|Last update 16 Dec. 2003||
Putting Europe's money where its mouth is
Senators Voice Concern Over NATO
A New Atlantic Charter: Interview with Gen. Wesley Clark
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: KOSOVO WAS THE LITMUS TEST THAT JUSTIFIED NATO'S EXISTENCE
Sunday, 4 February 2001 10:07 (ET)
By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Chief International Correspondent
By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Chief International Correspondent
Then NATO's supreme commander, Clark was an intellectual soldier, a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. And one fact from the diary leapt out at the studious American general.
"I looked back through the pages, and I couldn't find one targeting order that came to us from any other country but the United States," he recalled. "The rest of the alliance did not have either the will or the capacity to participate in the targeting process."
It is now well known that the U.S. Air Force flew over 70 percent of the strike missions in the air war. The European allies simply did not have the aircraft sophisticated enough to survive even the obsolescent anti-aircraft defenses of the Serbian forces.
Clark was making a more telling point. The European allies did not have the intelligence capabilities, nor the satellite technology, nor the electronic warfare counter-measures, that would allow their air forces to plan -- let alone wage -- a modern bombing campaign.
NATO's dirty little secret is that it is dangerously close to the point at which it can no longer function as a military alliance on the battlefield. The American forces are a whole technological generation ahead. Only the British, and some French units, are even anywhere close to having American capabilities.
Worse still, even the sophisticated weapons systems they do possess are barely compatible in alliance terms. To cite one example that has American airmen shaking their heads in dismay, consider the Tornado strike aircraft. It was the result of a European cooperative venture, so that British and German air forces would be flying the same plane.
Not exactly. Take a Royal Air Force and a Luftwaffe Tornado and line them up side by side on a military airfield, and they look identical. It's an illusion. The only equipment they have in common is the fuel and the oxygen.
Thanks to years of NATO demands for inter-operability, they can fire the same missiles, and have the same grapples that let them carry the same bombs. And thanks to another NATO effort, the hoses on the German fuel trucks will now fit the British warplane's fuel tanks. It wasn't always that way.
The Pentagon's after-action report on the Kosovo war put it politely, warning that the ability of NATO members "to function as an effective alliance in coming into question."
German General Klaus Naumann put it bluntly at the Munich conference Saturday: "When we Europeans talk about upgrading our capabilities, there is a great fog of words but not a lot behind them. The gap between us and the American forces is growing wider."
Last year, the U.S. defense budget was $309 billion. The Europeans spent barely half of that, just over $160 billion. Worse still, the U.S. spent its money on providing its 1.3 million troops with modern equipment. The Europeans had 2 million troops, a dismaying proportion of them equipped in a way that would let them refight World War II.
The European armies have great military bands, and organize magnificent parades. But with the exception of some elite Dutch and German units, only the British and French could be called effective modern forces.
The reason is simple enough -- money. The United States spends 3.4 percent of its GDP (the lowest proportion since 1940, the year before Pearl Harbor) on defense. The British and French spend just over 3 percent. The European average is 1.8 percent. The Germans are spending barely 1.5 percent -- and it shows.
This year, finally, something is being done about it. Eleven of the 17 European members of NATO have announced small increases in defense budgets.
Congressman Norman Sisisky, a Virginia Democrat, said that he was getting tired of defending NATO to his skeptical fellow congressmen -- although he had fought and argued for NATO for 19 years.
"You want to know what's different since Kosovo?" he challenged the Europeans. "We found out what you couldn't do. We may not be internationalists in the House of Representatives, but we can read. And we read about your defense budgets going down."
And yet these are times when the 15-nation European Union is airily planning its own new defense force. It will have 60,000 troops -- there is no shortage of cannon-fodder. But its modern military assets, from satellites to AWACS early-warning planes to logistics and communications, will have to be borrowed from NATO. Canada's defense minister Arthur Eggleton wants to know why should NATO let this happen.
"Canada is the third biggest contributor to the AWACS program, and it is unacceptable to put a hundred Canadian airmen under EU command -- and possibly in harm's way -- without oversight by NATO," he declared.
Between European dreams of being an equal partner to the Americans and the modern military reality there is a yawning credibility gap. And until the Europeans put their money where their mouths are, the NATO alliance will be in increasingly serious trouble. As for European military ambitions -- just remember General Clark's Kosovo diary.
-- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.
February 27, 2001
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The future of NATO is threatened by U.S. differences with
its European partners over such issues as missile defense systems, expanding the
alliance into Eastern Europe and an independent European army, senators warned
"We're at a pretty, pretty dicey spot right now," said Sen. Joseph
Biden of Delaware, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Biden, at a hearing of the committee's European affairs panel, urged the Bush
administration to make clear its commitment to a strong and united NATO.
"It's awfully hard to staunch the bleeding once it starts."
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., the subcommittee chairman, said it was imperative
for the Bush administration to ensure that any new independent European security
force be fully integrated with NATO so it does not become "a decoupling
impulse in transatlantic affairs."
The administration must also convince Europe to join a missile defense shield
because "when Europeans ask the United States to forgo this technological
edge on the battlefield they risk jeopardizing both Allied security and Allied
cohesion," Smith said.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The future of NATO is threatened by U.S. differences with its European partners over such issues as missile defense systems, expanding the alliance into Eastern Europe and an independent European army, senators warned Tuesday.
"We're at a pretty, pretty dicey spot right now," said Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Biden, at a hearing of the committee's European affairs panel, urged the Bush administration to make clear its commitment to a strong and united NATO. "It's awfully hard to staunch the bleeding once it starts."
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., the subcommittee chairman, said it was imperative for the Bush administration to ensure that any new independent European security force be fully integrated with NATO so it does not become "a decoupling impulse in transatlantic affairs."
The administration must also convince Europe to join a missile defense shield because "when Europeans ask the United States to forgo this technological edge on the battlefield they risk jeopardizing both Allied security and Allied cohesion," Smith said.
Clark, who headed NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict, said there were key U.S.-European differences in such areas as sanctions on Iraq, a Palestinian state, policy toward Russia and NATO expansion.
NATO expansion to include the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, broadly supported in the United States, is viewed by many in Europe "as a stick in the eye to the Russians," Biden agreed. A decision on further expansion must be made at an Alliance summit in 2002.
NATO in 1999 voted to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in its membership, but Russia strongly opposes any further eastward expansion, viewing it as a security threat.
Russia, joined by much of Europe, also opposes the Bush administration plan for a national missile defense system, while the United States has expressed concern about the European Union's decision to form a rapid reaction corps, called the European Security and Defense Policy.
U.S. officials have welcomed the ESDP as a means to better share the security burden in Europe, particularly in areas where the United States does not want to become involved. But if the command-and-control of NATO and the European force are different, "we've got a problem," Smith said.
He warned of "a whole world of new insecurities when NATO's role diminishes."
Separately on Tuesday, Paul Wolfowitz, Bush's nominee to be deputy secretary of defense, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "we have lost a lot of ground" in Iraq since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. He said the administration is reviewing its policy toward Iraqi sanctions.
The focus of sanctions must be preventing Saddam Hussein from developing and getting weapons of mass destruction and not hurting the Iraqi people, he said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who toured the Mideast over the weekend, said sanctions are "in a state of disarray" and should be changed to allow more exports of consumer goods while continuing to target Saddam's weapons program.
Asked by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., about previous statements in support of using U.S. troops to establish a free zone in Iraq for anti-Saddam resistance forces, Wolfowitz said while that might be worthwhile, "I don't see that option now." He said he had "never supported an American invasion to overthrow Saddam."
Tue, 05 Jun 2001 13:31:08 EDT
MEYER: In early 1998, seeing war coming in Kosovo, you urged Washington to intervene before the situation got out of hand. But you were told to back off by Gen. Joe Ralston of the Joint Chiefs: "We've got a lot on our plates back here." Are you feeling a bit of deja vu?
CLARK: It's worse. We're seeing the same institutional infighting as in the past, with the Pentagon pushing its own interests and no clear vision of where it is going in terms of U.S. leadership in the world.
MEYER: How so, exactly?
CLARK: The cold war is over. But we haven't come to terms with this. We hear a lot of talk of preparing for the "next threat," whether that's rogue missiles or new enemies. The cold war is over. But we haven't come to terms with this. Our new world is not dominated by one hostile ideology that seeks, as Khrushchev put it, to "bury us." It's about democracy, individuality, choice. Our new challenges involve cooperation more than confrontation. The strategic problem the U.S. faces is how to help its friends, strengthen its allies, reinforce those who share its values. We haven't thought this through, articulated our goals. Our policies will therefore be haphazard and episodic.
MEYER: What's the main challenge, as you see it?
CLARK: Europe. The rivalry between the United States and the European Union is worse than during Kosovo. Yes, our allies in Latin America and Asia are important. But I look first to Europe. It's our natural base, with 400 to 500 million people, depending on how you define its borders, and a GDP as big as our own. We share a history and culture. Europe has two votes on the U.N. Security Council. Together with us, they're the force that can move and shape diplomacy to promote peace and progress in the world. We are a de facto member of Europe, and the Balkans is therefore a vital U.S. interest.
MEYER: Yet in Bosnia, Secretary Rumsfeld says "mission accomplished."
CLARK: The easy military tasks have been accomplished: the return of territory, separating the warring forces, patrolling flash points. But peace has not been achieved. Neither have the Dayton accords, in part because of pusillanimous ... that's too strong a word ... because of hesitant, excessively cautious international civilian leadership. It takes a combination of strong, forceful, determined civilian leadership and forward, active military engagement on the ground to ensure success. The military mission is not finished.
MEYER: What about Kosovo?
CLARK: Much of the violence is impelled by our failure to address the issue of "final status." In 1999, when the fighting began, we knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reintegrate Kosovo into Yugoslavia. Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall. Independence may or may not ultimately be the best solution for Kosovo, but it has to be an option. The West is going to have to sponsor a process by which that will be determined. It can't happen without active U.S. participation and possibly U.S. leadership.
MEYER: Why couldn't that be Europe's job?
CLARK: Because of the varying and often conflicting interests of many European nations, not only Yugoslavia's neighbors but also countries farther removed that might be dealing with their own separatist movements. They are going to need reassurance, shoring up, firm commitments of support on many different dimensions.
MEYER: Such as Macedonia?
CLARK: Yes. Macedonia needs urgent NATO assistance.
MEYER: Troops on the ground?
CLARK: Absolutely. It?s time to act.
MEYER: Any thoughts on next week's Europe summit?
CLARK: We need a new Atlantic Charter. Europeans have always questioned the real strength of America's commitment, but never so deeply. On our side, there's talk of "differing interests," worries about a separate European defense force. We need to tell Europe, in clear and certain terms, that the United States will be there to help meet any security challenge, whether it requires a company of U.S. Marines or three divisions and all our air assets, as in Kosovo. And we need assurance that Europe will always turn first to NATO.
MEYER: The talk may be more about missile defense ...
CLARK: Yes, but the important thing is a new charter. Then second-level discussions, like missile defense, will take their rightful place, to be decided in consultation with our allies.
General Clark contextualized U.S. involvement in the Balkans during the 90's in relation to events going on in other places, such as Iraq, North Korea, Rwanda and Haiti. He left a strong impression that juggling such a wide sphere of operations was too exhausting and confusing for successful U.S. diplomacy. While President Bush is regularly derided for his ignorance of geography and world affairs, Wesley Clark is an educated, dapper man; in his grey suit, with piercing eyes and silver hair, he looked more like a classical philologist than a war hero. Indeed, Clark graduated with honors from West Point and studied PPE as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Unfortunately, these achievements made his humorous anecdotes of American ignorance all the more disconcerting. At one point he spoke of being briefed by an advisor on the situation in Europe in the middle of the 90's:
"Well, sir (said the advisor), there's the European Union- and then there's the Western European Union. And there's NATO somewhere in there, but not all the members of the European Union are in the Western European Union- and then there's the OSCE... and they went on through three or four more alphabet soups. And I said, 'I don't understand this'- and they said, 'don't worry, no one else does either."
From Clark's speech, one got the feeling that the American Empire was somewhat less formidable and well-oiled than it is usually represented as being. But although he could spare a few laughs at his own expense, the general was very clear about his view of NATO and America's role in it. He illustrated this with reference to America's role in Bosnia.
"By Spring of '95," stated Clark, "the UN mission in Bosnia was clearly in trouble. America prepared to put in 25,000 troops to help our allies... we went to Europe, we sold our allies on American leadership." Clark defended American dominance of NATO, saying, "The U.S. created NATO-(and so) it earns the right to put in the commander."
Kosovo, according to General Clark, was the litmus test that justified NATO's existence. "It was an enormous success for NATO - we staked NATO's future on this campaign." This was an optimistic verdict indeed given the amount of criticism NATO has come under since the first days of the conflict for allegedly mismanaging the situation; most recently the organization (and especially its American contingents) have been faulted for allowing NLA weapons and soldiers to pass easily from Kosovo to Macedonia. Critics have pointed to the NLA as a prime example of NATO's inability or disinclination to stop Albanian extremism. However, General Clark maintained that the U.S. had no way of knowing in 1999 that the Kosovo Liberation Army would not happily disarm but rather maintain its activities, and eventually reassert itself in Macedonia, as many observers had long feared.
"It's all a matter of relative risk," Clark said. "There was always a fear among some of our European allies that Albanian nationalism would take over."
The U.S., apparently, did not share this fear, and is somewhat surprised now that the Albanians they 'saved' are proving so intractable. In a significant statement of his position, Clark dismissed speculations that the NLA was fighting to carve out a 'Greater Albania' from northwestern portions of Macedonia, claiming instead that "the Albanians in Macedonia, some of them feel politically discriminated against," and that the Macedonian government was not in fact being asked to make 'too many concessions' to Albanian negotiators.
Clark also refuted another common charge, that the NLA is really controlled by Albanian mafiosos. "The mafia's not ethnic," he said. "Criminals come from all ethnic groups."
But he was more coy about whether the CIA had, as has been widely reported, trained the KLA in 1998-99 at top-secret bases in Northern Albania.
"I don't know about the CIA," he demurred. "US and the CIA weren't very well coordinated."
The general was very clear on another, related topic, however - that of recent NLA threats to open a new theatre of war in Greece's northwestern region of Epiros. There is 'no way' that NATO would permit any aggression against fellow member Greece, Clark emphatically stated.
"Thus far we've been able to control the conflict. We're trying to restrain the Macedonians, and we're trying to keep the Albanians on the side of the Macedonian government, the only portion of the former Yugoslavia to have established democracy," said Clark. "What a tragedy if these talks were to fail, and the Albanian and Slav populations were to begin an active shooting campaign... more fundamental than that, (the potential) billions of dollars of property damage, the destabilizing of neighboring countries- NATO is prepared to go in- and I salute that."
Clark's conclusion was somewhat ominous.
"If negotiations don't succeed, we don't know what will happen next - we (may) have to put troops in to prevent a fifth war in the Balkans. I think we're going to see the conflict either come to a head or be resolved in the next few days."
No doubt General Clark hopes the conflict will be speedily and amicably resolved, not only for the sake of the Albanians and Macedonians, but because his own legacy is in part dependent on the outcome of what may be the final chapter in the sad tale of Yugoslavia.
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