The Secret War: Gladio and the Battle for Eurasia
by James Corbett
To understand the way that subterfuge is being used in the New Great Game today, we must first understand an important clandestine operation which is commonly known as “Operation Gladio.”
In very broad and rough terms, “Operation Gladio” was a NATO plan to use “stay-behind” paramilitary armies to counter a potential Soviet invasion and occupation of Europe. Although this is the way that “Operation Gladio” is commonly understood today, almost every part of that description is technically incorrect.
Firstly “Operation Gladio” was not a name for the overall program, which involved 12 NATO member nations (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Turkey) and four neutral countries (Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland), but specifically its most famous incarnation in Italy. In Belgium the operation was codenamed “SDRA-8.” Sweden had its “Projekt-26.” In Greece it was “Lochos Oreinon Katadromon” and here in the Netherlands it was “GIIIC” later rebranded as “G7.”
Secondly, the operation was not inherently a NATO one. It was first coordinated in 1948 by a trans-Atlantic body based in France known as the “Western Union Clandestine Committee.” After the creation of NATO in 1949 the body was folded into the organization’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) under the revised name of the Clandestine Planning Committee.
Thirdly, although the individual stay-behind programs were organized in Europe, the scope of their operations were not limited to Europe and strayed far from any supposed mandate to prepare for a Soviet invasion. As we shall see, “Gladio” operations included and include everything from drug running and money laundering to terror attacks and political assassinations.
I will not get into the specifics of how these stay-behind units operated in the various countries or the various incidents they have been implicated in. If any part of the “Gladio” story is well-known, it is the operations in Europe and their role in such events as Italy’s “Years of Lead.” These topics have been covered in great detail by very capable writers, filmmakers, historians and researchers, and I’ll refer you to some of the most valuable English language resources on the overall program, including Allan Frankovitch’s groundbreaking 1992 documentary, Gladio: The Ring Masters, Daniele Ganser’s seminal work, NATO’s Secret Armies, Richard Cottrell’s Gladio: NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe, and the various resources available at sites likeoperation-gladio.net.
What is important for our study today is the strategic doctrine employed by the Gladio operations known as the “strategy of tension.” This doctrine involves the creation, encouragement or exacerbation of political, religious, ethnic or other forms of conflict in order to incite fear in a population and manipulate public opinion.
It is not difficult to see how this strategy could be used in some form in a region as linguistically, ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse and divisive as Central Asia and the Caucasus. Indeed, as Brzezinski points out in regards to his “Eurasian Balkans” concept:
“Every one of [the Eurasian Balkans] countries suffers from serious internal difficulties, all of them have frontiers that are either the object of claims by neighbors or are zones of ethnic resentment, few are nationally homogeneous, and some are already embroiled in territorial, ethnic, or religious violence.”
With regards to the Central Asia-Caucasus region in particular, Gladio operations in Turkey are of primary importance. Noting that the Turkish Gladio operations relied on cooperation with the nationalistic, racist, baldly expansionist Pan-Turkism movement, Daniele Ganser describes the Turkish secret army as “more violent than that of any other stay-behind in Western Europe.” He describes the origins of the Turkish stay-behind, known as “Counter-Guerrilla,” this way:
“Under the headline ‘The Origins of “Gladio” in Turkey’ the Paris-based Intelligence Newsletter reported in 1990 that they had obtained ‘one of the recently declassified original strategy documents engendering the Western European “stay-behind” or “Gladio” network: US Army General Staff’s Top-Secret March 28, 1949 Overall Strategic Concepts.’ In an adjoining document, JSPC 891/6, section ‘Tab B,’ a specific reference is made to Turkey highlighting how the Pan-Turkism movement could be exploited strategically by the United States.
The violent atrocities committed by Counter-Guerrilla are beyond the scope of this investigation, but include a September 1955 ‘false flag’ bombing of a key Turkish target in Greece which was blamed on the Greek police, participation in three military coups against Turkey’s own government, the torture of political opponents in the torture villa of Erenköy, and assorted robberies, assassinations, kidnappings, sabotage, and other terrorist activities.
In the vicious Turkish nationalist movement, with its interest in uniting all of the Turkish peoples into one Pan-Turkic nation, NATO found a convenient ally in its quest to counter Soviet influence in the Caucasus region and to gain a toehold in the Eurasian Balkans. In order to understand how this alliance operated, let’s examine one particular person who has been identified as one of the top Turkish “Gladiators”: Abdullah Çatlı.
Probably the single most famous members of the Counter-Guerrilla, Abdullah Catli’s remarkable and highly improbably career tells a story of assassinations, terror attacks, drug running, daring prison escapes and international intrigue outrageous enough to make even the most imaginative Hollywood script writer blush.
In 1984 it seemed that the long arm of the law had finally caught up with him. Paid by his Turkish intelligence handlers in heroin, Catli was arrested in Paris for drug trafficking and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. In 1988 he was sent to Switzerland, where he also wanted for drug trafficking, but in March 1990 he was sprung from prison in a nearly unbelievable prison break that involved the use of a helicopter.
This is the character profile of a Gladio operative: a person above the law, working in support of something identified in Turkey as the “deep state” that transcends the ordinary rules, laws, or even the constitutions of any individual governments. In the case of the Turkish deep state, there is an intimate connection with the greater Gladio operation and the shadowy NATO and Pentagon operations branches associated with it.
Returning to the question of Gladio interference in the Central Asia-Caucasus area of operations, one lowlight from Catli’s ignoble career is particularly instructive. In 1995 Catli participated in a planned coup attempt against Azerbaijani president Helmar Aliyev, the father of the country’s current president. The planned assassination failed, but Catli (predictably) was not caught or brought to justice for his participation in the scheme. But while the assassination itself did not result in the death of Aliyev, it did have a desirable effect for NATO’s designs on the South Caucasus.