Published on WSWS, by Stefan Steinberg, 4 April 2008.
At this week’s NATO summit in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, US President George W. Bush has faced concerted European opposition to his plans for a further eastward expansion of the alliance. Only a last minute compromise allowed the American president to save face. German politicians in particular were reported to be angry and disconcerted at the insistence by the American president on the speedy inclusion of Georgia and the Ukraine into the ranks of the NATO.
During a summit dinner party held on Wednesday evening German and French opposition to Bush’s plans received additional backing from Italy, Hungary and the Benelux countries. Even Bush’s closest ally in Europe, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, stated it was too soon for NATO to accept the two former Soviet republics.
At the dinner, which ran for an extra two hours, Bush is reported to have finally acknowledged that he would be unable to push through his proposal. According to a senior US administration official: “The debate was mostly among Europeans,” with several European allies balking at Bush’s stance. Evidently attempting to put the dispute in a favourable light the same official declared: “It was quite split, but it was split in a good way” …
… During Bush’s last months in office, the foreign policy of the American president is assuming an increasingly unpredictable and aggressive character. This has sounded the alarm bells in European political circles and at the same time forced European powers to take an increasingly independent stand on security and defence.
Already in the run up to the Bucharest summit, the influential German political magazine IP ran a debate on the future of NATO. Speaking against the continuation of the alliance, a Dutch defence expert, Peter van Ham, argued: “It seems to be just a matter of time before the EU replaces NATO as the guarantor of security and defence in Europe.” Ham accuses the US of debasing NATO: “For them NATO is nothing more than a sort of security saloon where the American sheriff rustles up his posse to go hunt down the bad guys. In drawing up its alliance the US is able to acquire the stamp of international legitimacy without having to make any major incursions on its foreign policy playing field.”
Arguing against this position, a more experienced security expert, Professor Karl Kaiser, recalled that the original notion behind the setting up of the NATO alliance was not to combat an external threat, but in fact to prevent war amongst its constituent members. In other words, the centrifugal pressures evident in Bucharest, which are now threatening to tear NATO apart, also create the conditions for renewed military confrontation between the major imperialist powers. (full text).