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U.S.: Campaign 2004 -- Clark Advocates Strengthening Of NATO Charter

  • Nikola Krastev

Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe and a current Democratic presidential hopeful, has called for a new Atlantic Charter that will include an agreement on collective response. In a speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, General Clark said that if he is elected president, his first national security priority will be the restoration of a strong alliance with Europe. Clark also reiterated his vision about the use of force only as an absolute last resort.

New York, 21 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Drawing parallels between the Iron Curtain divisions and the current state of affairs between the United States and its European allies, Wesley Clark said that the administration of George W. Bush is pursuing a policy that will lead to complete isolation.

"This administration is wrecking NATO -- and thereby doing incalculable damage to our security and well-being. They alienated our friends, dismissed their concerns, rejected their advice, they're leaving America an isolated nation. I served in NATO twice, last as supreme allied commander, Europe. I know its value, see its promise and potential, and if elected, I�ll strengthen it, not destroy it," Clark said.

Restoring the alliance with Europe will be the main priority in his foreign policy, Clark said. He emphasized the need for maximum employment of nonmilitary means in conflict situations. "We'd work to put in place with Europe a reinvigorated NATO as a centerpiece of U.S. policy -- and then seek not to rely on preemptive force, but instead to use diplomatic, political, economic power and international law in preventive engagement," he said. "We'd reserve the use of force for an absolutely last resort and then act together if possible and unilaterally only if we must."

A strategy of preventive engagement will not be easy, Clark said. It will demand new institutions in the United States and new approaches to existing alliances abroad. "We're going to have to reorganize our government so that we can bring to bear the economic, diplomatic, and political potential that rest today in American institutions and in the American economy and in our population," he said. "And at home, we must adapt our military so we're not just the best in fighting wars but we are the best in waging operations other than war -- including peacekeeping and postconflict operations. Only then, with these adaptations, can we prevent threats from emerging, and deal with failed states before their chaos spawns terrorism, misery, or mass murder."

If elected president, Clark said, he will launch a new Atlantic Charter with the European allies to meet the new threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction as well as to strengthen America's response to the old threats that are still valid.

The charter, he said, will enable the U.S. together with its allies to reach beyond the periphery of the European continent to affect a security equation that is increasingly global. At this point, Clark said, the U.S. administration has alienated its allies.

"Even in Eastern Europe, there is dismay. These were some of the first countries in the world to support the Bush administration in Iraq. And what did this administration do to its friends? In July, it suspended all U.S. military assistance to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Bulgaria because they have not yet promised Americans blanket immunity from the International Criminal Court. We even took away money for night-vision goggles for Baltic troops serving in Iraq alongside us," Clark said.

Reflecting on U.S. military engagement in Iraq, General Clark said that he continues to believe that wars can be fought and won only through collective action. He said that he prefers coalitions of commitment rather than coalitions of convenience.

"I would rather have capable European forces in Iraq with the say in making decisions, than to have Tonga and the Marshall Islands with no strings attached. But even more importantly, I believe that if we work with our allies, we can engage in diplomacy, developmental assistance, and a full array of other actions to deal with crises before they erupt into war, and to ameliorate the conditions which might lead to those crises in the first place," Clark said.

If elected president, Clark said, one of his first orders of business will be to sit down with the European allies to agree upon a new Atlantic Charter. This charter will begin by the United States declaring its commitment to work with its democratic allies as a first, not last, resort in addressing the security issues. European nations would make the same commitment to give primacy to NATO. Such a pledge, he said, would renew the sense of solidarity without which the NATO alliance cannot exist.

Clark said the charter should also establish missions for NATO that address pressing international problems, including ethnic cleansing and failed states, and promote the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Most important of all, General Clark said, the charter will call on NATO to confront the fundamental security challenge of the 21st century: the possibility that terrorists or rogues states will acquire and use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.