Peace Organisations Gathered in Brussels to Say No to NATO

The last NATO Summit, held in Brussels on 25 May, has been an important one. Presented as an opportunity to celebrate the long-awaited inauguration of the new headquarters in Brussels, two main topics have been discussed: the burden-sharing of military expenses and enhancing NATO’s focus on fighting terrorism.

While deciding that NATO will become a full member of the “Global Coalition to counter ISIL” born in 2014, in the so-called “war to IS”, NATO leaders agreed to develop national annual plans to meet the target of 2% of GDP threshold on armament spending – already agreed on in Wales in 2014, but insistently pushed forward by Trump’s administration during the last months. The “3 Cs” on which these annual plans shall be based – cash, capabilities, contributions – can be easily translated into increasing spending for modern weapons and for more wars worldwide, while all other budgets for social policies, health, education, job creation, and environment are cut.

Counter Summit

On this occasion, the international network “No to war – No to NATO” called for common actions against the NATO Summit in Brussels. Among other initiatives, on 25 May they organised their own counter-summit, an alternative international peace conference, where leading peace activists from around the world gathered to say no to NATO and advocate for less militarization.

The conference has been organised with the financial support, among others, of transform! europe, the European Left Party, and GUE/NGL, with the participation of the following Belgian and international organisations: Agir pour la Paix, 11.11.11., CNAPD, CND, CSOTAN, Intal, International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons , IPB, Mouvement de la Paix, Mouvement Chrétien pour la Paix (BE), Vrede vzw.

This day has seen more than 200 participants, which in an atmosphere of internationalism and solidarity discussed the major challenges to peace and how to face them together.


The counter summit started with the greetings from the hosts and Kate Hudson (CND, Campaign from Nuclear Disarmament, UK), thanking the more than 10,000 people who marched in Brussels on 24 May in protest against both NATO and Trump administration. The common denominator for peace activists, critics of globalization, migrants, gender activists, social right activists, and environmentalists was a clear “no” to further armament. “He [Trump] is making us pay for U.S. wars”, said Hudson. “We need unity for social justice, equality, efforts against climate change”.

The conference then started with a plenary session in which various experts and peace activists discussed key issues related to NATO’s role in the world and the reasons for demanding for a world without NATO.

Nils Andersson, a France author expert in international law, also known for his engagement against French colonialism – namely French occupation of Algeria –, talked about NATO wars in a global perspective. Which purposes does NATO serve? What is its scope? By nature, Andersson observed, a military organisation is made to make war. War against whom? War for whom? Presented as a defensive alliance, NATO is in fact a militarist one. “NATO”, Andersson said, “has shaped Europe”, because having Europe under its influence has always been a major goal of the United States. The fact that, throughout the decades, NATO has changed, moving from a discourse about political hegemony to a rhetoric on defence and deterrence, does not change its nature, nor its role in the world. It becomes crucial to stand against further militarisation of Europe and of the US, and to strongly demand for completely phasing out NATO, until its dissolution.

Talking about NATO, EU, militarisation, and confrontation with Russia, Djordje Kuzmanović, spokesman of La France Insoumise, pointed out that the US and its members want to confront Russia, even if this means an increasing risk of war. This new arms race is fuelling tensions with Russia and prevents the construction of peaceful relations. “We need to stop this madness”, he concluded: “without war, NATO serves the only purpose to prepare future wars”.

The issue of military spending and arms industry has been presented by Kees Van Der Pijl (Oorlog is geen oplossing, Netherlands), who talked about the US “military-industrial complex”, and what importance this has still today. Analysing what he called “a political economy of the New Cold War”, Van Der Pijl highlighted how contemporary capitalism have completely abandoned the “class compromise” that it had to accept right after WWII: if then, a so-called “capitalism with a human face” accepted the necessity to deal with the problems related to its own sustainability, the ruling classes of today have replaced the politics of compromise and social welfare with the politic of fear. NATO follows this path.

Arielle Denis (ICAN, France) then talked about nuclear arms and the UN Treaty to ban nuclear arms, while Maz Saleem from Stop the War Coalition (UK) closed the plenary session with a presentation about NATO and the so-called “war on terror”.

The first plenary session were followed by a series of workshops and special sessions on issues such as EU-NATO relations, arms trade, woman and NATO, US nuclear arms in Europe, and militarisation in the Mediterranean and the refugee crisis (a detailed programme of the conference is available here). The workshops were followed by a final plenary session, with a panel discussion about how to delegitimise NATO.

Main outcomes

The main outcomes of the discussion, as reported by the promoters of the conference, are the following:

  • The peace movements’ challenge is to work against the new round of armament towards the 2% of GDP and to struggle for real disarmament: disarmament for development and disarmament for the solution of the social and global challenges. The participants of the conference were prepared to work more intensively towards achieving these challenges.

  • The UN ban treaty of nuclear weapons must become reality. There needs to be nuclear disarmament instead of the modernization of nuclear weapons. This is the message to all nuclear weapons states. And Europe finally has to become free of nuclear weapons.

  • Cooperation instead of confrontation is not only meaningful but necessary and possible. Especially with Russia. All enemy constructions and bashings serve the preparations of war.

  • An end to wars of intervention – in Mali, Afghanistan and many other places of NATO’s wars – is the condition and requirement for a peaceful and just development of the world.

In conclusion”, reports Reiner Braun, co-president of International Peace Bureau, “a strict ‘No to NATO’ and a continuous delegitimation of NATO is necessary. Aim has to be the overcoming of NATO. NATO and global peace are not compatible. Peaceful cooperation is needed. These main positions of the international network No to War – No to NATO were broadly agreed upon. This will only become reality with a broad, manifold and diverse but also commonly active and mobilizing international peace movement. The optimistic atmosphere of the protests and the counter summit encourage to reach this great aim”.