Americans can sleep easier after months of jitters over the decisive issue in U.S. foreign policy. We’ve all been on edge for weeks, but it’s time to take a deep breath and relax; a bright new era has dawned. So when you tuck the kids in tonight, rest assured their future is secure. It’s official—Croatia and Albania have joined NATO.
Now that Zagreb and Tirana have integrated into the august institution that is the North Atlantic alliance, we can take stock of the benefits their membership brings. As of April 1, the U.S. enjoys the express obligation to enter into war with a party that would attack either country, as stated by Article V of the Washington Treaty. The Pentagon will also have the opportunity to allocate further millions (if not more) to ensure that Albania remains an arsenal of democracy.
Policymakers in Washington know a geopolitical bonus when they see it. But what capabilities do the Croats and Albanians bring to the perpetually expanding 28-seat table of the Euro-Atlantic community? Both nations have deployed military contingents to Afghanistan, respectively numbering around 300 and 135 troops. It would be uncharitable to denigrate these contributions; both countries are small and strapped for resources. Besides, their governments care little about the wisdom of stabilizing Afghanistan, while getting into NATO has clearly been a priority. The route from the Adriatic coast to the North Atlantic just happened to lie through Kabul.
For the Croats and Albanians, this is just step one of two; NATO membership is seen as a sure way into the European Union. The process is by now a predictable mechanism. The two Balkan nations are treading a path that countries from Estonia to Bulgaria have already taken into the EU. It is understandable that states on the wrong side of the old iron curtain would want to take part in the subsidies and economic possibilities that EU membership offers. These opportunities, however, come at a price. Brussels expects the imposition of its bureaucratic regulations and secular liberal ideology with the aim of slowly grinding ancestral faith and cultural identity into dust.
While it is easy to see why various governments in Eastern Europe would want entrée into NATO, it takes a feat of imagination to articulate a U.S. strategic rationale for their accession. Spokesmen at Foggy Bottom will wax poetic with tributes to common democratic values, “human rights,” and regional stability, speaking in the spirit that animates Western governing elites. There has long been an absence of national interest in NATO expansion; rather the process has concerned the expansion of an ideology and its pretenses to universal dominion.
The case of Albania’s accession into the North Atlantic alliance is a helpful illustration of liberal internationalism at work. The country had already been used as a logistical base in 1999 for Operation Allied Force, NATO’s “humanitarian” bombing of Serbia. That campaign resulted in the occupation of Kosovo and the Kosovar Albanians’ declaration of independence under U.S. aegis in 2008. As a poster child for the Western ruling classes’ promotion of Islam in Europe, Tirana will be used to cement Kosovo’s status and continue an anti-Serb policy in the Balkans. Albania’s NATO membership will also reinforce the nation as a platform for Turkish influence in southeastern Europe and strengthen organized crime networks across the continent.
NATO entrenchment in the Balkans, facilitated by American intervention, must be viewed in the context of Washington’s intentions in the former Soviet Union. Broad consensus among U.S. policymakers exists for the eventual spread of “Euro-Atlantic norms” to states such as Ukraine and Georgia, using the tried-and-tested playbook of “institution building,” engineered uprisings, and possible intervention. At this point, however, NATO expansion is no longer a matter of little strategic import and becomes a very dangerous affair. On the basis of claims to the universal legitimacy of its values, the U.S. is seeking to expand its alliance deep into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. No surer recipe for conflict between the Kremlin and the West could be found.
Because U.S. policy elites conceive the triumph of liberal ideology as universal and inevitable, they cannot tolerate impediments to its realization, and Russia presents a major roadblock. Competition for energy corridors and the insatiable US desire for new avenues of power projection on the Russian periphery are only aspects of a greater struggle. How can Washington fulfill its revolutionary mission of global democratic capitalism with surly retrograde tsarists, clinging to antiquated notions of sovereignty and the balance of power, standing in its way? If the U.S. cannot successfully enforce “openness” across the Eurasian landmass, then its entire system of hegemony will be called into question.
After the collapse of Soviet power, NATO ceased to be an organization with finite objectives and transformed into the coercive instrument of a global enterprise that recognizes no higher logic than itself. Expansion, in the words of its public relations manager, has been elevated to “a principle which allies hold dear.” NATO has become the postmodern alliance—theoretically unlimited in scope and denying the essences of faith, culture, and nation to pave the way for the primacy of finance and the morally autonomous consumer. It is fitting that this latest round of enlargement was certified on the first of April, if only to commemorate the foolishness that reigns in Washington and Brussels.
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