Wednesday 20 August 2008

NATO: deaf, mute, and blind

by Peter Lavelle

Did the NATO presser on the South Ossetian crisis presented by the alliance’s head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer make any sense to you? I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. It was an appalling exercise in doublethink and confusion.

Scheffer started out by saying: “it’s not business as usual with Russia.” That is the only thing he said that reflects reality. NATO’s “business as usual” is to ignore Russia’s legitimate security interests – particularly when it comes to expansion eastwards. The rest of his less-than-media-slick presentation demonstrated that NATO is simply at a loss – completely disconnected with how the world has changed after its favourite Georgian son fully de-legitimised NATO’s mantras of “spreading democracy” and “projecting peace.”

How is NATO deaf?

De Hoop Scheffer’s not-ready-for-prime-time show glaringly tells us that he and the alliance he heads will not listen to criticism or respect the security interests of others. When asked to justify the alliance’s existence almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, he was defiant and basically speechless. When asked about Georgia’s culpability for starting the war against South Ossetia, he was silent. He simply refused to answer a journalist’s question - “business as usual.”

How is NATO mute?

De Hoop Scheffer refuses to comprehend that Russia is adhering to its commitment to the ceasefire plan in a way that any actor in a complex conflict zone must always face. Yes, it is far easier to enter a conflict zone than to leave it. A military alliance should understand this. But then again, NATO is only really interested in promoting very specific geopolitical interests that ignore the security of others like Russia. Indeed, “business as usual.”

NATO has shown zero responsibility when it comes to security in the south Caucasus. Even after Saakashvili’s recklessness, Tbilisi is still welcomed into the alliance. If this isn’t the death of outrage, I don’t know what is. Georgia is neither peaceful nor democratic. But that doesn’t matter. NATO has a two-decade long tradition of saying one thing and doing another - “business as usual.”

How is NATO blind?

NATO is an organisation that demands to exist for existence sake. The alliance needs a ten-step self-help programme to wean itself off bad habits. It cannot see how the world has changed. The Cold War is long over. It would seem that the alliance likes living in the past. But alas, it needs an enemy to keep those generous paychecks coming. Russia is not NATO’s enemy. But NATO’s behaviour tells us the opposite.

Even Helen Keller could sense that NATO is going down the wrong path. NATO and Russia face a multitude of global security threats. Why should one madman in Tbilisi derail all of this?

I suppose it is "Business as usual.”

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