Alex Alexiev, chairperson of the executive council of the Centre for Balkan and Black Sea Studies in Sofia and Visiting Fellow at the Hudson Institute, in an interview with FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Mr Alexiev, during your last visit to Bulgaria in February you seemed to be rather pessimistic about the evolution of NATO and the EU.
Meanwhile, it seems as if the crisis in Greece has calmed down and the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago gives grounds for some optimism about the future of the Atlantic Union.
Are you still a pessimist or you have rather changed your position?
Alex Alexiev: My pessimistic view for the future of NATO and the EU is based on their systematic problems and not on some tactical and temporary phenomena such as the allocation of another pile of money to Greece. The latest events only strengthen my pessimism.
FOCUS: Would you give examples?
Alex Alexiev: Greece, for instance. Even after the huge injection of money from the Troika and, in fact, the confiscation of the money of the private owners of state bonds Athens should service its debt, which amounts to 160% of the GDP and 400% of its revenues, which is absolutely impossible to happen. Thus, Greece’s promises to cut its debt to 120% of the GDP by 2020, as well as the claims of the Troika that it places trust in the country, are ridiculous.
Sooner or later Greece will have to declare default, leave the euro area and make the needed reforms in order to start recovering.
What is happening at the moment is a farce, which fundamentally undermines not only the euro area but also the entire European Union. If the EU continues acting as if its problems are only fiscal and temporary and not caused by inevitable systematic crisis of an exhausted social-economic model, there will be no future, neither for the euro, nor for the EU.
FOCUS: At the background of all these pessimistic conclusions, what would you say about the situation around NATO?
Alex Alexiev: It is not brighter. As you know, though it is not much spoken about, the centrifugal forces in NATO are getting stronger and the organisation no longer exists as a real union for mutual defence. At the moment NATO’s security is guaranteed almost exclusively by the US military power and the money of the US taxpayers.
Just as former Pentagon chief Robert Gates said in his farewell speech last year, a military union in which one of the members pays three-fourths of the expenses on common defence cannot and will not exist for too long. Adding the fact that only 3% to 5% of NATO’s two-million European army is trained enough for military actions, as well as the fact that the Europeans continue cutting their military budgets and believing that there is no threat at their security, we have a picture of a military union which has lost its raison d’être.
FOCUS: Isn’t this due to the change of the US strategy, shifting from the traditional and Euro-Atlantic focus to Pacific-Asian focus?
Alex Alexiev: There is no doubt that the US strategy is changing in this direction but one of the reasons for this is that in Washington it is believed that at the moment Europe is unable to protect itself on its own, much less is it able to contribute to the collective security in the Pacific region.
There are also other concerning tendencies, which make influential Americans start hesitating whether NATO deserves the huge sums of money, which the US spends for it.
FOCUS: What are the other concerning tendencies?
Alex Alexiev: For instance, the behaviour of Turkey, which used to be one of the major members of NATO for decades. Unfortunately, it seems as if the current Islamist regime in Ankara is more interested in sabotaging NATO than being a loyal member. Recently it imposed a veto on Israel’s presence at the conference in Chicago and threatened to ban EU’s participation, too, if the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is not invited. These provocative actions are motivated by the Islamist ideology of the regime of Erdogan. Speaking of Israel, Turkey wants official apology and compensation for the killed Turks in the episode with Mavi Marmara, not mentioning that these were radical Islamists, who tried to break the legitimate Israeli blockade of Gaza and that the entire provocation was backed and probably organised by Erdogan’s government. As far as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is concerned, it is interesting to mention that the organisation backs the so-called Human Rights in Islam, which cannot contradict the Sharia, which means that they absolutely contradict the generally acknowledged human rights defined by the United Nations.
FOCUS: Why does the American government continue protecting the Turkish government and consider it a reliable alley?
Alex Alexiev: This is another broad topic for discussion, but to put it briefly – I think that the foreign policy of US President Barack Obama, and more precisely the policy towards Turkey, the Arab world and Russia, is characterised with a big dose of naivety and incompetence, which are natural for the leftist views of the president.
I can guarantee that this policy will change drastically if the Republicans win the elections in November.
FOCUS: If your analysis is correct, what would all this mean for Bulgaria?
Alex Alexiev: I will be happy, if it is not correct, since it is about the two major pillars – NATO and the EU, on which our political and economic security has been based over the last years. If they are strongly shaken, which I think is true, Bulgaria may find itself in some very unfavourable position. The question is what could be possibly done in order to avoid this and it is very important for the leaders to analyse precisely the geopolitical tendencies, which we are talking about, and to draw the necessary conclusions. But I guess this is a topic for another discussion.