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Afri -Action from Ireland
A second 'Nice' referendum is due in Ireland later in the year 2002. An issue for debate will again be Ireland's neutrality in relation to the EU and NATO. This position paper of Afri sounds the warnings and proposes an alternative vision to militarisation.
At the Helsinki EU Summit of December 1999, EU leaders agreed that by 2003, they would be in a position to deploy a 60,000 strong EU military force drawn from member state armies. Ireland might be expected to contribute approximately 1,000 troops to such a force1. This will not be a standing army with a HQ and barracks forces will be brought together under an EU flag for specific operations and returned to their 'homes' afterwards2. And it also will be confined to participating in the so-called Petersberg Tasks. EU Commission President Romano Prodi has stated that he sees this as, in effect, a European army3. Ireland will have to train troops for participation in this force and will have to upgrade equipment and communication systems to ensure 'interoperability' with other countries' forces4, thus building on the co-operation already set out under the Partnership for Peace (PfP) initiative5.
The Link with NATO
Most observers appear to accept that the emerging EU defence policy will, in some way, be linked to NATO the EU military force will, for example, remain dependent for the foreseeable future on US military transport6. A question is the closeness of that link. As far as NATO's preference is concerned, the question can be answered decisively.
But according to the NATO Secretary General, the:
"indivisibility of the transatlantic [US-European] link... will have been carved in stone on a monument outside the building where joint NATO-EU Council sessions are being held. By 2005 NATO and the EU will enjoy a close and confident relationship at all levels. Both formal and informal exchanges between the secretariats and the military authorities will be a matter of routine. Joint meetings will be held, and senior officials of our respective organisations will brief each other on a regular basis."7
Already this link is becoming more institutionalised. What, in part, underpins this linkage with NATO is US insistence on retaining a predominant role in European defence or, to put it slightly differently, US fears about the emergence of an independent European military capacity that might challenge US hegemony. Recent EU initiatives, while not wholly unambiguous in this regard, appear to be endorsing this position by their advocacy of closer EU-NATO co-operation.
The Problem with (not just) NATO
Recent revelations on NATO's prosecution of its war in Kosovo are highly disturbing8. The Yugoslav government refused to sign the initial (pre-war) Rambouillet peace accord because, in part, it contained a NATO-inserted clause that granted NATO troops free access to all Yugoslav territory - this clause was later dropped from the final post-war settlement terms. The clear implication is that the war was fought because of either a mix-up, or because NATO wanted a war to assert its predominant role in European military and defence arrangements.9 There was a possibility of NATO being taken to the UN International Tribunal in the Hague for crimes against humanity during its campaign in Kosovo.10 This is hardly a particularly comforting scenario from the point of view of entering into closer links with such an organisation.
We would suggest that the problem with NATO is not just a tendency towards the making of occasional mistakes, nor of inconsistency.11 Nor alone is it the willingness to deploy nuclear weapons, and to use cancer-causing weapons containing depleted uranium, appalling as those matters are.12 At the heart of the problem is the close and well-established linkage between NATO and armaments companies - the sponsors of NATO's fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 1999 included Lockheed Martin (makers of the Stealth bomber), Raytheon (makers of laser-guided missiles), United Technologies (makers of Sikorsky helicopters) and Boeing (makers of F-15 and other fighter aircraft).13 The massive military upgrading currently being carried out by new NATO members represents a bonanza for these companies. For example, British Aerospace and Boeing are competing vigorously to supply $2 billion worth of fighter aircraft to Poland, and similar contract battles loom in the case of the Czech Republic and Hungary.14 The Chairman of the Committee to Expand NATO, a US advocacy organisation, is, not surprisingly, also the chairman of Lockheed.15 In the light of these linkages, it is, to say the least, difficult to make the case that NATO policy is likely to be wholly unaffected by commercial considerations.16 Rather, policy is subordinated to the imperative of discovering "new ways to justify the expenditure of trillions of dollars a year on 'defence'".17
Broader commercial considerations will also help drive NATO policy in the coming years, especially regarding access to areas around the Caspian Sea. According to The New York Times, "The most concentrated mass of untapped wealth known to exist anywhere is in the oil and gas fields beneath the Caspian and the lands around it ... The strategic implications hypnotise Western security planners as completely as the finances transfix oil executives".18 NATO policy is, again, highly unlikely to be unaffected by these considerations, which extend beyond the location of the resources themselves and encompass, for example, the possible importance of security for a Balkan oil pipeline.19 Again, the interconnections may be encapsulated in a single individual: the former US National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, is a strong advocate of NATO expansion; he is also an advisor to the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, a consortium of twelve leading oil companies that includes Exxon and Amoco amongst its members.20
It is highly debateable whether Ireland should be forging closer links with a supposed security organisation whose motives are inextricably tied up with such commercial considerations. Given the shaping influences upon it, how likely is NATO to have as a priority "the maintenance of international peace and security", to use the words of Minister Smith? NATO actions may well generate precisely the opposite effect. A recent example is the decision of the Ukrainian parliament to pursue nuclear rearmament, justified on the basis that the Kosovo war rendered invalid previous security guaranteesHowever, it is important to state that this dangerous and destabilising pattern of behaviour would not be circumvented simply by the weakening of NATO influence per se. Even if the emerging EU arrangements were to be placed on a more independent basis, as France in particular appears to wish22, the creation of a rival European alliance to the US, equally driven by considerations of militarism and commercialism, would do little or nothing to better promote international peace and security. The fact that the British government announced in May 2000 that it would buy European rather than US airlift and missile equipment is not a step forward23. The real challenge is to promote an alternative vision of peace that is genuinely distinct from the agressive and rapacious model currently exemplified by NATO, not to replicate that model at a European level.
2. Mark Brennock, Irish Times, 4 March 2000.
3. Stephen Castle, Independent, 11 April 2000.
4. Paddy Smyth, Irish Times, 4 March 2000.
5. Afri, Should Ireland Join Nato's Parnership for Peace?, 1999. Ireland joined the NATO-led PfP in 1999, thus already instituting a level of formal co-operation with NATO structures. PfP membership extends beyond both NATO and the EU to embrace most countries in central and eastern Europe.
6. Mark Hennessy, Examiner, 21 February 2000; Garret Fitzgerald, Irish Times, 13 April 2000 "NATO, to which any European Defence arrangement must certainly be linked in some way".
7. Speech at the conference 'Défense Européenne: le Concept de Convergence', Brussels, 29 March, 2000.
8. Tim Judah, Kosovo: War and Revenge, Yale University Press, 2000.
9. Lara Marlowe (Irish Times, 24 March 2000) leans towards a more conspiratorial interpretation of the evidence than does Judah himself.
10. Speech by Denis Halliday at the Féile Bride conference, Kildare, 29/30 January 2000.
11. The 'inconsistency' can, however, reach striking levels of hypocrisy: Turkish repression of its Kurdish population has been consistently on a greater scale than that of the pre-war repression of Kosovars by Serbia, yet Turkey participated, as a member of NATO, in the war in Kosovo (Ken Coates, 'Benign Imperialism', New Political Economy, 5(1), p.106).
12. NATO has confirmed that it used depleted uranium in bombing raids during the Kosovo war (Vesna Peric Zimonjic, Inter Press Service, 19 April 2000).
13. Simon Bowers, Guardian, 16 April 1999.
14. In the case of the British bid, this probably refers to Saab Grifen, a Swedish plane marketed through British Aerospace; John Rees, 'Oil, Gas and NATO's New Frontier', New Political Economy, 5(1), 2000, p.101.
16. Of course, leading EU countries (including 'neutrals' such as Sweden) also have close links with the arms trade, more or less independent of NATO. However, that linkage is already embedded in NATO's decision-making structures because the EU structures are only now emerging, there is the possibility to resist such embeddedness, though not if the NATO 'model' is subscribed to.
17. Fintan O'Toole, Irish Times, 5 February 1999.