JOHN ERICKSON is a professor at Edinburgh University, the author of respected books about the Second World War and an expert in defence studies and military organisations. He is also opposed to the bombing of Yugoslavia and spoke to Socialist Worker about NATO's aims since the end of the Cold War.
Countries in black are part of NATO
THE NORTH Atlantic Treaty Organisation was set up in 1949 on the assumption that there was a very serious threat to the territory of Western Europe from the Soviet Union. Now the nature and composition of NATO have changed. It has enlarged itself from its pre-1989 boundaries and added three extra states-the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary-to its membership. It has advanced its frontier eastward, almost into immediate contact with what was the Soviet Union.
It is now arguing that its mission is defined by "threats" which are global. These threats are defined much more generally, as "the proliferation of nuclear weapons" or "the threat of global terrorism". This is very important to grasp, because there was a general agreement when the Berlin Wall came down that this is exactly what would not happen. It was agreed that in return for Soviet troops withdrawing from Eastern Europe NATO would not expand itself eastward. The West reneged on this commitment.
THE SIX largest US military contractors spent $51 million between 1996 and 1998 on lobbying for the expansion of NATO. In 1997 Western military corporations, including British Aerospace, and Boeing, gave more than $1 million to pro-NATO organisations to buy adverts in Hungary promoting NATO membership. But there were also broader strategic aims to NATO expansion.
Firstly, the addition of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary opened up the prospect of further members such as Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria. This would enable NATO to have a free route from the centre of Europe to the eastern Mediterranean. Secondly, NATO's aim was to begin to facilitate the virtual encirclement of Russia. Military expansion is combined with a major economic struggle over the oil pipelines in central Asia.
NATO says it is just responding to changed frontiers. But what it is doing is enlarging the old Cold War frontier. Serbia is-and was-a roadblock on the way to NATO's total dominance of the south eastern states of Europe. It therefore simply has to be blown away if it will not yield or will not accommodate itself with this pattern.
"SERBIA IS a roadblock on the way to NATOs domination of south east Europe"
THAT IS because the US and NATO did not think they could get the backing of Russia and China in the UN Security Council. Russia and China would have vetoed it. So the NATO strategy was to circumvent the UN. NATO has ascribed to itself its own legitimacy. It says it is justified because it is a "humanitarian crisis". This strikes me and many others as extremely dishonest, particularly in view of the fact that what it has done has aggravated the humanitarian crisis.
What is really happening before our eyes is a massive geo-strategic division of world power. Look at the negotiations at Rambouillet over Kosovo. NATO wanted Serbia to agree to its troops in Kosovo and to agree it would be free to do whatever it chose. The conditions NATO laid down were so draconian you have to go back to the Second World War to see things like that.
NATO IS a US organisation. The current bombing is 85 percent a US operation. Look at the targeting of the Chinese embassy. Even the excuse is a giveaway when they say it was the CIA to blame. Targets and target lists are supposed to be submitted to the NATO ambassadors for their approval! This leads to tensions with European leaders.
Some European powers are beginning to argue that US hegemony and a US military monopoly across the world are not exactly in their own interests. It is also possible that we will see a combination of Russia, India and China-not into a block but into an association. Russia is deeply concerned about its southern borders. China is worried about its position and its influence in East Asia. And India is concerned with securing a favourable situation in South Asia.
The astonishing thing is that some of the people who are backing this war are people whose opinions I respected in the 70s and 80s-like support for CND and opposition to the excessive use of violence. If this is the political equivalent of standing on your head, they have managed it magnificently.