HAMBURG: The Balkan War, now in its fourth winter, has had many victims: hundreds of thousands of dead, millions of refugees, millions of human beings dehumanized, as well as the credibility of all the organizations created to prevent conflict in Europe: the European Union, the CSCE, the UN and now NATO. Ironically, it also put the question of NATO’s Eastward extension back on the agenda.
It is an irony because the Western Alliance finds itself in deep crisis as a result of its failure to employ its still enormous military might to further a Balkan settlement. After all, when the walls had come down all over Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990 this Alliance of Western Europe and North America had seemed victorious and, when the Soviet Union fell apart a year later, could proudly claim to be the only functioning multilateral security organization on the continent. But when the Balkan War presented the first test for proving the claim, NATO showed all the determination and muscle of a paper tiger. While the old Soviet threat had united its sixteen members, the new threats, it turned out, divided them. Today the best hope of the Western powers for an end to the conflict lies in the man who started it all: Serbia’s President Milocevic who is being urged to increase the pressure in the Bosnian Serbs tp accept the Contract Group’s plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina.
There are those who argue that Bosnia is a special case. NATO, US Secretary of State Warren Christopher likes to say, is more important than Bosnia. But this is wishful thinking, What we are seeing on the Balkans has all the elements of future conflicts in Europe: a war not between states but within them; a conflict that does not immediately threaten NATO states but undermines stability on their periphery and thus weakens their security as well as their cohesion; a frightening precedent for the successful use of military force to gain territory and expell populations. Bosnia is no special case. It is what insecurity in Europe outside of NATO will be about, and the Western Alliance has just demonstrated its irrelevance to that problem.
So why then should a weakened security pact now be a likelier candidate for enlargement? For two reasons, one in the East, the other in the west.