The 2022 NATO summit

Image: Andrew Neel


NATO and the management of the disorder it contributes to generating in 73 years of life

The NATO summit in Madrid 2022 – in which the alliance advanced the preliminaries for the incorporation of two new members – could serve as a magnifying glass to frame its reprojection, aiming to achieve not the objective of order, but the management of the disorder that it contributes to generate in 73 years of life. In fact, it will not be surprising to state that the proliferation of American and NATO bases works as control measures of the biometric type, they do not serve in any way to prevent the crime, at best they prevent the individual from reoffending.

Here is the governance paradigm of the state of exception (Agamben) that this NATO summit re-enacted after the decisive one in Prague in 2002. The internal war in Ukraine, aggravated by the Russian invasion, did not leave public opinion a day for reflection ( in line with the growing individual banishment to politicization).

Furthermore, whoever did this was automatically labeled as pro-Putin, giving a new turn in the logic of security that perhaps would not have been achieved if democracy had not been suspended in international relations and the thoughtless flight to a permanent state of urgency that , on the other hand, paradoxically neglects what is really urgent (the effects of climate change and its consequences mainly in the Global South, pandemic, etc.), while undermining the role of the UN and the international legal culture. Apparently, the condemnation of the Russian invasion and the criminalization of Putin allow us to embrace our American friend, his invasions, his Guantánamo and his Abu-Ghraib without remorse… And all of this is done in the name of democracy and the defense of an open society.

What Pedro Sánchez described like this: “NATO is an alliance of democracies in defense of democracies. Democracy is defended by increasing the capabilities we have for deterrence”. Stoltenberg called it “historic” and “transformative”. The terminological confusion is evident, with the convenient contribution of the media as government bodies do not question the pact with Erdogan, which the Deep State Spaniard spies on political parties, the backlash of women's rights in Poland is not controversial, that Orban in Hungary defends state homophobia or neo-Nazi infiltration of state structures in Ukraine. NATO maintains a weak relationship with democracy, starting by questioning the democratic condition of Ukraine contemporary to the pristine relationship with Portugal de Oliveira Salazar. From the dubious democratic condition of contemporary Ukraine, so similar to that of Putin's own Russia, to the pristine relationship with Oliveira Salazar's Portugal. We will avoid here the debate on the democratic quality of implanted or liberal democracies, those that within NATO assume the immoderate privilege of double standards.

Only a few days passed, but if anyone had forgotten, NATO took the theatricality out of the painting to send its message of omnipotence. And not just any painting but many: the Guernica, The girls and the also relevant as symptomatic picture The hug by Juan Genoves.[I] The effect is a kind of hackneyed militarism: a hackneyed assumption that the military apparatus is ethically sound and capable of achieving peace. By showing how this assumption is produced and maintained, a key mechanism in the militarization of political life is highlighted. The process by which the military-industrial complex is linked to the moral good as a fundamental part of geopolitical policy.

NATO enlargement involves a double legitimation. It is based, firstly, on making NATO everyday and banal and, secondly, on making it morally good by presenting itself as such in relation to the Russian military intervention in Ukraine after years of Kiev bombings over the self-determined Donbass region, not to mention the countless cases of war that exist all over the world. The effect is one of simultaneous trivialization and glorification of NATO. The alliance is, on the one hand, so “sensible” that it becomes boring – below the political debate. On the other hand, it becomes existential and essential – above debate. The first side of this legitimation coin – that of trivialization – is a fundamental characteristic of geopolitical discourses. These discourses are not so much based on formal arguments about science and strategy as on the notion of common sense.

Its political success stems not from its deep meaning, but from its everydayness and banality. The militarization of political debate and everyday life is made possible to a significant extent by the domestication of military power as it is every day. The military-industrial complex, or the industrial-military-media-entertainment grid in more precise terminology, is made to look both virtual and virtuous, clean and good. Its material infrastructure and its material effects are thus erased from political debate.

This is clearly the case for NATO. Military terminology is virtually absent from discussions of the world's most powerful military alliance. It thus became acceptable and even common to speak of war – now Russia as in Kosovo in 1999 – as an “operation” concerned with “building civil society” and “union of democracies”. However, as Hannah Arendt aptly pointed out, banality is not synonymous with benign. Evil can arise not from a sinister intention, but from thoughtless adherence to the given for granted. In the same way that the State treats the citizen as a potential terrorist, the Atlantic Alliance treats any State not aligned with the interests of the great powers and transnational capital as a potential warrior. Hence the generalized proliferation of military bases as topological indicators of capitalism, for the production of space for its predatory activity.

To speak of the banality of the military-industrial complex, then, is not to imply triviality, but to specify its functioning and legitimation mechanisms. It is to underscore the set of silent ethical claims that pre-organize overt ethical-political discourses – in this case, the claims that allow NATO discussions to revolve around notions of law, peace, culture and values. of social life, a process in which social practices gain value and legitimacy when associated with military force, takes place in times of peace, however much it presents itself as a reaction to the war in Ukraine. To understand the dynamics of this process, then, we need to look at the world rather than the spectacular, the civilian rather than the military, only the moments when the real makes its appearance unappealable.

In recognition of this reality, NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg announced that Ukraine will likely have to make territorial concessions to Russia as part of any possible peace deal, asking as if it were old Shylock: “What price are you paying for? willing to pay for peace? How much territory, how much independence, how much sovereignty… are you willing to sacrifice for peace?” The NATO Secretary General co-responsible for pushing Ukraine into its current conflict with Russia is now proposing that Ukraine be willing to accept the permanent loss of sovereign territory because NATO miscalculated and Russia instead of being humiliated in the battlefield must be crushed economically – yet it sometimes appears to be winning on both fronts, according to analyst Scott Ritter. While the question lingers in the air is how long the West can maintain the Ukrainian army and at what cost, beyond the narrative of Ukrainian frontline forces, the NATO summit continues to transform the narrative of identity and subject creation.

The second aspect of NATO's legitimation – the constitution of military power as good – is a fundamental part of what Hardt and Negri (2000:9) call the new inscription of authority. Current global power relations, they argue, are based not on force per se, but on the ability to present force as being in the service of law and peace. These relations rely on an “ethical-political dynamic”, which involves the entire space of what is considered civilization – an unlimited and universal space, defense or resistance, but which justifies itself, by appealing to essential values ​​and justice. This just war combines two elements: first, the legitimacy of the military apparatus insofar as it is ethically grounded, and second, the effectiveness of military action to achieve the desired order and peace. The Empire's powers of intervention do not begin directly with its weapons of lethal force, but rather with its moral instruments (Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. 35). They are based on the production of the normative space of the imperial right. Intervention only becomes legally legitimate when inserted into existing international consensuses.

The first task of the Empire is “to expand the field of consensuses that sustain its own power” . The military complex thus becomes a fundamental part of the production of moral good. Hardt and Negri conceptualize this new notion of law as a substantially new phenomenon. In the previous disciplinary society, they argue, social power was effected through administrative apparatuses that produced and regulated customs and habits. In today's control society, on the contrary, the command mechanisms become more and more “democratic”, more and more immanent in the social field. The normalizing apparatuses of disciplinary power do not simply intensify. Furthermore, and in contrast to the disciplinary society, social control today extends beyond the structured sites of social institutions through flexible and fluctuating networks (Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. 23). Power has become biopolitical as it extends into the depths of the consciousness and bodies of the population.

The new notion of law, then, is not simply imposed on outside localities and subjects. Rather, it is an integral part of the very production of spatiality and subjectivity (Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. 30). According to Hardt and Negri (2004, p. 13), security is a form of biopower in the sense that it aims not only to control a population, but to produce and reproduce all aspects of social life. A function of individuals. The movement from defense to security represents a shift from a reactive and conservative attitude to an active and constructive one (Agamben, 2002).

In a widely publicized interview by Alberto Cortellesa, Giorgio Agambem says that “contrary to what government propaganda claims, the current discourse on security is not aimed at preventing terrorist attacks or other forms of public disorder, its function is control and subsequent intervention” And he adds, “think of US policy, the aim of which seems to be the establishment of a situation of permanent disorder” (in both domestic and foreign policy).

The normative space of imperial law is produced by a variety of civil society bodies, including the media and especially non-governmental organizations. Since these institutions are not run by governments, they are easily presented as acting on moral or ethical imperatives. This dynamic was especially visible in the so-called “war on terror”, whose popular legitimation centered on concepts of identity and universal moral values. Is it possible to construe military solutions as morally just? September 2001, we need to investigate closely how the process works (Agamben, 2002).

Hardt and Negri downplay the much longer processes of building geographic and geopolitical knowledge, in which the notion of universal values ​​has occupied a central position at least since the Age of Exploration, and even underestimate the spatiality of power by conceptualizing imperial law as essentially a process of non-territorial universalization that encompasses the entire globe, regardless of the current spatial configurations in which the hegemonic power works today: not against, but through the creative efforts of the subjects.

NATO's apparent enlargement at the Madrid summit exemplifies this mechanism. While national security discourses still evoke the negative notion of threat, however “soft” and indirect it may be, NATO enlargement discourse invokes only positive categories – values, unity, democracy, openness. NATO, like the Empire, is a “universal integration machine” (so it is not surprising that the “westernization” of the world was mentioned, without blushing, at this summit.) It does not strengthen its boundaries to alienate others, but instead, it pulls them into its peaceful order” (Hardt and Negri 2000:198).

NATO is central to the institutional framework through which military intervention is organized and legitimized today, and it is continually strengthening its technical capabilities to operate globally. Its broadening discourse is moralistic and does not need to be affective and adamantly non-territorial, as it emphasizes not territories but “universal” values. NATO enlargement can therefore illuminate in empirical detail how the production of the imperial right and the militarization of social life works on a daily basis.

The NATO summit served to present no more or just a military alliance, but a kind of cultural association, no longer a question of politics, but of identities and deep essences. One can question joining a military alliance, but how can one question “returning to our European roots” or “making Europe whole and free”? A separate chapter would deserve the statement that aimed to “westernize” the world. It is an aggressive and even hostile stance, based on upholding Western (ie, American) supremacy. That mission must be accomplished through the defense and enactment of a so-called “rules-based international order” that exists only in the minds of its creators, who in this case are the United States and its allies in Europe.

How to question the country itself, gaining international recognition and moving “from object to subject” in international affairs? Not simply a natural reaction to decades of Soviet domination. It is not a reactive process of responding to a threat, but a productive process of subject creation. This does not mean that it is false, but that it is a social product inevitably linked to the attempt to reassert monopoly and imperial powers.

In addition to Vladimir Putin's Russia, Madrid gave birth to the simultaneous rebirth of the twins of militarization and the production of imperial law. Both processes are essentially concerned with the creation of the subject. As the alliance is linked to civil society, democracy and economic growth, it becomes too mundane to debate and too important to debate at the same time. Complex political issues become simple and obvious, a matter of essences and appearances. The family photo of the wives with the Guernica in the background or Spain's President Pedro Sánchez explaining the painting The girls from Velázquez to Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, is lightly interpreted as an image of a safe world, an image that supports a military alliance as if it were Mr. Pickwick and his study group or a Nimrod of unskilled hunters. But NATO is not a Dickensian satire of philanthropy though it seems that way.

Ukraine's war argument for NATO expansion into Sweden and Finland was based not just on ignoring the public. It was also based on making NATO a normal and integral part of social life. Adherence was effected not through negative categories of Russian threat, but through positive narratives of fully-fledged politically active western subjects who even take pictures with their family and visit museums and art galleries. The scenography of this summit places geopolitics on the scale of action and individual identity.

NATO membership was not simply imposed on states or their constituencies; far from it. As before in Spain and later across the region, membership was widely perceived as empowerment, as becoming an agent, gaining recognition and acceptance, and achieving a confirmation of Westernness in the face of the enemy at the gates. Since the fall of the Wall, accession campaigns have not been limited to rehearsing negative arguments about external threats, as at the Prague summit. yielded unpromising fruit. In this process, in collaboration with the so-called local oligarchs, it is possible to exploit cheap labor to exploit, control vital raw materials and open the way to reasonably promising markets. been, and often fruitful, in that sense.

In Madrid, NATO was redesigned in a cultural and identity project as the maximum reticular in the American Island to Scandinavia passing through the Mediterranean, highlighting how this served to trivialize and simultaneously glorify the Alliance. The focus is not on whether certain NATO representations and decrees are correct, but on how they infiltrate political and cultural life in Europe and the world.

The subject creation narrative produces NATO membership as a precondition for being a Western State – as a requirement for being recognized as a modern and mature Western subject. A military deployment that, swallowing up the notion of democracy, leaves out everything that does not fit into the obligatory rules of the game. It constitutes NATO not only in terms of state action, but also in terms of responsibility and emotions. It constitutes the military-industrial-media-entertainment complex not only as necessary or inevitable, but also as morally “good”.

In it, adherence is not something that happens to people, which is imposed on the electorate for “reasons of State”. It is a constructive process that emphasizes the participation of individuals and social groups. Remember, the references to responsible and trustworthy affairs, the proclamations about a new beginning, freedom and openness, the calls for proactive participation and emotional involvement in safety, and the emphasis on children and young people. Putting individuals at the service of power. Rather, it seeks to integrate individuals into its own functioning. All of the above does not in any way justify the fierce military intervention in Ukraine, although one is always left to wonder how the US-NATO would react if its neighbors to the south, Mexico, and to the north, Canada, joined a military alliance. hostile. While we know that a physical border was never needed to stir up tensions, intervene or destroy countries (Iraq).

NATO is not a military organization in the service of expanding democracy, law and freedoms. It has been the key instrument of a strategy that aims, on the one hand, to isolate and encircle Russia and, on the other hand, to transform it into a necessary enemy for the survival of the military alliance itself. To prove this, the successive expansions and deployment of bases around Russia and the breach of many of the promises made at the time in terms of guaranteeing the security of the Russian Federation. When the latter, between 1991 and 1996, and again between 2000 and 2006, behaved as a cooperative and conniving ally, it received only rudeness in response. It is, rather, a main instance in the defense of the interests of the Western world and its capital.

A process that works by expanding the banal domains of consensus that sustain the normative space of the imperial right with active military interventions, often disguised as humanitarian and that proactively reinforce the position of allies like Israel or Turkey, moving their pawns to guarantee control of highly greedy raw materials and imposing where necessary mandatory rules from a disturbing instance of militarism, repression and. interventionism misleadingly described as humanitarian.

* Gabriel Vezeiro is a Bachelor of Philosophy.



Agamben, G., & Emcke, C. (2001). Security and Terror. Theory & Event 5(4) doi:10.1353/tae.2001.0030.

Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2006). Empire. Rio de Janeiro, Record.

Hardt M and Negri A (2004) Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York, Penguin.



[I] One of the icons of the 1978 regime (Spanish transition), it is the main element of the decoration of the Delegates Room at the Madrid fairgrounds, a space that Sanchez and Stoltenberg revised, between white screens and armchairs.On January 24, 1977 , a year and a month after Franco's death, Francoists shot at close range a group of lawyers linked to the Comisiones Obreras. There were five dead and four wounded. In the course of the investigation, evidence emerged of the intervention of an Italian neo-fascist linked to the so-called 'Gladio Network', the anti-communist organization linked to the CIA and NATO.

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