Why is NATO at war with Yugoslavia? World power, oil and gold

                    Statement of the Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site
                    Since March 24, 1999, the military forces of NATO, led by the United
                    States, have been subjecting Yugoslavia to a devastating bombardment.
                    Flying more than 15,000 sorties, NATO has pummeled Yugoslav cities
                    and villages, hitting factories, hospitals, schools, bridges, fuel depots and
                    government buildings. Thousands have been killed and wounded,
                    including passengers on commuter trains and buses, and workers at
                    television broadcast and relay facilities. Civilian neighborhoods in both
                    Serbia and Kosovo have been hit.

                    Little is being said by those who planned and launched this war about its
                    long-term consequences for Yugoslavia, the entire Balkans and Eastern
                    Europe as a whole. Much of the industrial and social infrastructure
                    developed by Yugoslavia since the end of World War II lies in ruins. The
                    Danube River, a vital economic lifeline for much of Central Europe, is
                    impassable. In Serbia, the basic requirements of modern
                    civilization—electricity, water, sanitation—have been struck repeatedly.
                    As in Iraq, the full dimension of the havoc wreaked by American, British
                    and French bombs will only become clear when the war ends and
                    reports begin to seep out about abnormal mortality rates, especially
                    among the young.

                                       The claim of genocide

                    The assault on Yugoslavia has been justified by NATO and the media as
                    a humanitarian effort to halt repression of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
                    The heavy-handed and cynical character of the propaganda campaign
                    that has accompanied the bombing in its own way reflects the glaring
                    contradictions in NATO's defense of the war. The crude demonization of
                    Yugoslav President Milosevic, the wildly divergent claims of Serb
                    massacres and Kosovan Albanian deaths, the endless claims of
                    “genocide,” and the barrage of TV images of suffering refugees are
                    designed not so much to convince through the force of argument, as to
                    wear down, inure and intimidate the public. “Opposition to NATO
                    means support for the forced expulsion and mass murder of Albanians!”
                    the establishment politicians and media pundits declare.

                    In the mobilization of public opinion behind the bombing of Iraq, the
                    Clinton administration repeated endlessly the phrase, "weapons of mass
                    destruction.” Only by pounding Iraq day after day, the Clinton
                    administration declared, could the world be saved from Saddam
                    Hussein's invisible arsenal of deadly gases, germs and chemicals. In the
                    war against Yugoslavia, “weapons of mass destruction” has been
                    replaced with a more powerful and evocative mantra—that of “Ethnic
                    Cleansing.” The principal value of this phrase is that it conjures up the
                    image of Nazi Germany. The “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo, NATO
                    would have it, is the 1990s version of the Holocaust.

                    The comparison is so misleading and historically false as to be obscene.
                    The Holocaust consisted of the rounding up of millions of Jews
                    throughout all of Nazi-occupied and -controlled Europe and their
                    transportation to death camps that were essentially assembly lines of
                    mass murder.

                    Six million defenseless Jews were killed by the Nazis. This compares to
                    an estimated two thousand people who were killed in Kosovo last year.
                    (The recent claims that 250,000 Albanian men have been killed, it must
                    be added, are noxious fabrications, which have been contradicted by
                    first-hand observers from Western newspapers.)

                    Even if the total number killed in Kosovo were doubled, the loss of life
                    would still be smaller, even adjusting for differences in population, than in
                    many analogous conflicts around the world (for example, Sri Lanka or
                    Turkey). The comparison is not an argument for indifference to the
                    suffering taking place in Kosovo. It does, however, reveal the grossly
                    misleading character of the claims that have been used by NATO to
                    justify its full-scale bombardment of Yugoslavia.

                    A further point about the context of the violence in Kosovo must be
                    made. It commenced in 1998 with the outbreak of civil war between the
                    Albanian nationalist and separatist Kosovo Liberation Army and the
                    Yugoslav government, which sought to retain control of the province.

                    The International Committee of the Fourth International, the publisher of
                    the World Socialist Web Site, opposes all forms of national chauvinism.
                    We hold no brief for the reactionary nationalism of the Belgrade regime.
                    But it is a flagrant falsification of political reality to claim that the year of
                    sectarian violence that preceded NATO's offensive was the exclusive
                    handiwork of the Serbs. The KLA—financed with drug money and
                    enjoying the behind-the-scenes support of CIA advisers—carried out its
                    own campaign of terror against Serb civilians.

                    No small degree of hypocrisy is involved in NATO's pose as defender of
                    the ethnic Albanian minority from Serbian repression. Consider the
                    NATO member countries that have carried out even more extensive
                    campaigns of “ethnic cleansing.”

                    Two hundred thousand Serbs were expelled from Croatia in 1995 with
                    US support. (Croatia has since become a US ally and one of NATO's
                    “frontline states” in the war against Serbia). Over the past fifteen years,
                    more than one million Kurds have been driven from their villages in
                    Turkey, with the support of the US, including American military
                    hardware. Turkey, meanwhile, retains NATO membership and
                    participates in the bombing of Yugoslavia.

                    In the punishment inflicted on the Albanian population, Serbia trails far
                    behind the savageries inflicted by the French on Algeria or the United
                    States on Vietnam.

                    Had political conditions dictated, the US media could have presented the
                    Israeli suppression of the intifadah in 1987-91 or the massacres that
                    unfolded in Beirut in 1982 under the auspices of the Israeli state in no less
                    inflammatory terms than last year's events in Kosovo.

                    In evaluating the claim of “ethnic cleansing,” it should also be
                    remembered that the major world powers have, on more than one
                    occasion, cited ethnic conflicts as a justification for imperialist meddling,
                    setting the stage for disaster. Let us recall that one of the most horrific
                    episodes of the 20th century occurred in 1947 when Britain, citing
                    conflicts between Hindus and Moslems in India, arranged for the
                    establishment of the separate state of Pakistan. The violence that
                    followed the partition claimed one million lives and created twelve million

                    Likewise in Yugoslavia, imperialist intervention has had the objective
                    impact of escalating the scale of communal violence and increasing the
                    likelihood that it will spread to neighboring countries.

                             The exodus from Kosovo: who is responsible?

                    NATO now says that a primary purpose of its offensive is to return the
                    estimated 800,000 ethnic Albanian refugees to their homes in Kosovo.
                    Here cynicism reaches new heights.

                    An honest review of the sequence of events that led up to the refugee
                    crisis refutes the claims of NATO. Mass flight began after, not before,
                    March 24. Clinton's speech that day, in which he gave the official
                    rationale for the war, spoke almost entirely of preventing an exodus. He
                    pointed, in fact, to the danger that, without a NATO strike, the size of the
                    existing refugee population might expand by “tens of thousands.”

                    What actually happened? The bombing, destroying no small amount of
                    Kosovo and terrorizing its inhabitants, set off a renewal in the fighting
                    between Belgrade's forces and the KLA. Not tens but hundreds of
                    thousands were made refugees.

                    Not all these consequences were unintended. The NATO powers had
                    hoped that the air offensive would enable the KLA to push out the Serb
                    forces, much in the same manner that the 1995 air strikes in Bosnia
                    allowed the Croatian and Moslem forces to go on the offensive and drive
                    out the Serbs.

                    As for the refugees themselves, they have been cynically used. Once the
                    Kosovan Albanians were displaced in the aftermath of the bombing,
                    NATO exploited their plight to drum up public support for the war, while
                    providing only the most minimal aid to their makeshift camps, where
                    conditions became so abhorrent that riots broke out. Even then only a
                    relative handful of refugees were accepted into Western countries.

                    Some NATO military leaders have acknowledged—though their
                    statements have gone largely unreported—that the depopulation of
                    Kosovo works to their advantage, giving them a freer hand to initiate
                    carpet bombing and prepare for a ground invasion of the province.

                    In regards to the return of the refugees, the logical question to ask is:
                    Return to what? What portion of Kosovo's homes, workplaces, roads,
                    bridges, and waterways has not been bombed by NATO?

                                 The political function of propaganda

                    “The propagandist's purpose,” wrote Aldous Huxley in 1937, “is to
                    make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are
                    human.” In the present war, the demonization of the Serbs has been
                    required by the scale of NATO's violence against the Yugoslav people.

                    By early summer, killings by NATO will surpass those by the Serb
                    government and KLA that preceded the alliance's intervention in
                    Kosovo. Prior to March 24, most estimates put the total number killed in
                    Kosovo at about 2,000 in the course of one year of civil war. Since
                    March 24, the number of Serbs and ethnic Albanians killed by NATO is
                    well over 1,000.

                    NATO, to be sure, only makes “mistakes” whereas Serbia carries out
                    “atrocities.” Generally speaking, each new NATO claim of Serb plunder
                    and murder follows rapidly on the heels of the latest proof of civilian
                    deaths from NATO bombs. At any suggestion that NATO's cure is
                    worse than the disease the spokesmen for the alliance become more
                    shrill. “Has the real enemy been forgotten?”

                    An interesting question. It would seem the category of “enemy” is quickly
                    expanding in scope. Initially, Albanian deaths and suffering were declared
                    to be solely the fault of the Milosevic regime. In recent days, however, a
                    more venomous strain has emerged in the propaganda war: the Serb
                    population as a whole is to blame.

                    According to the new line, the Serb people have become corrupted,
                    organically indifferent to the suffering of the Kosovan Albanians, and
                    obsessed by an almost incomprehensible sense of victimization.
                    According to many of the NATO propagandists, the remedy for this
                    malaise is a ground invasion, the conquest of Belgrade and a prolonged
                    occupation. This is described, reviving the terminology of 19th century
                    colonialism, as a “civilizing” mission.

                                        An imperialist war

                    Propaganda requires simplification. It demands that the complexities of
                    immense political conflicts be shoved aside and public opinion be
                    confronted with a loaded question which allows only one answer. In the
                    present war, that question is: “Doesn't ethnic cleansing have to be

                    This simplification allows the media to portray Yugoslavia rather than
                    NATO as the aggressor. The alliance, in a complete inversion of reality,
                    is presented as conducting an essentially defensive war on behalf of the
                    Kosovan Albanians.

                    To determine the nature of a given war, its progressive or reactionary
                    character, requires not selective examination of atrocities, which are to be
                    found in all wars, but rather an analysis of the class structures, economic
                    foundations and international roles of the states that are involved. From
                    this decisive standpoint the present war being waged by NATO is an
                    imperialist war of aggression against Yugoslavia.

                    The US and the European powers that form the nucleus of NATO
                    comprise the most advanced capitalist powers of the globe. Within each
                    of these countries, state policies express the interests of finance capital,
                    based on the major transnational corporations and financial institutions.
                    The continued existence of the ruling class in these countries is bound up
                    with the expansion of capitalism throughout the world.

                    As a scientific term, imperialism signifies a definite historical stage in the
                    development of capitalism as a world economic system. It denotes
                    fundamental objective tendencies in capitalism as it developed toward the
                    end of the 19th and into the 20th century. The most important of these
                    are: the suppression of free competition by the growth of huge,
                    monopolistic business concerns; the increasing domination of gigantic
                    banking institutions (finance capital) over the world market; the impulsion
                    of monopoly and finance capital in the countries where capitalism had
                    developed most strongly (Europe, North America, Japan) to spread
                    beyond the national borders and gain access to markets, raw materials
                    and new sources of labor throughout the world.

                    Imperialism enjoys a predatory and parasitic relation to the less
                    developed countries. Through its position of financial hegemony, using the
                    vehicle of massive financial institutions such as the International Monetary
                    Fund and the World Bank, imperialism is in a position to dictate policy to
                    smaller states which rely on their credit. Through their domination of the
                    world market, the imperialist powers drive down prices for raw materials
                    and keep the smaller states impoverished. The more these countries
                    borrow, the more destitute and dependent they become.

                    Finally, hanging over the weaker states is the ever-present threat of
                    military bombardment. Whether they are to be apotheosized as
                    “emerging democracies” or demonized as “rogue states” depends, in the
                    final analysis, on where they fit in the unfolding strategic plans of world
                    imperialism. Thus Iraq, supported by the US in its war against Iran during
                    the 1980s, became the object of attack when it fell afoul of plans to
                    strengthen America's grip over Middle East oil reserves.

                    The same is true of Serbia. In the 1980s Washington looked upon
                    Slobodan Milosevic with favor to the extent that he initiated market
                    policies and dismantled state industry in Yugoslavia. In the 1990s the
                    rules of the game changed and Serbia became a thorn in the side of
                    imperialist concerns. Milosevic joined Saddam Hussein on imperialism's
                    list of “Most Wanted.” The judgment of imperialism on any given country
                    or leader can change abruptly because, as Prime Minister Palmerston
                    said of the British Empire, it has neither permanent friends, nor permanent
                    enemies, only permanent interests.

                    Yugoslavia is not an imperialist power but rather a small, relatively
                    backward country that has been diminished over the 1990s by the
                    secession of four of its former six republics. To be sure, Milosevic's role
                    in this process was thoroughly reactionary. His exploitation of Serbian
                    nationalism could hardly counter the chauvinist policies of Tudjman in
                    Croatia, Izetbegovic in Bosnia, and Kucan in Slovenia. But Milosevic
                    was by no means the instigator of this process. Rather, he adapted
                    himself—like so many other ex-Stalinists scoundrels in Eastern
                    Europe—to the centrifugal social tendencies unleashed by the
                    reestablishment of market economies.

                    Here the imperialist powers played a principal role, demanding the
                    break-up of nationalized industries and the imposition of austerity policies
                    that exacerbated simmering ethnic tensions. The economic pressure
                    exerted upon Yugoslavia laid the objective foundations for the dissolution
                    of the unified Balkan state. From 1991 on, the breakup of Yugoslavia
                    was guaranteed by the political intervention of the major powers. Though
                    a violent outcome of Yugoslav dissolution was predicted, the break-up
                    was encouraged by Germany, which abruptly recognized the
                    independence of Croatia and Slovenia in 1991, and the US, which even
                    more recklessly gave its approval to Bosnian secession in 1992.

                    Yugoslavia, moreover, is not a capitalist state of even regional stature. It
                    has no transnational conglomerates. Yugoslav finance capital plays no
                    significant role outside the borders of the country. To the extent that one
                    can speak of a Serbian bourgeoisie, it is only now emerging from the
                    layers surrounding Milosevic that enriched themselves by stealing state
                    property in the process of dismantling Yugoslavia.

                    Comparisons of Serbia to Nazi Germany and Milosevic to Hitler are a
                    combination of ignorance and deceit. Scientific political analysis does not
                    consist in the hurling of epithets. The transformation of the Austrian
                    corporal with a loud voice and a Charlie Chaplin moustache into the most
                    monstrous embodiment of world reaction depended upon certain
                    objective prerequisites—namely, the immense resources of German
                    industry. Hitler was the leader of an aggressive imperialist power that
                    sought to achieve the hegemony of German capitalism in all of Europe.
                    Before Hitler's bloody offensive was halted, German domination
                    stretched from the English Channel to the Caucasus Mountains,
                    embracing the Balkans, including Yugoslavia. Hitler's military ambitions
                    reflected the economic appetites of Siemens, Krupp, I. G. Farben,
                    Daimler-Benz, Deutsche Bank and the other great German

                    Were it not for the tragic consequences associated with this distortion of
                    historical reality, the comparison of Serbia to Nazi Germany and
                    Milosevic to Hitler would be laughable. Serbia, to begin with, is not
                    seeking to conquer foreign lands, but rather hold on to territory
                    internationally recognized as falling within its borders. As for Milosevic,
                    the main preoccupation of this “Hitler” has been to hang on to whatever
                    he can of a rump federation whose borders have been shrinking year
                    after year.

                    To sum up: This is a war by a coalition of major imperialist powers
                    against a small, semi-backward country. It has a neo-colonialist
                    character, trampling on Yugoslav sovereignty. Its aim is a type of NATO
                    protectorate over Kosovo, which will likely resemble the NATO-IMF
                    regime that runs Bosnia.

                         Beyond the propaganda: Why is the war being waged?

                    Once the fraudulent claims of the NATO spokesmen and the
                    falsifications of the media are stripped away from this war, what remains?
                    A naked aggression by imperialist countries against a small federation, in
                    which the official reasons given for the onslaught serve as a smokescreen.
                    Without the frenzied propaganda, it would be far more difficult to keep
                    the public from inquiring into the actual reasons for the imperialist powers
                    taking the road of military bombardment.

                    At the opening of this century, Rosa Luxemburg noted that capitalism is
                    the first mode of production to have mass propaganda as a weapon at its
                    disposal. “Humanitarianism” was, at the time of her comment just as
                    today, a cover for taking by force that which was desired from the
                    weaker countries. The “civilizing missions” of the US, England, France,
                    Belgium, and Holland had the actual purpose of securing valuable raw
                    materials, markets and geopolitical advantage over their major rivals.
                    Likewise, today the attack on Yugoslavia aims to secure the material
                    interests of the imperialist powers.

                    For starters, the Western powers are positioning themselves to exploit
                    Kosovo's abundant mineral reserves, which include substantial deposits
                    of lead, zinc, cadmium, silver and gold. Kosovo also holds an estimated
                    17 billion tons of coal reserves. But this is merely the “small change” of
                    imperialist calculations. The immediate material gains that might be
                    plundered from Kosovo are dwarfed by the far greater potential for
                    enrichment that beckons in regions further to the east where the NATO
                    powers have developed immense interests over the past five years. It is
                    astonishing that so little attention has been paid to the connection of this
                    war to the world strategic ambitions of the US and the other NATO

                                 NATO and the collapse of the USSR

                    Just as the development of imperialism witnessed the efforts of the major
                    powers to parcel out the world at the end of the last century, the
                    dismantling of the USSR has created a power vacuum in Eastern Europe,
                    Russia and Central Asia that makes a new division of the world
                    inevitable. The principal significance of Yugoslavia, at this critical
                    juncture, is that it lies on the Western periphery of a massive swathe of
                    territory into which the major world powers aim to expand. It is
                    impossible for the US, Germany, Japan, France, Britain and the other
                    powers to simply look passively at the opening of this area. Unfolding is a
                    struggle for access to the region and control over its raw materials, labor
                    and markets that will far outstrip last century's “scramble for Africa.”

                    This process expresses the most profound requirements of the profit
                    system. Today's transnational companies measure their success in global
                    terms. No market in the world can be ignored by General Motors,
                    Toyota, Lockheed Martin, Airbus or even Coca-Cola. These immense
                    operations compete across continents to achieve dominance. For them,
                    the penetration of one-sixth of the globe newly opened to capitalist
                    exploitation is a life-and-death question.

                    The integration of this region into the world system of capitalist
                    production and exchange is the most critical task facing the international
                    bourgeoisie today. It is essential for the survival of capitalism into the 21st
                    century. One only need ask: if at the beginning of the 20th century it was
                    necessary for capitalism to divide and organize the world, how much
                    more so today when all major corporate operations are global in

                    The United States is exploiting the dismantling of the USSR most
                    aggressively. This is explained in part by the historical limitations that the
                    Soviet Union placed on the US. American capitalism rose to
                    preeminence relatively late, during World War I. In the very
                    year—1917—that the US entered the war, the victory of the October
                    Revolution in Russia set the stage for the establishment of the Soviet
                    Union. For seven decades, an objective consequence of the existence of
                    the USSR was that a vast portion of the globe was closed off to direct
                    exploitation by US capitalism.

                    The demand of US capital to regain access to this territory, to claw back
                    what had been lost, was the essential content of Washington's Cold War
                    policy. The drive to “stop communist expansion,” when stripped of its
                    exaggeration and falsification, expressed the relentless ambition of US
                    banks and corporate powers to expand their reach into Eastern Europe
                    and Russia in order to extract profits. The events of 1989-91 untied the
                    hands of US capitalism in this arena.

                    Involved in the reintegration of the territory of the former USSR into
                    world capitalism is the absorption, by massive Western transnational
                    companies, of trillions of dollars in valuable raw materials that are vital to
                    the imperialist powers. The greatest untapped oil reserves in the world
                    are located in the former Soviet republics bordering the Caspian Sea
                    (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan). These resources are now being
                    divided among the major capitalist countries. This is the fuel that is
                    feeding renewed militarism and must lead to new wars of conquest by the
                    imperialist powers against local opponents, as well as ever-greater
                    conflicts among the imperialists themselves.

                    This is the key to understanding the bellicosity of US foreign policy over
                    the past decade. The bombardment of Yugoslavia is the latest in a series
                    of wars of aggression that have spanned the globe. Though they had
                    certain regional motivations, these wars have been the US response to
                    the opportunities and challenges opened by the demise of the USSR.
                    Washington sees its military might as a trump card that can be employed
                    to prevail over all its rivals in the coming struggle for resources.

                             Caspian oil and the new foreign policy debate

                    “The Caspian region is one of the largest remaining potential resources of
                    undeveloped oil and gas in the world,” explained one Exxon executive in
                    1998, adding that the area might be producing as much as 6 million
                    barrels of oil per day by 2020. He expects the oil industry to invest
                    $300-$500 billion in the interim to exploit the reserves. The US
                    Department of Energy estimates that 163 billion barrels of oil and up to
                    337 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are to be found. If the estimates are
                    borne out, the region will become a petroleum producer comparable in
                    scope to Iran or Iraq.

                    Western analysts also expect the Caspian region to become a major
                    world gold producer. Kazakhstan, with 10,000 tons, has the second
                    largest reserves in the world. Mining companies from the US, Japan,
                    Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Israel are already operating
                    in the region.

                    Each of the major capitalist countries, and a number of developing
                    regional powers, have their sights set on these resources. There is an
                    acute awareness among the capitalist powers of the objective imperatives
                    to intervene, expand their influence and secure their own interests to the
                    disadvantage of their rivals. These needs are finding growing articulation
                    in major policy journals, government hearings and editorials.

                    Here the debate within the US ruling elite is the most significant, and
                    ominous. Since 1991, a frank discussion has been taking place among
                    prominent US strategists concerning the country's new place in world
                    affairs. In the absence of the Soviet Union, many have concluded, the US
                    finds itself the master of a new “unipolar” world, in which it enjoys, at
                    least for the present, unassailable dominance. What these strategists
                    debate is not whether, but how this advantage can be leveraged.

                    Noteworthy is an article written by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former
                    National Security chief under Carter, which was published in the
                    September/October 1997 issue of Foreign Affairs. It is entitled “A
                    Geostrategy for Asia.”

                    “America's status as the world's premier power is unlikely to be
                    contested by any single challenger for more than a generation,” writes
                    Brzezinski. “ No state is likely to match the United States in the four key
                    dimensions of power—military, economic, technological, and
                    cultural—that confer global political clout.”

                    Having consolidated its power in its base in the Western Hemisphere, the
                    US, Brzezinski argues, must make sustained efforts to penetrate the two
                    continents of Europe and Asia.

                    “America's emergence as the sole global superpower now makes an
                    integrated and comprehensive strategy for Eurasia imperative.”

                    “After the United States,” Brzezinski writes, “the next six largest
                    economies and military spenders are there, as are all but one of the
                    world's overt nuclear powers, and all but one of the covert ones. Eurasia
                    accounts for 75 percent of the world's population, 60 percent of its
                    GNP, and 75 percent of its energy resources. Collectively, Eurasia's
                    potential power overshadows even America's.

                    “Eurasia is the world's axial supercontinent. A power that dominated
                    Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three
                    most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A
                    glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would
                    almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa.

                    “With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard, it no
                    longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and another for Asia.
                    What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass
                    will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy and historical

                    Because he does not expect the US to dominate Eurasia single-handedly,
                    Brzezinski sees American interests being best served by securing a
                    leading role, while facilitating a balance among the major powers
                    favorable to the US. He attaches an important condition: “In volatile
                    Eurasia, the immediate task is to ensure that no state or combination of
                    states gains the ability to expel the United States or even diminish its
                    decisive role.” This situation he describes as a “benign American

                    Brzezinski sees NATO as the best vehicle to achieve such an outcome.
                    “Unlike America's links with Japan, NATO entrenches American political
                    influence and military power on the Eurasian mainland. With the allied
                    European nations still highly dependent on US protection, any expansion
                    of Europe's political scope is automatically an expansion of US influence.
                    Conversely, the United States' ability to project influence and power
                    relies on close transatlantic ties.

                    “A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and
                    longer-term interests of US policy. A larger Europe will expand the range
                    of American influence without simultaneously creating a Europe so
                    politically integrated that it could challenge the United States on matters
                    of geopolitical importance, particularly in the Middle East.”

                    As these lines suggest, the NATO role in Yugoslavia, where it has
                    undertaken offensive military action for the first time since its inception, is
                    clearly seen in US ruling circles as a step which will enhance America's
                    world position. At the same time, NATO expansion into Poland,
                    Hungary and the Czech Republic is effectively the expansion of US
                    influence in Europe and the world.

                    Brzezinski's particular perspective on this region is not entirely novel. He
                    has resurrected, in a form adapted for use by the US under present
                    conditions, the traditional geopolitical strategy of British imperialism,
                    which long sought to secure its interests in Europe by playing one rival on
                    the continent against another.

                    The first modern “Eurasian strategy” for world domination was
                    elaborated in Britain. Foreshadowing Brzezinski, imperial strategist
                    Halford Mackinder, in a 1904 paper, “The Geographical Pivot of
                    History,” maintained that the Eurasian land mass and Africa, which he
                    collectively termed “the world island,” were of decisive significance to
                    achieving global hegemony. According to Mackinder, the barriers that
                    had prevented previous world empires, particularly the limitations in
                    transportation, had largely been overcome by the beginning of the 20th
                    century, setting the stage for a struggle among the great powers to
                    establish a global dominion. The key, Mackinder believed, lay in control
                    of the “heartland” region of the Eurasian land mass—bounded roughly by
                    the Volga, the Yangtze, the Arctic and the Himalayas. He summed up his
                    strategy as follows: “Who rules east Europe commands the Heartland;
                    who rules the Heartland commands the world-island; who rules the
                    world-island commands the world.”

                    Notwithstanding assumptions that were later criticized by bourgeois
                    commentators, Mackinder's writings, like Brzezinski's today, were
                    followed closely by the major statesmen of his time and exerted a
                    profound influence in the great power conflicts which shaped the first half
                    of this century.

                    For reasons both of world strategy and control over natural resources,
                    the US is determined to secure for itself a dominant role in the former
                    Soviet sphere. Were any of its adversaries—or combination of
                    adversaries—to effectively challenge US supremacy in this region, it
                    would call into question the hegemonic position of the US in world
                    affairs. The political establishment in the US is well aware of this fact.

                        Washington plans for political domination of Central Asia

                    The US House Committee on International Relations has begun holding
                    hearings on the strategic importance of the Caspian region. At one
                    meeting in February 1998, Doug Bereuter, the committee chairman,
                    opened by recalling the great power conflicts over Central Asia during
                    the 19th century, then dubbed the “great game.”

                    In the contest for empire, Bereuter noted, Russia and Britain engaged in
                    an extended struggle for power and influence. He went on to say that
                    “one hundred years later, the collapse of the Soviet Union has unleashed
                    a new great game, where the interests of the East India Trading
                    Company have been replaced by those of Unocal and Total, and many
                    other organizations and firms.”

                    “Stated US policy goals regarding energy resources in this region,” he
                    continued, “include fostering the independence of the States and their ties
                    to the West; breaking Russia's monopoly over oil and gas transport
                    routes; promoting Western energy security through diversified suppliers;
                    encouraging the construction of east-west pipelines that do not transit
                    Iran; and denying Iran dangerous leverage over the Central Asian

                    As Bereuter's comments indicate, Washington foresees substantial
                    conflict with the regional powers in the pursuit of its interests. If
                    considerable friction was initially manifested in gaining access to Caspian
                    oil, an even greater degree of strife has emerged in the maneuvers to
                    bring it to Western markets.

                    While tens of billions in oil production deals have already been signed by
                    Western oil companies, there has yet to be an agreement on the route of
                    the main export pipeline. For the reasons cited by Bereuter, Washington
                    adamantly insists on an east-west path to avoid Iran and Russia.

                    This is a matter of concern at the highest levels of US government. Last
                    fall, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told Stephen Kinzer of the New
                    York Times, “We're trying to move these newly independent countries
                    toward the West. We would like to see them reliant on Western
                    commercial and political interests rather than going another way. We've
                    made a substantial political investment in the Caspian and it's very
                    important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out

                    A number of strategists have argued for an aggressive US policy in the
                    region. One, Mortimer Zuckerman, the editor of US News & World
                    Report, warned in a May 1999 column that the Central Asian resources
                    may revert back to the control of Russia or a Russian-led alliance, an
                    outcome he calls a “nightmare situation.” He wrote, “We had better
                    wake up to the dangers, or one day the certainties on which we base our
                    prosperity will be certainties no more.

                    “The region of Russia's prominence—the bridge between Asia and
                    Europe to the east of Turkey—contains a prize of such potential in the oil
                    and gas riches of the Caspian Sea, valued at up to $4 trillion, as to be
                    able to give Russia both wealth and strategic opportunity.”

                    Zuckerman suggests that the new conflict be called “the biggest game.”
                    The superlative term is more fitting because today's conflict has
                    “worldwide and not just regional consequences. Russia, providing the
                    nuclear umbrella for a new oil consortium including Iran and Iraq, might
                    well be able to move energy prices higher, enough to strengthen
                    producers and menace the West, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. In
                    the words of Paul Michael Wihbey, in an excellent analysis for the
                    Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, the ‘nightmare
                    scenarios of the mid-1970s would reappear with a vengeance'.”

                    The director of a US think tank bluntly laid out the military implications of
                    the newfound interest in the region. In a 1998 document, Frederick Starr,
                    the head of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins
                    University, pointed out that half of the NATO states have a major
                    commercial stake in the Caspian. He then added that “the potential
                    economic rewards of Caspian energy will draw in their train Western
                    military forces to protect that investment if necessary.”

                    The prospect of a military conflict between one or more of the NATO
                    countries and Russia is not simply a matter of speculation. Writes Starr:
                    “In no country is NATO membership more assiduously sought than
                    energy-rich Azerbaijan, and nowhere is the possibility of conflict with the
                    Russian Federation more likely than over the export of Azeri resources.”
                    In 1998 the country participated in all of the 144 NATO “Partnership for
                    Peace” exercises.

                    The rationale for war offered in the present campaign against Yugoslavia
                    could easily be reapplied should US ruling circles decide to intervene
                    militarily in Central Asia. There are ethnic conflicts in nearly every country
                    there. The three states through which Washington would like to see the
                    main oil export pipeline pass are exemplary in this regard. In Azerbaijan,
                    military conflict with the Armenian population has continued for more
                    than a decade. Neighboring Georgia has seen sporadic warfare between
                    the government and a separatist movement in Abkhazia. Finally, Turkey,
                    which is to host the pipeline terminal, has waged a protracted campaign
                    of repression against the country's minority Kurd population, who
                    predominate precisely in those regions in the southeast of the country
                    through which the US-backed pipeline would pass.

                    The point is not lost on the present US administration. In a speech to US
                    newspaper editors last month, Clinton stated that Yugoslavia's ethnic
                    turmoil was far from unique. “Much of the former Soviet Union faces a
                    similar challenge,” he said, “including Ukraine and Moldova, southern
                    Russia, the Caucasus nations of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, the
                    new nations of Central Asia.” With the opening of these regions, he
                    noted, “the potential for ethnic conflict became, perhaps, the greatest
                    threat to what is among our most critical interests: the transition of the
                    former communist countries toward stability, prosperity and freedom.”

                                      A series of wars to come

                    But the aggressive attitude taken by the US towards intervention in
                    Yugoslavia and the prospect of future American inroads in the Caspian
                    region will not be received with indifference around the world.

                    The potential for a conflict with Russia, it should now be clear, has
                    actually increased over the past ten years. So too has the likelihood of a
                    major clash between the US and one or more of the European powers.
                    The European bourgeoisie will not be content to forever accept a
                    subordinate status to the US. Its position would be continually eroded as
                    the US sought to press its advantage. Inevitably, conflicts will develop
                    over how the spoils of Central Asia and Eastern Europe are to be
                    divided between the US, Germany, France, Britain and Italy.

                    Recently, European editorialists and politicians have protested the
                    growing US involvement in European security affairs and its push for
                    NATO expansion. What must they make of US plans, such as those
                    outlined by Brzezinski, for a massive extension of US power into Europe
                    and Asia?

                    The tensions are already quite visible. The military intervention in
                    Yugoslavia comes amidst a year of growing trans-Atlantic trade conflicts.
                    The European powers, moreover, have long been searching for a means
                    to undermine the hegemonic role of the US in world trade, establishing a
                    monetary union and creating the Euro to rival the dollar as a world
                    reserve currency. Furthermore, the leading power in the European
                    monetary union, Germany, has a substantial commercial stake in Eastern
                    Europe and Russia. The prospect of US-Russian conflict and instability in
                    Moscow puts its position in jeopardy.

                    Further US-Japan conflict will also follow. The island nation, a major oil
                    importer, has its own interests in the Caspian region and no shortage of
                    trade disputes with the United States. To the extent that the US sees a
                    greater military role as a key to its success in Central Asia, demands will
                    be put forward by ruling circles in Japan to end the post-War restrictions
                    on the size and range of its military.

                    Open conflict between the US and China is inevitable. China, a
                    historically oppressed country and not an imperialist power, is, however,
                    well on its way to the restoration of capitalism and aspires to be a major
                    regional economic power.

                    Such a development, as the present anti-China hysteria in US
                    newspapers reveals, is vehemently opposed by a substantial section of
                    the American ruling elite. The expansion of US influence in Central Asia
                    poses a direct and immediate threat to China because, among other
                    factors, the expansion of the Chinese economy is directly dependent on
                    access to petroleum. Its oil needs are expected to nearly double by
                    2010, which will force the country to import 40 percent of its
                    requirements, up from 20 percent in 1995.

                    For this reason, China has already expressed interest in a pipeline that
                    would transport Caspian oil eastwards and signed, in 1997, a $4.3 billion
                    deal to secure a 60 percent stake in a Kazakh oil facility. The US will
                    undoubtedly seek to undermine its activities in this region.

                    Around the world, governments fear that they could very well become
                    the next target of military action, should they buck US demands. This
                    apprehension is hardly confined to the lesser-developed countries on the
                    US enemies' list. One can be sure that Paris and Berlin are greatly
                    concerned about US intentions in Europe and that the Pentagon has plans
                    for war with France and Germany which can be quickly pulled off the

                    These two countries are cited as examples to make another important
                    point. Not every future US conflict is certain to be as one-sided as the
                    present one. Washington will before long find itself at war with an
                    adversary that is not all but defenseless.

                    The Central Asian region, strategically vital and rich in natural resources,
                    will not be peacefully divided among the major world imperialist powers
                    as it is reincorporated into the structure of world capitalism. As Lenin
                    wrote in 1915, speaking about the division of the colonial countries by
                    the imperial powers: “The only conceivable basis under capitalism for the
                    division of spheres of influence, interests, colonies, etc., is a calculation of
                    the strength of those participating, their general economic, financial,
                    military strength, etc. And the strength of the participants in the division
                    does not change to an equal degree, for the even development of
                    different undertakings, trusts, branches of industry, or countries is
                    impossible under capitalism. Half a century ago Germany was a
                    miserable insignificant country compared with the Britain of that time;
                    Japan compared with Russia in the same way. Is it ‘conceivable' that in
                    ten or twenty years' time the relative strength of the imperialist powers
                    will remain unchanged? It is out of the question.”

                    Updating Lenin's assessment by substituting the present leading powers
                    for those of 1915 raises the question: Will the US, Europe and Japan
                    somehow manage to peacefully come to terms on such issues as the
                    awarding of trillions of dollars of petroleum and construction contracts,
                    the elaboration of trade agreements and the establishment of military
                    pacts? No affirmative answer is possible.

                    The major powers will also seek to take advantage of local conflicts. The
                    growth of local antagonisms will be heightened, not attenuated, as Central
                    Asia is integrated into the global system of production and trade. As
                    Western financing for major oil projects increases, the stakes in regional
                    ethnic conflicts will escalate. When command of territory carries with it
                    billions in oil export revenue, fighting will only become more fierce.

                    Already, the conflict in the Abkhazian region of Georgia has halted
                    pipeline construction more than once. What is more, the penetration by
                    Western capital has been accompanied by IMF-directed austerity
                    measures. These changes have further pauperized the vast majority of the
                    Central Asian people while enriching a few. Like Russia, the Caspian and
                    Caucasus republics have seen the creation of an extremely wealthy, but
                    narrow layer of “New Kazakhs,” “New Azeris,” etc., even as overall
                    output and wealth have fallen since 1991.

                    These developments portend a new division of the world, which will be
                    decided by the principal imperialist powers and backed by their armies.
                    The coming military conflicts will take place in a region of the world even
                    more explosive than the Balkans. All the major protagonists possess
                    nuclear weapons, raising the prospect of yet a third major imperialist
                    conflict within the space of a century, with potential devastation and loss
                    of human life on a far greater scale than the first two combined.

                             The implications of the bombing of Yugoslavia

                    This is the significance of the present military action against Yugoslavia
                    and the growth of militarism generally. Kosovo is a testing ground for
                    wars that will follow in the former Soviet region.

                    The war is, at the same time, an expression of immense contradictions
                    within the home countries of imperialism. These underlying social tensions
                    will be exacerbated by the war itself. The whole of the 20th century has
                    shown that periods of imperialist rapacity are inevitably accompanied by
                    an intensification of social conflict within the metropolitan centers of

                    The internal social structures of the US and the states of Western Europe
                    are torn by intense class contradictions. The past two decades have
                    witnessed a profound material polarization in these countries. A thin layer
                    enjoys wealth on a scale never before seen in history. The remainder of
                    the population lives in varying degrees of economic anxiety, distress and,
                    among a substantial layer, extreme hardship and deprivation. All signs
                    point to the continuation, even acceleration, of this basic tendency.

                    The social conflicts have taken a malignant form to the extent that they
                    have remained politically inarticulate. The United States for its part gives
                    the impression of a society on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Public
                    life is punctuated by outbreaks of violence by schoolchildren that have
                    left the country in a state of semi-shock. No explanation, beyond the
                    most banal, has been offered by officials or experts for these explosions
                    of violent anti-social behavior. In their own way, however, they testify to
                    the brutality of contemporary American life and the suppressed
                    antagonisms that lie just under the surface.

                    This point suggests yet an additional motivation for the bombing of
                    Yugoslavia. The father of imperialist policy-making at the end of the last
                    century, Cecil Rhodes, noted the social-psychological benefit of
                    aggressive militarism in providing an outlet for social pressures that had
                    accumulated within the imperialist countries themselves. Aside from its
                    direct and indirect economic interests in the present conflict, the
                    American bourgeoisie sees the opportunity to direct pent-up frustration
                    and distress at an outside target.

                    At the same time, it recognizes the limitations of such diversions and
                    already plans to further refashion internal policy to correspond to its
                    imperialist ambitions. The country will continue to be remade as a
                    high-tech garrison, where the bulk of public expenditure will be devoted
                    towards military purposes abroad. Social programs will increasingly be
                    replaced by naked domestic repression. This basic approach will be
                    replicated in the other major imperialist states.

                    As for democratic rights, they are far from secure. The actual attitude of
                    the ruling elite on this question has been revealed far more clearly in its
                    actions in the present war, as it bombed Serbian television stations and
                    threatened to close the Internet, than in all its official legal guarantees and
                    public declarations.

                    To the frustration of government officials, the military brass and the
                    media, the majority of people in the NATO countries are not possessed
                    of war fever. The latter day jingoists are confined largely to the political
                    establishment. The overall mood in the broad public is one of perplexity
                    and disquiet. To the extent that this sentiment has not developed into
                    organized opposition to the war, it is largely the result of the process of
                    political abandonment of masses of people by organizations to which they
                    previously gave their allegiance.

                    The war has revealed the complete bankruptcy of the established political
                    parties that once presented themselves as the champions of the working
                    class and socialism. From the social democratic, Labor and Stalinist
                    parties have come not merely the supporters, but the leaders, of the
                    present war. To more experienced observers, this does not come as a
                    surprise. Such organizations had long demonstrated their political
                    subservience to the markets and big business and been integrated into the
                    apparatus of imperialism. The war has revealed only the completeness of
                    the process of political decay. Where once they represented an obstacle
                    to the political and economic demands of capital, though not a genuine
                    socialist alternative to imperialism, today they are entirely right-wing
                    bourgeois parties.

                    The war has illuminated another feature—perhaps better described as a
                    “void”—in the political landscape: the absence of a socially-critical and
                    self-sacrificing intelligentsia. There has been from academic experts
                    virtually no critique of the arguments and assumptions that have served as
                    the justification for the war. To the extent that dissenting intellectual
                    voices have been heard, they come as a rule from the right, demanding a
                    more aggressive policy. Disappeared, perhaps even from memory, are
                    the days of protest, campus teach-ins and scrutiny of the claims of the

                    How did this situation arise? Much can be learned from an analogous
                    political transformation that occurred in the first part of the 20th century.
                    The outbreak of war in 1914 witnessed a whole layer of the labor
                    bureaucracy and social democracy provide political support to the
                    bourgeoisie in each country. Parties and political leaders that had
                    officially adopted policies of opposition to imperialist war abandoned
                    their avowed principles, voted for war credits, and insisted that the
                    working class defend the state. The catastrophic consequences of their
                    decision, which fell most heavily on the European workers, are well

                    Lenin saw the material explanation for this phenomenon in the process of
                    corruption of a segment of trade union officials and social democratic
                    leaders by imperialism. The brutal exploitation of the colonies and the
                    theft of their resources enabled the European bourgeoisie to share
                    enough of its spoils with the official labor leaders to obtain their
                    acquiescence to the dictates of imperialism.

                    An analogous phenomenon has occurred in the recent period. A whole
                    layer of those who were radicalized by the experiences of Vietnam, the
                    events of May-June 1968 in France and the militant labor conflicts of the
                    late 1960s and early 1970s abandoned, during the past two decades,
                    their opposition to imperialism and reincorporated themselves into the
                    middle class life. Of these ex-radicals, not a few saw their material
                    fortunes skyrocket with the stock market takeoff in the 1990s. This has
                    produced a dramatic realignment in their politics. Some of the most
                    fervent advocates of the present war are drawn from this layer.

                    The process of enrichment, of course, has not been confined to those
                    with a history of radical politics. As noted above, a small layer, in
                    percentage terms, has grown rich, but this constitutes a significant number
                    of individuals. One percent of the US owns forty percent of its wealth.
                    This speaks to the astronomical living standard enjoyed by more than
                    two and a half million people. Beneath them, an additional ten to twenty
                    percent of the population has seen its fortune grow considerably over the
                    past twenty years. Similar figures could be listed for the other major
                    capitalist countries.

                    It is from this wealthy layer that the political leaderships of all the official
                    parties, the media, and no small number of academics are drawn. The
                    accumulation of wealth has provided the political cement holding the war
                    drive together and fostering demands for its expansion among the ruling

                    The Wall Street boom, however, has been a two-sided process. The
                    run-up in share values has demanded the adoption of a new regime of
                    austerity, “labor flexibility” (i.e., job insecurity) and increased exploitation
                    of the laboring population in the imperialist centers and around the world.
                    Just as the production of the nouveau riche in the 1980s and 1990s
                    created a new constituency for imperialism, it created a vastly larger
                    audience for an anticapitalist and antimperialist movement among the
                    international working class. The growth of the world proletariat; the
                    lowering of living standards among the majority of the advanced
                    countries; the impoverishment of much of Asia, Africa, and Latin
                    America; and the declining prospects for youth are leading objectively to
                    a movement of revolutionary social change.

                    The stage has been set for the transformation of this objective potential
                    into a conscious political force. What is required today, above all, is the
                    struggle for socialism among the workers, intellectuals, and youth who
                    will form the nucleus of such a revolutionary movement. The confusion of
                    Marxism with its reactionary antithesis, Stalinism, must be cleared away
                    through political education. A fight must be taken up against all ideologies
                    that directly or indirectly work to perpetuate the present system. These
                    efforts must find their highest expression in the construction of a unified
                    socialist political party of the international working class.