Thousands protest against NATO summit 

June 27, 2022 - 19:4

Thousands of demonstrators have poured their anger on the streets of the Spanish capital Madrid against NATO in protest over the U.S.-led military alliance’s support and backing for wars as Western leaders face further criticism over the Ukraine war. 

The protest in Madrid comes ahead of a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week. A second demonstration which had been organized for Wednesday has now been banned by the Spanish government citing security reasons.

Demonstrators called for NATO to be dissolved and demanded the military bases maintained by Washington in their country’s territory be shut down. Protesters criticized an increase in military spending in Europe which was urged by NATO, saying it poses a threat to regional peace and security. 

Banners with the words “No to NATO, No to War, For Peace” were held as the protesters marched through the city. 

"I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons," Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

"We think NATO is a criminal organization that doesn't help the working classes," protest organizer Javier Martorell told CGTN, "with them it's just war and misery. So we don't want NATO in our country – that's why we are protesting."

"We are protesting against the policies of NATO and we are against them giving weapons to Ukraine," one male protester told the news channel.

A female protestor also said that NATO had "been causing genocide and wars for 40 years – all financed by capitalism – so we are here to protest against that."

Another, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

"Twice as much money is being spent on the army and militarism as before, and that money is being taken away from health, education..." says protester Elena Zurita.

Organizers say around 5,000 people participated in the first demonstration. Leaders of the NATO member countries will be meeting in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organization faces the unprecedented challenge of the Ukraine conflict. 

NATO is also expected to consider the membership bids of Finland and Sweden who applied to join following the Russian military operation in Ukraine. The Kremlin says the “special military operation” is in response to the eastward expansion of NATO’s military on Russian borders. Moscow has also condemned the U.S. for failing to provide security guarantees about the military build-up on Russia’s borders several months before military action was taken. 

A heavy security presence is expected in Madrid during the two-day summit. 
More than 10,000 police officers and other security forces are reportedly providing protection for the NATO summit despite a Spanish interior ministry spokesman saying no threat has been identified.

Meanwhile, protesters have also marched in the southern German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is close to where leaders of the Group of Seven leading economies (G7) are meeting, demanding action to tackle domestic and international problems. 

The protesters’ demands include the fight against poverty, climate change, and world hunger. Greenpeace activists participated in the protests. Footage also showed protesters holding an Oxfam banner that read "Stop Burning Our Planet" while wearing costumes depicting the summit’s leaders. 

Another protester Erich Utz criticized the G7 leaders for not involving the young generation in their meetings and their decision-making.

"I'm 17 years old - there are people sitting there who are four times my age, discussing my future without asking any young people what we want even once," Utz said.

The G7 group of leaders which make led by the United States started a three-day summit on Sunday at Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian mountains with the conflict in Ukraine set to be high on the agenda. 

Reports suggest the United States and the United Kingdom are concerned over divisions among Western governments regarding the approach to the Ukraine crisis. 

On Sunday, as G7 leaders gathered for the summit, U.S. President Joe Biden urged Washington’s allies to maintain their unity saying "we have to stay together" against Russia.

The G7 leaders have reportedly moved to ban the imports of Russian gold in a bid to tighten the sanctions against Moscow. However, it was not clear whether there was consensus on the measure, with European Council President Charles Michel saying the plan will need to be “handled carefully and discussed further.”

According to the British government only the UK, the U.S., Japan, and Canada have agreed to the ban on Russian gold imports. 

Like Biden, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pleaded with the West on the need to keep a united front against Russia. Johnson has urged other world leaders to hold firm in their “long-term support” for Ukraine.

Reports suggest there is increasing concern among the British government that some countries could become persuaded by calls for Kyiv to cede the eastern Donbas region in exchange for a peace deal.

As his domestic political woes continue to haunt him, Johnson held a marathon of bilateral meetings and TV interviews. Outlining his key message, he said the financial cost of providing longstanding support to Ukraine was “a price worth paying”.

In a peculiar move, Johnson also addressed the American people (suffering a cost-of-living crisis) by speaking to U.S. media. “I would just say to people in the United States that this is something that America historically does (a price worth paying),” Johnson said. 

Critics say the sanctions against Russia has rebounded on Western economies as it has exacerbated the rising costs of food and energy. Reports are surfacing of governments expressing concern about the collateral damage from Western sanctions on Moscow as soaring inflation and energy shortages rebound on their own citizens. The skyrocketing global energy and food prices are hitting economic growth in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, as the UN warns of an "unprecedented global hunger crisis”.

Oxfam says the pain from food price spikes for developing countries has become "visceral" and called on G7 leaders to support developing countries in their battle against the food crisis.

However, the U.S. and UK are pushing for more sanctions against Russia. 

The G7 meeting was also denounced after UK PM Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exchanged jokes about Russian President Vladimir Putin in front of TV cameras. 

Critics say the two leaders joking in public at a time when a deadly conflict is unfolding in Eastern Europe and households are struggling to put food on the table back home is not the best PR message to show the two leader’s seriousness. 

The light-hearted exchanges between Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron despite strong divisions between the two countries over London changing parts of the Brexit deal regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol has also been viewed as a lack of genuineness by the two leaders.  

Oddly enough, Biden and Johnson are not scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting in both the G7 or
NATO summits despite being leading advocates for the continuation of the war in Ukraine. 

That has led to question marks over whether they actually want to be seen together as Johnson and Biden’s popularity hits rock bottom. A meeting between the pair would likely make negative headlines back home as neither one appears to have a clear strategy on how to repair their damaged leadership apart from blaming Russia.

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