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From ensubscribers-owner@monde-diplomatique.fr Mon Jan 13 13:00:21 2003
From: Le Monde diplomatique <english@monde-diplomatique.fr>
To: Le Monde diplomatique <english@monde-diplomatique.fr>
Subject: Auxiliary Americans
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003 16:29:50 +0100 (CET)

Washington watches over EU and NATO expansion: Auxiliary Americans

By Gilbert Achcar, Le Monde diplomatique, January 2003

The Nato summit in Prague, the first to be held in a Warsaw Pact country, unprecedentedly decided to admit several former Soviet Union republics. It also allowed the United States to reassert its supremacy over its European partners and show how little it cared about dissenting views in Germany and France.

THE latest Nato summit held in Prague in November could not have been more different from the Washington summit in April 1999 that marked its 50th anniversary. Then Nato forces seemed mired in Kosovo, in the first substantial war it had conducted since it was established. Relations between the alliance and Russia were more strained than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the United States establishment was exercised about Western policy towards Moscow.

The difficulties had been compounded by the decision at the Madrid summit in 1997 to allow Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join Nato. The fears of those who had warned that this step might be interpreted in Moscow as an act of defiance, if not ostracism, were confirmed when the Russian position on Kosovo hardened. So the Washington summit completed the procedure to admit the three former Warsaw Pact countries to Nato but undertook no further admissions, despite the exhortations of eminent figures, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, hostile to Russia.

The anti-US attacks of September 2001 changed things in two fundamental ways. They gave the new Bush administration an unexpected ideological excuse for resuming a policy of free-ranging armed intervention that the US had not pursued since Vietnam. The new team in Washington saw the war against terrorism as the first credible ideological pretext for a long, ambitious military campaign in the post-cold war era, on the lines of the fight against communism that had served from 1945 until the Vietnam debacle.

The second result was a radical change of policy by Vladimir Putin. The Russian army was heavily involved in Chechnya. Washington, still suffering from the impact of 11 September, was increasing pressure, so Putin decided to yield. He put a brave face on misfortune and, hoping to gain advantage in return for his acquiescence, made no attempt to contain the overwhelming US response to the attacks (1).

The most significant result of these developments was that the US crossed the line drawn in Boris Yeltsin's time to limit US expansion into the Russian sphere of influence. The line was coterminous with the borders of the former Soviet Union, and Moscow warned in the 1990s that any Western military establishment beyond it would be regarded as a casus belli. Such establishments are now a fact of life. Under cover of the war in Afghanistan, the US has established what are clearly designed as long-term bases in Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan, obtained military facilities in Tadzhikistan and Kazakhstan, and even extended its tentacles as far as Georgia.

With US forces stationed in the heart of the former Soviet Union, there is nothing extraordinary about the Prague summit decision to admit the Baltic States to Nato, along with three other former Warsaw Pact members, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, and a former member of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Slovenia. The decision to admit the three former Soviet republics would have been controversial only a few months ago but it has caused little stir beyond a few comments (2). The whole world is now enmeshed in a network of bases and alliances controlled by the US.

It is no accident that US predominance in Nato and its influence in the European Union are likely to be strengthened considerably by the carefully orchestrated accession to these bodies of the countries in transition. It is no accident that the proposed enlargements coincide.

The seven countries will become members of Nato in 2004 on completion of the ratification procedures by the member states of the alliance. In the same year, five of them will become members of the EU, along with the three Central European countries that joined Nato before them, and Romania and Bulgaria will be admitted in 2007. By then, only six of the 27 members of the EU will not be members of Nato, unless the countries in question (Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden) also decide to seek admission to the alliance.

As the Washington Post put it, the three that joined in 1999 have proved to be enthusiastic members, especially eager to please the US, which backed their admission. The next seven will be similarly staunch Nato enthusiasts and supporters of the US, according to Nato officials and representatives of those countries. 'The balance in the alliance might shift' in favour of 'a more robust Nato' more closely aligned with US policy, said one senior American official (3).

The balance in the EU will probably shift in the same way. Clearly Turkish accession, actively supported by Washington, would substantially reinforce this trend (4). Here too, there has been a big change since 1999.

The decisions to establish an EU rapid reaction force were adopted at the Cologne and Helsinki European summits in 1999 after the Kosovo campaign. They might have been interpreted as signs of Europe's determination to escape US tutelage, although the European governments emphatically denied that that was the case and declared that the European force was intended to be complementary to Nato. In fact, the force of 60,000 is designed to undertake only what are known as Petersberg missions (5) - conflict-prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions of the kind the White House and the Pentagon wish to spare US troops and leave to their allies (6).

The two forces

This is the main difference between the rapid reaction force and the Nato response force, adopted on a US proposal at Prague. The Nato force, mostly European troops, will be only one-third the size of the rapid reaction force partly because there will be no restrictions on the missions it may undertake. The response force will be fully in line with the double transformation of Nato since the Rome summit in 1991. The defence alliance has become a security organisation with an interventionist policy; and it is no longer confined to its original boundaries. Under Article VI of the 1949 Treaty Nato covered the member countries, the territories under their jurisdiction and their forces in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer, but now it no longer recognises any territorial limits: witness its intervention in the Balkans.

While the rapid reaction force is confined to Europe and its geopolitical boundaries within a 4,000 km radius of Brussels, the Nato response force may be deployed anywhere. George Bush made this clear, hailing the Prague decisions in advance as the most important reforms in Nato since 1949 . . . Because many threats to the Nato members come from outside of Europe, Nato forces must be organised to operate outside of Europe. When forces were needed quickly in Afghanistan, Nato's options were limited . . . The US proposes the creation of a Nato response force that will bring together well equipped, highly ready air, ground and sea forces from Nato allies old and new. This force will be prepared to deploy on short notice wherever it is needed (7).

The war in Afghanistan provided an opportunity to show the Nato allies where they stood. On 12 September 2001, for the first time in the history of the alliance, they offered their collective services under Article V of the 1949 Treaty which requires the signatories to assist in the event of an attack against one or more of them. This offer was sublimely ignored by Washington, which merely invited them to join in the Afghan campaign in an individual capacity, as and when the US command needed them. This humiliating experience, combined with the unilateralist leanings of Bush and the hawks in his administration, suggested to the Nato countries that Washington might come to regard the alliance as obsolete.

That feeling was exploited by the Bush administration to press for the establishment of a response force (8). This relatively small force meets a real Pentagon need, based as it is on the concept of specialist niches. Each European state will make a specific contribution to the American armed forces in the field in which it excels. Even former Warsaw Pact countries may be very useful in this respect. The Czech Republic specialised during the cold war in defence against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks and the Pentagon sets great store by its expertise (9).

Washington can now pay the EU back in its own coin, claiming that the Nato response force will be complementary to the rapid reaction force. The Prague summit took a decisive step towards transforming the European members of the Atlantic Alliance, most of them member states of the EU, into auxiliaries to assist the US armed forces in worldwide imperial expansion.

(1) See A trio of soloists, Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, December 2001.

(2) As with the previous eastern enlargement, Nato had taken care to give Moscow a consolation prize in advance: a revised version of the Nato-Russia Council established in Paris in May 1997. The main innovation of the new treaty, signed in Rome in May 2002, was the provision for more effective coordination in the fight against terrorism.

(3) Robert Kaiser and Keith Richburg, Nato looking ahead to a mission makeover, Washington Post, 5 November 2002.

(4) Iceland and Norway would then be the only European states to be members of Nato but not of the EU.

(5) Named after the German town where these missions were defined at the Western European Union Council meeting in 1992.

(6) The rapid reaction force depends on the use of Nato logistical and planning assets. The EU agreement with Turkey, reached at the Copenhagen summit in December, solved the problem of Turkish opposition to the use of those assets, which precluded deployment of the rapid reaction force in the Balkans.

(7) George Bush, speaking in Prague on 20 November 2002, The White House, Washington.

(8) The idea of a Nato response force was first mooted by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the alliance defence ministers' meeting in Warsaw in September 2002.

(9) Keith Richburg, Czechs become model for new Nato, Washington Post, 3 November 2002.