The Guardian March 21, 2001


Will the EU turn NATO into a relic?

by William Pomeroy

The military alliance with which western imperialism boasted of having 
prevailed in the Cold War is today under threat of crumbling. Affected is 
the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which has unified the US 
militarily with most of the countries of Western Europe.

However, it is not the forces of peace and democratic progress in Europe, 
which have long called for the dismantling of NATO, that are causing a 
crisis to develop in the alliance. It is the capitalist bloc of 15 
countries called the European Union (EU), which is acting to build a 
military wing.

Although, progressive Europeans would welcome the end of NATO, the military 
entity that is proposed to replace it would be no more a defender of 
democratic interests than NATO has been.

For US imperialism, the collapse of the European socialist bloc and its 
Warsaw Pact removed the main obstacle to its global aims, but the rise of 
the EU has confronted it with an antagonist of another kind.

The EU, begun initially by six countries with a common market goal, now has 
15 members and is in the process of expanding to twice that number.

Step by step it has moved toward political centralisation (with a 
functioning European Parliament and Executive Commission) and with 
increasing integration of financial and industrial sectors. Its trade and 
multinational corporation operations rival the US in the global economy.

Particularly worrying to US strategic policy makers is the step toward 
creating a European army.

The US has long been urging European countries to increase military 
spending and armed forces as their contribution to NATO, which would enable 
the US to reduce its own budgetary commitment.

Initial moves four years ago to set up a joint army division of France and 
Germany were viewed approvingly.

The idea of a much broader armed force had been brewing, however, in EU 
councils and what brought it to the fore was NATO's war against Yugoslavia: 
it was carried out almost wholly by the US air force and US weaponry, 
making European NATO members look inadequate and unable to wage up-to-date 
warfare.

An EU with superpower hopes appeared militarily weak beside the US 
superpower.

A December 1999 EU summit meeting in Helsinki pledged to create a 60,000-
strong "rapid reaction force" by 2003 that could be deployed where NATO as 
a whole may not want to be involved, either within or outside the NATO 
area.

At a summit in Lisbon in June 2000 the EU agreed to also establish a 5,000-
member EU police force for "international missions".

In November 2000, EU Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers met in Brussels 
and began the allocating of troop contributions from member countries to 
the rapid reaction force (RRF). A December 2000 summit in Nice formally 
launched the RRF.

As EU military plans proceeded, the United States viewed them with growing 
alarm. The US is now charging that the EU has a hidden agenda to establish 
a full-fledged European army separate from NATO, outside US control.

Over the past year, as the RRF took shape, there have been frequent visits 
to Europe by US defence chiefs to warn the EU against the direction in 
which it is moving.

On the eve of the Nice summit, then US Defence Secretary William Cohen told 
a gathering in Brussels of NATO and EU counterparts: "If there was an 
element of using the EU force structure in a way simply to set up a 
competing structure, then NATO could become a relic."

The US delegation to the international security conference in Munich in the 
first week of February, headed by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 
engaged in what was reported as the bluntest exchange between US and other 
NATO members for decades. Part of this was over European resistance to the 
US "Star Wars" plan, but the main clash concerned the RRF.

Rumsfeld expressed stern "reservations" about EU military plans, saying he 
was "a little worried" about the destabilisation of NATO that they 
embodied.

It is the future prospect and potential of a European army that disturbs

US interests. EU sources admit that it would be at least a decade before 
their forces could fight a high-tech war.

The likelihood of conflict with other major powers is remote, but wars of 
intervention in areas where EU trade and investment are at stake, in 
Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia or elsewhere, are possible, and these 
may well affect US imperialist interests.

The use of a rapid reaction force against revolutionary or other popular 
upheavals in Europe itself is not improbable.

Among people's movements in Europe the very idea of a European army is an 
un-democratic concept.

As it is, there is widespread discontent and opposition to the EU itself, 
its common currency (the euro), its European Commission that is the 
instrument of the big multinational corporations and its policies of 
privatisation and anti-welfare-state steps.

To many people the EU declaration that its rapid reaction force is intended 
for "humanitarian and peacekeeping" purposes is particularly alarming: it 
is what NATO proclaimed as its intention in its brutal war against 
Yugoslavia.

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People's Weekly World

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