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Issue #1767      March 1, 2017

Left must focus

European Council president Donald Tusk says that talks with US Vice-President Mike Pence have reassured him over the future of the Washington-Brussels alliance. US President Donald Trump has given EU chiefs sleepless nights over a possible change in US priorities.

In contrast to his predecessor Barack Obama, he loudly welcomes Britain’s decision to leave the EU, though the partnership between the EU and US has profited the ruling class on both sides of the Atlantic.

It has helped to stitch up international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund so that they push Western corporate interests (and promote neo-liberal ideology), making assistance to developing countries dependent on their opening their public services to foreign takeover and selling public assets to transnational “investors.”

Using their leverage as the two biggest economic blocs on the planet, the US and EU have also fought to determine the rules of global trade through deals like the General Agreement on Trade in Services of the 1990s as well as its successors, the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

All have limited the ability of national governments to determine who should provide or run services and prioritised the interests of privately owned business over the public.

But with mass mobilisations derailing both the TPP and TTIP, and the voices of the developing world in Beijing, New Delhi, Brasilia and other countries increasingly critical of the IMF and World Bank’s control over international finance, the EU-US alliance is not as powerful as it once was.

Trump’s aggressive rhetoric over imports hints that elements of the US ruling elite are beginning to see the EU as an imperialist rival, rather than a junior partner in maintaining the Washington-led world order.

Then there’s NATO, the military alliance in which Washington integrates the forces of its European allies to make them more effective tools of US foreign policy.

Trump’s periodic hostility to NATO – he has ridiculed it as “obsolete,” although at other times he has declared it the lynchpin of US security – horrifies some and cheers others. The British left should avoid falling into either delusion.

NATO is not “essential to Britain’s security” – it is an aggressive alliance whose forces have been used to tear countries apart in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. Nor should we listen to scaremongering over the “Russian threat.”

The fact that Vladimir Putin’s nationalist regime is deeply unpleasant – persecuting homosexuals, clamping down on free speech and fiddling elections, all while the country becomes ever more unequal – does not make it responsible for the militarisation of eastern Europe, which has been driven by Washington and Brussels through the far-right coup in Ukraine and the deployment of NATO troops and missiles ever further east.

NATO is an imperialist alliance, and one which progressives should seek to dismantle.

But Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for it does not mean he’s considering a less aggressive foreign policy. The naked aggression he has displayed against Iran – placing it “on notice” following an entirely legal ballistic missile test – combined with the ramped-up rhetoric against China and threats to Cuba and Venezuela show the risk of the US sparking a global war is higher than it has been for years.

The differences between Trump and his liberal critics are tactical: is a US-EU alliance the best way to maintain Washington’s global dominance, or not? And is Russia or China the most immediate threat to that dominance?

It is not the task of Britain’s left to answer those questions, but to fight our own government’s role in propping up an exploitative and murderous international system that spreads poverty and conflict across the globe.

Morning Star

Next article – Trump’s anti-Iran coalition

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