Guest blogpost by Filip Kovacevic, a professor at the University of Montenegro.
The confidential sources of Der Spiegel from the NATO Headquarters in Brussels claim that the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visibly “blossomed” after the violent turn of events in Ukraine. There is, however, nothing strange in this kind of behavior by Rasmussen. In the last couple years, he has travelled many times to various European capitals and tried to convince the EU government officials to invest more in defense and security industry. To his great distress, he was not able to find the common language with his interlocutors. The EU governments, under the intense pressure of their citizens due to radical austerity measures and the growing youth unemployment, were not disposed to increase the spending for various types of weapons, for tanks, rockets, drones, military ships, and aircraft. Their priorities were generally directed toward the services that enable the good life (kindergartens, schools, museums, hospitals), and not to those that purvey a quicker and more efficient death.
The statistical data also show that the trend of military investments is significantly decreasing. According to the studies done by international think tanks and institutes, such as SIPRI from Stockholm, in the last four years, the budgetary expenses for the military in the EU countries have fallen by 8 to 30 percent, depending on the country. Even the projected US defense and security budget for 2015 appears to be the smallest since the end of the WWII. This of course also means less money for the CIA, which I am sure caused many a sleepless night in Langley, VA.
At the same time, the NATO (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan is coming to a close without having accomplished its publicly declared goals. The Taliban have not been decisively defeated;
the production of heroin has not decreased; the rule of law and democracy have not taken hold. More than three and a half thousand NATO soldiers have lost their lives as well as tens of thousands of Afghan civilians. Whose conscience is to be burdened with all these unnecessary, tragic deaths? Whose responsibility are they? Even though it has been known for a long time that the outside military intervention cannot make possible a long-term, sustainable peace and that violence only engenders more violence, three years ago NATO again intervened militarily, this time in Libya, and was getting ready to do so in Syria as well. It appears that nothing has been learned from the ISAF debacle.
The servile foreign policy of the Montenegrin government, acquiescing to take part in the
Afghan mission, led to the taxpayers of Montenegro having to suit a bill of more than ten milion euros and, also, to the loss of one life in the Montenegrin military contingent. While the prime minister Milo Djukanovic and the then defense minister Boro Vucinic claimed that the Montenegrin soldiers in Afghanistan were defending „global peace“ and the „borders of the free world“, all they were really interested in was their political survival which they wanted to insure by playing along with NATO. This practice has continued to this day, evidenced by the recent bizarre claims by Djukanovic about the supposed „anti-NATO“ forces intent on destabilizing the Balkans. Whereas the truth is that NATO itself has destabilized the Balkans in the long-term by making it the springboard for provocations and military actions against the East. The newly built US military base „Bondsteel“ in Kosovo is for instance one of the biggest in Europe.
And so, faced with the imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan and the drastic uncertainties about the continued funding, many NATO officials did not hide their panic that the EU governments would perhaps start wondering whether NATO had any reasons for existence at all. For in the so-called „global war against terror“, it was obviously neither successful nor appropriately equipped. Why do you, for instance, need military ships and submarines, with nuclear weapons aboard, with the price tag of hundreds of milions of euros, to confront the enemies which consist of small, mobile groups hiding in caves whose basic means of transport have not advanced beyond a camel? This is why it was a matter of utter urgency to find a „real“ enemy, a big and powerful state that could convincingly be the perpetrator of all the sins, especially the ones which could bring NATO out of a financial hole.
Geopolitically speaking, ever since the times of Alfred Mahan and Halford Mackinder, Russia has been perceived as the usual culprit. In addition, not so much time has passed since the end of the Cold War not to be able, without much trouble, to activate the anti-Russian stereotypes still present in the Western and, especially, the US public opinion. The „Russian bear“ was again constructed to project its claws toward Europe, and not even the common interests that the US shares with Russia in the fight against the violent, islamic terrorism were enough to stop the tsunami of Russophobia, especially in the media outfits close to the Western inteligence agencies, which can be found in Montenegro as well.
Now, due to the events in Ukraine, Rasmussen can breathe the sigh of relief. The „old“ enemy, against which NATO was founded in 1949, is back, and, so, in the last two months, there is hardly a more politically fulfilled person in the European corridors of power. From the newly-acquired „prophetic“ heights, Rasmussen is now able to be much more convincing to his EU counterparts about the necessity of increasing military budgets, while the allegations of corruption surrounding the construction of the new NATO Headquarters building in Brussels have all but disappeared.
His allies from the US political and military structures, led by the same motives, are raising the alarm among the members of Congress and urgently demanding additional funds for Pentagon. The former Supreme Commander of NATO forces in Europe admiral James Stavridis, writing in the journal Foreign Policy, linked to the influential political circles in Washington, is already openly calling for arming the Ukrainian military in order to help it conduct, what he calls, „counter-insurgency operations“. Hundreds of US military troops are being sent to the borderlands of NATO: Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia. This is the first time in history that the US has established a long-term military presence in these countries and represents the eerie increase of tensions with the potential for the construction of new „Berlin“ walls in Europe. The Ukrainian prime minister of disputed legitimacy Arsenyi Yatsenyuk in his public addresses is even mentioning the possibility of the WWIII. Is there a way to stop this dangerous military escalation before a „red“ line of peace is crossed and the world finds itself in another Cuban Missile Crisis?
I think there is. It should not be forgotten that the elections for the European Parliament will take place on May 25. The European Parliament has the power to approve or disapprove the proposed list of the new EU Commissioners. This means that a different configuration of the political forces in the newly elected Parliament will lead to a different make-up of the Commission. The current EU Commission, led by the former Portuguese prime minister Jose Manuel Baroso, allied itself with the interests which advocated neoliberal privatizations, the cuts of social programs, the dominance of big business, the power of the banks as well as the slowing down of the equitable integration of the „Eastern“ countries, not only Russia, but also Turkey. The speed of the imposition of sanctions against Russia in the given circumstances also shows that certain ideological tendencies are acting as barriers to the long-term European economic development and prosperity. The present militarization could be devastating for the citizens of Europe, but it is very profitable for the banking-military-industrial complex which is the main force driving the NATO expansion and which the Baroso Commission strongly supported.
If, however, in the May 25 elections, the political victory goes to the leftist forces, especially to the United European Left, led by Alexis Tsipras, the president of the Greek party SYRIZA, then we can expect the situation in Europe to improve dramatically and the peaceful, compromise solutions would have more chances of being found not only for the conflict in Ukraine, but also for other conflicts around the world. This victory would also mean the dissolution of NATO because the militarized orientation of that organization, together with its authoritarian ideological roots, is inadequate for the creation of sustainable peace and the democratic development of institutions in Europe and beyond.
Montenegro could also give a significant contribution to the decrease of political tensions in Europe and the stopping of militarization by refusing to take part in any future NATO activities. At the same time, Montenegro could use its current non-aligned military status, that is, its de facto military neutrality, to offer a location for the conduct of negotiations between the antagonistic global powers. As Vienna, Berlin and Yalta in the times past, so today Podgorica could acquire the place of honor in history textbooks by being a place where the agreement of immense global importance was negotiated and signed.Laurens Cerulus