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No Militarisation of Europe

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.

The Irish government is promoting, whether intentionally or not, a policy of 'drift' whereby entry into the above described arrangements is taking place by stealth and in the absence of a clear and articulated policy. The antidemocratic nature of this is scandalous. The recent government White Paper on Defence contained only four pages on policy, with the remaining 72 devoted to military structures.24 The government routinely dismisses claims that the decisions involved are significant on the grounds that the 'traditional' policy of military neutrality is unaffected. This is entirely beside the point. For Ireland to further ally itself with a nuclear-armed and commercially driven military alliance is a hugely significant step, and one that merits a far more wide-ranging national debate than it has so far been accorded. The promotion of that debate is the first campaign objective of Afri.

Even leaving aside the wider global implications of what is happening, there are important financial and other implications here at home. The government is to invest £250 million in equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces over the coming years. According to the Defence Minister -

"the Defence Forces must have the training and equipment to integrate as seamlessly as possible into multinational support operations dominated by contingents with highly capable and technologically advanced forces''.25

Why is such integration so desirable? Is this the most effective use of taxpayers' money? Cannot Ireland make a contribution to international peace and security through means that do not involve integration with technologically advanced armies that have shown themselves most likely to be promoters of war and insecurity? This is not to dispute the validity of all investment in the Irish Defence Forces - issues of inadequate pay, recruitment openings and accommodation, for example, do need to be tackled urgently. And there is, of course, a case for having a properly equipped force, operating under transparent and fully democratic oversight, that is capable of undertaking genuinely security-enhancing activities worldwide. But Afri believes that Ireland could make its most useful contribution to international peace and security through lower-cost and more labour-intensive actions, including the following:

· Promotion of non-violent conflict prevention and resolution actions through a range of fora, including non-governmental organisations and intergovernmental bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)26 and the United Nations (UN). This in turn demands a commitment to serious reform of those organisations to ensure that they function with greater effectiveness than heretofore.27 Irish diplomatic skills, already well established, as well as those peacekeeping skills already honed by Irish soldiers, would be drawn upon for these purposes rather than a military prowess that can only be attained at considerable cost and deployed to possibly destructive ends.

· Enhanced co-operation with certain EU partners in some areas. Although we are alarmed at many current developments at EU level, there are also some encouraging signs. For example, the Finnish Presidency of the EU prepared, during 1999, a document on non-military crisis management capacities of the EU, which, although sidelined, received strong support from Sweden.28 The Finnish and Swedish foreign ministers tabled further such initiatives in April 2000.29 Thus, there are potential allies with whom Ireland can pursue a non-militaristic approach towards security at EU level.30 Because we are not in favour of an aggressive and militaristic EU 'defence' policy does not mean that we are opposed to progressive and constructive engagement with EU partners on the promotion of genuine security.

· Massively increased and properly focused development aid. The willingness of the government to commit resources to military upgrading stands in stark contrast to its failure to fulfil its pledge to reach the UN development aid target of 0.7 per cent of national income, or even to make consistent progress towards it.31 Deployed skilfully, aid can make a substantial contribution to the amelioration and resolution of political conflict, thus contributing much more to the overall goal of international peace and security.32 Again, this approach would be drawing on existing Irish strengths and skills in aid and development, rather than seeking to create new and potentially less desirable ones in the field of war.


Ireland faces major choices and challenges. We can continue to follow current policies, albeit barely articulated, and drift further into an increasingly militaristic and dangerous EU-US alliance. Or we can promote an alternative concept of security through greater reliance upon those non-violent skills with which many Irish people are already well endowed. The latter appears to us the more sensible option. At the very least we need a proper national debate around where we want to go regarding security and defence policy, as opposed to the current slide into a single, militaristic option which only appears inevitable (if it is discussed at all) because alternatives to it are not being presented and debated.

Afri, therefore, is calling for:

· The facilitation of a properly informed national debate on security and

defence policies, through which the implications of existing proposals

are clearly set out and possible alternatives discussed.

· The promotion of international peace and security through reliance not on militaristic alliances but rather on instruments of conflict prevention and resolution, including development aid.

Ireland itself is emerging out of 30 years of civil conflict and moving tentatively towards demilitarisation. We should extend that movement outwards to our defence and security policies - demilitarisation, not entanglement in military alliances, should be the wave of the future.

This is an edited version of Towards Real Security: A Contribution to the Debate on Irish Defence and Security Policy, Afri Position Paper No. 2, written by Andy Storey, July 2000.

Afri, Action From Ireland, Grand Canal House, Lr. Rathmines Road, Dublin 6. E-mail:

1. Paul Gillespie, Irish Times, 20 May 2000.

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.

15. Ibid.

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.

18. New York Times, 21 September 1997.

19. John Rees, op. cit.

20. Ibid., pp. 103-4.

21. Ken Coates, op.cit., p.108.

22. Tomas VAlasek, Weekly Defense Monitor, Volume 4, Issue 14, 6 April 2000.

23. Paul Gillespie, Irish Times, 20 May 2000.

24. Lorna Siggins, Irish Times, 13 April 2000.

25. Irish Times, 26 April 2000.

26. The Irish government's 1996 White Paper on foreign policy stated that "Ireland's policy will be to strengthen the OSCE and to further develop the organisation's capacity for preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping".

27. What is not demanded is the present policy, characteristic of the US in particular, of bypassing and marginalising the UN and then pointing to its alleged ineffectiveness as an excuse for resorting to alternative channels such as NATO.

28. Peter Cross and Otfried Nassauer, 'European Security Sharks and Minnows off Helsinki', 'Berliner Informationszentrum für Transatlantische Seicherheit, 2 December 1999, p.2.

29. Paul Gillespie, Irish Times, 20 May 2000.

30. John Maguire, Defending Peace: For an Alternative to NATO/PfP and a Militarised Europe, Vote First/Afri, 1999.

31. In 1998, the most recent year for which fully comparable international figures are available, Ireland's development aid was £187 million short of the 0.7 per cent target.

32. The classic 'manual' on how this can be achieved is Mary B. Anderson, Do No Harm: How Aid can Support Peace or War, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999.

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