Journalist | Writer | Analyst
10 May 1999
TheTimes of India
By SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
CONFIRMING its belief in the maxim that theory must always follows practice, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has adopted a new `Strategic Concept’ which incorporates all the principles on which its current aggression against Yugoslavia is based. These include: an expanded definition of what constitutes a threat to the security of the `Euro-Atlantic area’, the subordination of European strategic interests to that of the US, and, above all, the same unilateralism which led NATO to attack a sovereign country in violation of international law.
The new Strategic Concept was adopted by the alliance at its 50th anniversary conclave in Washington last month. Though not quite the victory summit the US thought it would be when NATO planes began bombing Yugoslavia on March 24, the meeting was conducted in an extravagantly triumphal register. The acrid smell of cordite hung over the participants as plans were drawn up for the future of not just NATO but the world. The summit documents, despite passing through the Internet, positively reek of the stuff.
New World Order
The first lesson to be learned is this: new world orders come with new world geographies. The term `North Atlantic’ no longer refers to a compact, distinct geographical entity. Like Vamana, the diminutive avatar of Vishnu in Hindu cosmology, the `NA’ in NATO has an immense capacity to expand across the three worlds. Bosnia was the first time NATO acted out of area, though it could claim that it did so under the authorisation of the UN Security Council. In
Yugoslavia, even that fig leaf is not there. Now, there is ominous talk about “uncertainty and instability in and around the Euro-Atlantic area and the possibility of regional crises at the
periphery of the alliance”. And what are these crises? Regional conflicts, ethnic and religious rivalries and territorial disputes “beyond alliance territory”, the abuse of human rights and the
dissolution of states. Even some things as vague as “inadequate or failed efforts at reform” and “the uncontrolled movement of large numbers of people” are said to “pose problems for
security and stability affecting the alliance”.
Every country on the “periphery of NATO” or “beyond alliance territory” should make sure none of the above crises hits it or else it could find itself in the firing line of cruise missiles and
smart bombs. “In the event of crises which jeopardise Euro-Atlantic stability and could affect the security of alliance members,” the Strategic Concept states, “the alliance’s military
forces may be called upon to conduct crisis response operations…Some (of these) may be as demanding as some collective defence missions”. Now a “collective defence mission” is what NATO’s raison d’etre is supposed to be all about. If “crisis response operations” can be as “demanding” in military terms as collective defence, we are talking about massive — even
do-or-die — levels of force. This is precisely the direction NATO’s campaign against Yugoslavia is going in.
As for the spatial dimension of NATO’s interventionist urges, the summit’s `Defence Capabilities Initiative’ talks of operations outside alliance territory which “may need to be undertaken with no, or only limited access to existing NATO infrastructure”. Obviously, we are talking about operations that are pretty far afield. In line with this, the proliferation of nuclear, biological and
chemical weapons and their means of delivery is identified as a threat to NATO. “The principle non- proliferation goal of the Alliance…is to prevent proliferation from occurring or, should it
occur, to reverse it though diplomatic means”. The non-reference to “diplomatic means” of preventing proliferation is not accidental; the use of force is clearly what NATO has in
If NATO has an expanding agenda of intervention, does it plan to approach the UN Security Council for permission first? The Strategic Concept side-steps the question but the answer is clear enough once its cryptic language is decoded: In the event of “crises which jeopardise Euro-Atlantic stability”, NATO forces will simply be “called upon” to conduct “crisis-response
operations”. But called upon by whom? By NATO’s political leadership, of course, and not the UN. How this approach is to be reconciled with NATO’s supposed allegiance to the UN Charter is not explained.
If there is one theme which is generally overemphasised in NATO documents, it is the notion of the inseparability of North America and Europe. The war the US has dragged NATO into in Yugoslavia is calculated to ensure — besides other things, of course — the longevity of the Euro-Atlantic alliance. But the new Strategic Concept goes further. When it asserts that the
“security of North America is permanently tied to the security of Europe”, this is not some idle claim. Thanks to NATO’s expansion, both in terms of territory and doctrine, all independent
pan-European security initiatives have virtually been scuttled. Like errant children of irresponsible parents, the European Security and Defence Identity and the Western European Union have been made wards of NATO and hence the US.
Gone is even the mild irritation with Washington some European leaders expressed during NATO’s 1996 meeting in Berlin, when the issue of Europe mounting operations independently of the US came up. Gone too are the feeble attempts by the Europeans to alter NATO’s doctrine on nuclear weapons. Far from forswearing the first use of nuclear weapons, as German foreign minister Joschka Fischer had suggested last year, NATO’s new Strategic Concept affirms the centrality of first strike: “(The nuclear forces) will continue to fulfil an essential role by
ensuring uncertainty in the mind of any aggressor about the nature of the allies’ response to military aggression”. What is more, the utility of `sub-strategic forces’ — i.e. tactical nuclear
weapons — is reaffirmed and a hint is made that NATO nukes might be stationed anywhere on alliance territory.
NATO’s nuclearism, its aggressive self-image, and its conduct in Yugoslavia can only inspire anxiety in those who believe in peace and democracy. The new Strategic Concept is a nihilist text, filled with destructive intent. It is as if its authors have learned nothing from the history of the millennium – – or even century — which is just about to end.