NATO enlargement, No Thanks!

2 December 2003

NATO enlargement, No Thanks!

Recently the Dutch Parliament voted, against the better judgement of the Socialist Party, to agree to the enlargement of NATO. NATO member states must give their permission for the accession of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Bulgaria. As the Netherlands took its decision, only the Socialist Party voted against. NATO is an outdated institution from the Cold War and is on the wrong track, preferring “preventative attacks” to defence as such. Below are extracts from the parliamentary intervention of SP spokesman on defence Harry van Bommel.

The Socialist Party’s opinions regarding NATO are no secret. NATO is a product of the Cold War whose principal purpose was the defence of its own territory. The fact this historical period is in the past, while NATO has decided on a course of military adventures – or projects, if you prefer – in other parts of the world, means that it is now sensible to conclude that NATO should make way for other security organisations. Yet this outmoded organisation for collective defence is in fact being reconstructed to serve other ends. The enlargement and strengthening of NATO flows directly from this process.

Harry van BommelDevelopments in the transatlantic world, and in particular of tensions in NATO, have already formed, in various guises, the subject of thorough discussion during the last year. Will security in the broad sense of the word be improved if we once again admit seven new states. Or is NATO not really necessary to achieve this? Will these new member states influence NATO to become an instrument of peace? Or will relations within NATO perhaps become more complicated on the admission of seven new countries?

The debate is hindered by a lack of clarity regarding the precise steps that remain to be taken by the new member states. The House has requested further information on this matter which has not – or at least not yet - been received. NATO has nothing to say on two of the three issues raised, regarding negotiations and the adaptation of NATO’s planning. The new member states were themselves requested by the government to submit the relevant documents regarding the progress of reforms, but the documents from the seven candidates did not arrive until this morning.

To many of the questions posed, we could find (at least as yet) no answer. Hopefully the minister will be able to answer them. NATO has concluded a written agreement at the close of the accession negotiations with each of the seven countries, in which these countries specify certain reforms and the dates by which they will be enacted. How do things stand precisely in relation to this?

In its note the government writes that “Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia have adopted a new security strategy which is in tune with their future NATO membership.” That is evidently not the case for Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia. Or is such a strategy in prospect? And if so when can we expect it?

The presentation this autumn of the fifth Membership Action Plan cycle raises the question of how one would describe the present situation. A large number of goals have been formulated which the invited lands must achieve,

The Netherlands is contributing with the help of bilateral defence co-operation programmes as actively to the reform and integration of the armed forces of the accession countries. Can the minister explain how much of our armed forces’ surplus equipment will be going to these new countries? If our country is indeed soon going to equip itself with this hated Joint Strike Fighter will the surplus F16s be going to our new so-called allies?

With regard to the new Treaty on Co-operation and Security in Europe the Baltic States and Slovenia are named as willing partners. What about the wishes of the other three countries, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria?

As for finance, the costs of the “Force Goals”- NATO’s aims, as specified at Prague, which the seven new (and far from rich) East European countries must fulfil, appear to be a heavy burden for the economies of these new EU member states. The SP parliamentary group fears that the cost of the new weapon systems will fall on the people of these countries. Did that not turn out to be the case for earlier enlargements? Must a country such as Poland not dig deep into its coffers to pay for fighter planes ordered from the United States? We should take into serious account the fact that that for the US keeping its own arms industry afloat is a powerful argument in favour of enlargement of NATO. How does the government see this?

The government states “that now the question as to whether the enlargement of the coming years will lead to the need for higher contributions from the present member states can only in part be answered.” It seems to me, however, highly probable. Further fine tuning, integration and co-operation with new NATO partners will always bring costs. Can the minister clarify just what such costs could consist of? That the new member states will turn out to be expensive seems to me obvious.

Regarding NATO’s decision-making process: this must become “less formal and better”, “more streamlined”, or so we can conclude. We made a number of remarks in relation to this last week during the general meeting on NATO, most of which concerned the NATO Reaction Force. Now there is talk of ministerial meetings, improving the working methods of NATO ambassadors, and so on. What does this mean precisely for the actual contribution which NATO’s longstanding members will make to its new members? The weight of big member states is heavier than that of the smaller members. Is this not a case of, to paraphrase Orwell, “all countries are equal, but some are more equal than others?”

The SP parliamentary group has the following concrete concerns in relation to the enlargement of NATO. We fear that it will give a greater stimulus to the to the acquisition of armaments through the well-known principle of “cascading” - of a torrent of supposedly outmoded weapons system sold on or perhaps even given to poorer allies – and increase the defence budgets of the new member states. More hand-me-down weapon systems from the existing NATO members to the new. Where will our surplus weapons systems end up? This is still not clear, but the SP parliamentary group would like to note that handing over this or that surplus system to new allies surely means that the Netherlands will itself have a smaller armed force, but that this argument cannot be true for the whole of NATO. The arms trade will impose a heavy burden on the seven new members. Also relevant here is the fact that the proposed new EU Constitution imposes an obligation on member states to spend more on defence. The peoples of the seven new NATO/EU member states are caught between the hammer of one and the anvil of the other. Moreover, NATO’s new neighbours – Ukraine, Belorus and most importantly Russia – could be provoked once more into a renewed tension, especially from the viewpoint of a secure situation and a healthy economic development in the new NATO countries and unwelcome developments in the new neighbouring states.

It is the accepted opinion of the supporters of NATO enlargement that it will be helpful to European security. In the defence budget that we dealt with recently it is emphasised that there is no threat from within NATO’s present area. The SP believes that this is also the case for the new member states. That is not to say that nothing could happen, but there is no real threat of such, and the anticipation of a threat, for example of a renewed Russian menace, is no longer on the cards. An analysis which includes such a threat says more about the people who are making it than it does about the reality of the situation.

Strengthened in our conviction that the reports received this morning, the oversights of NATO goals and the extent to which the governments of the “new seven” will be forced to bend over backwards to fulfil the demands placed upon them, the SP has come to the following conclusion. The new NATO states will exchange the old militarism of the Warsaw Pact for the high-tech militarism and received opinion within NATO regarding intervention. In the light of the experience of six of the seven new member states of the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact during the second half of the twentieth century, this is, to put it as mildly as possible, a peculiar state of affairs.

The SP parliamentary group is against the enlargement of NATO. NATO is an outmoded Cold War institution. NATO is forcing young democracies to spend money on arming themselves, at a time when other needs are more pressing. NATO has ambitions to which it should not be suited and an ever more active militaristic policy, including “preventive attacks”, policies which will in no instance bring us closer to a peaceful world. The SP parliamentary group therefore does not give its approval to the proposed Protocol.

You are here