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Sunday, October 31, 2010

GLADIO

The code name for the NATO stay-behind organization that had been trained and equipped to collect intelligence and generally harass the enemy in the event of a Soviet invasion and occupation of Italy. Similar contingency plans had been prepared across Central Europe, and they became controversial for two reasons. First, in the Italian example, the vetting procedures employed to screen the volunteers had necessarily excluded leftists, and the candidates accepted for the program included some radical right-wing extremists who were suspected of having allowed weapons and matériel to pass to terrorist groups with whom they were sympathetic. For example, the Bologna Railway Station bombing in August 1980, in which 85 people died, is an atrocity believed to have been carried out by terrorists using GLADIO explosives. In Belgium, too, there  was evidence of similar equipment falling into the wrong hands and being used for criminal and political purposes.
The second embarrassment was the extension of NATO’s training program to volunteers from neutral countries, including Finland, Sweden, Austria, and Switzerland. Each country had its own stay behind arrangements, but the issue was to prove controversial in Helsinki, where the organization was a cell-based  structure known as Stella Polaris; in Stockholm, where an arms cache was discovered stored in the cellars of a radio station owned by a right-wing political activist; and in Bern, where the military unit designated P-26 had been authorized and controlled by the chief of staff without the knowledge of his ministers or the Conseil  d’Etat.