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Future of a Delusion.

When the NATO ministers packed their bags and left the Washington summit in late April, they had no reason to rejoice over the job they had just completed. They had committed the Alliance to continue to wage its ill-conceived and illegal war against Yugoslavia. And they had revised the "strategic concept" of NATO in such a way as to make further such wars more likely.

NATO is now entering the future of a delusion. The delusion of the past was that NATO kept the peace in Europe. But as Gore Vidal and historian Carolyn Eisenberg have pointed out, the Alliance came into being only because the United States and Britain decided to renege on the Yalta and Potsdam agreements they made with the Soviet Union. The breaking of those pacts helped lead to the perilous years of the Cold War and the four decades of nuclear terror that gripped the world.

Basic to NATO doctrine was a first-strike nuclear option. If the Soviet Union put a toe into West Germany, NATO would drop the bomb on Moscow. Nuclear war didn't erupt. But it came close, more than a dozen times. To say the Alliance successfully preserved the peace is like a drunk driver bragging that he went 100 miles an hour down the highway without crashing his car.

Now, eight years after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has no reason for being, and yet it has been fighting a war in Yugoslavia to save the credibility of this organization's afterlife.

To justify that war and to invent a new purpose, NATO ministers came to Washington. They had to work quickly to modify NATO's strategic concept because the war against Yugoslavia violated the one that was in force up until April. The old strategic concept, which was approved in London in July 1990, stated: "The Alliance is purely defensive in purpose: None of its weapons will ever be used except in self-defense." In the new strategic concept, adopted on April 23 and April 24, NATO quietly dropped this clear and encumbering language.

In its place, the ministers agreed to language that basically will allow NATO to intervene anywhere in the world at any time. In classic bureaucratese, the new strategic concept speaks of "crisis management through non-Article 5 crisis response operations." Article 5 is part of NATO's charter, adopted on April 4, 1949, and it states: "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all." So a military action that is "non-Article 5" means that it is not in response to an attack against a NATO member.

For instance, there's the war in Yugoslavia. The Alliance "has committed itself to essential new activities in the interest of a wider stability," the current document states. "It has shown the depth of that commitment in its efforts to put an end to the immense human suffering created by conflict in the Balkans." (The document somehow failed to acknowledge that NATO's war against Yugoslavia contributed to this immense human suffering, however.)

The open-endedness of the new strategic concept is startling. While it continues to pledge to counter "any armed attack on the territory of the Allies," it will not stop there. "Alliance security must also take account of the global context," it says. "Alliance security interests can be affected by other risks of a wider nature, including acts of terrorism, sabotage, and organized crime, and by the disruption of the flow vital resources."

This new concept foresees some far-flung affairs. "The size, readiness, availability, and deployment of the Alliance's military forces will reflect its commitment to collective defense and to conduct crisis response operations, sometimes at short notice, distant from their home stations, including beyond the Allies' territory."

If a nation like Iran or North Korea is said to have nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons that could threaten any NATO country, the new strategic concept gives NATO the right to act preemptively. "The Alliance's defense posture must have the capability to address appropriately and effectively the risks associated with the proliferation of NBC weapons and their means of delivery, which also pose a potential threat to the Allies' populations, territory, and forces."

Washington can now cite NATO's new strategic concept to justify virtually any attack it wishes to wage against any nation. Take note: We are here at the creation of a global NATO interventionary force.

Where the United Nations should be intervening, now there shall be NATO.

There is one little problem, though. The new strategic concept states that these "crisis response operations" have to be "in conformity with Article 7 of the Washington Treaty" of 1949, which recognizes "the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security."

Alas, NATO's war against Yugoslavia already violates this provision, since the Security Council never granted NATO permission to bomb Belgrade. Details, details. (By the way, you can access this document, "The Alliance's New Strategic Concept," on the Internet at:

Russia, beware. While parts of NATO's new strategic concept make nice to Moscow, the document on the whole has menacing overtones. "Russia plays a unique role in Euro-Atlantic security," the document states. "A strong, stable, and enduring partnership between NATO and Russia is essential to achieve lasting stability in the Euro-Atlantic area."

Whereas the 1990 strategic concept recognized that the threat from Moscow had passed, the current one seems prepared to resurrect it. In 1990, NATO stated: "The monolithic, massive, and potentially immediate threat which was the principal concern of the Alliance in its first forty years has disappeared."

But now the Cold War is back on the horizon. The new 1999 NATO document states: "Notwithstanding positive developments in the strategic environment and the fact that large-scale conventional aggression against the Alliance is highly unlikely, the possibility of such a threat emerging over the longer term exists."

NATO shows more concern now than it did nine years ago about the possibility of nuclear conflict with Russia. "The existence of powerful nuclear forces outside the Alliance also constitutes a significant factor which the Alliance has to take into account if security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area are to be maintained," the new strategic concept states.

Russia may also be alarmed by the ever-expanding nature of NATO. When the Berlin Wall came down and Mikhail Gorbachev allowed Germany to become reunified, he did so only after the Bush Administration promised that NATO would not push eastward. So much for that promise. Not only has NATO brought in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, it is now looking for more takers. "The Alliance remains open to new members," the document states. "It expects to extend further invitations in coming years to nations willing and able to assume responsibilities and obligations of membership."

From Moscow's perspective, this must look ominous, as NATO creeps closer and closer to Russia's borders. And it is especially foreboding, since NATO is still clinging to its nuclear first-strike doctrine. "To protect peace and to prevent war or any kind of coercion, the Alliance will maintain for the foreseeable future an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces based in Europe.... The Alliance's conventional forces alone cannot ensure credible deterrence. Nuclear weapons make a unique contribution in rendering the risks of aggression against the Alliance incalculable and unacceptable."

From the perspective of U.S. arms companies, the expansion of NATO means money in the bank. Any country that joins NATO is urged to commit to spending at least 3 percent of its budget on the military. While we here in the United States might view that as a pittance, for many countries--including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic--getting to this level will not be easy, nor will it be a rational allocation of resources. Each country's military must be compatible with NATO's forces. This usually translates into contracts for the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Brown and Root.

U.S. arms companies stand to gain $35 billion over the next ten years as a result of NATO expansion, William Hartung of the World Policy Institute pointed out in these pages last year (see "NATO Boondoggle," May 1998). No wonder, then, that corporations were pleased to cough up money for the Washington summit. "Boeing, TRW, and United Technologies ... donated $250,000 each," Joel Brinkley reported in The New York Times. "Intelsat, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon donated $50,000 to $100,000 each"

Brinkley pointed out the direct connection between some of these companies and NATO's war in Yugoslavia: "Boeing and Raytheon produce the cruise missiles that have devastated Belgrade; Raytheon also makes HARM anti-radar missiles, while Boeing makes the Apache helicopter. Northrop Grumman is one of the leading producers of jet fighters and other warplanes. Like other defense contractors, they do business not just with the Pentagon, but with most of the defense ministries of NATO."

From its inception, NATO may have been as much about preserving Europe as a place for U.S. corporations to turn a profit as it was about deterring Soviet expansionism. And now without a Soviet Union as a justification, the profiteering purpose seems all the more brazen.

If NATO ever had a legitimate purpose, that purpose has long since passed. The Soviet Union has vanished. NATO should vanish, too. It has arrogated to itself vast new global interventionary powers that rightly belong to the United Nations. It has tested these powers already in Yugoslavia and has failed miserably. It is antagonizing Russia and threatening to refrost the Cold War. And it is still making the old and reckless threat of nuclear attack.

We need to recognize that NATO is a danger to peace. If we really want peace, we should urge our elected officials to give NATO the hook. In April in Washington, we heard the dreary encore of a lousy concert. The last thing we need is to send NATO on a world tour.
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Title Annotation:NATO
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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