PRESIDENT BUSH AND NATO
Last update 7 Jan. 2001
Bush takes unwise step away from peacekeeping
Europeans Say Bush's Pledge to Pull Out of Balkans Could Split NATO
Bush Camp Tells NATO: No Unilateral U.S. Pullout
NATO continues to serve its members' interests
Retired General Talks Politics
Briefing of the week: Bosnia
But during the weekend, the Bush campaign refined its position in a way that's likely to win votes while weakening the United States' leadership role in Europe.
In a proposal that plays into the public's ambivalence, George W. Bush's senior national security aide, Condoleezza Rice, suggested that a Bush administration would tell NATO that Europeans should take over peacekeeping in the Balkans. The U.S. would focus instead on potential trouble spots where it alone can act, she said, such as the Persian Gulf and the Taiwan Straits.
Her remarks were an effort to flesh out Bush's repeated theme that U.S. forces should focus on the ability to fight wars, not what he derides as ''nation building.'' It's appealing logic to a country that has never been enthusiastic about long-term foreign commitments. But it is rooted in the dubious assumption that the United States can effectively lead NATO, the West's primary defense alliance, without being a full player.
Both the recent history of the Balkans and the longer-term history of Europe say that is shortsighted.
The tragedy of post-Cold War Europe in the '90s was that our allies were unable to deal with chaos, ''ethnic cleansing'' and the serious threat of an expanding war on their doorstep until the United States belatedly got involved. In both Bosnia and Kosovo, European governments squabbled among themselves until the United States finally agreed to share some of the risk on the ground. The ethnic cleansing was curtailed without a single U.S. casualty.
|SACEUR Wesley K. Clark in Bosnia, Apr 26, 2000|
Today, Americans comprise less than 20% of the Bosnia-Kosovo peacekeeping force, a contribution former NATO commander Wesley Clark calls the bare minimum if the United States wants to have any influence on NATO actions there. If the United States were to pull out, the record suggests it would be naïve to expect Europe to respond meaningfully to the next Bosnia or Kosovo.
The deeper risk extends beyond the Balkans to the overall U.S. role in NATO. Since NATO's formation in the wake of World War II, it has served to quiet the continent's longstanding rivalries. Weakening U.S. leadership would set off a counterproductive race to fill the gap, with unfavorable consequences for U.S. interests.
A core part of the Bush argument is that the armed forces are too stretched to manage peacekeeping and prepare for war effectively. But the U.S. deployment to the Balkans is less than 10% of our military in Europe, and the cost is scarcely 1% of the Pentagon budget. Whatever shortcomings there may be in defense readiness or troop morale, blaming them on Balkan peacekeeping defies logic.
Vice President Gore, who played a central role in the Clinton administration's policy in the Balkans, accused Bush of a ''lack of judgment and a complete misunderstanding of history.''
Expecting Europe to act decisively on its own or to accept U.S. leadership without at least token U.S. involvement in the field is sadly unrealistic.
|The New York Times|
These officials said the proposal, as expressed in the Republican platform, enunciated by Mr. Bush during a presidential debate and elaborated upon by Mr. Bush's foreign-policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with The New York Times, could divide the NATO alliance, undermine the current European effort to increase its military capacity and question the postwar rationale for NATO's existence, which has revolved around the Balkans.
Mr. Bush's idea comes at a time when Kosovo, which is run by the United Nations but patrolled by NATO-led troops, is facing a difficult and even explosive period with the fall from power of the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. Kosovo Albanians' desires for independence seem farther away than before, and yet they trust Washington and American troops more than the Europeans, whom they see as pro-Serb.
Ms. Rice dug new ground with the idea that the American military should be reserved for war-fighting, in the Persian Gulf or the Pacific, while the weaker European forces should concentrate on peacekeeping at home.
"Dividing NATO into 'real soldiers' and 'escorts' who walk children to school is the first way to divide the alliance itself," said a senior NATO-country official. "President Bush decided he liked allies fighting alongside the Americans in the gulf war — the American people certainly did."
When questioned, no NATO government — including the British, French and Italians — would provide any official reaction, given the prominence Ms. Rice's comments have been given in the endgame of the American presidential campaign. The Democratic candidate, Al Gore, supported by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, moved quickly to use the Rice comments to try to cast doubt on the fitness of Mr. Bush to be president.
Any wariness by the allied governments was enhanced by the strong suspicion — expressed for example by Lord Roper, the British defense analyst and Liberal Democratic peer — that Ms. Rice intended her comments politically, to underline the usual Republican charge that, as he put it, "the Democrats get Americans involved in long wars."
Still, the Bush-Rice proposal is not new, but an extension of a doctrine put forth by Gen. Colin L. Powell under the last Republican president, Mr. Bush's father. General Powell's belief was that American troops would essentially be reserved for a real crisis where overwhelming force could be brought to bear, to ensure victory and limit casualties.
Ms. Rice also made it clear that any American move would be made after consultations with European allies, which means, the officials said, that an American pullout from the Balkans would be highly unlikely and certainly not soon.
Lord Robertson, the NATO secretary general, has regularly told visiting American congressmen that the Bush proposal could undermine the whole idea of "risk sharing, which is precisely the glue that holds the alliance together," one NATO official said. "That's where we went wrong in Bosnia, and having corrected that error, it would be tragic to go back."
Nearly all of those interviewed made the same point. In 1992-95 in Bosnia, European forces were on the ground under United Nations auspices, while Washington kept out and kept NATO out, while undermining European proposals for a solution. "Different perspectives — being on the ground and not — led to different policy perceptions," one official said. "The problem in Bosnia was NATO's absence, not its presence."
When President Clinton finally committed American forces to Bosnia and NATO bombed the Serbs there, a peace deal was rapidly signed at Dayton.
A further problem, the official said, is the bipartisan American insistence on controlling NATO policy. "If you're not going to be on the ground, you can't expect to have your policy preferences prevail," he said.
Lord Roper said: "You can't not be present and want to call all the shots. Then we really are back to Bosnia in 1992-95. And the Europeans — and not just the French — will say that this idea of the Americans doing all the tough work and the Europeans mopping up afterwards is just another recipe for hegemony."
The officials and analysts said that another complicated issue is the role of Russia in the Balkans. The Russians have participated in peacekeeping in both Bosnia and Kosovo under the aegis of the Americans, in order not to be taking orders directly from a NATO general. If the Americans leave, who manages the Russians? "Washington will hardly want the NATO relationship with Moscow managed by anybody else," a senior NATO diplomat said.
Another common point expressed was NATO's own reason for existing after the cold war. The Balkans gave NATO a role, to defeat aggression and stabilize southern Europe; if the Americans pull out, what use is NATO?
The bombing war in Kosovo highlighted the gaps in European military capacity, and the Europeans have since moved to fill them with the European strategic defense project, which envisages a European force of up to 60,000 troops ready to move quickly into a Kosovo-like crisis. The project is also intended to improve European capacity for troop transport, electronic warfare, jamming, surveillance and smart- bombing — just the kind of "high end" warfare Ms. Rice suggests the United States should handle alone.
Washington was initially wary about the Europeans wanting to create a counterpoint to NATO without the Americans. American officials continue to stress in speeches that the European project is intended for crisis management "where NATO as a whole is not engaged," but after alliance-wide consultation and consensus. French officials, too, emphasize that the European force would be used as an option after a NATO consensus, in areas where Washington does not want to be involved on the ground.
In this sense, there is an opening for the Bush desire to hand over peace maintenance duties to the Europeans. Already, in Bosnia and Kosovo, American troops are no more than 20 percent of the total, and under 15 percent in Kosovo alone. American aid represents no more than 20 percent of what is being provided in Bosnia and Kosovo.
But European officials say that a small presence is different from no presence at all. And if the Americans do not want to use the 82nd Airborne to escort children to school, as Ms. Rice said, then surely, they pointed out, the Pentagon can train some peacekeepers, too.
Both Europeans and Americans will eventually withdraw from Kosovo, Mr. Simic said. "But Washington has to take responsibility first. If America took up the Kosovo brief, if it bombed in Yugoslavia, killing people in the pursuit of its goals and values, then the least America can do is not abandon the region before it can leave behind a stable structure, and some sense of security and well- being for the people of the region. I'd like to believe that the Europeans can do that on their own," he said. "But I know they cannot."
Some officials interviewed argued that the risks in Bosnia now are so low that American troops could leave without any real problems, but that Kosovo is another matter entirely, given Albanian sensitivities.
But Lord Roper believes that it is Bosnia where Americans must remain, because the troops are there to enforce an American-negotiated peace.
One NATO-country diplomat said that the Bush argument for a better division of labor is a strong one, pointing to the Australian peacekeepers in East Timor, for example. "But it is simply not realistic in the Balkans. The Americans have national interests in Europe and they play a deterrent role that is irreplaceable. NATO is not in Kosovo for the Kosovars, but for ourselves."
|e x c i t e||http://news.excite.com|
|Updated 12:16 PM ET October 31, 2000|
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidate George W. Bush has assured NATO he would not unilaterally pull American troops out of peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said Tuesday.
He said he had been "contacted by the senior representatives of G. W. Bush's campaign to make it clear that there will be no unilateral action taken in relation to peacekeeping forces by a President Bush administration, if that is the choice."
The assurance to NATO by the Republican candidate's campaign representatives follows a torrent of negative comment on remarks by Bush's senior foreign policy aide, Condoleezza Rice, that Balkans peacekeeping should be left to European forces.
European analysts said such a policy would flout NATO's sacrosanct code of "shared risk" and drive a wedge into the alliance which would probably kill it off over time.
Robertson's statement, at a news conference in Budapest, was the first word of contacts between the Bush camp and the NATO chief about the resulting controversy.
Asked who contacted whom, a NATO source told Reuters: "The call came to us. But we were also seeking clarification at the same time it was offered to us."
The source said the Bush camp seemed "unhappy about the way the story took off."
Bush representatives had assured Robertson there would be "nothing unilateral, nothing precipitate," the NATO source said. "They reaffirmed the Bush commitment to NATO."
"There has certainly been a lot of, if not pulling back, then, clarification going on," a NATO diplomat commented.
LAY ISSUE TO REST
The NATO source said Bush's reassurances would lay the issue to rest at least until presidential inauguration time -- if Bush wins on November 7. "There would be time to talk everything over then," he said.
Robertson said Bush himself had not said anything about a unilateral U.S. pullout from the Balkans, but comments by people around the Republican candidate might have led others to believe that was the intention.
"I am not taking sides in this election campaign...but I am concerned that no ally would want to unilaterally pull out of what is a common mission in Bosnia and Kosovo," he said.
Robertson has taken great pains to make clear that he, as alliance secretary-general, has no preferences in the American presidential election race, and that he has received assurances of an abiding commitment to NATO also from the camp of Democratic candidate Al Gore.
Gore also pledged no unilateral action.
The Bush camp's apparent desire to withdraw American troops from the Balkans appeared all the more puzzling to European analysts because the candidate himself was instrumental in dissuading the Republican-dominated Congress from voting for such a move.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Hamilton, Brussels.
|North Atlantic Treaty Organization|
BRUSSELS: Withdrawing US forces from Europe to enable the Washington to carry out a world strategy in which NATO would be only one part would undermine the philosophic basis of an alliance of shared risks and costs.
Without the threat which called NATO into existence, lack of clarity about its present purpose is understandable. Yet the need to combat instability that leads to widespread bloodshed was made clear in the recent past.
Reaching out to the less developed European nations, those formerly under Soviet domination, is not only in Europe's interest. It furthers the proclaimed aim of the US to promote humane values and build modern economies by introducing democratic governance.
One of the means to achieve this is to maintain a force capable of acting in a variety of tasks from humanitarian rescue operations to peacekeeping and, eventually, peace enforcement. For such tasks, disciplined military forces capable of rapid deployment with adequate equipment and supplies, are the best means.
NATO has such forces. Europe is building up its own forces for independent action if required, but major physical assets to enable them to function are NATO-owned and would be expensive and wasteful to duplicate.
A widespread assumption appears to exist in the US that it is providing most of the manpower and funds for such purposes, and that Europe is getting a free ride. In fact, the US now deploys about 11,400 troops in the Balkans out of a NATO total of some 65,000, and carries less than one-third of the overall common financial costs.
US forces deployed in NATO-Europe have shrunk from a peak of more than 300,000 at the height of the Cold War to about 100,000 at present. Not only are these forces available for NATO operations. They are a symbol of US commitment to the alliance. No rule exists about the quantity necessary to fulfil this role, but with further decrease would come a loss of influence and power.
|Supreme Headquarters Allied Power Europe|
It seems necessary to point out that NATO is not a US organization but a voluntary association of 19 sovereign nations, treaty-bound for mutual defence.
NATO's military headquarters is not a US headquarters. The commander is indeed traditionally a US general, but his deputy is British, the chief of staff is German and the other staff posts are distributed proportionately among the nations participating in NATO's military structure.
One US advantage is often overlooked. US forces in NATO- Europe are simultaneously the US national power element for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The NATO commander has a dual function; he is also the US commander-in-chief for Europe.
|United States European Command|
The national chain of command runs through the NATO network, with lower-level US commanders responsible for their national elements and available for national tasks. It is from their NATO bases that US forces intervened in Lebanon and in the Gulf War, as well as in Bosnia more recently.
In the half-century of NATO's common military structure, the military forces of its member countries have aligned their procedures and equipments to enable them to cooperate together. In Europe, the headquarters with its communications and intelligence capability, and its combat support and logistical elements, is in place.
This gives the members the ability to engage together in common endeavours with the minimum of preparation and the maximum of effectiveness. The members obtain more security for less expenditure in personnel and equipment.
This equation also applies to the US, as its future leaders should know. -Dawn/The International Herald Tribune News Service.
|The Washington Post|
Retired General Talks Politics Without naming names,
Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied commander, made it clear recently that Republican George W. Bush's attempts to blame the Clinton-Gore administration for poor conditions in the military are unfounded. "The armed forces don't belong to any political party,"
Clark said during a lively, wide-ranging speech at the National Military Family Association's annual awards luncheon Nov. 16 at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington. During the presidential campaign, Bush was sharply critical of defense cuts implemented by the Clinton administration, despite the fact that many of those cuts were initiated during the term of his father, President George Bush, after the Cold War ended. "It was a bipartisan decision to take a peace dividend," observed
Clark, who retired earlier this year from the Army after directing the Kosovo campaign in 1999. ...
Retired General Talks Politics
Without naming names, Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied commander, made it clear recently that Republican George W. Bush's attempts to blame the Clinton-Gore administration for poor conditions in the military are unfounded.
"The armed forces don't belong to any political party," Clark said during a lively, wide-ranging speech at the National Military Family Association's annual awards luncheon Nov. 16 at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington.
During the presidential campaign, Bush was sharply critical of defense cuts implemented by the Clinton administration, despite the fact that many of those cuts were initiated during the term of his father, President George Bush, after the Cold War ended. "It was a bipartisan decision to take a peace dividend," observed Clark, who retired earlier this year from the Army after directing the Kosovo campaign in 1999.
It is the campaign promise that keeps rearing its uncomfortable head: George W. Bush vowed to review all military deployments with an eye on bringing overtaxed U.S. troops back home, with Bosnia and Kosovo the most likely place for cuts.
This created tremors in Europe, made worse when Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice told the New York Times just a few weeks before the election that the United States would pull out of peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, freeing up the military for potentially "hot" conflicts in the Persian Gulf and Taiwan Strait.
"The United States is the only power that can handle a showdown in the Gulf, mount the kind of force that is needed to protect Saudi Arabia and deter a crisis in the Taiwan Straits. And extended peacekeeping detracts from our readiness and these kinds of global missions," Rice told the newspaper in October.
SACEUR Wesley K. Clark at SFOR change of command, Oct 18, 1999