the end of the Cold War, NATO has frequently been dubbed an alliance
in search of a purpose. If restricted to its historic mandate as an
organization for mutual self-defense, it should have disintegrated together
with the Soviet Union. Fortunately for the terminally-ill alliance,
Europe's alleged failure with Yugoslav peacekeeping in the 1990's took
it off of life support. Bosnia, and later Kosovo, provided NATO with
a renewed (albeit manufactured) sense of relevance, urgency and historic
import. Thenceforth, NATO would be known as the alliance for righteous
9/11, with no one feeling particularly humanitarian anymore, NATO was
saved yet again when it was transformed into an anti-terror organization.
This latest incarnation was crystallized this week, in the form of an
rapid reaction force." The contingent, currently 9,000-strong, will
expand to 20,000 soldiers within 3 years. The force is intended to "…be
able to deploy within five to 30 days to deal with operations ranging
from evacuations and peacekeeping to counterterrorism or high-intensity
combat." The transformation process is crucial and continuous, as NATO
Supreme Commander James E. Jones recently said. According
are really consumed with trying to define once and for all, in a way
that makes understandable sense, NATO's true military requirement for
the 21st century."
in the Ranks
the lack of geographical restriction on operations is making NATO appear
more like some kind of US Worldwide Auxiliary Army. And indeed, America's big
military contractors are quite happy to check off an ever-increasing
NATO wish list, as the alliance seeks to modernize and upgrade its technology.
Washington is now strongly suggesting that its European allies allocate
at least 2 percent of national GDP for defense, and fire unneeded soldiers
to free up more cash for buying American-made goodies.
despite its new lease on life, NATO's essential mission is still somewhat
ambivalent. While apologists like General Jones declare it to be a fighting
force for the 21st Century, recent events indicate that the
alliance is still fundamentally mired in its Cold War past. Due perhaps
to the advanced age of many in the Pentagon today, a pervasive Russophobia
is preventing NATO from keeping its eye on the ball. Cold War dinosaurs
in the Bush Administration push NATO expansion in countries bordering
on Russia. This sends mixed signals not only to the Russians
but to the wider Western public, which might like to know exactly what
its tax dollars are subsidizing the alliance to do. Indeed, does NATO
still exist in order to fight (Islamic) terror, or merely to contain
events in the "New Europe" have shown, this is now causing a chronic
misreading of events that, if continued, will only harm NATO's future.
At the same time, this erroneous obsession with Russia will perpetuate
the same ambivalence of mission, and ensure that events now taking place
in Eastern Europe will remain misunderstood. These factors cannot be
good for the future of an alliance that has flirted with death twice
in the last five years.
illustrate this thesis, we must turn to recent events in the "New Europe"
that Rumsfeldian nomenclature for the countries of Central and Eastern
Europe that were purchased cheap politically and which represent a fallow
field for US arms contractors.
the major problem for the expanding alliance is that of security and
intelligence sharing. This has been highlighted most recently by contentious
events in Slovakia and Bulgaria, two countries which Washington has
praised mightily in the past. The US, afraid that similar events could
occur in other new NATO states, paradoxically underestimates the likelihood
of this while overestimating and misinterpreting its significance. We
turn first to Slovakia.
Where's the Trust?
23 September, a cryptic report from the respected Jane's Intelligence
Digest claimed that NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson was urging
NATO members to stay away from the Slovaks, and to suspend ratification
of Slovakia's NATO membership. This followed Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's
recent sacking of Jan Mojzis, chief of Slovakia's National Security
Office (NBU). According to RFE/RL,
security watchdog vets officials to decide who should be granted access
to sensitive information a crucial role, since Slovakia is joining
NATO next year."
On 5 October,
Dzurinda succeeded in firing Mojzis.
While the issue is complex and somewhat murky, it apparently boils down
to a rivalry between Slovakia's two security services. The NBU is perceived
as being more NATO-friendly, whereas the Slovak Intelligence Service
(SIS), favored by the Prime Minister, is rumored to have more unsavory
connections. In an earlier analysis, Jane's had reported that the
involved in illegal activities, including arms-trading, that it recruited
active journalists, and that plenty of former communist secret agents
(ŠtB) work in the SIS.
SIS was also involved in an illegal wire-tapping scam surrounding the
independent daily newspaper SME; SIS later described the case as a being
a result of a "technical problem."
up on the story, a security analyst with Slovakia's Institute for Public
Affairs, Jozef Majchrák stated that while Slovakia will not be prevented
from entering NATO, "…it is definitely possible that it won't have equal
access to classified NATO information."
being quickly denounced
by both Prime Minister Dzurinda and by NATO, the Jane's report
had its effect. The replacement candidate for the NBU top spot has been
reported to be one Milan Ježovica, an advisor of Dzurinda's who formerly
worked at the Slovak Embassy in Washington. However, according to Jane's,
Ježovica "is hardly likely to be received with any enthusiasm in Brussels"
as he is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute for International
Relations, "in the past a notorious recruitment ground for Soviet-era
and Natasha Infiltrate NATO!
is the crux of the problem for a NATO set on eastward expansion. And
it has surfaced not only in Slovakia, but also in Bulgaria, and hypothetically
in every Eastern European country once associated with Russia. That
is to say, the perceived danger of Soviet-era spies lurking in government
ministries. Look out, they could be anywhere!
as usual, American planners have lost the plot. Is NATO's "transformation"
intended to make it a streamlined anti-terrorist fighting force, or
just a souped-up device for Russian containment? NATO's unreasonable
Russophobia is easily explicable, however, when we consider the kind
of Cold War dinosaurs now in charge at the Pentagon.
Blunder: the Asparukhov Affair
officials were taken aback, to put it mildly, when Bulgarian Prime Minister
Simeon Saxecoburggotski recently nominated a former Soviet spymaster
to be his personal security advisor. The prime minister was talking
tough on the appointment of General Brigo Asparukhov as recently as
last week, until a barrage of diplomatic intervention and Western media
reports forced him to abort the mission on Wednesday. Reported the BBC,
Brigo Asparukhov, who worked for Bulgarian intelligence for more than
two decades when it was an ally of the Soviet Union, announced on Wednesday
that he was no longer interested in the post.
planned appointment had been strongly criticised by Nato, the United
States and Britain, which said he would compromise the security of the
western alliance. Announcing the decision, Bulgarian Government spokesman
Dimitar Tsonev said Mr. Asparukhov did not want to harm Sofia's bid
to join Nato and the European Union. He 'did not want his name to be
linked to eventual obstacles in the process of Bulgaria's integration
to the Euro-Atlantic structures', according to the spokesman.
Asparukhov added that he had been the target of 'illegitimate attacks'
and 'lies,' the spokesman said."
when the Bulgarian prime minister was still considering appointing Asparukhov,
NATO leaders not only objected
but "made it clear" that the former Communist "…be kept away from the
Alliance's classified information." Further, US Ambassador James Pardew
warned that Asparukhov's appointment could "potentially
hurt" Bulgaria's international "prestige."
Balkan diplomat meant, of course, was that America would not tolerate
anyone who no matter how experienced had worked for the Evil Empire.
I imagine this would eliminate a large percentage of the potential human
resource pool and not only in Bulgaria. Be
that as it may,
Jackson, president of the U.S. Committee on NATO Enlargement, said that
officials in Washington were "stunned" and "worried" by the news of
Asparuhov's appointment, local media reported. Jackson described the
development as a "step back" for Bulgaria and hinted that the appointment
might be viewed as an outright insult by Washington.
the meantime, Western experts say that Bulgaria could be denied access
to the alliance's classified information if the controversial former
intelligence chief is serving as a security advisor."
as with Slovakia, the obsession with denying "classified information"
is stressed. However, in both cases NATO and the US do not have to search
so far as Moscow, when the truth lies much closer.
Infighting, Not a Communist Plot, Is to Blame
Asparukhov in a recent interview, "as head of the Bulgarian counter-intelligence,
I had contacts with the Americans, their secret services and all the
European secret services without exception, and the assessments of our
joint work in those six years were excellent, and there are facts to
Bulgarian elections of 1997, Asparukhov was replaced by the new government
of Ivan Kostov. The next year, he became head of the Socialist Party,
and held a parliamentary seat until last month when he resigned to take
up or so he thought the advisor's position for Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski.
As with the Slovak situation, it seems more likely that internal political
infighting is really behind the controversy and not some Russian plot.
Indeed, George Tenet, for example, is an exception in that he has survived
as CIA director under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Europe, government leaders are reflexively removed with each election
(or sometimes, even before). The fact that half the time they have "Communist
ties" has to do more with these countries' recent history than with
some scheme to resuscitate the Soviet Union by ruining NATO. Every politician
in Europe knows the score. What suppliant state today would want to
go against the wishes of the world's only superpower?
this has not stopped the analysts from continuing to push the
myth. Discussing Slovakia and Bulgaria, RFE/RL (in other words,
the US Government) adds:
two cases highlight the difficulties facing NATO and candidate countries
in establishing the trust needed for them to share classified intelligence
information. Stephen Blackwell is head of the European Security Program
at Britain's Royal United Services Institute: 'I think [the two cases]
reflect a general concern. Obviously, this is potentially a major problem
for NATO enlargement, given the prevalence of former communist-era intelligence
operatives within these countries.'
not just these two countries. Romania, for example, has long been a
source of Western concern. Bucharest's intelligence service is stuffed
with former communist-era secret police officers, and former Securitate
members still wield great influence in politics and business."
course they are! Does the US expect these groups to be staffed by former
Quakers? Does it believe that by wishful thinking it could somehow retroactively
reverse the region's entire recent history?
real obsession, of course, is with Russia. As the article reveals,
says NATO is worried about the possibility of operatives being linked
to organized crime or of handling NATO secrets and passing them to
foreign intelligence services, notably Russia's."
is no country in the "new Europe" that is in danger of reverting to
Communism. However, the "Communist" charge is still sufficiently scary
in some quarters that European political rivals can smear one another
with it when trying to curry favor with the US. Yet all too often, America
and its Western allies fail to judge the situation for what is, that
is, a byproduct of political infighting and nothing more. In fact, the
danger NATO faces next year, when expanded to 26 members, is that similar
internal feuds will prevent the alliance from coming to the necessary
consensus for action. The Russians have nothing to do with this; they
just have to sit back and enjoy a good laugh.
Or a Lack Thereof
to the recently unveiled annual report of the respected International
Institute of Strategic Studies, NATO's
key problem remains "…the issue of consensual decision-making, which
is necessary in order to mount military operations." The report contends
that NATO's very credibility depends upon how it resolves this problem.
Blackwell also evokes this issue, claiming that while NATO leaders America
and Britain "see each other as being very reliable" in intelligence
sharing, this trust does not extend very far. In the end,
this general problem might reinforce is the tendency of NATO to evolve
into coalitions of the willing with specific issues and crises being
dealt with by ad hoc groups of states. This issue tends to reinforce
that tendency, where countries that have a political problem with a
certain issue or certain region might opt out or may be asked to stand
aside,' Blackwell said."
unclear how NATO as it has traditionally been understood could survive
when fragmented into "coalitions of the willing" and "ad hoc groups."
However, as the recent problems with Slovakia and Bulgaria have shown,
the likelihood for disagreement, turbulence and general mistrust is
only bound to increase with the passage of time and the expansion of
the alliance. Indeed, NATO's enchantment with the east may prove its
can close here with two more brief examples. In January, the Pentagon
set up a training camp for Iraqi "civil administrators" in the south
Hungarian town of Kaposvar. It caused deep unease among the local population
and government to find out (unofficially) that armed militias were actually
being trained there. When I asked a Hungarian defense attaché what the
Americans were up to, he replied, "I don't know and I don't want to
know." More recently, NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson has shown
increased frustration with an allegedly non-compliant Hungarian Parliament.
Robertson wants a quick approval for sending Hungarian troops to the
new rapid reaction force. American officials have stated publicly that
the laws of certain European states must be "streamlined"
so that parliamentary approval becomes unnecessary for sending troops
into war. This blatant interference with state sovereignty will only
increase domestic opposition among opposition parties and nationalists,
whom the US had better hope will simultaneously also be former Communists.
is not the only state in the "New Europe" to have large popular unease
with being part of the American-led alliance. Imminent member Slovenia
has also experienced quite substantial domestic opposition. Aspiring
member Croatia was reluctant to support the US on Iraq. And Turkey,
while a NATO member of long standing, also has a population that has
been resolutely opposed to Western warmongering. As NATO veers further
and further from its traditional mandate of self-defense, and becomes
associated more and more closely with American rule, we are likely to
see increasing popular opposition to the alliance.
NATO has now promised Macedonia membership in the club by 2007; how
will this possibly work when Macedonians in the intelligence and defense
structures do not trust their Albanian colleagues, and vice versa? In
the bigger picture, how will NATO effectively cooperate with its new
members in sensitive matters, when many of them have weak institutions,
high corruption and are prone to the kind of political volatility that
makes for easy smears and scandals?
end, the West can blame all of these factors, but it shouldn't blame
the Russians for interfering. After all, they don't have to push in
order for NATO to fall flat on its face once again. If the trans-Atlantic
runs into mortal danger again in the future, there is no guarantee that
it will be saved for a third time which is why top military brass are
taking the expansion process so seriously. Unfortunately for them, however,
by obsessing over the wrong threats they remain stuck in the past. And
that can't be good for finishing General Jones' all-consuming task,
of finally coming to a consensus regarding "…NATO's true military requirement
for the 21st century."