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Britain out of NATO - no to war, yes to defence

Britain out of NATO: the next step to independence. Photo Workers.

The NATO drums for war are beating loudly. British workers should not ignore this, still less support it…

NATO is an organisation for war, not peace and has always been. The Russian invasion of Ukraine should not blind us to NATO’s nature.

NATO’s biggest air exercise over Europe, Air Defender 23, took place from 12 to 23 June. Involving 25 nations, including non-NATO members Sweden and Japan, it simulated NATO’s response to an attack on a member country. The exercise included 250 aircraft, some flying to Estonia, bordering Russia, and to Romania, bordering Ukraine.

We must demand an end to the involvement of British forces in such exercises. We must also demand an end to the British government’s interference in Ukraine. It should cease its escalation and its deliberate sabotage of diplomatic efforts to end the war.

Air Defender 23 was preceded in May by the annual Exercise Spring Storm, this year based in Estonia. All three services of the UK armed forces were involved, deploying 1,500 personnel alongside over 12,000 from ten other NATO nations.

Lieutenant General Michael A Loh, director of the US Air National Guard, said the Air Defender 23 exercise goes beyond deterrence: “It’s about the readiness of our force. It’s about coordination, not just within NATO, but with our other allies and partners outside of NATO.”

Loh continued, “So this is about now establishing what it means to go against a great power, in a great power competition.” His remarks were directed at Russia. But NATO also has China firmly in its sights.

In November 2022 a British patrol ship took part in one of NATO’s largest military exercises in the Pacific, another exercise that involved NATO member nations and their “partners” Japan and Australia.

NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept document spells out that Russia and China are significant threats to “the rules-based international order” and in detail how NATO proposes to deal with them. In other words, they are threats to US-led finance capitalism and will be taken down – whatever the consequences for working people across the world.

That document says: “We will strengthen our ties with partners that share the Alliance’s values and interest in upholding the rules-based international order…We will continue to support the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of interested countries in [the Western Balkans and the Black Sea].”

‘Shared threats’

It also talks about working with “partners” to counteract “shared security threats” in other regions strategically important to NATO – including the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel regions. And it does not stop there: NATO has similar aspirations for the Indo-Pacific region, “given that developments in that region can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security.”

The EU is identified as a key partner, “[It] is a unique and essential partner for NATO…For the development of the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU, non-EU Allies’ fullest involvement in EU defence efforts is essential. NATO recognises the value of a stronger and more capable European defence that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to, and interoperable with NATO.” So much for the EU as a benign customs union!

These statements show that NATO is warmongering and seeks to bring as many countries as it can across the world into its control. In other words, “Watch out world.”

NATO claims to be upholding “the rules-based international order”. But in its wars against Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, NATO has consistently broken the rules of the UN Charter, which are based on respect for nations’ sovereignty.

War and nuclear war are dire threats to all workers: we are on a knife edge. This is why we must demand that Britain leaves NATO and takes a non-aligned stance. Not only will this benefit the British people, but it would also be a blow to NATO, to the benefit of workers everywhere.


Warmongering is not peculiar to NATO. It is a logical phase in capitalism, especially finance capitalism. Wherever imperialism arises, it leads to war between competing blocs – and war against the working class. It is axiomatic that repression abroad brings oppression at home.

At this point in history, US- and UK-led finance capitalism sees NATO and war as useful tools to stave off economic decline. American pro-NATO think tanks are calling for the dismemberment of Russia and China. And for their natural resources, including their peoples, to be exploited.

‘We need to build the popular demand for Britain to leave NATO…’

In demanding that Britain leaves NATO we must be aware that we will need to defend ourselves against all imperialists. On leaving, Britain is likely to be declared a pariah by warmongers. We will need our armies; we will need our defence systems, including nuclear weapons. But the sole purpose of these armies and defence systems will be to defend Britain and the people who live here.

Meanwhile we need to build the popular demand for Britain to leave NATO. For example, the University and College Union at its recent Congress became the first trade union to call for an end to the war in Ukraine.

On 27 May, the Union passed a motion titled, “Stop the war in Ukraine – peace now”, which noted that “NATO is not a progressive force: escalation risks widening war in the region; only through a peaceful resolution can lives be saved.” The union called on Russia to withdraw its troops, for the UK government to stop arming Ukraine, and for “a peaceful resolution to the war”.

But a few days later their general secretary issued a public statement regretting that the motion had been passed and saying that officers would seek to ensure that the issue would be “debated further” – presumably until the policy was reversed.

The Labour Party doesn’t even want a debate. Starmer declared that Labour is the party of NATO and that anyone criticising NATO would be expelled.

Events organised to discuss the issue of war have been cancelled where venues have been threatened. The Scottish organisation “Glasgow against NATO” recently had a meeting cancelled at the last minute; they had to meet in the park instead.

A meeting planned for Conway Hall in London, the venue of many dissenting meetings over the years, didn’t take place. It seems that threatening emails came from Germany. Conway Hall pulled out and then so too did the replacement venue.

Attempts to stifle debate are part of NATO’s plans, outlined in NATO 2022 Strategic Concept document (point 43). That document is about partnership with the EU to “increase cooperation on issues of common interest”. That’s the common interest of the capitalist class, not British workers.

In 2016 the people of Britain voted to leave the EU and to be an independent nation. Ever since, the British ruling class have done everything they can to tie us to other transnational blocs. Any thought of an independent Britain is demonised.

We, the people of Britain, have an urgent responsibility to pull Britain out of NATO, to call for peace and for Britain to be non-aligned.

This article is based on the discussion at a CPBML online public meeting in May.