How to Keep Lying With a Straight Face: NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg at Oxford


In light of the recent setbacks plaguing the Atlanticist project in Europe, the most visible of which so far have been the referendum victory of the pro-Brexit forces in the U.K. and the election of a pro-Russian president in Bulgaria, it has apparently been decided at NATO headquarters (and seconded by the Washington NATO overseers) that the top NATO bureaucrats have to take a more active part in the public relations (propaganda) campaigns. As a result, the recent three-day visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to London was planned in such a way as to include an opportunity to address a less restrictive audience than the usual diplomatic and military crowd. The venue chosen was the Oxford Union Society, one of the oldest debating societies in the world with a tradition of inviting well-known personalities from all walks of life to address its members.[1]  

The problem with giving NATO chief Stoltenberg a more prominent public speaking role is that he is an uncharismatic, boring speaker, a muddled thinker, and his command of English language is not particularly good. All these failings were in full evidence during his address to the Oxford Union Society on November 24, 2016.

In addition to that and, more importantly, Stoltenberg’s address was a heavy brew of typical NATO misinformation, disinformation, partial truths, and outright lies.[2] As a specimen par excellence of NATO grand narrative, the address, in my opinion, deserves to be deconstructed in detail and exposed for what it is: a dangerous rhetorical weapon for amplifying false consciousness and taking the world in the wrong direction – toward chaos, misery and war, and not toward stability, prosperity, and peace as Stoltenberg claimed.

NATO As Defender of Liberty and Democracy

Stoltenberg did not waste time in stating the claim that represents the cornerstone of NATO’s self-understanding. Already in the first minute of his speech, he asserted that NATO’s “core value is to defend open and free societies.” If one presents oneself as the defender of openness and freedom , than by definition one’s opponents become the attackers of these values. They are depicted as coming from the dark side, as the enemies of freedom and openness, no matter who they are and what they really stand for. In other words, if you criticize NATO, you are considered a trouble-maker and a wrecker of the one and only, superior Western civilization (whatever that is). In spreading such empty, moralizing labels and scorning the public right to impartial information, Western mass media outlets, owned by a handful of gigantic corporations linked to the military-industrial-intelligence complex, play an indispensable role.

One look at the domestic and foreign policies of NATO member states since NATO’s founding in 1949 is enough to locate a mountain of evidence disputing Stoltenberg’s claim – from the post-WWII colonial wars to more recent interventions in the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East.

However, neither Stoltenberg nor other NATO high officials are interested in getting ‘real’ facts. They take their own self-serving interpretations as facts. Reality for them is only what fits their geopolitical agenda. Day is night and white is black, if needed. Their mode of being was majestically described by George Orwell in his dystopian novel “1984.”

After commenting on NATO’s valiant role in defending liberty and fair play in the world, Stoltenberg was awarded with an applause from the audience right away. Obviously, they liked what they were being told: NATO as the best and the brightest, as the force for Good (with a capital G), all these claims aroused the pleasures of collective narcissism. For many people, it is warmer and more comfortable in the cave of prejudices than in the harsh sun of objectivity and truth. As a professional politician and a son of a professional politician, Stoltenberg knows this quite well, and so he plunged on with his misleading, but feel-good narrative.

Continuing his address after the applause, Stoltenberg gave a brief presentation of NATO activities since the collapse of its Cold War nemesis, the Warsaw pact. He claimed that NATO found its reason for being in the 1990s in the existence of serious political instability alongside the borders of its member states. The fact that this instability was caused by the geopolitical agenda of the leading NATO member states themselves was conveniently brushed aside by Stoltenberg. According to him, instability just happened out of the blue and NATO, as a military equivalent of Mother Theresa, was called on to give a helping hand, which, due to the goodness of its humanitarian impulses, it could not refuse to do. In technical terms, this was called “projecting stability” and, according to Stoltenberg, this is precisely what NATO did in the Balkans.

Stoltenberg’s account of NATO’s brutal 78-day bombing of a sovereign country, in violation of both the U.N. Charter and the U.S. Constitution, consists of these words: “We went into Kosovo to preserve [sic!], or to end the war and to preserve the peace and stability in the Balkans.” Not a word about the responsibility for hundreds of civilians killed and wounded and millions of dollars in property destruction. Obviously, Stoltenberg thinks that this kind of “collateral damage” is justifiable on the road to “freedom and openness.” But whose freedom and openness for whom? Most likely, only for the U.S. military at the Bondsteel military base which sprang up just a few months after NATO troops entered Kosovo. As for ordinary citizens in the Balkans, the severe political crisis caused by NATO intervention is far from being resolved even more than 15 years later. At this time, the entire region is once again on the edge of a violent confrontation. This is yet another proof that NATO militarism, grounded in the dictates of force and deceit, can offer no workable models for long-term, sustainable peace and prosperity.

Stoltenberg’s mention of the NATO regime-change operation in Libya, which led to the total destruction of the country’s infrastructure and turned Libya into a safe haven for terrorists, was even more egregious in its falsity. According to him, NATO only “conducted air strikes in Libya.” No more than that. And nobody from the Oxford audience asked him either about followed next, or what was going in Libya today.

In fact, Stoltenberg’s narrative is so divorced from the actual reality on the ground that, at one point, he himself was forced to admit indirectly the total failure of NATO undertakings. Referring to the present time, he stated that NATO continues “to project stability beyond [its] borders with actually more instability, more violence close to NATO borders.” So what did NATO really accomplish in the 25 years of its post-Cold War existence, if the instability and violence are “actually” getting more extensive and damaging?

Since it is truly hard to find any genuine NATO accomplishments, it can be stated with no hesitation that NATO has proven to be the tremendous waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned income. What is even worse is that the price tag is going to get even bigger. Stoltenberg trumpeted as a very “good news” the fact that more and more countries in Europe will be pressured by the U.S. and NATO leadership into spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on the military. So instead of building schools and hospitals and extending social security net for the needy, Europeans will get more unnecessary planes, tanks, and missiles, while the executives and lobbyists of the giant U.S. defense department contractors such as Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, and Raytheon will laugh all the way to the bank.

Blame It All on Russia

All this massive profit windfall for the U.S. and West European military-industrial-intelligence complex has been justified by the supposed threat of a “more assertive” Russia. That is how Stoltenberg characterized recent Russian foreign policy moves. Several times he mentioned the “illegal” Russian actions in Crimea as the main reason for considering the Russian behavior as a threat to peace and stability in Europe.

It is of course not surprising that Stoltenberg failed to find similarities between the Russian actions in Crimea and the NATO actions in Kosovo. NATO made a precedent of annulling the principle of non-interference in the domestic matters of a sovereign state, and if anything, Russia just followed suit. Since for Stoltenberg NATO can do no wrong, he kept silent on what preceded the Russian “takeover” of Crimea. The Crimean story is much too complicated to be dismissed and discredited under the simplistic label of  “illegitimate annexation.”

But, as I said previously, Stoltenberg is not interested in presenting the facts or understanding the complex histories of traumatized regions. His job is what the Communist organizers used to call “agit-prop” – agitation and propaganda. His goal is to sway those who waver, the undecided ones who see that their quality of life is declining, that their children will be worse off that they are, and are full of anger and rage about it. It is their emotions that Stoltenberg wants to capture and direct toward the convenient outside enemy. He needs their votes for the bloated military and intelligence budgets that the whole cast of corrupt Western politicians and their corporate sponsors have come to depend on to keep up their luxurious life-style.

NATO’s Agents of Influence

When Stoltenberg was asked by a member of the audience whether he thought that perhaps NATO also contributed to the present tensions with Russia by expanding to the Russian borders, Stoltenberg replied that it was “not, in a way, NATO that has expanded, it is Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, that has [sic!] applied for membership because they want to become members through democratic processes and should we tell them no…” In other words, NATO was a passive actor being pulled by the sleeve and, due to its humanitarian impulses (the same ones that made it bomb the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), it just could not refuse the teary-eyed requests.

This account is of course infantile. In reality, NATO and the Western intelligence agencies have invested millions of dollars in order to bring to political power the networks of pliable political elites whose job it was to get their countries to become an integral part of the Atlanticist geopolitical agenda. The push to join NATO came from the outside, but it was transmitted through the NATO’s domestic agents of influence to make it look as if it was the expression of the will of the people of a given country.

However, out of twelve East-Central European countries that joined NATO after 1991, only two – Hungary and Slovenia – organized national referenda on the membership issue. In both cases, the opponents of NATO were seriously marginalized and discriminated against by the sitting pro-NATO governments.[3] There was absolutely no commitment on the part of NATO to insure that people expressed their opinion in an atmosphere free of fear and tension. The most recent example of that is the multi-million dollar NATO propaganda campaign in Montenegro about which I have written extensively over the years.[4]

This is why it can be said that Stoltenberg revealed the full extent of his hypocrisy when he stated that “it’s violating everything I believe in” not to show “the respect for people to decide their own destiny and their own future.” Neither he nor his predecessors in the position of NATO Secretary General ever demonstrated any respect or care for the foreign policy choices of ordinary people. Their only concern has been to keep the money flowing to their sponsors in the U.S. and West European military-industrial-intelligence complex by engineering the political conditions requiring ever-new weapons contracts.

At the end of his address, Stoltenberg received a long applause from the Oxford audience. The fact that his self-serving, simplistic, and deceitful narrative found such a positive reception at the place as intellectually distinguished as Oxford University means that the hard times are in store not only for truth, but even for “plain facts” and basic common sense, in contemporary Western society.

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Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at







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