First formed in 1949, NATO was established as a joint force for protecting and defending Western interests and borders against the Soviet Union during the Cold War era.
It was originally composed of just 12 members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In the following decades, NATO continued to expand and it now includes 28 member states throughout almost all of North America, Western, Central and Eastern Europe, and it even has a foot on the doorstep to the Middle East in the form of Turkey.
Here are five reasons why the NATO alliance has evolved into a destabilizing global force:
1. Slaughter in Yugoslavia
Seventeen years ago today, on March 24, 1999, NATO began a 78-day deadly and devastating U.S.-backed intervention of Yugoslavia. It was the first time in history that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization decided they would attack a country without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.
The illegal bombing killed at least 5,000 people (some sources claim it was closer to 18,000), injured 12,500 and left the area contaminated with depleted uranium, a chemical element banned under international law that is still causing childhood cancer rates to spike throughout the Balkans.
The attacks also destroyed 25,000 homes and damaged the nation's transport networks, including 300 miles of roads and close to 400 miles of railways. Many public buildings were damaged including 14 airports, 19 hospitals, 18 kindergartens, 69 schools, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges.
2. The Destruction of Libya
A U.S.-U.K.-French joint military force began bombing Libya in March 2011. As many as 25,000 people were killed that year alone while an additional 400,000 Libyans were displaced. The nation is now mired in violence, with rival militias and two separate governments fighting for power amid the rise of the Islamic State group.
Despite what NATO's 2011 intervention left behind in Libya, the West is believed to be preparing for another intervention in the country, possibly even a ground invasion this time under the excuse of fighting the Islamic State group as well as controlling the refugee situation in Europe.
Journalist and founder of The Intercept website Glenn Greenwald eloquently pointed to the absurdity of further NATO involvement in the country when he titled a recent piece on the issue: “The U.S. Intervention in Libya Was Such a Smashing Success That a Sequel Is Coming.”
3. War on Afghanistan
NATO forces led the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which ran Afghanistan from late 2001 until 2014. The Project on Defense Alternatives estimated that in a three-month period between Oct. 7, 2001 and Jan. 1, 2002, at least 1,300 civilians were directly killed by the United States-led aerial bombing campaign under NATO’s watch.
In 2002, The Guardian reported that as many as 20,000 Afghans died in 2001 as an indirect result of the initial U.S. and NATO airstrikes and ground invasion.
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 as a result of the U.S. invasion that was overseen by NATO forces for 14 years, according to a 2015 report called “Body Count," written by 1985 Nobel Peace Prize winners "Physicians for Social Responsibility" and "Physicians for Global Survival and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War."
4. 21st Century Cold War
NATO was formed in order to counter the Soviet Union and protect a fragile Western Europe from a potential Soviet invasion. Thus by the end of the Cold War, the justification for NATO’s existence was gone.
But since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO and Western powers have expanded their military presence in former Soviet States in Eastern Europe as it seeks to undermine Russian interests in the region.
NATO and the U.S. claim that such policies are due to what they term “Russian aggression.”
One of the biggest military powers in the world, Russia is growing increasingly impatient with Washington's policies and has warned of a “new Cold War” as a result of the increasing tensions.
"We can say it even more clearly: we have slid into a new period of Cold War," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in February. "Almost every day we are accused of making new horrible threats either against NATO as a whole, against Europe, or against the U.S. or other countries."
Over the past few years, NATO has been pushing for several eastern European nations to join the alliance, while sending hundreds of troops there to “affirm” commitment to the interests of those nations against Russia.
Albania and Croatia joined NATO in 2009. In 2011, the alliance recognized four aspiring members: Bosnia, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.
Russia will not be passive in the face of this expansion. Last month, the Kremlin promised a “totally asymmetrical” response to NATO’s plan to deploy more troops to eastern Europe.
Late last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin also signed an executive order labelling NATO a “threat” to Russia.
Such policies are increasing the odds of a major global conflict amid proxy wars already being fought in places like Ukraine, Syria and Yemen.
5. Washington's Military Force
The most troubling aspect of NATO is the fact that it often works for the interests of the United States, which at times do not align with the interests of other member states. According to renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky, since 1991 this has resulted in NATO becoming a “U.S.-run intervention force."
“NATO’s interventions over the past two-and-a-half decades have actually had little to do with maintaining the security of its members, despite the fact that it claims its “essential purpose” is to “safeguard” their freedom and security,” Danielle Ryan, an Irish freelance journalist and media analyst, wrote in a column for RT Monday.
The "defensive" alliance, which is "committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes," has simply acted as a front for U.S. aggression on three different continents.