|(E) Geostrategic reasons for NATO membership
|By Nenad N. Bach |
Letters to the Editors
(E) Geostrategic reasons for NATO membership
Submitted is an editorial regarding NATO membership for Croatia. We believe that given the war against terrorism, this topic is very timely.
The article was co-authored by Joe Mandic. He is a native of Croatia, a retired Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserves, and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Croatian American Association
AFTER 9/11, GEOSTRATEGIC REASONS TO HASTEN NATO MEMBERSHIP FOR CROATIA
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States has realized how important our foreign allies are to the preservation of peace and democracy. Particularly in geostrategic areas of instability or terrorist activities, a formal political and military relationship with a U.S.-leaning ally serves two means. It prepares the U.S. to counter future terrorist or non-NATO military activity in the region. It also prevents such activity by warning those who would engage in it of U.S. commitment and regional strength.
As we fight the new war against global terrorism, the U.S. must be able to count on a qualified NATO ally with shared values and a political mandate in the region—an ally that can contribute substantially to the NATO alliance. Of all the Vilnius 10 countries awaiting NATO membership, Croatia meets this criteria. With its U.S.-trained and tested military, and its unparalled geostrategic location, Croatia should be moved to the top of NATO’s list.
Croatia’s Commitment to NATO and Democracy
Given the Bush Administration’s commitment to countering global terrorists and the fact that terrorism has taken root in the Balkans, now is the time to speed up Croatia’s full entrance into NATO. The continuing instability in Kosovo, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia, combined with the discovery of terrorist training grounds in Bosnia, signal that the U.S. and NATO must reach out to the only ally in the region that has proven its military and political commitment to the West: Croatia.
Croatia is very much committed to becoming a full-fledged member of NATO. During the Kosovo Crises, Croatia unconditionally opened its airspace to NATO—and at a great personal cost. By one British estimate, Croatian tourism and shipping industries lost up to $1.5 billion as a result. Having made the transition from a communist system to multi-party government, Croatia is morally and politically ready to join NATO.
After the disappointment of the Dayton Accords, the long-term security of BiH and the region would also be best served if NATO granted Croatia full member status: Two-thirds of BiH’s border is with Croatia. This land-locked country is dependant for its security and trade on Croatia’s many ports and roads, as is the international community for supplying its many personnel stationed in BiH.
Geography and Strategic Regional Factors: A NATO base in Vis, Croatia
Most significantly, there are geostrategic reasons to bring Croatia into NATO as a full-fledged member immediately. Once Croatia enters NATO, the alliance’s expanded foundation in Central Europe and designating the Island of Vis, Croatia as a strategic NATO base can best support the region’s stability. Kosovo is very close to Croatia and the Island of Vis. But more importantly, so are: the Bosporus, Suez, Gibraltar, and the entire Atlantic-Mediterranean-Indian Ocean. Our Strategic Forces and their most likely destinations are also in that region.
Vis is just far enough away from potential hot spots not to be a military target itself. Croatia and the Island of Vis can therefore offer U.S. and NATO military personnel an environment for a secure and high quality of life. Historically a military facility, Vis served as an Allied air base during World War II. For nearly fifty years, Vis was a key military facility to the former Yugoslavia. Strategically located in the center of the Mediterranean region, the Island of Vis, Croatia is close to all of our European allies and their bases. It is convenient for Power Projection to large areas of interest to the U.S.: the Balkans, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Vis would be an effective support and supply base for U.S. or NATO action by air and sea.
High Return for U.S. and NATO; Minimal U.S. Cost
Granting NATO membership to Croatia makes sense in strengthening NATO’s role in Southeast Europe. The public support for NATO membership in Croatia—at 70%—is much higher than is support for NATO in Slovenia, which polls at less than 50%. Admitting Croatia into NATO now would send the right message to surrounding countries about the benefits of NATO membership. If Slovenian voters were to reject NATO membership in the planned referendum (as they would today, given public opinion polls), this would send the wrong message. But the U.S. and NATO must act quickly. In these unstable times, NATO needs the strong support that Croatia and its citizens are willing to give.
Pressing for Croatia’s full and immediate membership into NATO would cost the U.S. little, but holds the potential for a high return in times of both peace and war. For political reasons, Croatia currently falls at the bottom of NATO’s list, behind Bulgaria and Romania, and on par with Albania and Macedonia. On March 16 in Washington, Bruce Jackson, Chairman of the U.S. Committee on NATO, outlined for Vilnius 10 countries the important factors for full NATO membership. The chief factor was what the country can bring to NATO’s table. Only Croatia can offer the U.S. and NATO a geostrategic base, backed by a tested Western military and a political mandate from its population. The U.S. should seize this opportunity, and bring Croatia into NATO’s fold without delay.
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