On April 20 the European Affairs spokesman of Malta’s opposition Labour Party, George Vella, demanded the resignation of the government’s permanent representative to the European Union, Richard Cachia Caruana, over the latter’s role in dragging the island nation back into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Partnership for Peace program behind the back of parliament four years ago.
Malta joined the Partnership for Peace in 1995 under a Nationalist Party administration and after Labour won the following year’s parliamentary election it pulled the country out of the NATO military partnership used to integrate twelve Eastern European states – Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – into full membership in the decade beginning in 1999, representing a 75 percent increase in the bloc’s membership.
Partnership for Peace obligations entail joint military exercises and training, visits by leading NATO and U.S. military commanders and naval forces, the creation of NATO bases, training centers and liaison offices, and the deployment of troops for the Alliance’s war in Afghanistan. Albania and Croatia were tapped for military contingents for NATO’s first Asian war before joining NATO in 2009 and current Partnership for Peace members Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland (until 2008) and Ukraine have also supplied troops for the over ten-year-long conflict.
The complaint by the Labour Party against the ruling Nationalist Party is that the latter conspired in the person of Cachia Caruana with the American ambassador to the European Union in 2004, the year of Malta’s EU accession, to bring Malta back into the NATO program by circumventing the nation’s parliament. The source of that report was a U.S. diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks.
Another cable obtained by the same source, this one from 2008, quoted Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi pledging to U.S. Ambassador Molly Bordonaro in January, two months before the election that brought him to his current post, that he would reactivate the Partnership for Peace program, which he did immediately after being sworn in as head of state.
According to a Times of Malta report of last September, "The commitment to join the PfP [Partnership for Peace] was never made public and was one of the very first decisions taken by the PN [Nationalist Party] government soon after the election, causing widespread furore."
The newspaper added: "Another embassy cable, in February, giving the State Department an overview of the election that had just been announced, expressed concern that a victory for the Labour Party would impact US interests ‘in several ways, including by reducing possibilities for multilateral security cooperation.’"
And: "Malta’s participation in the PfP programme seems to have been of great interest to the US as evidenced by other leaked cables.
"A cable sent to the State Department by the US Embassy in Malta in November 2009 said former Ambassador Douglas Kmiec found comments by Labour foreign affairs spokesman George Vella on Malta’s participation in the programme as ‘troublesome.’"
"The ambassador had also noted the PL’s [Labour Party’s] reluctance to accept any status of forces agreement (SOFA). These agreements generally establish the framework under which US military personnel operate in a foreign country…"
Malta’s abrupt withdrawal from the Partnership for Peace program in 1996 marked a precedent that has yet to be replicated. It was the first time since NATO’s founding 63 years ago that any member or any of its over 40 partners around the world had ever left the alliance or any of its military partnerships. Despite the fierce opposition by respective populations, as in Iceland in 1949, or lack of support among the populace, as with Greece in 1952, once a country is brought into NATO it never leaves. Is not permitted to leave.
The same coercive dynamic obtains with its partners in Europe, the South Caucasus, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and the South Pacific.
The surreptitious strong-arm tactics used by Washington to complete the subordination of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea basin to the military bloc it dominates have been applied to fellow island nation Cyprus, where in February of last year the country’s opposition parties conspired – in collusion with Brussels and Washington – in the parliament to demand that Cyprus join the Partnership for Peace as well. Cyprus is the only European state, excluding five microstates (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican), that is not a NATO member or partner.
Cyprus is also one of only four Mediterranean nations, in addition to Libya, Syria and Lebanon, that is not a NATO member or partner. Libya, Syria and Lebanon are being eyed for incorporation into NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue partnership.
Cyprus and Malta are the only countries to have joined the European Union since NATO’s post-Cold War expansion drive without first having joined NATO:
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined NATO in 2004 and the EU the same year. Bulgaria and Romania joined the military alliance in 2004 also and entered the EU in 2007. NATO is the gateway to the EU and the EU is the bait to lure erstwhile nonaligned nations into NATO.
The U.S. and NATO intend to correct the two exceptions by using all means fair and foul, mainly foul, to recruit Malta and Cyprus into NATO through the Partnership for Peace mechanism.
Malta’s Labour Party specifically accuses the Nationalist Party’s Cachia Caruana of conspiring with the U.S. in 2004 to make the nation a potential troop contributor and base provider for NATO wars abroad, stating, "This is manipulation and goes against democratic principles as it places the interests of a foreign country above ours."
Although the Labour Party has subsequently "adjusted" its position toward NATO integration, much like the Scottish Nationalist Party’s Alex Salmond, who may well deliver to NATO its 29th member, it is pursuing what is at least a point of procedure argument that the U.S. and NATO – which preach democracy and wage war – used underhanded methods in bringing its only stray sheep back into the fold. (One anticipates future revelations of Mr. Salmond’s backroom conversations with the American ambassador in Brussels or London.)
Labour’s Vella implied that ahead of the meeting between the American ambassador, Rockwell Schnabel, and the Nationalist Party official eight years ago the second suggested a scheme whereby if it could be claimed that "Malta had simply ceased active participation in the PfP –” but not formally withdrawn –” it could state that the prior agreements remained in force," according to the Malta Independent Online.
The WikiLeaks cable in question states, “This would spare the Maltese government from requesting a divisive parliamentary vote to join PfP, and could set the stage for Malta to participate in EU-NATO strategic discussions.”
The leaked document elaborated:
“According to his [Cachia Caruana’s] interpretation, the government of Malta can argue that they never withdrew from or renounced the security agreement they had entered into with NATO as part of their PfP membership, nor did they rescind their adherence to the framework document.
“Such an approach would obviate the need to return to Malta’s parliament to request approval of a (new) subscription to the PfP framework document, and also eliminate the need to negotiate (and ratify) a security agreement with NATO.”
"Coincidentally," as the Times of Malta put it, Nato’s Mine Countermeasure Group 2 arrived in Malta’s Grand Harbour for exercises with the Armed Forces of Malta’s Maritime Squadron on the day Vella issued his accusation.
According to the newspaper, "Officials said the purpose of the visit is to promote cooperation and understanding between Nato and Malta, building on the ‘excellent relations’ developed under the Partnership for Peace framework."
Those excellent relations, not coincidentally, were in evidence in NATO’s six-month air war and naval blockade against Libya last year.
Malta, only some 200 miles north of Tripoli, was employed by the U.S. and NATO for their first African war.
In December of 2010 U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus began a seven-day trip that eventually took him to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Algeria in the Maltese capital of Valletta. NATO’s Partnership for Peace, which the commander of the NATO naval group currently in Malta claimed "does not impinge on its neutrality," has opened a lot of doors for the Pentagon and the Atlantic alliance.
Twelve days before the bombardment of Libya began, former prime minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici accused both the Maltese government and the opposition Labour Party of being "accomplices" to the impending war.
He may have been alluding in part to the deployment of a Canadian reconnaissance team, medics, two C-130J Super Hercules cargo planes and two C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to the country in late February in what the Canadian Press referred to at the time as "a signal of deeper military involvement in the crisis in Libya."
Britain deployed early-warning aircraft equipped with long-range radar to Malta at the same time.
A few weeks into the bombing campaign several French warplanes, Mirages and Super Etendards, made what were described as emergency landings in the country.
In June the U.S. Navy led multinational maritime interdiction operations, Phoenix Express 2011, in support of the Proliferation Security Initiative from Souda Bay, Greece with the participation of naval and other armed forces personnel from Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco,Spain, Tunisia and Turkey.
The U.S. Navy website quoted an American official attached to the exercise stating, "We want to help foster international relations and reinforce our standing commitment to NATO, as well as show our commitment to the countries of Northern Africa."
In the same month, less than 90 days into the war against Libya, NATO’s top military commander, American Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and U.S. European Command’s top commander as well, made an unannounced visit to Malta where he met with Prime Minister Gonzi, the Armed Forces of Malta Brigadier, Martin Xuereb, and Director for Defence Matters, Vanessa Frazier. Their talks focused on Libya. Stavridis also visited the Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta base at Haywharf.
His appearance there was confirmed in a post on his Twitter account which commended the host country for "provid[ing] superb help to NATO w/emergency landings & airspace & response to refugees as Libya ops continue."
According to the Malta Independent, "Admiral Stavidris said he was very happy with the US engagement with Malta…during the time of operations in Libya."
Two months later the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney spent four days in Malta’s capital.
At the end of August the Pentagon announced that it was sending $25 million in military equipment, small boats and other assistance to Tunisia and Malta, which as the Associated Press reminded its readers are nations that "flank Libya and are key allies in the tumultuous region."
In October NATO signed an air corridors agreement with the Transitional National Council of Libya in Malta. During the preceding seven months what air traffic NATO allowed over Libya was coordinated from Malta.
The following month the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III (as of last month chief of U.S. Pacific Command), visited Luqa, Malta to meet with top government, defense and military officials. Maltese Brigadier General Martin Xuereb greeted the U.S. and NATO commander with full military honors, including a troop review at the Armed Forces of Malta headquarters in the capital.
On the occasion, U.S. European Command provided this background information: "With more than 33% of the world merchant traffic passing between Malta and Sicily, and more than 80% of Europe’s energy resources traveling near the island nation, Malta’s role in maintaining maritime domain awareness is critical."
In December of last year the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) headquarters at Luqa Barracks gathered over 100 naval and coast guard representatives from several countries for workshops to begin the week-long Eurasia Partnership Capstone 2011 conference, co-hosted by Commander, Armed Forces of Malta and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet.
The statement by a senior NATO officer in Malta two days ago that Partnership for Peace membership does not impinge on a country’s neutrality is a colossal lie. That applies to the partnership’s other 21 members as fully as it does to Malta.
As no NATO members or partners, collectively over a third of the nations in the world, will be allowed to withdraw from their commitments, the bloc itself will have to be dissolved, entirely and post-haste.