Southeast Europe protests NATO expansion plans

ATHENS, Greece — During her recent visit to Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was met by thousands of protesters wherever she stopped. The demonstrations, which were organized by communist parties, trade unions and peace groups, included banners that read, “No to imperialists, murderers of the peoples!”

Rice was here to drum up support for the new “blood for oil” war against Iran and to attend the April 27-28 NATO foreign ministers informal summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, where plans for a substantially expanded NATO were outlined. The plans call for transforming the 26-member pact into a “world energy cop,” whose role will be to protect the interests of the oil monopolies at whatever cost.

The retooling of NATO has three major facets.

First, new “strategic allies” will be incorporated into the pact, countries that have proven their willingness to participate in U.S. imperialist interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. The Balkan countries of Croatia, Albania and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia will be admitted to NATO immediately. Heightened cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia is also projected.

Other new partners include Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea to the southeast, as well as Sweden and Finland to the north. In a subsequent phase, NATO plans to partner with Brazil and Colombia in Latin America.

Second, NATO will change its decision-making structure. In order to avoid problems such as those that arose during the war against Iraq, where some European governments disagreed over what their share would be of the war booty, the Bush administration proposed abolishing the need for a unanimous vote and the power of veto. This change will allow NATO troops to intervene anywhere in the world within 24 hours without a vote.

Third, and particularly noteworthy, is the emergence of NATO’s new mission as “super cop” of the strategically important oil and natural gas deposits and pipelines in the Middle East, the Caspian and Caucasus. The U.S., especially, is pushing for “energy security” in order to protect the interests, first and foremost, of U.S.-owned energy monopolies.

While in Bulgaria, Rice signed an agreement granting the U.S. the right to build three military bases there. This is the first time in the 1,325-year history of Bulgaria that foreign troops will be stationed on Bulgarian soil. According to British military analyst Paul Beaver, the bases will be used initially to support the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and later to intervene in other countries.

Over the past four years the Bush administration has sought to increase U.S. military bases in several geo-strategic areas. Bulgaria and Romania, where four bases were built in 2005, are on the Black Sea, a region rich in petroleum. Similarly, the building of additional NATO bases in the Balkans, the Middle East and Eurasia will strengthen the U.S. grip on oil deposits near the Caspian Sea.

These maneuvers are being challenged, however. Anti-Bush, anti-Rice demonstrators dogged the secretary of state wherever she went, pointing out that the peoples of this region have nothing to gain from U.S. imperialism’s expansion.

A recent opinion poll showed that 60 percent of the Bulgarian people are against the U.S. bases. Mass protests against the planned bases and the NATO summit were held over a weeklong period in Sofia, just as they were in Greece and Turkey.

However, despite broad opposition from people’s forces, the governments of all three countries declared their willingness to be strategic partners with the U.S., including the possible provision of bases, airspace and troops.

The demonstrations in Greece culminated in a militant May Day rally where Dimitris Arvanitakis, head of the Communist Party’s organization in Athens, said, “The only road forward is the people’s anti-imperialist struggle, a struggle against imperialism and war and against our governments that support it. There is a vital need today to build a powerful anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist democratic front. This is the only way to block the ‘new world order.’”

Arvanitakis said only this kind of struggle can block the schemes of “a handful of oil monopolies.”