Obsolete alliance now a tool of United States
Czech, Polish and Hungarian NATO loyalists must be feeling rather uneasy these days. Their single-minded 1990s drive for NATO membership for themselves and by extension for all the rest of the former Soviet satellites of the region was supposed to provide protection from Russia for all eternity. By swapping subjection to Washington for subjection to Moscow, they could effect a simple change of sides in a Cold War they didn’t really believe was over.
This view of things came as a complete surprise to NATO, Washington and the West generally. After the collapse of the USSR, everyone there was prepared to give up on NATO. Like SEATO, the South East Asia Treaty Organization, which was closed down in 1977, it could simply have faded away once its historic moment passed. But faced with legions of keen Eastern Europeans whose only desire was apparently to wrap themselves in NATO flags, the alliance shook itself awake again, and stumbled from disaster to disaster through the 1990s, bombing, meddling and destabilizing in the Balkans — and the new members stood by with fixed grins and applauded politely, just as their fathers might have stood by and applauded the Soviet military adventures of a previous generation.
When the Serbian experiment in fooling all of the people all of the time came to an end, despite NATO’s best efforts to spin it out into a major regional conflict, the new members could breathe a sigh of relief. It all went quiet again. Yes, NATO had developed a regional peacekeeping role, but they were prepared to accept this price for their Article V guarantees. The fixed grins stayed in place.
The Republicans, however, waiting in the wings back in America, watched Clinton’s Balkans interventions with increasing distaste. Red-blooded American soldiers, they knew, had no place policing democracy, whatever the draft-dodger and his cronies might pretend. So ever since George W. swept so convincingly to power, the Pentagon has been extremely uninterested in what was supposed to be NATO’s crucial new role as regional peacekeeper. They can’t actually pull out of the Balkans, since it is universally recognized that the Dayton regime in Bosnia-Hercegovina in particular would immediately collapse, but American support for NATO has suddenly all but disappeared.
Until now! Yes: Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense and popular TV entertainer, has a dream. He has been explaining this dream to NATO members over the summer, and NATO’s Braveheart, Secretary-General Lord Robertson, has now started repeating the new line in public. He has no choice. NATO cannot possibly survive except as a European arm of American military policy.
Now Prague is hosting a summit widely expected to see NATO inviting another wave of former Soviet satellites to join the alliance. Surprise, surprise! It’s not regional peacekeeping at all that they will be expected to sign up to. It’s pre-emptive strikes against countries whose natural resources American oil companies would like to have control of.
This glorious new doctrine might well see Czech, Polish and Hungarian troops being sent into action in Iraq, where they can help murder some conscripts from inconvenient population groups in the name of truth, justice and the American way.
But this is only the beginning. Rumsfeld’s dream is of a NATO with global reach, capable of carrying out pre-emptive strikes anywhere on the planet at a moment’s notice. Since this is exactly what the Americans are already doing with their own armed forces, it is evident that the only function for such adventures by NATO would be to operate in situations too delicate for America to handle alone.
So once the next wave of expansion has been completed, Romanian, Slovenian and Latvian cannon-fodder can look forward to being parachuted into any profitable-looking hot spots around the world, without any need for stupid UN resolutions or anything like that. How about Africa? Let’s go and liberate some diamond fields!
Russia, meanwhile, has lost interest in Eastern Europe so completely that the protection the former vassal states wanted in the first place is plainly not worth having. If Russia did develop a serious military ambition in the region, the principled stand the Americans would be likely to take is visible in Chechnya, where the Russian Army’s respect for international standards of human rights has earned it the love and friendship not just of George W. in person but of the whole American people.
Indeed, the “pre-emptive strikes against oil-rich states” doctrine of the Americans is one Putin and the gang will sign up to in a heartbeat.
So this is what NATO membership has come to mean: open-ended support for whatever unprovoked attacks America decrees, with mandates, international law, treaties, courts and such-like rubbish in the trash where it belongs.
Let’s look forward to a beautiful, beautiful event Nov. 21-22.
By Christopher Lord
The Prague Post
(November 20, 2002)
— The writer is living in France. His latest book, Parallel Cultures, is gradually infiltrating its way into university libraries