most dangerous escalation in the war. This move, further shuts the doors against peaceful negotiations to end the war in Ukraine.
Cluster bombs are bombs that disperse and scatter huge number of mini-bomblets over wide areas some of which fail to explode on impact and thus become like landmines, lying in wait for years after a war, to explode when stepped upon by innocent civilians.
Since cluster bombs are ‘steel rain’ designed to fall on targets spread over wide areas, it means they do not have an accuracy and can therefore hit unintended targets such as civilian populations. The US military documents, reveal that the CBU-97 cluster bomb, for instance, “provides multiple kills per pass” against a wide range of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles. Cluster bombs are weapons and crimes against humanity.
These bombs are so dangerous that 111 countries, including NATO members: Germany, UK and Canada, have signed and ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning its use, production and stockpiling.
The US last used them 20 years ago when in April 2003, in collaboration with the UK, it fired about two million cluster bombs, most of which were called Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, in Iraq.
The outcry against the US was so much that on March 11, 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law a permanent ban on nearly all cluster bomb exports by the US.
Biden, this July 8, in rationalising his decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs said: “This is a war relating to munitions. And they’re running out of that ammunition, and we’re low on it and so, what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the defence department to – not permanently – but to allow for this transition period, while we get more 155 weapons, these shells, for the Ukrainians.” The logic in Biden’s argument is that if the US also runs low on cluster bombs, it can supply Ukraine with nuclear weapons.
Biden in this dangerous escalation of the war in Ukraine claims that Ukraine has assured him that the cluster bombs would not be used against Russian territory. So against what will it be used? Ukrainian territory? Does it make sense for Ukraine to use these dangerous weapons against its own territory when it knows that like mines, they can remain concealed and unexploded for years? If Biden thinks the rest of us are so thick headed as to believe such assurances are the Ukrainians so silly as to plant mines they would be unable to detect on their own territory?
In continuing in Biden’s illogical decision, his National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, said: “We recognise that cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance… But there is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians because Ukraine does not have enough artillery.” Silly rationalisation.
Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is sure to liberally use the new weapons, responded excitedly that the new package is a “timely, broad and much-needed defense…that(would) bring Ukraine closer to victory over the enemy”. He added that: “The expansion of Ukraine’s defence capabilities will provide new tools for the de-occupation of our land and bringing peace closer.”
The tragedy in all these is that Russia will respond in like manner and the world will get closer to a new World War in which all, including nuclear weapons, would be game.
Sunak’s reminder that from all practical purposes, Sweden, the dove of Europe, has become a member of the hawkish NATO alliance following the successful bribing of Turkey to drop its objections, is a sad one.
Sweden has for centuries kept its head while others were losing theirs. Apart from building a humane society based on a wide range of social security measures and promotion of social justice, it had been a pacifist nation. Shedding its war-like garb after its July 27, 1814 war with neigbouring Norway, Sweden in 2014 celebrated 200 years of peace during which it did not take part in any war. Even during the madness of the First and Second World Wars, it refused to be drawn into conflicts. Despite this, it made it its duty to rescue Jews endangered by Nazism in Europe.
It also refused to be aligned during the Cold War. Most importantly for us in Africa, when big powers like the US and UK shored up the evil racist and Apartheid regimes that held down our people in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, Sweden stood by the oppressed. It also refused to join its European and American brothers in supporting the on-going Israeli genocide against the Palestinians. Equally, It supported the Saharawi against re-colonisation by their Moroccan neighbour.
The Swedes also gave humanity Olof Palme, one of the most compassionate, thoughtful and reliable leaders the world has ever produced. In his assassination on February 28, 1986 when he was Prime Minister, Olof Palme became a true martyr and symbol of peace in a highly fractured world. In Sweden joining NATO, Olof Palme will be turning in his grave.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), is a human rights activist, journalist, and author.