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SPARE a thought this weekend for Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. He spent almost 10 years as Norway’s prime minister slashing and privatising his country’s once prized welfare state.
On his watch, Norway’s military spending rose to become one of the highest per head in the whole of Nato, although he failed in his wish to take Norway into the EU.
This was all a far cry from his earlier years in the self-styled Marxist-Leninist Red Youth group, before finding a new home on the right wing of the Norwegian Labour Party.
Then came two stints as prime minister, both ending in electoral defeat, before beginning what must have seemed his dream job at the head of Nato in October 2014.
Since then, he has wallowed in his role as warmonger-in-chief, aiming most of his belligerent rhetoric at Russia, backing his violent words with provocative deeds.
The latter includes the deployment of US and other Nato forces to Poland and the Baltic states, beefed-up military exercises on Nato’s new borders with Russia and expressions of support for the ambition of the far-right regime in Ukraine to join the Western military alliance.
It was a personal triumph for him when US military forces took up positions in a vast complex of caves left over from the cold war and maintained at great public expense by his former government.
So secretary-general Stoltenberg must have been looking forward so much to next month’s Nato summit in Brussels, the EU capital at the centre of new EU-Nato structures being built in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty.
There in July he could have continued his crusade against the Kremlin devil, while shrieking ever more loudly about the need for Nato member states to spend yet more money on armaments.
Then suddenly he heard that moves were afoot for US President Donald Trump to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly before or after the Brussels hate-fest.
He had to pretend that this was almost good news — good enough, indeed, to banish the fears he had expressed only a few days before for the future of US-European relations.
In reality, the proposed summit adds to growing unease inside Nato about Trump as its de facto leader.
Like the rest of us, military chiefs have no idea what he might say and do next.
His previous doubts about Nato’s role and his complaints about the chronic military underspending of his European allies — not least Germany — reflect deeper economic contradictions between the main imperialist powers.
Then there is Nato member Turkey’s military intervention in Syria against US-backed Kurdish forces, together with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rapprochement with Russia’s military presence there.
Now comes the “leak” from inside the British Cabinet that Prime Minister Theresa May has instructed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to curb his expensive enthusiasm for Britain as a “first tier” military power.
All these developments underline the need to end the embargo on public discussion of Nato and Britain’s membership of it.
The US-led alliance was founded and sustained on a lie, namely that the war-ravaged Soviet Union was itching to start World War III in western Europe.
Without the glue of anti-Sovietism, as inter-imperialist rivalry reasserts itself in an era of international over-accumulation of capital, Nato’s cracks are beginning to show.
The sooner it crumbles, the better.
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