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Professor Sean Gervasi:

Why is NATO in Yugoslavia?

This study is based on a paper presented to a conference in Prague, Czech Republic, on 13-14 January 1996. The text comes from book "NATO in the Balkans" (ISBN 0-9656916-2-4), pages 20 - 46.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has recently sent a large task force into Yugoslavia, ostensibly to enforce a settlement of the Bosnian war arrived at in Dayton, Ohio at the end of 1995. This task force is said to consist of some 60,000 men, equipped with tanks, armor and artillery. It is backed by formidable air and naval forces. In fact, if one takes account of all the support forces involved, including forces deployed in nearby countries, it is clear that on the order of one hundred and fifty thousand troops are involved. This figure has been confirmed by U.S. defense sources.(1)

By any standards, the sending of a large Western military force into Central and Eastern Europe is a remarkable enterprise, even in the fluid situation created by the supposed end of the Cold War. The Balkan task force represents not only the first major NATO military operation, but a major operation staged "out of area", that is, outside the boundaries originally established for NATO military action.

However, the sending of NATO troops into the Balkans is the result of enormous pressure for the general extension of NATO eastwards.

If the Yugoslav enterprise is the first concrete step in the expansion of NATO, others are planned for the near future. Some Western powers want to bring the Visegrad countries (2) into NATO as full members by the end of the century. There was resistance to the pressures for such extension among certain Western countries for some time. However, the recalcitrants have now been bludgeoned into accepting the alleged necessity of extending NATO.

The question is: why are the Western powers pressing for the expansion of NATO? Why is NATO being renewed and extended when the "Soviet threat" has disappeared? There is clearly much more to it than we have so far been told. The enforcement of a precarious peace in Bosnia is only the immediate reason for sending NATO forces into the Balkans.

There are deeper reasons for the dispatch of NATO forces to the Balkans, and especially for the extension of NATO to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in the relatively near future. These have to do with an emerging strategy for securing the resources of the Caspian Sea region and for "stabilizing" the countries of Eastern Europe -- ultimately for "stabilizing" Russia and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. This is, to put it mildly, an extremely ambitious and potentially self- contradictory policy. And it is important to pose some basic questions about the reasons being given for pursuing it.

The idea of "stabilizing" the countries which formerly constituted the socialist bloc in Europe does not simply mean ensuring political stability there, ensuring that the regimes which replaced Socialism remain in place. It also means ensuring that economic and social conditions remain unchanged. And, since the so-called transition to democracy in the countries affected has in fact led to an incipient deindustrialization and a collapse of living standards for the majority, the question arises whether it is really desirable.

The question is all the more pertinent since "stabilization", in the sense in which it is used in the West, means reproducing in the former Socialist bloc countries economic and social conditions which are similar to the economic and social conditions currently prevailing in the West. The economies of the Western industrial nations are, in fact, in a state of semi-collapse, although the governments of those countires would never really acknowledge the fact. Nonetheless, any reasonably objective assessment of the economic situation in the West leads to this conclusion. And that conclusion is supported by official statistics and most analyses coming from mainstream economists.

It is also clear, as well, that the attempt to "stabilize" the former Socialist bloc countries is creating considerable tension with Russia, and potentially with other countries. Not a few commentators have made the point that Western actions in extending NATO even raise the risks of nuclear conflict. (3)

It is enough to raise these questions briefly to see that the extension of NATO which has, de facto, begun in Yugoslavia and is being proposed for other countries is to a large extent based on confused and even irrational reasoning. One is tempted to say that it results from the fear and willfulness of certain ruling groups. To put it most bluntly, why should the world see any benefit in the enforced extension to other countries of the economic and social chaos which prevails in the West, and why should it see any benefit in that when the very process itself increases the risks of nuclear war?

The purposes of this paper are to describe what lies behind the current efforts to extend NATO and to raise some basic questions about whether this makes any sense, in both the narrow and deeper meanings of the term.


1. Defense News, November 25, l995; see also Gary Wilson, "Anti-War Activists Demand: No More U.S. Troops to the Balkans, Workers World News Service, December 7, 1995.

2. As of 1996, the Visegrad countries were Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

3. See, for instance, "NATO Expansion: Flirting with Disaster", THE DEFENSE MONITOR, November/December, 1995, Center for Defense Information, Washington, D.C.

Chapters of Professor Gervasi's article:

NATO in Yugoslavia
NATO had to be preserved in order to ensure the leadership of the United States... Germany and the United States... while seeming to support the idea of ending the civil wars in Yugoslavia, in fact did everything they could to prolong them... NATO sought to involve itself.

Eastward expansion of NATO

Struggle for mastery in the Balkans
Behind the repeated interventions in the Yugoslav crisis, there lay long-term strategic plans for the whole of Europe... America is building a vast new empire.

New "Great Game" in the Caspian Sea

Next stage "Stabilizing" the East

Dangers of expanding NATO

Weakness of the Western position


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Last revised: Dec. 29, 1998