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<nettime> The 'Great Game'
available also in Italian at:


A Paper Delivered to the Conference on the Enlargement of NATO
in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean
Prague, Czech Republic
January 1314, 1996

Sean Gervasi

Institute of International Politics and Economics


The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 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, armour 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 at least two hundred thousand troops are involved. This figure has
been confirmed by U. S. defence 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 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 "stabilising" the
countries of Eastern Europe -- ultimately for "stabilising" 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.

For the idea of "stabilising" 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 socalled transition to democracy in the countries affected has in
fact led to an incipient deindustrialisation 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 "stabilisation", 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 semicollapse, although
the governments of those countries 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 "stabilise" 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. [2]

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 wilfulness 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.

NATO in Yugoslavia

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was founded in 1949 with the stated
purpose of protecting Western Europe from possible military aggression by the
Soviet Union and its allies.

With the dissolution of the Communist regimes in the former Socialist bloc in
1990 and 1991, there was no longer any possibility of such aggression, if there
ever really had been. The changes in the former Communist countries made NATO
redundant. Its raison d'etre had vanished. Yet certain groups within the NATO
countries began almost immediately to press for a "renovation" of NATO and even
for its extension into Central and Eastern Europe. They began to elabourate new
rationales which would permit the continuation of business as usual.

The most important of these was the idea that, with the changes brought about
by the end of the Cold War, the Western countries nonetheless faced new
"security challenges" outside the traditional NATO area which justified the
perpetuation of the organisation. The spokesmen for this point of view argued
that NATO had to find new missions to justify its existence.

The implicit premise was that NATO had to be preserved in order to ensure the
leadership of the United States in European and world affairs. This was
certainly one of the reasons behind the largescale Western intervention 
in which the participation of US NATO partners was relatively meagre  in
Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 and 1991. The coalition which fought against Iraq was
cobbled together with great difficulty. But it was seen by the United States
government as necessary for the credibility of the US within the Western
alliance as well as in world affairs.

The slogan put forward by the early supporters of NATO enlargement was "NATO:
out of area or out of business", which made the point, although not the
argument, as plainly as it could be made. [3]

Yugoslavia has also been a test case, and obviously a much more important one.
The Yugoslav crisis exploded on the edge of Europe, and the Western European
nations had to do something about it. Germany and the United States, on the
other hand, while seeming to support the idea of ending the civil wars in
Yugoslavia, in fact did everything they could to prolong them, especially the
war. in Bosnia. t41 Their actions perpetuated and steadily deepened the
Yugoslav crisis.

It is important to recognise that, almost from the beginning of the Yugoslav
crisis, NATO sought to involve itself. That involvement was obvious in 1993
when NATO began to support UNPROFOR operations in Yugoslavia, especially in the
matter of the blockade against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the
enforcement of a nofly zone in Bosnian airspace.

That involvement, however, had much smaller beginnings, and it must be
remembered that NATO as an organisation was involved in the war in
Bosnia-Herzegovina at a very early stage. In 1992, NATO sent a group of about
100 personnel to BosniaHerzegovina, where they established a military
headquarters at Kiseliak, a short distance from Sarajevo. Ostensibly, they were
sent to help United Nations forces in Bosnia.

It was obvious, however, that there was another purpose. A NATO diplomat
described the operation to INTELLIGENCE DIGEST in the following terms at the
time: "This is a very cautious first step, and we are definitely not making
much noise about it. But it could be the start of something bigger...You could
argue that NATO now has a foot in the door. Whether we manage to open the door
is not sure, but we have made a start." [4].

It seems clear that NATO commanders were already anticipating the possibility
that resistance to US and German pressures would be overcome and that NATO's
role in Yugoslavia would be gradually expanded.

Thus NATO was working to create a major "out of area" mission almost from the
time that the war in BosniaHerzegovina began. The recent dispatch of tens of
thousands of troops to Bosnia, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia is thus
simply the culmination of a process which began almost four years ago. It was
not a question of proposals and conferences. It was a question of inventing
operations which, with the backing of key countries, could eventually lead to
NATO's active engagement "out of area", and thus to its own renovation.

The Eastward Expansion of NATO

NATO had never carried out a formal study on the enlargement of the alliance
until quite recently, when the Working Group on NATO Enlargement issued its
report. No doubt there were internal classified studies, but nothing is known
of their content to outsiders.

Despite the lack of clear analysis, however, the engines for moving things
forward were working hard from late 1991. At the end of that year, NATO created
the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. NATO member nations then invited 9
Central and East European countries to join the NACC in order to begin
fostering cooperation between the NATO powers and former members of the Warsaw

This was a first effort to offer something to East European countries wishing
to join NATO itself. The NACC, however, did not really satisfy the demands of
those countries, and in the beginning of 1994 the US launched the idea of a
Partnership for Peace. The PFP offered nations wishing to join NATO the
possibility of cooperating in various NATO activities, including training
exercises and peacekeeping. More than 20 countries, including Russia, are now
participating in the PFP.

Many of these countries wish eventually to join NATO. Russia obviously will
not. join. It believes that NATO should not be moving eastwards.  According to
the Centre for Defence Information in Washington, a respected independent
research centre on military affairs, Russia is participating in the PFP "to
avoid being shut out of the European security structure altogether." [5]

The movement toward the enlargement of NATO has therefore been steadily
gathering momentum. The creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council was
more or less an expression of sympathy and openness toward those aspiring to
NATO membership. But it did not carry things very far. The creation of the
Partnership for Peace was more concrete. It actually involved former Warsaw
Pact members in NATO itself. It also began a "twotrack" policy toward Russia,
in which Russia was given a more or less empty relationship with NATO simply to
allay its concerns about NATO expansion.

However, despite this continuous development, the public rationale for this
expansion has for the most part rested on fairly vague premises. And this leads
to the question of what has been driving the expansion of NATQ during the last
four years. The question must be posed for two areas: the Balkans and the
countries of Central Europe. For there is an important struggle going on in the
Balkans, a struggle for mastery of the southern Balkans in particular. And NATO
is now involved in that struggle. There is also, of course, a new drift back to
ColdWar policies on the part of certain Western countries. And that drift is
carrying NATO into Central Europe.

The Struggle for Mastery in the Balkans

We have been witnessing, since 1990, a long and agonising crisis in Yugoslavia.
It has brought the deaths of tens of thousands, driven perhaps two million
people from their homes and caused turmoil in the Balkan region.  And in the
West it is generally believed that this crisis, including the civil wars in
Croatia and BosniaHerzegovina, was the result of internal Yugoslav conflicts,
and specifically of conflicts between Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims. This
is far from the essence of the matter.

The main problem in Yugoslavia, from the first, was foreign intervention in the
country's internal affairs. Two Western powers, the United States and Germany,
deliberately contrived to destabilise and then dismantle the country. The
process was in full swing in the 1 980s and accelerated as the present decade
began. These powers carefully planned, prepared and assisted the secessions
which broke Yugoslavia apart. And they did almost everything in their power to
expand and prolong the civil wars which began in Croatia and then continued in
BosniaHerzegovina. They were involved behind the scenes at every stage of the

Foreign intervention was designed to create precisely the conflicts which the
Western powers decried. For they also conveniently served as an excuse for
overt intervention once civil wars were under way.

Such ideas are, of course, anathema in Western countries. That is only because
the public in the West has been systematically misinformed by war propaganda.
It accepted almost from the beginning the version of events promulgated by
governments and disseminated through the mass media. It is nonetheless true
that Germany and the US were the principal agents in dismantling Yugoslavia and
sowing chaos there.

This is an ugly fact in the new age of realpolitik and geo-political struggles
which has succeeded the Cold War order. Intelligence sources have begun
recently to allude to this reality in a surprisingly open manner.  In the
summer of 1995, for instance, INTELLIGENCE DIGEST, a respected newsletter
published in Great Britain, reported that: "The original USGerman design for
the former Yugoslavia [included] an independent MuslimCroat dominated
BosniaHerzegovina in alliance with an independent Croatian and alongside a
greatly weakened Serbia." [].

Every senior official in most Western governments knows this description to be
absolutely accurate. And this means, of course, that the standard descriptions
of "Serbian aggression" as the root cause of the problem, the descriptions of
Croatia as a "new democracy", etc. are not just untrue but actually designed to

But why? Why should the media seek to deceive the Western public? It was not
simply that blatant and largescale intervention in Yugoslav affairs had to be
hidden from public view. It was also that people would ask questions about why
Germany and the US deliberately created havoc in the Balkans.  They wanted
inevitably to know the reasons for such actions. And these had to be hidden
even more carefully than the destructive actions of great powers.

At root, the problem was that the United States had an extremely ambitious plan
for the whole of Europe. It is now stated quite openly that the US considers
itself a "European power". In the 1 980s, this assertion could not be made so
easily. That would have caused too much dissension among Western allies. But
the US drive to establish its domination in Europe was nonetheless a fact. And
the United States was already planning what is now openly talked about.

Quite recently, Richard Holbrooke, the Assistant Secretary of State for
European affairs, made the official position clear. In a recent article in the
influential journal FOREIGN AFFAIRS, he not only described the United States as
a "European power" but also outlined his government's ambitious plans for the
whole of Europe. Referring to the system of collective security, including
NATO, which the US and its allies created after the second world war, Mr.
Holbrooke said: "This time, the United States must lead in the creation of a
security architecture that includes and thereby stabilises all of Europe 
the West, the former Soviet satellites of Central Europe and, most critically.
Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union." [7]

In short, it is now official policy to move towards the integration of all of
Europe under a Western political and economic system, and to do so through the
exercise of "American leadership". This is simply a polite, and misleading, way
of talking about the incorporation of the former Socialist countries into a
vast new empire. [8]

It should not be surprising that the rest of Mr. Holbrooke's article is about
the necessity of expanding NATO, especially into Central Europe, in order to
ensure the "stability" of the whole of Europe. Mr. Holbrooke states that the
"expansion of NATO is an essential consequence of the raising of the Iron
Curtain " [9].

Thus, behind the repeated interventions in the Yugoslav crisis, there lay
longterm strategic plans for the whole of Europe.

As part of this evolving scheme, Germany and the US originally determined to
forge a new Balkan order, one based on the market organisation of economies and
parliamentary democracy. They wanted to put a definitive end to Socialism in
the Balkans. [10] Ostensibly, they wanted to "foster democracy" by encouraging
assertions of independence, as in Croatia. In reality, this was merely a ploy
for breaking up the Balkans into small and vulnerable countries. Under the
guise of "fostering democracy", the way was being opened to the recolonisation
of the Balkans.

By 1990, most of the countries of Eastern Europe had yielded to Western
pressures to establish what were misleadingly called "reforms". Some had
accepted all the Western conditions for aid and trade. Some, notably Bulgaria
and Romania, had only partially accepted them.

In Yugoslavia, however, there was resistance. The 1990 elections in Serbia and
Montenegro kept a socialist or socialdemocratic party in power. The Federal
government thus remained in the hands of politicians who, although they yielded
to pressures for "reforms" from time to time, were nevertheless opposed to the
recolonisation of the Balkans. And many of them were opposed to the
fragmentation of Yugoslavia. Since the third Yugoslavia, formed in the spring
of 1992, had an industrial base and a large army, that country had to be

>From the German point of view, this was nothing more than the
continuation of a policy pursued by the Kaiser and then by the Nazis.

Once, Yugoslavia was dismantled and thrown into chaos, it was possible to begin
reorganising this central part of the Balkans. Slovenia, Croatia and
Bosnia-Herzegovina were to be brought into a German sphere of interest.
Germany acquired access to the sea on the Adriatic, and potentially, in the
event that the Serbs could be overwhelmed, to the new Rhine-Danube canal, a
route which can now carry 3,000 ton ships from the North Sea into the Black
Sea. The southern reaches of Yugoslavia were to fall into an American sphere of
interest. Macedonia, which commands the only eastwest and north-south
passages across the Balkan Mountains, was to be the centrepiece of an American
region. But the American sphere would also include Albania and, if those
regions could be stripped away from Serbia, the Sanjak and Kosovo.  Some
American planners have even talked of the eventual emergence of a Greater
Albania, under US and Turkish tutelage, which would comprise a chain of small
Muslim States, possibly including BosniaHerzegovina, with access to the

Not surprisingly, Germany and the US, although they worked in concert to bring
about the dismantlement of Yugoslavia, are now struggling for control of
various parts of that country, notably Croatia and BosniaHerzegovina. In
fact, there is considerable jockeying for influence and commercial advantage
throughout the Balkans. [11] Most of this competition is between Germany and
the US, the partners who tore Yugoslavia apart. But important companies and
banks from other European countries are also participating. The situation is
similar to that which was created in Czechoslovakia by the Munich Agreement in
1938. Agreement was reached on a division of the spoils in order to avoid
clashes which would lead immediately to war.

The New "Great Game" in the Caspian Sea

Yugoslavia is significant not just for its own position on the map, but also
for the areas to which it allows access. And influential American analysts
believe that it lies close to a zone of vital US interests, the Black
SeaCaspian Sea region.

This may be the real significance of the NATO task force in Yugoslavia.

The United States is now seeking to consolidate a new EuropeanMiddle Eastern
bloc of nations. It is presenting itself as the leader of an informal grouping
of Muslim countries stretching from the Persian Gulf into the Balkans. This
grouping includes Turkey, which is of pivotal importance in the emerging new
bloc. Turkey is not just a part of the southern Balkans and an Aegean power. It
also borders on Iraq, Iran and Syria. It thus connects southern Europe to the
Middle East, where the US considers that it has vital interests.

The US hopes to expand this informal alliance with Muslim states in the Middle
East and southern Europe to include some of the new nations on the southern rim
of the former Soviet Union.

The reasons are not far to seek. The US now conceives of itself as being
engaged in a new race for world resources. Oil is especially important in this
race. With the war against Iraq, the US established itself in the Middle East
more securely than ever. The almost simultaneous disintegration of the Soviet
Union opened the possibility of Western exploitation of the oil resources of
the Caspian Sea region.

This region is extremely rich in oil and gas resources. Some Western analysts
believe that it could become as important to the West as the Persian Gulf

Countries like Kazakhstan have enormous oil reserves, probably in excess of 9
billion barrels. Kazakhstan could probably pump 700,000 barrels a day.  The
problem, as in other countries of the region, at least from the perspective of
Western countries, has been to get the oil and gas resources out of the region
and to the West by safe routes. The movement of this oil and gas is not simply
a technical problem. It is also political.

It is of crucial importance to the US and to other Western countries today to
maintain friendly relations with countries like Kazakhstan. More importantly,
it is important to know that any rights acquired, to pump petroleum or to build
pipelines to transport it, will be absolutely respected. For the amounts which
are projected for investment in the region are very large.

What this means is that Western producers, banks, pipeline companies, etc.
want to be assured of "political stability" in the region. They want to be
assured that there will be no political changes which would threaten their new
interests or potential ones.

An important article in THE NEW YORK TIMES recently described what has been
called a new "great game" in the region, drawing an analogy to the competition
between Russia and Great Britain in the north west frontier of the Indian
subcontinent in the nineteenth century. The authors of the article wrote that,
"Now, in the years after the cold war, the United States is again establishing
suzerainty over the empire of a former foe. The disintegration of the Soviet
Union has prompted the United States to expand its zone of military hegemony
into Eastern Europe (through NATO) and into formerly neutral Yugoslavia. And --
most important of all -- the end of the cold war has permitted America to
deepen its involvement in the Middle East." [12]

Obviously, there have been several reasons which prompted Western leaders to
seek the expansion of NATO. One of these, and an important one, has clearly
been a commercial one. This becomes more evident as one looks more closely at
the parallel development of commercial exploitation in the Caspian Sea region
and the movement of NATO into the Balkans.

On May 22, 1992, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation issued a remarkable
statement regarding the fighting then going on in Trans Caucasia. This read in
part as follows: "[The] Allies are profoundly disturbed by the continuing
conflict and loss of life. There can be no solution to the problem of
NagomoKarabakh or to the differences it has caused between Armenia and
Azerbaijan by force.  "Any action against Azerbaijan's or any other state's
territorial integrity or to achieve political goals by force would represent a
flagrant and unacceptable violation of the principles of international law. In
particular we [NATO] could not accept that the recognised status of
Nagorno-Karabakh or Nakhichevan can be changed unilaterally by force." [13]

This was a remarkable statement by any standards. For NATO was in fact issuing
a veiled warning that it might have to take "steps" to prevent actions by
governments in the Caspian Sea region which it construed as threatening vital
Western interests.

Two days before NATO made this unusual declaration of interest in Trans
Caucasian affairs, an American oil Company, Chevron, had signed an agreement
with the government of Kazakhstan for the development of the Tengiz and Korolev
oil fields in the Western part of the country. The negotiations for this
agreement had been under way for two years prior to its being signed. And
reliable sources have reported that they were in danger of breaking down at the
time because of Chevron's fears of political instability in the region. [14]

At the time that NATO made its declaration, of course, there would have been
little possibility of backing up its warning. There was, first of all, no
precedent at all for any large, outofarea operation by NATO. NATO forces,
furthermore, were far removed from Trans Caucasia. It does not take a long look
at a map of the Balkans, the Black Sea the Caspian Sea to realise that the
situation is changing.

The Next Stage: "Stabilising" the East

The current pressure for the enlargement of NATO to Central and Eastern Europe
is part of an effort to create what is mistakenly called "the new world order".
It is the politicomilitary complement of the economic policies initiated by
the major Western powers and designed to transform Central and East European

The United States, Germany and some of their allies are trying to build a truly
global order around the North Atlantic Basin economy. There is actually nothing
very new about the kind of order which they are trying to establish. It is to
be founded on capitalist institutions. What is new is that they are trying to
extend "the old order" to the vast territories which were thrown into chaos by
the disintegration of Communism. They are also trying to incorporate into this
"order" countries which were previously not fully a part of it.

In a word, they are trying to create a functioning capitalist system in
countries which have lived under Socialism for decades, or in countries, such
as Angola, which were seeking to break free of the capitalist system.

As they try to establish a "new world order", the major Western powers must
also think about how to preserve it. So, in the final analysis, they must think
about extending their military power toward the new areas of Europe which they
are trying to attach to the North Atlantic Basin. Hence the proposed role of
NATO in the new European order.

The two principal architects of what might be a new, integrated and capitalist.
Europe are the United States and Germany. They are working together especially
closely on East European questions. In effect, they have formed a close
alliance in which the US expects Germany to help manage not only West European
but also East European affairs. Germany has become, as George Bush put it in
Mainz in 1989, a "partner in leadership".

This close relationship ties the US to Germany's vision of what German and
American analysts are now calling Central Europe. It is a vision which calls
for: 1 ) the expansion of the European Union to the East; 2) German leadership
in Europe; and 3) a new division of labour in Europe.

It is the idea of a new division of labour which is particularly important.  In
the German view, Europe will in the future be organised in concentric rings
around a centre, which will be Germany. The centre will be the most developed
region in every sense. It will be the most technically developed and the
wealthiest. It will have the highest levels of wages, salaries and per capita
income. And it will undertake only the most profitable economic activities,
those which put it in command of the system. Thus Germany will take charge of
industrial planning, design, the development of technology, etc., of all the
activities which will shape and coordinate the activities of other regions.

As one moves away from the centre, each concentric ring will have lower levels
of development, wealth and income. The ring immediately surrounding Germany
will include a great deal of profitable manufacturing and service activity. It
is meant to comprise parts of Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands
and northern Italy. The general level of income would be high, but lower than
in Germany. The next ring would include the poorer parts of Western Europe and
parts of Eastern Europe, with some manufacturing, processing and food
production. Wage and salary levels would be significantly lower than at the

It goes without saying that, in this scheme of things, most areas of Eastern
Europe will be in an outer ring. Eastern Europe will be a tributary of the
centre. It will produce some manufactured goods, but not primarily for its own
consumption. Much of its manufacturing, along with raw materials, and even
food, will be shipped abroad. Moreover, even manufacturing will pay low wages
and salaries And the general level of wages and salaries, and therefore of
incomes, will be lower than they have been in the past.

In short, most of Eastern Europe will be poorer in the new, integrated system
than it would have been if East European countries could make their own
economic decisions about what kind of development to pursue. The only
development possible in societies exposed to the penetration of powerful
foreign capital and hemmed in by the rules of the International Monetary Fund
is dependent development.

This will also be true of Russia and the other countries of the Commonwealth of
Independent States. They will also become tributaries of the centre, and there
will be no question of Russia pursuing an independent path of development.
There will obviously be some manufacturing in Russia, but there will be no
possibility of balanced industrial development. For the priorities of
development will be increasingly dictated by outsiders.  Western corporations
are not interested in promoting industrial development in Russia, as the
foreign investment figures show.

The primary Western interest in the Commonwealth of Independent States is in
the exploitation of its resources. The break-up of the Soviet Union was thus a
critical step in opening the possibility of such exploitation. For the former
republics of the USSR became much more vulnerable once they became independent.
Furthermore, Western corporations are not interested in developing CIS
resources for local use. They are interested in exporting them to the West.
This is especially true of gas and petroleum resources.  Much of the benefit
from the export of resources would therefore accrue to foreign countries. Large
parts of the former Soviet Union are likely to find themselves in a situation
similar to that of Third World countries.

What Germany is seeking, then, with the support of the US, is a capitalist
rationalisation of the entire European economy around a powerful German core.
Growth and high levels of wealth in the core are to be sustained by subordinate
activities in the periphery. The periphery is to produce food and raw
materials, and it is to manufacture exports for the core and for overseas
markets. Compared to the (Western and Eastern) Europe of the 1980s, then, the
future Europe is to be entirely restructured, with lower and lower levels of
development as ones moves away from the German centre.

Thus many parts of Eastern Europe, as well as much of the former Soviet Union,
are meant to remain permanently underdeveloped areas, or relatively
underdeveloped areas. Implementation of the new division of labour in Europe
means that they must be locked into economic backwardness.

Thus, for Eastern Europe and the countries of the CIS, the creation of an
"integrated" Europe within a capitalist framework will require a vast
restructuring. This restructuring could be very profitable for Germany and the
US. It will mean moving backwards in time for the parts of Europe being
attached to the West.

The nature of the changes under way has already been prefigured in the effects
of the "reforms" implemented in Russia from the early 1990s. It was said, of
course, that these "reforms" would eventually bring prosperity.  This was,
however, a hollow claim from the beginning. For the "reforms" implemented at
Western insistence were nothing more than the usual restructuring imposed by
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on Third World countries.
And they have had the same effects.

The most obvious is the precipitous fall in living standards. One third of the
population of Russia is now trying to survive on income below the official
poverty line. Production since 1991 has fallen by more than half.  Inflation is
running at an annual rate of 200 per cent. The life expectancy of a Russian
male fell from 64.9 years in 1987 to 57.3 years in 1994.  [15] These figures
are similar to those for countries like Egypt and Bangladesh.  And, in present
circumstances, there is really no prospect of an improvement in economic and
social conditions in Russia. Standards of living are actually likely to
continue falling.

Clearly, there is widespread, and justified, anger in Russia, and in other
countries, about the collapse of living standards which has accompanied the
early stages of restructuring. This has contributed to a growing political
backlash inside Russia and other countries. The most obvious recent example may
be found in the results of the December parliamentary elections in Russia. It
is also clear that the continuing fall in living standards in the future will
create further angry reactions.

Thus the extension of the old world order into Eastern Europe and the CIS is a
precarious exercise, fraught with uncertainty and risks. The major Western
powers are extremely anxious that it should succeed, to some extent because
they see success, which would be defined in terms of the efficient exploitation
of these new regions, as a partial solution to their own grave economic
problems. There is an increasingly strong tendency in Western countries to
displace their own problems, to see the present international competition for
the exploitation of new territories as some kind of solution to world economic

Western analysts rightly suppose that the future will bring political
instability. So, as Senator Bradley put it recently, "The question about Russia
is whether reform is reversible". [ 16] Military analysts draw the obvious
implication: the greater the military power which can potentially be brought to
bear on Russia, the less the likelihood of the "reforms" being reversed. This
is the meaning of the following extraordinary statement by the Working Group on
NATO Enlargement: "The security task of NATO is no longer limited to
maintaining a defensive military posture against an opposing force. There is no
immediate military security threat to Western Europe. The political instability
and insecurity in Central and Eastern Europe, however, greatly affect the
security of the NATO area. NATO should help to fulfil the Central and Eastern
European desires for security and integration into Western structures, thus
serving the interests in stability of its members." [17]

This represents an entirely new position on the part of NATO. It is a position
which some NATO countries thought imprudent not long ago. And it is alarming,
because it does not confront the real reasons behind the present pressure for
NATO's extension. However evasive and sophistical the reasoning of the Working
Group may be, it appears that the debate in many countries is now closed. It
would, of course, be much better if the real issues could be debated publicly.
But for the moment they cannot be, and the pressure for NATO enlargement is
going to continue.

The Dangers of Extending NATO

The current proposal to expand NATO eastward creates many dangers.

It should be stated that many leaders in Western countries oppose the expansion
of NATO, and they have repeatedly explained the dangers of such expansion. It
is important to recognise, that despite the official position of NATO and the
recent report of the Working Group, there is strong opposition to NATO's moving
eastward. Nonetheless, for the moment, those in favour of NATO expansion have
won the day.

Four dangers of NATO expansion in particular require discussion here.

The first is that the expansion of NATO will bring new members under the NATO
umbrella. This will mean, for instance, that the United States and other
Western members are obliged to defend, say, Slovakia against an attack. Where
will an attack come from? Is NATO really prepared to defend Slovakia in the
event of a conflict with another East European country?

In a country like the United States, this would be very unpopular. As Senator
Kassebaum put it in October of last year: "Are the American people prepared to
pledge, in the words of the North Atlantic Treaty, that an armed attack against
one or more of these potential new members will be considered an attack against
all?" [18].

The issue of extending the umbrella is a critical one. For the NATO powers are
nuclear powers. The Working Group report stated that, in appropriate
circumstances, the forces of NATO allies could be stationed on the territory of
new members. And the Working Group did not rule out, as it should have, the
stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of new members. The failure to
rule out such a possibility means that NATO is embarking on a dangerous path, a
path which increases the risks of nuclear war.

The Working Group's silence on this matter cannot fail to be taken as a threat
by those who are not joining NATO. And, clearly, the most important of these is
Russia, because it, too, possesses nuclear weapons -- as do the Ukraine and

The second danger is that expansion will jeopardise relations between the
United States and Russia, or even lead to a second Cold War. While NATO
countries present the organisation as a defensive alliance, Russia sees it
quite differently. For more than forty years, the Soviet Union considered NATO
as an offensive alliance aimed at all the members of the Warsaw pact.  The
general opinion in Russia is still that NATO is an offensive alliance.  The
former Foreign Minister, Mr. Kozyrev, made this quite clear to NATO members.
How can Russia possibly see things differently in the future?

The expansion of NATO is inevitably perceived by Russia as encirclement.  It is
seen as assuming that Russia will inevitably again become an aggressive state.
This, however, is much more likely to push Russia toward belligerence than to
do anything else. It will certainly not calm its fears about the intentions of
NATO in moving into Eastern Europe. Referring to the recent NATO decision on
expansion, the Director of the Institute of USA and Canada Studies of the
Russian Academy of Sciences, stated recently that: Russia is still a military
superpower with a huge area and a large population. It is a country with
enormous economic capabilities which has extraordinary potential for good or
ill. But now it is a humiliated country in search of identity and direction. To
a certain extent, the West and its position on NATPO expansion will determine
what direction Russia chooses.  The future of European Security depends on this
decision." [19]

The third danger in extending NATO is that will undermine the implementation of
the START I Treaty and the ratification of the START II Treaty, as well as
other arms control and arms limitation treaties designed to increase European
security. The Russians, for instance, have made it clear that they will go
ahead with the implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)
Treaty "if the situation in Europe is stable". The expansion of NATO into
Eastern Europe, however, significantly changes the present equilibrium in
Europe. So NATO countries are risking many of the achievements of the last 25
years in the field of disarmament. Some argue convincingly that NATO expansion
will undermine the nuclear NonProliferation Treaty.

Such consequences will hardly make Europe, or the globe, a safer place in the

The fourth principal danger in NATO expansion is that it will unsettle the
situation in Eastern Europe. NATO claims that its expansion will help to ensure
stability. But Eastern Europe, particularly after the changes of the last five
years, is already an unstable place. The piecemeal expansion of NATO into
Eastern Europe will increase tensions between new members and those left
outside. It cannot fail to do so. Those left outside NATO are bound to feel
more insecure when NATO has established itself in a neighbouring country. This
would place them in a buffer zone between an expanding NATO and Russia. They
are bound to react in a fearful, and even hostile manner. The piecemeal
expansion of NATO could even trigger an arms race in Eastern Europe.

The Weakness of the Western Position

When closely considered, the proposal to extend NATO eastward is not just
dangerous. It also seems something of a desperate act. It is obviously
irrational, for it can become a selffulfilling prophecy. It can lead to a
second Cold War between the NATO powers and Russia, and possibly to nuclear
war. It must be assumed that no one really wants that.

Why, then, would the NATO countries propose such a course of action? Why would
they be unable to weigh the dangers of their decision objectively?

Part of the answer is that those who have made this decision have looked at it
in very narrow terms, without seeing the larger context in which NATO expansion
would take place. When one does look at the larger context, the proposal to
expand NATO is obviously irrational.

Consider the larger context. NATO proposes to admit certain countries in
Central Europe as full members of the alliance in the near future. Other East
European countries are being considered for later admission. This extension has
two possible purposes. The first is to prevent "the failure of Russian
democracy", that is, to ensure the continuation of the present regime, or
something like it, in Russia. The second is to place NATO in a favourable
position if a war should ever break out between Russia and the West.

In an age of nuclear weapons, pursuing the second purpose is perhaps even more
dangerous than it was during the years of the Cold War, since there are now
several countries with nuclear weapons which would potentially be ranged
against NATO. The argument that NATO should be expanded eastward in order to
ensure the West an advantage in the event of a nuclear war is not a very
convincing one. And it would certainly not be convincing to Central European
countries if it were openly spoke of. Those would be the countries most likely
to suffer in the first stages of such a war. Their situation would be similar
to that of Germany during the Cold War, as the German anti-war movement began
to understand in the 1980s.

The main purpose of expanding NATO, as almost everyone has acknowledged, is to
make sure that there is no reversal of the changes which have taken place in
Russia during the last five years. That would end the dream of a threepart
Europe united under the capitalist banner and close a very large new space for
the operation of Western capital. A NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe
is simply a means of maintaining new pressure on those who would wish to
attempt to change the present situation in Russia.

However, as has been seen, this also means locking Russia, and other countries
of the CIS, into a state of underdevelopment and continuous economic and social
crisis in which millions of people will suffer terribly, and in which there is
no possibility of society seeking a path of economic and social development in
which human needs determine economic priorities.

What is horribly ironic about this situation is the Western countries are
offering their model of economic organisation as the solution to Russia's
problems. The realist analysts, of course, know perfectly well that it is no
such thing. They are interested only in extending Western domination further
eastward. And they offer their experience as a model for others only to
beguile. But the idea that "the transition to democracy", as the installation
of market rules is often called, is important in the world battle for public
opinion. It has helped to justify and sustain the policies which the West has
been pursuing toward the countries of the CIS.

The Western countries themselves, however, are locked in an intractable
economic crisis. Beginning in the early 1970s, profits fell, production
faltered, longterm unemployment began to rise and standards of living began
to fall. There were, of course, the ups and downs of the business cycle.  But
what was important was the trend. The trend of GDP growth in the major Western
countries has been downward since the major recession of 19731975.  In the
United States, for instance, the rate of growth fell from about 4 per cent per
year in the 1950s and the 1960s, to 2.9 per cent in the 1970s and then to about
2.4 per cent in the 1980s. Current projections for growth are even lower.

The situation was not very different in other Western countries. Growth was
somewhat faster, but unemployment was significantly higher. The current rates
of unemployment in Western Europe average about 11 per cent, and there is more
unemployment hidden in the statistics as a result of various government pseudo
employment plans.

Both Western Europe and North America have experienced a prolonged economic
stagnation. And capitalist economies cannot sustain employment and living
standards without relatively rapid growth. In the 25 years after the second
world war, most Western countries experienced rapid growth, on the order of 4
and 5 per cent per year. It was that growth which made it possible to maintain
high levels of employment, the rise in wages and the advance of living
standards. And there is no doubt that, in the postwar period, the Western
countries made great advances. Large numbers of working class people were able
to achieve decent living standards. The middle and upper classes prospered,
indeed, many of them reached a standard of living which can only be called

The postwar honeymoon, however, is clearly over. The great "capitalist
revolution" touted by the Rockerfellers is no more. "Humanised capitalism" is
no more. Declining growth has now returned us to the age of "le capitalisme
sauvage". It has triggered economic and social crisis in every Western country.
It is undermining the principal achievements of the postwar period.  In Europe,
the Welfare state has been under attack for fifteen years by those who would
shift the burden of crisis onto the shoulders of the less fortunate. In the
United States, a relatively meagre "social net" to protect the poor is now
being shredded by the aggressive and ignorant defenders of corporate interests,
who also want to be sure that those who can least afford it bear the brunt of
the system's crisis of stagnation.

The West, then, is itself locked in crisis. This is not a transient crisis or a
"long cycle", as academic apologists would have it. It is a systemic crisis.
The market system can no longer produce anything like prosperity.  The markets
which drove the capitalist economy in the postwar period, automobiles, consumer
durables, construction, etc. are all saturated, as sheafs of government
statistics in every country demonstrate. The system has not found new markets
which could create an equivalent wave of prosperity.  Moreover, the
acceleration of technical progress in recent years has begun to eliminate jobs
everywhere at a staggering rate. There is no possible way of compensating for
its effect, for creating new employment in sufficient quantity and at high wage

Government and industry leaders in the West are fully aware of the situation in
one sense. They know what the statistics are. They know what the problems are.
But they are not able to see that the source of the problem is the fact that,
having achieved very high levels of production, income and wealth, the present
capitalist system has nowhere to go. Halfway solutions could be found, but
Western leaders are unwilling to make the political concessions which they
would require. In particular, the large concentrations of capital in Western
countries are led by people who are constitutionally incapable of seeing that
something fundamental is wrong. That would require them to agree to the
curtailing of their power.

Therefore, the leaders of government and industry drive blindly on, not wishing
to see, not prepared to accept policies that might set the present system on a
path of transition to some more rational and more human way of organising
economic life. It is this blindness, grounded in confusion and fear, which has
clouded the ability of Western leaders to think clearly about the risks of
extending NATO into Eastern Europe. The Western system is experiencing a
profound economic, social and political crisis. And Western leaders apparently
see the exploitation of the East as the only largescale project available
which might stimulate growth, especially in Western Europe.

They are therefore prepared to risk a great deal for it. The question is: will
the world accept the risks of EastWest conflict and nuclear war in order to
lock into one region economic arrangements which are already collapsing

Sean Gervasi


1. DEFENSE NEWS, 25 November 1995; see also Gary Wilson, "AntiWar 
Activists Demand: No More US Troops to the Balkans", Workers World News 
Service, December 7, 1995.
2. See for instance: "NATO Expansion: Flirting with Disaster", THE
MONITOR, November/December 1995, Centre for Defence Information, 
Washington, D.C.
3. Senator Richard Lugar, "NATO: Out of Area or Out of Business",
Delivered to the Open Forum of the US State Department, August 2, 1993,
Washington, D.C.
4. "Changing Nature of NATO", INTELLIGENCE DIGEST, 16 October 1992.
5. THE DEFENSE MONITOR, loc. cit., page 2.
6. "Bonn's Balkans-to-Teheran Policy", INTELLIGENCE DIGEST, 11 - 25
7. Richard Holbrooke, "America, A European Power", FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
March/April l995, page 39.
8. The crucial point is that Eastern Europe and the countries of the
USSR are to adopt the institutions prevailing in Western Europe, ie.,
capitalism and parliamentary democracy.
9.Holbrooke, loc. cit., page 43.
10. See National Security Decision Directive, "United States Policy
Yugoslavia", Secret Sensitive, (declassified), The White House,
D.C., March 14, 1984.
11 Joan Hoey, "The U.S. 'Great Game' in Bosnia", THENATION, January 30,
12. Jacob Heilbrunn e Michael Lind, "The Third American Empire", THE NEW 
YORK TIMES, January 2, 1996.
13. "The Commercial Factor Behind NATO's Extended Remit", INTELLIGENCE
DIGEST, May 29, 1992.
14. Idem.
15 Senator Bill Bradley, "Eurasia Letter: A Misguided Russia Policy",
POLICY, Winter 1995-1996, page 89.
16. Ibid. page 93.
17 Draft Special Report of the Working Group on NATO Enlargement, May
18. Quoted in THE DEFENSE MONITOR, loc. cit., page 5.
19. Dr. Sergei Rogov, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences'
of USA and Canada Studies, quoted in DEFENSE MONITOR, loc. cit. page 4

[I've tidied up some spelling and grammar -- KW]

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