Tue, 04 Feb 2003

Europe's response to the Iraqi crisis

Alexander Samokhotkin, RIA Novosti, Moscow

The Iraqi crisis has been shaking the European unity for almost a week now. After Paris and Berlin had informed Washington of their special anti-war position, a number of countries hurried to announce their loyalty to the United States.

On Jan. 30, the leaders of eight European states appealed to the Old World to support the United States in disarming Saddam Hussein's regime. The leaders are convinced that the Americans are right when they insist that Saddam is hiding banned weapons in violation of the UN resolutions.

London, Madrid, Rome and Copenhagen are ready to support Washington all the way, no matter what decisions might be made by the UN Security Council.

However, the British and the Italians would rather allow the international inspectors to continue their work in Iraq for a bit longer, and the Danish wouldn't mind adopting another UN resolution.

On the other hand, the presence of NATO "newcomers" on the list -- Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- is an obvious public relations trick, used to prove their adherence to Transatlantic solidarity.

For example, Czech soldiers from an anti-gas protection unit, who were sent to Kuwait, found their duty to be too strenuous and the majority of them came back home.

Poland, which is trying to win the reputation of the most optimistic member of the Alliance, hasn't even mentioned the intention to send its troops to the Persian Gulf. Pragmatic Hungarians limited their participation by letting the Americans to use a military base on Hungarian territory to train Iraqi citizens who would want to fight against Saddam's regime on the side of the US-headed coalition.

Eight European "hawks" alleviated the pains of Pentagon's chief Donald Rumsfeld, who called French and German apostates "the Old Europe" last week, and praised the representatives of "the New Europe".

"The Old Europeans" might now face the fact that Washington would use the ardent "New Europeans" to apply pressure on the original members of the European Union that are dreaming of formulating their own military policy within the Union.

The political strike against Paris and Berlin is a strike against the "backbone" of the EU, which has clearly exposed the weakness of their position in the framework of the NATO. France and Germany, with support of Belgium and Luxembourg, are trying to postpone NATO's decision on the American request about NATO's military assistance in the war against Iraq.

Obviously, nobody wants to get into quarrel over Iraqi issue. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov promised that Moscow will "use all political and diplomatic means to avoid the situation when the UN Security Council members would have to use the veto right" on the Iraqi issue.