June 15, 2000

Bribing Montenegro –
It Didn't Work

Sunday’s municipal elections in Montenegro were a disaster of extraordinary magnitude for NATO, though – needless to say – you get no sense of this from our dull-witted media. Slobodan Milosevic’s supporters took control of the port city of Herceg Novi by a wide margin. Meanwhile President Milo Djukanovic’s people only squeaked through in the capital, Podgorica. Millions of dollars had been had been spent bribing the Montenegrins to vote the "right" way: Streets were repaved; park benches and garbage bins were newly installed; the wages of government workers suddenly shot up; and welfare and pension payments were taken care of. A resounding victory would have enabled Djukanovic to hold a referendum on secession from Yugoslavia. This, in turn, would have led to one of two highly desirable outcomes for NATO. Either Milosevic is out of a job – if there is no Yugoslav Federation he can’t be President of anything. Or he might be provoked into military intervention. NATO could then renew its campaign against the Serbs.

Don’t believe media guff about NATO’s supposed opposition to Montenegrin secession. Why shower Djukanovic with economic favors while maintaining sanctions against the Serbs? Why insist he adopt the D-Mark as the local currency? But then we are regularly asked to believe that US policymakers want Serbs to stay in Kosovo. For some reason though, the Greatest Power on earth has no control over its clients, the KLA, which even UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says is conducting an "orchestrated campaign" to drive out the Serbs. The breakup of the Balkans into tiny satellite-states remains NATO’s policy. Its most fervent champion has been today’s most articulate advocate of the American Empire – former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski is a ubiquitous presence on the American scene. He pioneered a genre of foreign policy in which entities like the "United States," "Europe," "Russia" and "China" play meaningless games of chess for influence and power. There is rarely a debate on US foreign policy that is not graced by his taut face, his harsh Polish accent, and his tough, no-nonsense pro-Americanism. His scholarly reputation, his facility with geopolitical pomposities, not to mention his extraordinary productivity ensure that he is treated with hushed respect wherever he goes. He is said to be the hideous harridan’s intellectual guru.

The summer issue of the National Interest contains the second installment, entitled "Living with a New Europe," of a trilogy of essays on the current global condition. The article is typical of Brzezinski’s work in that it rarely rarely rises above the simple-minded "We’re number 1!" posturing of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Brzezinski wants NATO expansion; US global dominance; Russian subordination; and NATO operating "out of area," particularly in the region he calls "the Eurasian Balkans" – the area that extends from the Eastern shore of the Black Sea to China, and includes the Caspian Sea with its oil and gas resources. Currently, he is a consultant to BP Amoco, which has extensive oil interests in the Caspian. According to Counterpunch, Brzezinski recently described Azerbaijan dictator, the repulsive Heydar Aliyev as a "real cool cat." Zbig, however, likes to sugarcoat real material interests with grand phrases about "democracy," "regional stability," and the "American-European connection." Brzezinski was, of course, a passionate advocate of war against Yugoslavia last year. He was one of the earliest to demand a ground invasion. He urged independence for Kosovo. "If a country is itself unstable, because some significant portion of it is highly dissatisfied with the existing country," he argued in an interview last year, "then there is no point in artificially insisting that such a country be maintained because of a respect for borders or because of the fear of change" – hardly a recipe for "regional stability" and one not to be prescribed for Southern California or South West Texas. As for Montenegro, "If Montenegro and Serbia cannot work well together in some sort of a federation, then obviously the dissolution of these links makes more sense."

In the National Interest, he informs us with delight that Europe is a "de facto military protectorate of the United States." He admits that "this situation necessarily generates tensions and resentments," but, hell, the Europeans will just have to lump it because "the existing asymmetry in power…is likely to widen even further in America’s favor….And that in turn means that America in all likelihood will also remain the dominant partner in the transatlantic alliance for the first quarter of the twenty-first century." Brzezinski can barely disguise his contempt for Europe. He accepts that it is hard to get those obstreperous Europeans to get with the American program. So US policymakers should throw them a few bones. If the Europeans want to fantasize about rivaling the United States, let them. They are so far behind us militarily, economically and technologically that we have very little to fear from them. "I do not think the Europeans, for all of their talk, will in fact do very much to change the relationship. They do not have the political will, they do not have the inclination to make the necessary sacrifices….I do not expect a major change in the reality of the American-European relationship," he explained last year. So if the Europeans want a little bit of self-respect, Washington should not stand in the way. To be sure, it would be nice if Europe were a "dedicated member of NATO…willing to have NATO act ‘out of area’ in order to reduce America’s global burdens; and remaining compliant to American geopolitical preferences regarding adjacent regions, especially Russia and the Middle East." But Europe will not be a problem either. US policymakers should stop carping about the European Security and Defense Initiative. It will not amount to much anyway. "What credible scenario can one envisage in which it could act decisively, without advance guarantees of NATO support and without some actual dependence on NATO assets?" Brzezinski asks sarcastically. He imagines a scenario in which Montenegro secedes from Yugoslavia and Milosevic sends in his armed forces. "Without US participation, the planned European force would probably be defeated," he snorts.

So NATO is here to stay. But what exactly is it supposed to do? Brzezinski mumbles vaguely about alleged threats to Europe: "The European polity, situated on the western edge of Eurasia and in the immediate proximity of Africa, is more exposed to the risks inherent in rising global tumult than the politically more cohesive, militarily more powerful and geographically more isolated America." He tries flogging the dead horse of a threat from the East. "The Europeans will be more immediately at risk if a chauvinistic imperialism should again motivate Russian foreign policy." But his heart is not really in it. He has something else in mind. Brzezinski has said many times before that the goal of US policy should be "to perpetuate America’s own dominant position for at least a generation and preferably longer still." Hence the need for NATO expansion. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1997, Brzezinski explained that NATO’s enlargement was not about security at all. It was "about America’s role in Europe – whether America will remain a European power and whether a larger democratic Europe will remain organically linked to America." It was also about Russia’s relationship to Europe, "whether NATO’s enlargement helps a democratizing Russia by foreclosing the revival of any self-destructive imperial temptations regarding Central Europe." And it was also about bringing "into NATO counsels new, solidly democratic and very pro-American nations." Zbig makes no bones about it – NATO enlargement is about the expansion of the American empire. Proof that Russian democracy is viable will come when it lies down abjectly before NATO. If it refuses to do so, that will be proof for the necessity of NATO. As for the new members of NATO, they will be so grateful to the Americans that they will counter the malign anti-American influence of the French.

Text-only printable version of this article

George Szamuely was born in Budapest, Hungary, educated in England, and has worked as an editorial writer for The Times (London), The Spectator (London), and the Times Literary Supplement (London). In America, he has been equally busy: as an associate at the Manhattan Institute, editor at Freedom House, film critic for Insight, research consultant at the Hudson Institute, and as a weekly columnist for the New York Press. Szamuely has contributed to innumerable publications including Commentary, American Spectator, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, National Interest, American Scholar, Orbis, Daily Telegraph, the Times of London, the Sunday Telegraph, and The New Criterion. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Wednesday.

Go to George Szamuely's latest column from the New York Press.

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The Europeans are not stupid and can see clearly what Brzezinski’s America is up to. Germany is lukewarm, to say the least, about further NATO expansion, particularly into the Baltic – an issue close to Brzezinski’s heart. Last week Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited Estonia. At his first press conference on Schroeder did not mention NATO once, talking instead about the need to support democratic reforms in Russia. When he finally did get around to talking about NATO expansion, he told his hosts that he did not want to "set any schedules." "Every country should have a right to be invited to join NATO," he explained, "but we did not want to set exact terms, trying to avoid the postponement of these terms if some countries would not be prepared for membership." France, too, objects to further NATO expansion. The candidates for membership are suspected of being in cahoots with Washington. According to a recent article in the New York Times President Jacques Chirac of France asked Poland’s Foreign Minister Geremek whether he wanted Poland "to be part of Europe or be ‘the 51st state’." One Polish official complains: "The French fear that if they enlarge NATO they’ll get more American Trojan horses." France has insisted that the new European defense corps should comprise forces from current European Union members only. Since Poland is not expected to belong to the EU for at least another five years and probably more, it is resolutely being kept out of the picture. Moreover, the Russian proposal to create a joint European and Russian theater antimissile defense system – whether feasible or not – is looked on much more favorably in Europe than the US idea to build a strategic shield to defend the United States. These are systems that are designed to intercept shorter-range missiles, not long-range ballistic missiles, and as such are allowed under the terms of the ABM treaty.

What is bizarre about Brzezinski is that although he grasps that the sole purpose of NATO today is the extension of US dominance over Europe, he still refuses to believe that the Europeans will do anything serious to upset his house of cards.

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