PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH

September 1997

Nato expansion

James Petras

The admission of three former members of the Eastern bloc into NATO was described by President Clinton as "a very great day not only for Europe and the United States, not simply for NATO but indeed for the cause of freedom in the aftermath of the Cold War." Behind the euphoric rhetoric of the NATO leaders and their supporters in the mass media (El Pais in Spain, The New York Times in the U.S.) there is power politics, economic profits, and hegemonic domination.

Washington's rejection of France's attempt to increase European influence in the command structure of NATO was a prelude to Clinton dictating the terms for new members of NATO: the three new members (Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic) are U.S. clients; the rejected candidates (Romania and Slovenia) are French and German clients. The real meaning of the "expansion of NATO" is the extension of U.S. hegemony to Central-Eastern Europe. With the U.S. in command that means military bases and deep penetration of the military and security systems of those countries.

Secondly, through U.S. domination of NATO, the new members will be pushed to accelerate the "free market reforms" and increase the opportunities for Western multinational corporations. NATO military forces will back the regimes administrating these "unpopular measures"—strengthening the repressive arm of the state.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office predicts total cost of NATO enlargement at about $125 billion over 13 years with Washington paying only $19 billion. That means Eastern and Western Europe will have to pay 85 percent of the cost, or $106 billion. At a time of large-scale unemployment and cuts in social budgets in East and West Europe this is likely to lower living standards and provoke greater social unrest. The new members of NATO in East Europe will have to increase their military spending to be on the same footing with their Western partners. U.S. arms manufacturers are the biggest supporters of NATO expansion and will be the principle economic beneficiaries. The president of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, Bruce Jackson, is also the director of Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world's best weapons maker. Entering NATO means buying U.S. weapons. The potential market for fighter jets alone is $10 billion. Hungary will increase its military spending by 35 percent, Poland 20 percent, and the Czech Republic by similar percentages.

By shifting from one power bloc (Warsaw Pact) to another (NATO), the Eastern European countries will deepen their clientele relations—a process of re-satellization. Vaclav Havel, Gyula Horn, and Aleksander Kwasniewski, the rulers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, have undermined the independence of their countries with the hypocrisy and cant reminiscent of the previous Soviet clients.

The expansion of NATO almost to the border of Russia means that U.S. missiles will be only seconds from their major cities. The military forces are a major security threat to Russian internal and external policy. NATO encirclement means that Russian policy will be pressured to conform to Washington's dictates. The enlargement of U.S. hegemony opens the door to the de facto extension of U.S. influence in the Ukraine and Baltic Republics, through the existing client regimes. It is likely that the increased NATO threat will sooner or later lead to the further subordination of Russia to the West (under Yeltsin) or his replacement (and the elaboration of a new Russian defense policy capable of countering NATO's advance). Washington can now count on the votes of its new Eastern client members in deepening Western Europe's subordination to its dictates. The inclusion of the three new members is as much directed at neutralizing West Europe within NATO as it is in increasing U.S. encirclement of Russia.

The growth of U.S. power has been significantly aided by Spanish politicians. Javier Solano has played an active role in implementing Washington's policy in Bosnia. U.S. policy makers hailed Aznar's decision to do what France would not and join the NATO military structure. Thus U.S. hegemony within NATO has been strengthened at the expense of Europe thanks to Spanish and Eastern European servility. That is the real meaning of the "enlargement of NATO." And let's not forget the billion dollar military contracts going to U.S. arms merchants.

In the future, given the increase in military expenditures and decline in social programs, the NATO armed forces may be very busy, not fighting external enemies, but the rebellious domestic population defending their living standards, resisting foreign military encroachments on their democratic freedom and political independence.