SAT, 25 AUG 2001 20:47:58 GMT
Slovenia and Its Army
Expansion as Business
The Slovenian army's purchase of U.S. all-terrain vehicles has confirmed
that NATO's expansion is, first and foremost, good business.
AIM Ljubljana, August 3, 2001
The Defense Ministry decision to purchase 30 U.S. Humvee all-terrain
vehicles and other military equipment for the Slovenian army has once
more upset the domestic public. It is clear, however, that the move was
historic: not only was it made without a public tender and in great
haste, but it was clearly motivated by a desire to take another step
toward joining NATO. On the other hand, the decision was important
because it showed that NATO's expansion is, in fact, big business. The
purchase of the Humvees has also offered adherents of Slovenian
sovereignty a chance to learn what Slovenian conscripts will be trained
for once the country becomes a NATO member.
They won't be defending their homeland from neighboring nations – for
some time these have not endangered Slovenia -- but will participate in
international interventions in distant deserts, swamps, steppes, and
tundras. This is because U.S. Humvee are universal vehicles with a
single flaw -- their rather bulky chassis prevents them from being used
on the narrow, winding roads common in the Balkans, or on the southern
slopes of the Alps. Had they been bought solely for use in Slovenia, the
purchase would have been, beyond any doubt, a completely pointless
The selection of the Humvee is a final step in the transformation of the
Slovenian army, which has been in progress for some time now on
instructions from the Pentagon. U.S. generals, for instance, have
complained that the Slovenian army is too big and poorly equipped. This
is why they suggested that Slovenia should abolish its air force, and
forget about tanks, heavy artillery, and other such things. If need be,
NATO will take care of that. Pentagon experts, at this point, approve
only of specialized infantry units, in addition to mountain, medical,
communications and reconnaissance units. All this is in accordance with
a new NATO strategy and the growing prevalence of out of area missions,
which in the future will be undertaken in accordance with U.N.
decisions, and maybe even without them. Since the mid-1990s, and
especially after 1999, NATO has been an offensive organization which
makes its own rules and determines the conditions and the areas of
intervention. The Slovenian army, which developed from Slovenia's
Territorial Defense, is simply not trained for such tasks. Hence the
idea of "modernization." In order for Slovenia to be able to count on
NATO membership, the Slovenian army has to accept all new NATO strategic
documents in advance. Thus in the following years the number of troops
will be reduced from 74,000 to 34,000, and all important units will be
grouped in one brigade, patched together from the 10th Motorized
Battalion, 132nd Mountain Battalion, 182nd Infantry Battalion, and a
special forces unit.
This is the purpose of the latest purchase of expensive military
equipment. Parliament facilitated the matter by adopting, seven years
ago, a special law outlining the basics of the Slovenian army's future
development, which enabled the state to take out loans for purchasing
weapons and military equipment worth 76 billion tolars (DM994 million).
Former minister Jelko Kacin was the first to start spending these funds
-- for purchasing howitzers and grenade launchers and for (allegedly)
pointless modernization of T-55 tanks. He also purchased Bell
helicopters and Pilatus aircraft. At the middle of last year, when Janez
Jansa again spent a brief term atop the Defense Ministry, the public was
informed that most of these funds had been spent long ago. Only DM300
million or so have remain, although the law was to be in effect by 2003.
The incumbent defense minister, Anton Grizold, is also purchasing
weapons using this money. During the past several months, his ministry
purchased a new pontoon bridge, protective masks for 30,000 soldiers, 10
Pandurs (infantry combat vehicles produced under an Austrian license),
and, finally, 30 Humvee armored vehicles... Two large transport
helicopters have also been bought.
Some analysts claim that not even the purchase of the Humvee (which was
possibly meant to gain the favors of the U.S.) will help Slovenia in its
efforts to swiftly join NATO, nor will it be the case with the purchase
of a Roland missile system (which might have been meant to earn German
support). "NATO membership cannot be bought by purchasing weapons
systems from certain NATO countries, but by credibility based on the
long-term GDP stability necessary to finance these defense systems...
and by fulfilling all obligations within the membership action plan..."
NATO officials continue to stress whenever Slovenian diplomats visit.
The early history of NATO's expansion still confirms what some have
claimed: that enlargement is major business and that the purchase of
Western, primarily U.S. military equipment, opens wide the door to
membership. There are many examples. In fact, Slovenia itself is an
excellent example. Until recently it used to purchase military equipment
in Israel, because of which it was criticized and left out of the
Alliance. Analyses done by international institutes confirm this.
"Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary, the
Czech Republic, Romania and Slovenia, in preparing for NATO's expansion,
are purchasing offensive arms, such as F-16 and F-18 aircraft and
military helicopters in order to better their chances for admittance in
"NATO's expansion has turned Central and Eastern Europe into a lucrative
military market worth at least US$35 billion..."
"Despite official claims by NATO that weapons purchases will not secure
membership in this exclusive club, the aforementioned countries are
under pressure to buy these weapons in hopes of thus improving their
chances. The paradox is that these countries are not threatened at
all... Because of this, selective arming of such countries with modern
equipment is destabilizing the region and is in opposition with NATO's
declared goals," a study compiled by the Berlin information Center for
Transatlantic Security says.
There are numerous concrete examples. When Hungary decided in April 1997
to discard its MiG-23MFs, MiG-21MFs and Suhoi 22M-3s from its fleet,
Hungarian Defense Minister Gjorgji Keleti explained this as a measure
"to cut costs" because "we are not exposed to any immediate danger."
Only several months later Hungary began purchasing new aircraft.
McDonald Douglas's F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin's F-16 were the
shortlisted candidates... The same year, when Poland decided it was not
immediately going to purchase 250 new aircraft and that it would rather
wait another five years, it was forced almost the same day to change its
decision under pressure from the EU and the U.S.. The Poles' plight did
not end there, because the U.S. and British military envoys immediately
sent notes of protest to the Polish state security advisor, Marek
Siwiec, as soon as they learned that Poland wanted to upgrade its Hussar
helicopters in Isreal. A week later, President Kwasniewsky informed the
public that the decision to modernize the helicopters "has not yet been
made." The explanation was that Israeli missiles "have first to be
tested in the harsher, Polish climate." It appears the same story is now
being repeated in Slovenia. Some weak protests over the fact that
Slovenia is not independent in the area of defense spending from liberal
intellectuals show that they have obviously failed to realize that small
countries have lost a say in their own national security. Be it as it
may, officials in Ljubljana continue to believe that the purchase of
U.S. weapons is its best bet for joining NATO.