Dr. Sean Gervasi (continued):
The Next Stage: "Stabilizing" the East
Back to the beginning of the article.
The current pressure for the enlargement of NATO to Central and Eastern Europe is part of an effort to create what is mistakenly called "the new world order". It is the politico-military complement of the economic policies initiated by the major Western powers and designed to transform Central and East European society.
The United States, Germany and some of their allies are trying to build a truly global order around the North Atlantic Basin economy. There is actually nothing very new about the kind of order which they are trying to establish. It is to be founded on capitalist institutions. What is new is that they are trying to extend "the old order" to the vast territories which were thrown into chaos by the disintegration of Communism. They are also trying to incorporate into this "order" countries which were previously not fully a part of it.
In a word, they are trying to create a functioning capitalist system in countries which have lived under Socialism for decades, or in countries, such as Angola, which were seeking to break free of the capitalist system. As they try to establish a "new world order", the major Western powers must also think about how to preserve it. So, in the final analysis, they must think about extending their military power toward the new areas of Europe which they are trying to attach to the North Atlantic Basin. Hence the proposed role of NATO in the new European order.
The two principal architects of what might be a new, integrated and capitalist Europe are the United States and Germany. They are working together especially closely on East European questions. In effect, they have formed a close alliance in which the US expects Germany to help manage not only West European but also East European affairs. Germany has become, as George Bush put it in Mainz in 1989, a "partner in leadership".
This close relationship ties the US to Germany's vision of what German and American analysts are now calling Central Europe. It is a vision which calls for: 1) the expansion of the European Union to the East; 2) German leadership in Europe; and 3) a new division of labor in Europe.
It is the idea of a new division of labor which is particularly important. In the German view, Europe will in the future be organized in concentric rings around a center, which will be Germany. The center will be the most developed region in every sense. It will be the most technically developed and the wealthiest. It will have the highest levels of wages, salaries and per capita income. And it will undertake only the most profitable economic activities, those which put it in command of the system. Thus Germany will take charge of industrial planning, design, the development of technology, etc., of all the activities which will shape and co-ordinate the activities of other regions.
As one moves away from the center, each concentric ring will have lower levels of development, wealth and income. The ring immediately surrounding Germany will include a great deal of profitable manufacturing and service activity. It is meant to comprise parts of Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and northern Italy. The general level of income would be high, but lower than in Germany. The next ring would include the poorer parts of Western Europe and parts of Eastern Europe, with some manufacturing, processing and food production. Wage and salary levels would be significantly lower than at the center.
It goes without saying that, in this scheme of things, most areas of Eastern Europe will be in an outer ring. Eastern Europe will be a tributary of the center. It will produce some manufactured goods, but not primarily for its own consumption. Much of its manufacturing, along with raw materials, and even food, will be shipped abroad. Moreover, even manufacturing will pay low wages and salaries. And the general level of wages and salaries, and therefore of incomes, will be lower than they have been in the past.
In short, most of Eastern Europe will be poorer in the new, integrated system than it would have been if East European countries could make their own economic decisions about what kind of development to pursue. The only development possible in societies exposed to the penetration of powerful foreign capital and hemmed in by the rules of the International Monetary Fund is dependent development.
This will also be true of Russia and the other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. They will also become tributaries of the center, and there will be no question of Russia pursuing an independent path of development. There will obviously be some manufacturing in Russia, but there will be no possibility of balanced industrial development. For the priorities of development will be increasingly dictated by outsiders.
Western corporations are not interested in promoting industrial development in Russia, as the foreign investment figures show.
The primary Western interest in the Commonwealth of Independent States is in the exploitation of its resources. The breakup of the Soviet Union was thus a critical step in opening the possibility of such exploitation. For the former republics of the USSR became much more vulnerable once they became independent. Furthermore, Western corporations are not interested in developing CIS resources for local use. They are interested in exporting them to the West. This is especially true of gas and petroleum resources. Much of the benefit from the export of resources would therefore accrue to foreign countries. Large parts of the former Soviet Union are likely to find themsevles in a situation similar to that of Third World countries.
What Germany is seeking, then, with the support of the US, is a capitalist rationalization of the entire European economy around a powerful German core. Growth and high levels of wealth in the core are to be sustained by subordinate activities in the periphery. The periphery is to produce food and raw materials, and it is to manufacture exports for the core and for overseas markets. Compared to the (Western and Eastern) Europe of the 1980s, then, the future Europe will be very different, with lower and lower levels of development as ones moves away from the German center.
Thus many parts of Eastern Europe, as well as much of the former Soviet Union, are meant to remain permanently underdeveloped areas, or relatively underdeveloped areas. Implementation of the new dvision of labor in Europe means that they must be locked into economic backwardness.
For Eastern Europe and the countries of the CIS, the creation of an "integrated" Europe within a capitalist framework will require a vast restructuring. This restructuring could be very profitable for Germany and the US. It will mean moving backwards in time for the parts of Europe being attached to the West.
The nature of the changes under way has already been prefigured in the effects of the "reforms" implemented in Russia from the early 1990s. It was said, of course, that these "reforms" would eventually bring prosperity. This was, however, a hollow claim from the beginning. For the "reforms" implemented at Western insistence were nothing more than the usual restructuring imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on Third World countries. And they have had the same effects.
The most obvious is the precipitous fall in living standards. One third of the population of Russia is now trying to survive on income below the official poverty line. Production since 1991 has fallen by more than half. Inflation is running at an annual rate of 200 per cent. The life expectancy of a Russian male fell from 64.9 years in 1987 to 57.3 years in 1994. (16) These figures are similar to those for countries like Egypt and Bangladesh. And, in present circumstances, there is really no prospect of an improvement in economic and social conditions in Russia. Standards of living are actually likely to continue falling.
Clearly, there is widespread, and justified, anger in Russia, and in other countries, about the collapse of living standards which has accompanied the early stages of restruc- turing. This has contributed to a growing political backlash inside Russia and other countries. The most obvious recent example may be found in the results of the December parliamentary elections in Russia. It is also clear that the continuing fall in living standards in the future will create further angry reactions.
Thus the extension of the old world order into Eastern Europe and the CIS is a precarious exercise, fraught with uncertainty and risks. The major Western powers are extremely anxious that it should succeed, to some extent because they see success, which would be defined in terms of the efficient exploitation of these new regions, as a partial solution to their own grave economic problems. There is an increasingly strong tendency in Western countries to displace their own problems, to see the present international competition for the exploitation of new territories as some kind of solution to world economic stagnation.
Western analysts rightly suppose that the future will bring political instability. So, as Senator Bradley put it recently, "The question about Russia is whether reform is reversible". (17) Military analysts draw the obvious implication: the greater the military power which can potentially be brought to bear on Russia, the less the likelihood of the "reforms" being reversed. This is the meaning of the following extraordinary statement by the Working Group on NATO Enlargement:
This represents an entirely new position on the part of NATO. It is a position which some NATO countries thought imprudent not long ago. And it is alarming, because it does not confront the real reasons behind the present pressure for NATO's extension. However evasive and sophistical the reasoning of the Working Group may be, it appears that the debate in many countries is now closed. It would, of course, be much better if the real issues could be debated publicly. But for the moment they cannot be, and the pressure for NATO enlargement is going to continue.
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Last revised: Dec. 29, 1998