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Trend emerging of countries wanting to leave NATO

While the mainstream media pushes the idea of an enlarged NATO constantly - Montenegro is the latest addition - very little is being said about the emerging trend of countries wishing to leave NATO.

Published: May 25, 2017, 10:03 am

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    Some 150 000 people have already signed the petition for holding a referendum on Slovakia’s withdrawal from NATO.

    Support for the North Atlantic alliance is dwindling, and Slovakia could become the first member to leave it by 2020. The country joined in 2004, without holding a referendum on the matter. Recent surveys have shown little enthusiasm for NATO membership, as the bloc is far from being united on Russia.

    The opposition anti-NATO, anti-EU Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia, launched the petition which needs a threshold of 350 000 signatures to start the process.

    A Globsec poll conducted in 2016, found that considerable opposition towards the NATO infrastructure existed in several countries in Eastern Europe. In total, 56 percent of Czechs, 55 percent of Slovaks and 34 percent of Hungarians are against allied bases being set up on their territories.

    Some 47 percent of Slovaks believe neutrality would be better than membership in the alliance. “As many as 59 percent of Slovaks see the role of the USA in Europe and in the world in a negative light.” the SITA news site noted. “And 60 percent of them believe the idea that the USA uses NATO to control small countries.”

    Anti-NATO protests took place last year in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava. On May 18, 2017 protesters filled the streets in opposition to NATO facilities being constructed on Slovak soil.

    In a shock opinion poll, it was recently revealed that in three major European powers more voters would oppose military intervention to protect a fellow alliance member than support it. Most Germans would not support defending a NATO ally. The results of the huge survey, carried out by the PEW research centre, come on the eve of a major NATO summit in Brussels which will be the first attended by new US President Donald Trump.

    Germans are the least likely to back taking action against Russia, according to the survey, with just 40 per cent supporting the underpinning notion of collective defence. In Britain too, one of NATO’s most powerful military members, people were reluctant to defend allies. Only 45 percent agreed to act, and only 46 percent of respondents in Spain said they would act on behalf of other NATO members.

    In Greece, several parties have called for withdrawal from the alliance as well as closing the US military base in Crete. Russia is Greece’s main commercial partner, with two-way trade of 7 billion euros in 2013, according to EU data.

    Another member, Turkey is also shifting towards a more independent foreign policy, away from the bloc, and the possibility of an exit is already widely debated in the country.

    A sign of the deteriorating relationship between Turkey and the alliance is Germany’s decision to move aircraft and military personnel out of the Turkish İncirlik air base as relations between Berlin and Ankara have soured. Cracks have emerged to undermine the unity of the alliance.

    Scotland is pushing for an independence referendum in opposition to Brexit. If Scotland leaves, it will automatically lose NATO membership.

    The organisation is currently deeply divided on many other issues, including on Greece and Turkey – two members balancing on the brink of conflict.

    The alliance has demonstrated its ineffectiveness by not being involved in the most important issues regarding the future of Europe.

    Meanwhile, the idea of an independent European deterrent is gaining momentum. Last July, the EU strategy document titled European Union Global Strategy stated that the bloc should look to create an independent defence structure. The plans foresee the development of new European military and operational structures, including joint headquarters.

    If greater military autonomy from NATO comes to fruition, the raison d’etre for NATO will be put into question, because Sweden and Finland, as well as other EU members outside NATO, might prefer an EU alliance to the North Atlantic bloc.

    Europe is facing multiple threats in its strategic sphere, from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, through the Middle East, and the Caucasus which do not concern the US.

    Concerns have been expressed by British officials over creating rivalry and challenging the North Atlantic Alliance’s primacy as the main defence structure. Britain used to be the strongest military power in the EU before Brexit.

    A European independent capability to carry out its own military operations will greatly weaken NATO and put an end to EU dependence on the United States.

    The deep divisions in the organisation will no doubt be kept out of spotlight during the May 25 NATO summit, but the events in Slovakia may confirm the trend.

    NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on the alliance to do more to combat terror, following the suicide bomb attack at Manchester Arena that killed 22 people, and the US president has insisted since his presidential campaign that NATO members should pay more.

    ISIS is on the verge of defeat in its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul and bracing for an assault against its de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria, and there is rising concern that fleeing militants may move to other Middle East countries.

    NATO has been playing an active role in the Middle East in gathering intelligence and training local forces. Intervention in Libya opened the country up to radical Islamist gangs which had been suppressed under former leader Gaddafi. In Syria, destabilisation efforts have led to an al-Qaeda and ISIS presence that were not there before the US had decided on “regime change” for the secular Assad.

    Trump is expected to unveil a monument at the new NATO headquarters made of metal from the World Trade Center which was destroyed during the September 11, 2001 attacks, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel will unveil a monument composed of part of the Berlin Wall on Thursday.

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