By Allen Myers
"At their Summit meeting in Washington in April 1999, NATO Heads of State and Government approved the Alliance's new Strategic Concept", declared a press communiqué issued in Washington on April 24. The document contains something that is indeed new in NATO strategy: a declaration of the alliance's intention to carry out offensive military interventions "in and around the Euro-Atlantic area" — a geographical description vague enough to include a large part of the planet.
NATO secretary general Javier Solana on April 28 described the change as historic: "I think I would not exaggerate if I said that the Washington summit has been a turning point in NATO's history. It is so that NATO is building for the future and that we are making the alliance fit a much broader spectrum of security tasks for the 21st century. The new strategic concept will give NATO the ability to shape the international security agenda."
Four days earlier, he told a media conference that the new strategy "will provide a road map to help us navigate through the challenges that await us in the next half-century. It also marks the transition from an alliance concerned mainly with collective defence to one which will be a guarantee of security in Europe and an upholder of democratic values both within and beyond our borders. The updated concept ... gives our alliance a key role to play in handling crisis situations beyond its borders; our non-Article 5 peace support operations will be on an appropriate legal basis."
Article 5 of the NATO Charter refers to "collective defence" against an attack on a NATO member. Non-Article 5 operations are thus military operations where NATO members are the attackers rather than the attacked.
The interventions threatened are not limited to air attacks like that now being inflicted on Serbia, as damaging as that is. A full-scale invasion (also being threatened against Serbia) is within the measures that NATO now officially considers acceptable.
Of course, NATO was always intended as a war-making organisation. It was established by the US in 1949 to enlist western Europe in a possible war against the Soviet Union.
But although it was the US and its allies that consistently spurred on the arms race, NATO's role was always presented as "defensive", a response to a "Communist threat" from an aggressive Soviet Union. And the fact that it was directed specifically against a "Soviet threat" meant that a NATO intervention in a conflict, especially in Europe, would have risked escalation into a world war.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new "Strategic Concept" takes full account of what the US and its imperialist allies perceive as an opportunity to establish an ever expanding dominance, enforced by military interventions. Paragraph 20 of the document adopted by the NATO summit lays out a breathtaking range of pretexts:
"The security of the Alliance remains subject to a wide variety of military and non-military risks which are multi-directional and often difficult to predict. These risks include uncertainty and instability in and around the Euro-Atlantic area and the possibility of regional crises at the periphery of the Alliance, which could evolve rapidly. Some countries in and around the Euro-Atlantic area face serious economic, social and political difficulties. Ethnic and religious rivalries, territorial disputes, inadequate or failed efforts at reform, the abuse of human rights, and the dissolution of states can lead to local and even regional instability.
"The resulting tensions could lead to crises affecting Euro-Atlantic stability, to human suffering, and to armed conflicts. Such conflicts could affect the security of the Alliance by spilling over into neighbouring countries, including NATO countries, or in other ways, and could also affect the security of other states."
At a media conference on April 24, US President Bill Clinton reaffirmed NATO's intention to intervene militarily: "For five years now, we have been working to build a new NATO prepared to deal with the security challenges of the new century. We have reaffirmed our readiness ... to address regional and ethnic conflicts beyond the territory of NATO members." (Emphasis added.)
NATO is thus, officially, not a "defensive" alliance which protects its members from attack, but a self-appointed international police force that sends in the bombers and/or troops against even such "crimes" as "inadequate efforts at reform".
The heads of government didn't even bother to spell out what sort of "reform" they had in mind. It would not be wild speculation, however, to suggest that "market reforms" — specifically, openness to foreign investment — will definitely be included.
In selling such wars to the public, however, "human rights" can be expected to have a more prominent, if less truthful, role than defence of profits. Thus Solana told journalists: "I think we are moving into a system of international relations in which human rights, rights of minorities are much, much more important ... even than sovereignty". (Quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald from US newspapers.)
The NATO propagandists seem not even to have noticed — or perhaps they are so cynical they don't care — that proclaiming a new era of "humanitarian" wars "in and around the Euro-Atlantic area" contradicts the official justification for the assault on Serbia.
The current war, supposedly, is intended to restrain the behaviour of Slobodan Milosevic, "Europe's last dictator". Once Milosevic is reined in or overthrown, Europe will consist of nothing but the purest of "democracies", most of them members of NATO. Are these democracies expected to abuse the human rights of their own minorities, so that NATO has to send in the bombers against them?
In reality, the US and allied governments envision an ongoing organisation of military "enforcers" of Western business interests. And there would always be something for it to enforce, because imperialist exploitation will constantly engender resistance that has to be suppressed.
NATO's "new strategic concept" is thus a long-term proposition. Solana, at the media conference cited above, referred to "the next half-century".
US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and British foreign minister Robin Cook, interviewed on television by David Frost on April 24, also saw a long and prosperous future ahead. Albright spoke of "celebrating the 100th anniversary of NATO".
Frost responded, "Well, by the 100th, Russia will probably be a member, too".
"That's perfectly possible", said Albright.