NATO's War - Boomerang Against the West
(Part A)

TFF PressInfo 65

 April 30, 1999


"NATO's war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) is not comparable with the Vietnam war, with bombing Iraq or throwing cruise missiles on Sudan or Afghanistan. In a more fundamental way, it threatens major Western institutions, economies and Western leadership. With that much at stake, Western governments have long forgotten what the original problem was. Perhaps this is the reason why NATO now defines itself as a player that does not negotiate and thus has only the hammer left in its toolbox. That's the opposite of statesmanship," says TFF director Jan Oberg. "Whether or not we support NATO's bombing, we must be aware of the risks and potential costs to the West itself. Our politicians seem not to be aware of how big they could be. Therefore, I believe it's time to show some civil courage and engage in solid damage-limitation both for the Balkans and for ourselves, otherwise this could go madly wrong," Oberg warns. "The critical 'boomerang' effects I mention in this PressInfo and PressInfo # 66 do not have to happen, but they are probable enough to merit serious consideration - and more so with a ground war approaching."

1. NATO's credibility seriously impaired
After March 24, there must be serious doubts about NATO's identity as a defensive alliance, as an organization for peace and stability. - Instead of seeing military targets, the Western audience sees bridges, schools, villages, media stations, factories, government houses etc. being destroyed. - NATO has handled its information dissemination in a way that makes even convinced pro-NATO people and media skeptical. - The successive calling in of more planes, helicopters and forces indicates a lack of advance planning, and there is no unity in the alliance about what to do after bombing. - The alliance created the humanitarian catastrophe it aimed to prevent, it ignored warnings that NATO bombs would make Serbs expel every Albanian they could find. - Europe, if not the entire international system, is indisputably less stable after March 24 than before. 

2. NATO's expansion may come to a halt
Whether in public or not, the youngest NATO members now ask themselves at least four questions: 1) How may this crisis draw us ever deeper into a quagmire we never expected or wanted to be part of? 2) What will it cost us to be in solidarity with NATO's leadership while having little influence on it? 3) What protection can WE actually expect now when we see that the West is not willing to deploy ground forces or otherwise make sacrifices for the noble cause of saving people and protecting human rights? How safe are we actually in NATO should we be attacked? And 4) What compensation will we get for letting NATO use our territory, for respecting sanctions and now an oil embargo? New and prospective members see the treatment of Macedonia as a frightening example. 

3. US leadership questioned
Few are able to see the goals, the means-end relations and the place of this war within an overall consistent US foreign policy concept and strategy. There is a nagging feeling that the West has made a blunder, that President Clinton was 'distracted' by the Lewinsky affair when NATO's war was discussed, that CIA misjudged that Milosevic would give in after a few days. - The Rambouillet process is now revealed worldwide to have been a purely manipulative operation aimed at getting NATO in and further demonizing Yugoslavia - If the US intended to support the Kosovo-Albanian project of Kosova, that project is now slowly but surely being physically destroyed. - If this goes wrong it could even decide who will be the next president of the United States. - While President Clinton points his fingers at 'hopeful' splits in the Yugoslav government, he is having a hard time obtaining support from Capitol Hill. 'Stop the Bombing' demonstrations worldwide fundamentally question the wisdom of NATO's policies. 

4. EU's common foreign and security policy tattered
NATO's war could well decide the fate of several European governments, too. The stated 'resolve' and 'rock hard' unity in the EU and NATO sounds more like invocation than reality. Greece, Italy, France, Germany have considerable inner conflict; the splits will grow with the number of days this continues. Public opinion is mobilizing. Since 1990 the European Union has used former Yugoslavia as a kind of guinea-pig for its 'common foreign and security policy' concept. And since the witless, premature recognition of Slovenia and Croatia that policy exhibits a string of pearls of conflict-management failures. Where is Europe heading if what we see these weeks in ex-Yugoslavia is an expression of the common foreign and security policy of the EU? 

5. A broader and deeper Atlantic
NATO's war is predominantly that of the US and Britain. Washington has repeatedly reminded Europeans how they have been unable to handle the problems in their own backyard and otherwise get their acts together. Thus, the US 'had to' take the lead in Dayton, in virtually all international missions in the region, in SFOR, in the military build-up of Croatia, half of Bosnia, Macedonia and Albania, in the UN in Croatia, in OSCE's Kosovo mission, in the Contact Group. And now in the war against FRY. Washington's teaching the EU the lesson that it is not for long going to be a 'superpower' is bound to create resentment in various European circles - compounded by the fact that it is the US that destroys FRY and will hand over to the EU to pay for its reconstruction. 

6. Toward a new Cold War
There are limits to how long time you can say to the Russians that we want them inside, we want to listen and consult - and then do exactly what you please and ignore their interests, views and fears. This goes for the promise to help them while the net outflow of capital from Russia to the West since 1989 is about 250 bn $. It goes for united Germany in NATO, for the 'formal' NATO expansion, the handling of Bosnia, the Rambouillet process and now the flat 'no' to Russian mediation attempts in the Kosovo crisis. Mikhail Gorbachev's vision of a common European house, an upgraded OSCE, a reformed UN and a downgraded NATO to adapt to the post-Cold War era was fundamentally sound and innovative - but has been 'killed' by a triumphalist, almost autistic, West. However, the exploitation of Russia's general weakness now could be revenged the day Russia is not so weak. Russia, China and others are likely to ask: Will NATO one day try to do to us what it now does to FRY? And then they will guard themselves and build counter alliances; Russia quite understandably has now decided to upgrade its nuclear arsenals. 

7. Feeling of Western injustice, even cowardice
The world's most powerful alliance attempts to destroy a small country. It does so by highly sophisticated technology and from far-away places the FRY can not retaliate against. It implies comparatively little risk; cruise missiles have no pilots. It obviously aims at civilian targets - and it has the economic and political clout to gang up many neighbouring states by promising them money and attractive club memberships if they back up NATO. Yugoslavia and its Serbs has been object of economic sanctions since 1991, demonized, isolated and humiliated in ways the West never did vis-a-vis Pol Pot, South Africa, Sudan, China, Israel, Turkey, African dictators such as Bokassa, Amin, Mobutu, etc. All of them have violated human rights to a much larger extent and/or invaded other countries which Yugoslavia has not. Some may simply ask: Why FRY? Is this fair? Does NATO have a good case here? Is this the way to teach our children how to deal with our conflicts without violence as President Clinton recently said was so important? 

8. A much larger refugee problem ahead
We've seen the first wave out of Yugoslavia, predominantly Albanians. The next wave will be of those hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Albanians, Montenegrins, Romas, Yugoslavs etc. in the rest of FRY who will see no future there after NATO's devastation and, possibly, ground war. Which European countries will receive them, who will help Yugoslav youth to obtain scholarships and educate themselves abroad? Whose labour markets can absorb hundreds of thousands of people for years ahead? There is hardly any doubt that all this will cause cuts in welfare and social programmes throughout Europe and that the influx of refugees will be perceived as highly negative by many Europeans, particularly at the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. 

9. Aggravating the world economic crisis
The destruction of Yugoslavia is carried out predominantly by the United States. But since this is Europe, the EU will be the main agency to rebuild and reconstruct the Balkans. In and of itself that will cost billions of dollars. Second, countries such as Albania and Macedonia (FYROM) which host refugees - and 'save' Europe from them - have a right to be assisted. Third, countries that function as military bases and bridgeheads will expect payment and protection for years ahead. Fourth, regional countries around Yugoslavia which, due to sanctions against Yugoslavia since 1991, have lost billions of dollars and are now forced to (at least officially) accept an oil embargo have a right to be compensated. Countries such as Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary will lose vital tourist income.

NATO made some promises at its recent 50th Anniversary summit in Washington. But look at what the West promised Russia since 1989 and look at how little neighbours of FRY have received in compensation for the markets they have lost due to the sanctions since 1991. 

10. More social unrest, hate and terrorism
Destroying a country and the livelihood of 10 million people is bound to have very serious social consequences. Social unrest, a deep hate against everything Western, terrorism directed against Western Europe and the US can not be excluded. Throughout FRY thousands of children and youth will hate the Western nations which destroyed their fundamental values, hopes and opportunities. They will remember, as they grow older, that we did not bomb only military facilities and demonize Milosevic, but we turned a multiethnic country into a 'pariah' and hoped they would be foolish enough to believe us when Western leaders told them that 'we are not in conflict with the citizens.' 

11. Erosion of international normativity and law, 'humanitarian intervention' dead
Experts will keep on discussing whether what happens now falls within international law and the UN Charter, or it should have status of 'special case.' What cannot be disputed is that NATO has violated its own Charter while Yugoslavia threatens neither any NATO nor non-NATO countries. By intervening here and doing nothing in conflicts with much more serious human rights violations and in wars with many times more casualties, the West teaches the rest of the world that some lives are more important than others. In short, the idea of 'humanitarian intervention' is morally dead.

A series of human rights are violated by NATO, not the least the so-called 'third generation' rights such as the right to peace, to development and to a healthy environment. It is increasingly obvious that the FRY citizens are victims of the alliance's policies, whether intended or not.

Could it be that citizens around the world will feel deeply disillusioned if - or when - they find out that this whole action was not about saving refugees and averting a humanitarian crisis but, rather, about power, strategic and economic interests, deliberately creating a new 'fault line' or Cold War, about undermining the UN and promoting an all-powerful, uncontrollable NATO in the hands of a tiny Western elite that professes to speak for all of the international 'community' but has no mandate?

We are told that only military targets are on the list. But with all the serious civilian casualties, we must begin to ask: is NATO deeply incompetent or is the campaign turning into one of terror bombing and collective punishment? Citizens in the West have a right to believe that their leaders don't degrade themselves to such moral low ground. And lie about it."


© TFF 1999

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C o r r e c t i o n

PressInfo # 64 contained two mistakes. We meant to ask why NATO - not Belgrade, of course - did not bomb earlier to prevent ethnic cleansing. And KLA/UCK controlled 30% of the Kosovo province, not of Yugoslavia. We apologize!














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