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No to bases

Opposition grows to U.S. militarism

Published Feb 18, 2007 6:06 PM

Growing opposition to U.S. militarism is having an impact on the Pentagon’s aggressive war plans far beyond Iraq.

An example of the changing mood can be seen in the mass movement opposing proposed new U.S. bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.

In recent polls a clear majority of the population of those countries is opposed to U.S. bases there. By an overwhelming majority, people are demanding the right to decide on this dangerous escalation in a national referendum.

Thousands have signed their names to petitions and participated in rallies and demonstrations demanding “No to the Bases.”

The petition in Czech Republic states that the bases “would serve to reawaken the Cold War in Europe and could reignite a new arms race. It is unthinkable that a democratic country should make such a decision of such long-range impact, as the acceptance of foreign military bases on its soil, without an open debate. Neither the government nor the Parliament has the mandate to make such a decision alone.”

More than 40 organizations are part of the No to the Bases Campaign formed last July in the Czech Republic.

The approval of the bases seemed a foregone conclusion when the U.S. military started surveying for sites in Poland and Czech Republic four years ago. The missile shield would consist of radar sites and large missile interceptor silos. The radar would have the ability to monitor almost the entire territory of Russia.

Opening a new Cold War

The Pentagon claims that the missile shield is intended as a protection of the U.S. and Europe from missile attacks by what it slanderously calls “rogue states,” such as Iran or North Korea. But the project deals with intercontinental ballistic missiles, which neither North Korea nor Iran even possess. The overwhelming consensus is that the bases are an ominous part of the growing ring of U.S. and NATO bases surrounding Russia.

Russia’s President Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy on Feb. 10 warned of U.S. efforts to open a new Cold War and a new arms race. He denounced the Pentagon’s plans to encircle Russia and place missile sites in Central Europe. The 250 participants at the meeting in Germany included more than 30 defense and foreign ministers.

President Putin said, “The process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernization of the alliance or with ensuring security in Europe.” He also criticized the “almost uncontained, hyper use of force in international relations.”

Outside, as many as 6,000 anti-militarist demonstrators protesting NATO expansion surrounded the building where the conference was underway. More than 3,500 police were used to prevent the protesters from exercising their rights.

On Feb. 7, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, speaking to the U.S. House of Representatives, escalated the threats: “I think we need the full range of military capabilities. We need the ability for regular force-on-force conflicts because we don’t know what’s going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran and elsewhere.”

Belarus, a country of 10 million people located between Russia and Poland, recently expressed its opposition to the expansion of the U.S. dominated NATO military alliance as a clear violation of the NATO pledge not to expand an inch further east if Soviet troops were withdrawn from the East European countries that made up the Warsaw Pact. Nikolai Cherginets of the National Assembly of Belarus was speaking about its southern neighbor Ukraine and Georgia’s move towards joining NATO.

In violation of NATO’s 1990 agreement, NATO has expanded into 10 countries that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact or into republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. The new members of NATO are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. All of these countries have become military satellites of the U.S. and economically dependent on the imperialist West.

Most of these countries have been forced by their relations with the U.S. military alliance to participate in sending troops to Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

Ukraine’s possible admission to NATO would bring Russia’s Black Sea naval base and much of the former Soviet armaments industry within arm’s reach of the U.S. dominated military alliance and it would expand NATO to Russia’s southwestern border. Along with Ukraine and Georgia, Croatia, Albania and Macedonia are on the list of countries waiting to join NATO.

The Pentagon has also moved its largest sea-based missile defense radar in the Pacific from Hawaii to the Aleutian Islands, close to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

In December 2001 Washington unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that it had signed 30 years earlier in order to begin testing a new generation of missiles. These are the weapons that the U.S. wants to put in place in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Now—majority in opposition

U.S. political and economic domination surged forward in Eastern Europe and many of the former Soviet republics after the collapse of the USSR. U.S. and other western-based corporations flooded the region, grabbing and privatizing formerly publicly owned industries and resources. Aggressive U.S. government-funded NGOs set the political and social agenda.

Support for Western capitalist methods is evaporating as millions see the violence and brutality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and watch with growing apprehension the threats of new and wider wars. The enormous dislocation and insecurity of the capitalist markets has fostered widespread unemployment and low wages while shredding social programs throughout the region.

According to polls in both the Czech Republic and Poland, up to two-thirds of the population oppose the U.S. bases. Both countries, however, are governed by pro-U.S. center-right coalition governments that support the U.S. base proposal.

In the Czech Republic the right wing Civic Democratic Party heads a weak coalition government cobbled together after the country had been without any government for eight months following an election impasse. No political party had sufficient numbers to form a government.

One of the first acts of the new government was to announce that it wants to host the new missile shield system popularly referred to as the “Son of Star Wars.” But the new officials lacked the authority to even enforce a ban on a demonstration of 2,000 “No to the Bases” activists who marched through downtown Prague on Jan. 29.

In Poland, Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski was forced to resign after saying that Poland would take Russia’s concern over the U.S. bases into consideration. Sikorski had also opposed placing at risk the 1,000 Polish troops who will be part of the NATO forces sent to Afghanistan.

Opponents of U.S. bases also criticize the extra-territoriality of the bases, which will become sovereign U.S. territory. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces stationed around the world are not subject to local laws. What actually goes on at a U.S. base, what weapons are stockpiled or are tested, what operations are planned are all secret and not discussed with host countries.

Opposition to U.S. bases has given impetus to a growing political movement that has moved millions of people into militant confrontations with the Pentagon from South Korea and the Philippines to Vieques, Puerto Rico. Even in Italy, on this coming Feb. 17, thousands are expected in a national demonstration to protest the expansion of the U.S. base of Camp Ederle in Vicenza.

The simple democratic demand for a national referendum on the placement of a new generation of weapons and bases in the Czech Republic and Poland is an important struggle against wider U.S. wars and military expansion.

The U.S.-based International Action Center has opened a petition campaign in solidarity with millions of people in the Czech Republic and Poland who are mobilizing to oppose the U.S. bases. A Web site allowing people to sign an on-line petition is under construction at: www.BasesOutNow.org.