By TONY SEED
First of four articles on Canada, the NATO Fleet and Africa
HALIFAX (August 1, 2007) – IN THE MIDST of the 200th anniversary of the “abolition” of the slave trade, and on the heels of the UN decision to deploy 12,000 troops to Darfur, the Government of Canada despatched the warship HMCS Toronto to participate in an unprecedented two-month NATO fleet circumnavigation around Africa. The warship departed from Halifax on July 20 in the midst of a localized media blitz. As a form of psychological pressure, the two daily newspapers were replete with articles over a two-day period depicting the emotional good byes of the families of the departing sailors. The media forgot to inform the families that the deployment is part of the expansion of the aggressive NATO bloc into a self-appointed global police force.
The HMCS Toronto is to join up with the Standing NATO Response Force Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), which will sail from the Mediterranean on 4 August to the west coast of Africa and the Niger Delta. In April, the SNMG1 fleet was carrying out war games off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea.
One of NATO’s four newly-formed rapid response fleets, this fleet is to comprise six ships from six different members of the NATO bloc – the United States, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark and Canada – and is under the command of Rear Admiral Mike Mahon, US Navy, in the flag ship the USS Normandy.
It is no accident that the US and NATO has chosen this particular moment to bring the naval fleet to the forefront of military plans for Africa. Under the so-called “new world order” premised on Bush’s “war on terror”, the theatre of operations of NATO – despite Article 6 limiting NATO to north of the Tropic of Cancer – has been extended way beyond the so-called “defence of the North Atlantic” into the Caribbean, Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia and Africa.
The creation of the new fleets as part of a new intervention force and the NATO Supreme Command Transformation – the decisions of its Prague Summit on November 21-22, 2002 and first proposed by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – serve this end. The fleet, previously known as Standing Naval Force Atlantic [STANAVFORLANT], was officially renamed SNMG-1 in January 2006.
HMCS Toronto’s five-month deployment is part of Operation Sextant of the Department of National Defence, euphemistically described as “Canada’s contribution to the SNMG1.” The deployment of this one warship to Africa will cost an estimated $8 million, an enormous sum, at a time when the Canadian Navy is clamouring that it has trouble finding funds to send its ships to sea, and poverty levels are climbing.
The rapid response fleet was formed as part of this “transformation” of NATO into a world police force with the military-naval capability of intervening anywhere in the world within a few days. According to NATO, “The NRF (NATO Response Force) is a technologically advanced high-readiness force made up of land, air, sea and special forces elements that NATO can deploy quickly to respond to a wide variety of operational commitments anywhere in the world, wherever it is needed.”
During the Israeli war of aggression against Lebanon in 2006, the NATO-assigned warships USS Mahan, FGS Sachsen and Tonnerre stood off the coast of Lebanon.
This is the second, successive deployment to Africa of the NATO fleet in just the past year.
From June 15-28, 2006 the SNMG 1, under the cosmetic or operational command of Canadian Commodore Denis Rouleau, HMCS Athabaskan, headed up the massive war game, Operation STEADFAST JAGUAR 06, along the west coast of the Cape Verde Islands, in the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa. The exercise involved 20,000-25,000 naval personnel, 12 warships and about 2,500 ground troops from the NATO bloc. Its aim was “to demonstrate the NRF concept and prove that it is viable.” The scenario involved a future combat engagement against rebels in the coastal areas of West Africa. NATO at the time denied any future concrete war plans. Today the SNMG-1 is directed to “get an idea of the maritime activities” off the coast – the next step to concretely preparing combat operations. The NATO measures in the Gulf of Guinea are not being described as exercises but as “presence operations.” 
Under the pretext of reciprocal defence, naval fleet deployments are one of the traditional forms of the colonial and imperialist powers of intensive pressure, a demonstration of force, on the peoples of the littoral countries, to divide spheres of influence, prepare and carry out secret acts of aggression and assist other aggressors in their service. The Nigerian newspaper Business Day referred to the African deployment as “a show of force and a demonstration that the world powers are closely monitoring the worsening security situation in the Niger Delta.”
These are areas that the force might have to go back to some day and we need to operate over there to get an understanding of everything from shipping patterns to how our sensors work in those climates – Cmdr. Stephen Virgin, HMCS Toronto
NATO and DND reports further reveal that the deployment will test NATO’s logistics support systems, organize closer “interaction” and “inter-operability” with some of Africa’s naval forces and increase regional awareness and naval-military knowledge of the terrain of the 12,500-nautical mile African coastline by the US-NATO command. In other words, NATO and the Canadian Navy are assessing the possibilities of participating and succeeding in a military aggression on a country in the region. “These are areas that the force might have to go back to some day and we need to operate over there to get an understanding of everything from shipping patterns to how our sensors work in those climates,” admitted Cmdr. Stephen Virgin of the HMCS Toronto to the Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax.
The NATO Force will sail around South Africa at the end of August, conducting exercises with the South African Navy and pay a four-day visit to Cape Town at the beginning of September.
The final phase of the deployment will include exercises in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia under the pretext” of opposing “piracy.” During this phase of the NATO fleet will visit the Republic of the Seychelles in mid-September; the deployment formally ends when they pass the Suez Canal.
In both the home and target harbours and countries, numerous attempts are being made to portray NATO as a defensive and necessary organization in the name of “maritime security,” by which the NATO strives to legalize its global operations.
The “scramble for Africa”
The contention among the imperialist powers over Africa as a source of raw materials and cheap labour was a major factor leading up to the first World War. The scramble for Africa’s boundless natural riches and cheap labour is once again plunging the world into a dangerous abyss and stealing the future of another generation of Africans. Throughout West Africa, projects are being implemented to expand liquefied gas, oil and iron ore and uranium extraction, production and export by French (Total), Spanish (Repsol) and American (Exxon-Mobil, Marathon Oil) multinationals, amongst others. Today, the US gets about 10 per cent of its oil from Africa, but some US experts say it may need to rely on the continent for as much as 25 per cent by 2010. The Mittal steel monopoly is seizing existing iron ore facilities in Liberia where reserves are estimated at over one billion metric tonnes. Rich uranium deposits have been located in the sub-Sahara.
An expert UN panel investigating the illegal exploitation of the Congo’s resources recently found that a “predatory network of elites” (including army and government leaders) had been established to fight an “economy of war.”
Eight of the 29 corporations named were Canadian.
1. Standing NATO Maritime Group 1: Africa 2007; http://www.nato.int
2. American Mineral Fields, Banro, First Quarterly, Hrambee Mining, International Panorama Resources, Kinross Gold, Melkior Resources, and Tenke.
Barrick Gold, one of the world’s largest mining multinational, is also implicated in unsavoury business in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its board of directors includes former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and, for a significant period, former US president George H. Bush, father of the current US president.
Kim Petersen, “Canadian predation in Africa,” Shunpiking Online, June 5, 2003, http://www.shunpiking.com/bhs2007/0402-BHS-KP-canadian.htm