NEWS

Not just an American problem

Who is NATO’s main enemy at the beginning of the 21st century? I think the major enemy is instability and irrationality. We live in a dangerous world now, with terrorism, the problem of failed states, of ethnic conflicts. All of that has created an environment where the idea of an enemy as another state, in many ways, is diminished, whereas the threats are multiplying and we have got to be ready to meet them. How could a military structure like NATO, which is oriented toward a general war, be useful in this kind of war? Well, NATO adapted after the Cold War very quickly. It reached out to the new democracies in Central and Western Europe to help them with their transition, especially oversized militaries. NATO was there when the Balkans exploded. It was NATO that was called on to stop the fighting in Bosnia and to intervene in Kosovo and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the year before last. So NATO was there to do that and had adapted to do that. Although there are some people who say that NATO was acting as the world’s conscience at that time, it was also acting to protect the interests of the countries in the region. I shudder to think what would have been the consequences for Greece and Bulgaria and Romania if the ethnic cleansing had gone on and the bloodshed increased. You can imagine where the refugees would have gone in vast numbers. We were protecting our values but our interests as well. Now as we enter the 21st century, this so-called Cold War alliance has adapted yet again to deal with terrorism, failed states and threats that come from a long way away. Do you believe that there is more antagonism than cooperation between NATO and the EU. What can you do to change that? I don’t accept it for a moment. We cooperate regularly with (EU foreign policy chief Javier) Solana as representatives of two of the biggest security organizations in the world. Do Europeans see terrorism as a real problem for them or do they think it’s an American problem? The Europeans know terrorism and therefore, they recognize the horror involved in New York and Washington. Greece and my country have personal experience of terrorism. But even the countries that have known terrorism – Italy, Germany, Greece – had seen nothing on the scale of what happened on September 11. I think there was a dawning awareness that it was an attack on civilization as a whole and that the target could have been as easily Athens or Rome or Madrid as it was New York. Therefore, we had to do something about it in order to make sure that it didn’t happen next time in Europe. Let’s now go to Iraq. In the case of a military operation in Iraq, what role would NATO undertake? The heads of state and government were very firm in their support for the United Nations process for Resolution 1441 and for the demand that Saddam Hussein abide by the UN’s instructions that he disarm completely and verifiably. So we are committed at the highest level in the alliance to giving the UN effective support in this connection. Therefore, we are looking now at how we can best discharge that – inspections are still going on but (chief arms inspector Hans) Blix said this morning on international radio that the buildup of troops in the area was actually helping his inspections, because it put added pressure on the Iraqis. It is not actually clear what he has in mind. He didn’t say that he had found anything important. Not yet, but the inspections have just started. He only had his full team of inspectors last week, Iraq is a country the size of France. But war is very close. Will he have time? There is no war. There is no presumption of war. The Americans are putting military in place, as are the British and others, in case they are required, and we have learned in the past that Saddam only complies with international law if he knows there is a price to be paid if he doesn’t. That is part of the equation going on. Some suggestions have been made by the the US deputy secretary of defense as to how NATO can help, especially with the defense of Turkey (…) and in due course the NATO Council will task the military authorities to look at these options, even though decisions on whatever comes back from the military will obviously wait until the end of the UN inspections. And if Turkey asks for the implementation of Article 5, what will NATO do? Any ally can ask for Article 5 or Article 4, which is the part of the NATO treaty which talks about nations coming for consultations in the case of a threat or attack. So that could be for some of the nations to invoke here as well. I don’t work in the context – if a nation is attacked, then it comes to the Council and the Council decides if Article 5 will be invoked. But clearly Turkey is a very close neighbor of Iraq and I know there is complete solidarity within the alliance with Turkey if there is to be any trouble as a consequence of the effort to get compliance. Even in the major conservative Europeans newspapers, we read that the real reason for the war is oil and not terrorism or weapons and that the main victim will be the autonomy of the European Union. I don’t think it has to do with oil at all. It has to do with weapons of mass destruction. What we learned on September 11 is that there are people who will – desperately enough, fanatically enough – use mass murder as a political tool. What they did would be absolutely nothing compared to terrorists or terrorist states who are going to use chemical and biological weapons. Perhaps they will wipe out millions of people. If you introduce smallpox into a football crowd or a busy airport, you could have 2 million casualties within a month. Why don’t they explain that to the public, who have their suspicions about that? Well, for some people in Europe, there is no doubt. Maybe there’s just a reluctance to get engaged in violence but, in the past, this has happened. The First World War happened and not many countries were willing to prepare for it. The Second World War happened and people were not willing to do it. I was recently reading about people who wanted to keep the USA out of WWII, despite what the Nazis were doing right across Europe. There were very prominent people in the USA who said they had nothing to do with that and eventually they were dragged into it because of Pearl Harbor. So there are some people who would prefer to keep their eyes shut. But my job and the job of those who know and who have seen these weapons and who have read about these weapons is to warn people that there is a dangerous and a horrifying new world is out there, unless we are firm enough and tough enough about these weapons.