Author: Viktor Milinkovich
The enlargement policy agenda of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) has progressed significantly over a period of two decades and has arrived at a point of near complete realization of its principal objectives. The core aim and intent of the enlargement agenda is to incorporate the entire region of Eastern Europe into the command and control structure of the military alliance. An elaboration is provided in the NATO Strategic Concept document of 2010, whereby the following declaration enunciates, “our goal of a Europe whole and free, and sharing common values, would be best served by the eventual integration of all European countries that so desire into Euro-Atlantic structures.” NATO has strategically encapsulated its core geospatial command area, and therefore a successful conclusion of the enlargement process is a matter of the highest priority. It is particularly critical, as the document states, to “facilitate the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans,” a region which holds the access key to the entire expanse of Southeastern Europe.
NATO Expansion and Consolidation
Southeastern Europe and the Balkan Peninsula are an essential component of this framework owing to their geopolitical and geostrategic significance. The entire Balkan Peninsula practically serves as a forward operating platform from which military force projection capability can be readily launched in the direction of the Middle East, Northern Africa, the Black Sea region, Eastern Europe, as well as Western Europe. This would signify the consolidation of NATO military supremacy in the entire hemisphere surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, particularly the Eastern sector. For the establishment of NATO military pre-eminence in the entire region surrounding the Eastern Mediterranean and further afield, however, successful completing the enlargement process is a crucial necessity. The essence and spirit of this entire endeavor was articulated in a speech at the Royal Defense College in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2014 by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow. In reflection upon the post Cold War period, during which twelve Eastern European states had attained NATO membership status, Vershbow surmised, “they re-joined the family of Western nations from which they had been so tragically separated half a century before.” NATO is therefore tasked with affirming the position of the Western hemisphere, or North Atlantic axis, within the immediate environment that comprises the former sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.
The nature and essential character of NATO’s Eastward expansion enterprise is overtly militaristic, as was the case from its inception when the alliance engaged the Western Balkans region, or former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). The complications that NATO has encountered in the territory of the Western Balkans, or former Yugoslavia, have arisen directly as a consequence of the logic of its approach. The leading members of the NATO military alliance, consisting of the US, UK, France and Germany, formulated a strategy that would shape the enlargement policy agenda upon conclusion of the Cold War. The environment at that particular moment was one in which the hegemony of the Western hemisphere, or North Atlantic alliance, was undisputed throughout the world. The entire range of diverse human activities and interests, including politics, economics, science, culture, arts and military matters, were dominated by the leading states of the Western hemisphere. The function of NATO at the culmination of point of the Cold War, therefore, was to maintain this privileged position and in adopting this function, the military alliance automatically assumed a global role.
Security concerns in the immediate post-Cold War world came to be defined by the North Atlantic agenda, which had transformed its focus from bipolar superpower rivalry to the phenomena of international terrorism, organized crime and the manifestation of rogue states. The latter was merely a metaphor for those national states that practiced their sovereignty and therefore demonstrated the potential to act independently in international affairs and assume a regional leadership role. The ethos of this attitude was revealed in illustrative terms in 2014 by then Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski in a recorded commentary on the ‘Polish-American relationship,’ which he described as “downright harmful, because it creates a false sense of security,” according to a report in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper. Sikorski elaborated by comparing the Polish-American relationship metaphorically to that of a subordinate or a slave, going so far as to characterize Poland as having prostituted itself for the sake of servility to the US. The most serious point made by Sikorski however, concerned issues directly related to NATO Eastward expansion, whereby he accused the US of pressuring Poland towards an unnecessary and unwarranted conflict with Russia.
The invitation afforded to the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro to join the military alliance in December 2015 has been issued in this vein, in order to secure the remainder of Western Balkan territory.  The accession of Montenegro to alliance membership signifies the near consolidation of the former Yugoslavia, the Balkan Peninsula, and Southeastern Europe as a whole, under the metaphorical ‘NATO umbrella.’ The accession of all of the former Yugoslav republics to NATO alliance membership, including the remaining republics of Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, is essential for consolidation within Southeastern Europe. The obstacles that NATO faces in the completion of its designated task are considerable, however, due to the fact that NATO has chosen the path of conquest over cooperation and partnership, with regard to Eastward expansion.
NATO Militarism and Interventionism
NATO emerged from the Cold War as an instrument to be utilized to maintain the balance of forces in the world in favor of its leading members. NATO interventionism, as practiced in the former Yugoslavia, presents an early example of an approach that would later be applied to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Ukraine. This approach is predicated upon the logic of the use of overwhelming military force to effectively shape and reconfigure entire regions of the world in a manner conducive to the interests of the North Atlantic alliance. The crisis in the former Yugoslavia, which had been instigated by NATO’s leading members through the support of secessionist forces, was subsequently utilized by the military alliance to provide a rationale for its own existence and Eastward enlargement. NATO involvement and intervention in the former Yugoslavia had as its objective the dissolution and reconfiguration of the country. Yugoslavia’s dismemberment was subsequently executed in accordance with certain principles that have been revealed in the content of declassified CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) documents. The US intelligence service contended, according to analytical documentation titled Yugoslavia Transformed, dated 18 October 1990, that “Yugoslavia will cease to function as a federal state within one year, and will probably dissolve within two.” (1990-10-01) US intelligence analysis predicted a precise timeline along which Yugoslavia would, as the document states, ‘cease to function’ and ‘dissolve,’ suggesting the extent to which the US influenced the sequence of events. The US intelligence document depicts the secessionist aspirations of Slovenia and Croatia in positive terms, emphasizing their apparent democratic orientation and “westward looking” ethos. It is notable that the tone of the document clearly favors Croatian secessionist aspirations whilst distancing itself from Croatian nationalistic sentiment. In this manner, the US foreign policy establishment does not appear to endorse or support Croatian nationalist sentiment that had manifested in the form of a revival of the Second World War Nazi collaborationist and genocide intent Ustasha terrorist movement. This would have its parallels more than two decades later with US and NATO support for a revivalist Nazi collaborationist Banderite movement in Ukraine. It is instructive that brazen Nazi revivalism could be overlooked by Western democracies, but that in the case of Ukraine in 2014 alleged ‘pro-Russian separatism’ invoked hysteria and outrage. Similarly, in Croatia in 1991 it was the expressed aspirations of ethnic Serbian communities to remain within Yugoslavia that gained the epithet of ‘Serbian aggression’ and ‘Greater Serbian’ hegemony.
The Threat of a ‘Greater Serbia’
The US intelligence services, principally the CIA, clearly viewed the situation in these terms as the declassified material attests. This negative perception of the Serbian factor was emphasized in a documented dated January 1993, in which the CIA postulated the possible emergence of a “hostile ‘Greater Serbia’” from the ruins of Yugoslavia, which “will be a disruptive force in Europe” and by implication, an adversary of the US. (1993-27-01) The CIA proposed US, and therefore NATO, foreign policy objectives as “stopping further Serbian aggression” and “rolling back Serbian conquests to date.” How this manifested itself in reality was demonstrated in the Croatian military offensive Operation Storm conducted in August 1995 in the overwhelmingly Serbian inhabited Krajina region. Organized and supported by the US, NATO and the private military contracting company MPRI (Military Professional Resources Inc.), Operation Storm resulted in the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing throughout the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, or Third Balkan War. Fleeing from the Croatian military offensive, over 220,000 Serbian civilian inhabitants were forced out from their ancestral homeland over a period of four days. For the US and NATO, prevention of the emergence of an ethnically unified Serbian territory from the ruins of Yugoslavia superseded any humanitarian considerations or a factually based depiction of reality. The rationale for this position is provided in a further declassified document, whereby the CIA conveys that “our analysis suggests that a ‘Greater Serbia’ is likely to be a continual source of trouble in the Balkans well into this decade. The interagency FACTIONS exercise concludes that a ‘Greater Serbia’ will eschew the Danish model of a peaceful, cooperative, CSCE-abiding state and opt to follow Iraq’s hostile, expansionist example instead.” (1993-22-01) The US foreign policy establishment had evidently charged the CIA with the task of providing justification for a policy in the immediate post Cold War Western Balkans that had been formulated in advance. The application of the forecasting model ‘FACTIONS’ served to provide an alibi for the foreign policy formulation and decision making process by providing a veneer of abstraction and technical calculation. The FACTIONS tool, alongside its close relative, Policon, both ultimately conceived from more generic instruments such as Game Theory, produce results that are determined by the data utilized.
NATO’s Orientalist Inspired Eastward Expansion
The analytical exercises undertaken by the CIA obscured the most sensitive aspect of the entire operation: the ideological grounds for assuming an approach clearly conceived within an ‘Orientalist’ intellectual framework. The ‘Orientalist’ concept, as promulgated by the late scholar Edward W. Said, consists of a particularistic view of the Western hemisphere centered around a humanistic and progressive Europe as propagated by successive generations of the Western intelligentsia. The essence of ‘Orientalism,’ was defined by Edward W. Said as “a collective notion of identifying ‘us’ Europeans as against all ‘those’ non-Europeans,” culminating in “the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European peoples and cultures.” The application of the Orientalist perspective to the field of international relations was articulated by political scientist and government advisor Samuel P. Huntington in his noted thesis, The Clash of Civilizations. Huntington advanced a prospective schematic of future conflict in the world along the lines of distinctions between civilizations defined by their ethno-cultural and religious denomination. He perceived a very clear line of distinction between the Western and Eastern hemispheres of the world predicated upon the religious divide between Western and Eastern Christianity, and Islam. In the post-Cold War world, Huntington advanced the notion that “as the ideological division of Europe has disappeared, the cultural division of Europe between Western Christianity, on the one hand, and Orthodox Christianity and Islam on the other, has re-emerged.” Huntington’s perception explains the logic that underpinned the analysis conducted by the CIA regarding the former Yugoslavia, and the policy of the US and NATO. The Serbian people, as Orthodox Christians and ethno-linguistically Eastern Slavonic, are designated as belonging to the ‘oriental’ civilization sphere and therefore are considered to be a hostile element from the perspective of the Western sphere. Huntington provides an illustration of the precise location of the demarcation in the proclamation that “in the Balkans, this line of course, coincides with the historical boundary between the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires.”