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.