Europe's Left Backs NATO among Most Ardent Supporters of Strikes on Serbs: A Green Foreign

By Peter Ford, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 2, 1999 | Go to article overview

Europe's Left Backs NATO among Most Ardent Supporters of Strikes on Serbs: A Green Foreign


Peter Ford, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


In 1990, as left-wing French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevnement walked out of the government in protest against the Gulf War, he declared famously that "a minister shuts his trap, or he gets out."

In 1999, the same Mr. Chevnement is Interior Minister in a Socialist-led French government, and he is not happy about his country's role in the bombardment of Yugoslavia. But he has "shut his trap."

Europe's left-wing parties, which for many years made a fetish out of anti-Americanism and often harbored a strong dose of pacifism, have remained largely silent or have even been actively supportive in the face of the US-led bombing campaign against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Indeed, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that is conducting the operation is made up almost completely of countries led by Social Democratic governments. And they are showing little compunction about using force to impose a peace settlement giving autonomy to the Serbian province of Kosovo. "There is a new generation of leaders in the United States and in Europe, who were born after World War II, who hail from the progressive side of politics, but who are prepared to be as firm as any of our predecessors, right or left, in seeing this thing through," British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in Newsweek last week. "We are fighting not for territory but for values," he added. "For a new internationalism where the brutal repression of ethnic groups will not be tolerated." Mr. Blair's attitude to the war in Kosovo stands in stark contrast to his stance as a young Labour Party parliamentary candidate during the 1982 Falklands War, which he opposed, along with most of his colleagues on the left. Even more striking is the change of heart that has come over Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister and leader of the environmentalist-pacifist oriented Greens. Twenty years ago Mr. Fischer was a street-fighting revolutionary for whom US imperialism was one of the world's great evils. Today he is enthusiastic in his support for the German pilots taking out Serb radar sites so as to clear the way for American bombers. Partly, of course, the European left's general backing for the war stems from the fact that the enemy, Yugoslav President Milosevic, is widely portrayed today as a fascist, not as the communist he always considered himself to be. And while the Gulf War was widely seen in Europe as a bid to safeguard US oil interests, the current campaign has no economic undertones. Nor is it hard to feel sympathy for Kosovo Albanian refugees, which was perhaps not the case for Kuwaiti sheikhs in 1990. But more deeply, European politicians are convinced that Milosevic's campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo, and NATO's air campaign to get the refugees home, is "a question of what kind of Europe we will have in the 21st century" as Fischer put it recently.

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Europe's Left Backs NATO among Most Ardent Supporters of Strikes on Serbs: A Green Foreign
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