Eisenhower’s Mistake: A Tale of an Astonishing Letter to the Former German Chancellor

The first time I heard of Willy Wimmer was during the NATO “freedom through bombs” campaign in Serbia in 1999. “Never before so few lied so thoroughly to so many, as in connection with the Kosovo war”, he famously observed. “People died for this”. Wimmer, then a member of the Christian Democratic Union party in the German Bundestag, was referring to the organized media’s attempt to convince the population of Germany that there was indeed a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo, one that would necessitate a humanitarian intervention. The attempt was, as we know, all too successful.

NATO spokesman, Jamie Shea, said at the time that, “The political leaders played the decisive role with regard to public opinion”. He was referring to German politicians, those ” democratically elected representatives”, who “knew which news was important for public opinion in their country. Rudolf Scharping did a really good job. It’s not easy, particularly in Germany, whose population for 50 years had known only military defense, meaning the protection of their own country, to send German soldiers hundreds of miles away.”

Explaining the difficulties that the new definition of security policy entailed, Shea commended “not only Minister Scharping, but also Chancellor Schröder and Minister Fischer” who all provided “an outstanding example of political leaders who don’t just run behind public opinion, but know how to shape it.”

Shea was probably at his cynical best when he described the reasons behind his optimism: “It makes me optimistic to see that the Germans have understood that. And despite the very unpleasant side effects, the collateral damage, and the long duration of the air raids, they stayed on course. If we had lost public support in Germany, we would have lost it throughout the alliance.”

Among the many news items, which “were important for public opinion” in Germany, as readers of ZNet probably remember, was information, provided by Minister Sharping in April of 1999, that the Serbs have installed a Nazi-style concentration camp for few thousand Kosovo Albanians in the football stadium of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. In his efforts to persuade the nation to “stay on course”, comrade Minister Joschka Fischer, the ex radical German Foreign Minister, compared the Serbs to the Nazis, calling for military intervention with a crusader fervor: ‘There must never be another Auschwitz!’ I remember how we were, sitting in shelters and trying to ignore the buzz of humanitarian tomahawks around us, joking that in order for Germans to prevent the return of “Nazism” in a region that built it’s identity on the fight against German Nazis in World War II, Fisher and Schroder had resort to a Nazi propaganda, not seen since 1945.

A few days ago I was reminded of Willy Wimmer, one of the few conservative German politicians arguing against the war in Kosovo (and criticized, by Frankfurter Alemagne Zeitung, predictably enough, as a “conspiracy theorist”). A well informed Serbian conservative weekly published a translation of the letter from Wimmer to the German Chancelor Schroder. The letter is a report from a conference held in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, organized by the State Department and the American Enterprise Institute. The subject of this conference, attended by numerous prime ministers “from Baltic to Macedonia”, was the Balkans and expansion of NATO.

Wimmer had heard many interesting things in Bratislava. For instance, that “Operation Horseshoe” – the plan allegedly conceived by the Serbs to drive the Albanian population out of Kosovo in 1999 – was a propaganda invention; that the purpose behind the Kosovo war was to enable the USA to correct an oversight of General Eisenhower’s in the Second World War and to establish a US military presence in the Balkans with a view to controlling the strategically important peninsula. He heard a high ranking American official saying that the American aim was to draw a geo-political line from the Baltic Sea to Anatolia and to control this area as the Romans had once controlled it (one would suppose that American “mare nostrum”, or “our sea”, is not the Mediterranean, but the Atlantic). Wimmer had a distinct impression that everyone agreed (and could have cared less) about the fact that NATO humanitarian attacks are illegal under international law, and were done very deliberately, in order to establish the precedent for future “humanitarian” actions without a UN mandate.

One of the many interesting things about this letter is that Wimmer is by no means a leftist activist. Not even a left-leaning critic of “American imperialism”. He was, at the time of writing the document, not only a defense policy spokesman of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but also a Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Co-operation in Europe. After reading the published translation of the letter in the Yugoslav language, I have tried, not without some difficulties, to dig out the original. I have discovered that the document was published in the government journal Blätter fur deutsche und internationale Politik (2001 9, page 1059, 1060). The translation below, however, is of the text that I have found on the University of Kassel website (http://www.uni-kassel.de/fb5 /frieden/themen/NATO-Krieg/wimmer-rupp.html)

I thought that the readers of Znet interested in the nature of US politics in the Balkans, especially in the light of the recent Ahtisaari plan for independent- but- not-autonomous Kosovo, as well as those interested, more generally, in the nature of US foreign politics, could benefit from this rough translation, the quality for which I duly apologize.


Berlin, 02. 05. 2000

Highly Esteemed Mister Chancelor,

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Bratislava, the Capitol of Slovakia, organized by the American State Department and American Enterprise Institute (Foreign Policy Institute of the Republican Party). The main subject of the meeting was the Balkans and the process of NATO enlargement.

The conference was attended by high political officials, as indicated by the presence of numerous regional prime ministers, as well as ministers of foreign politics and defense. Among the many important topics discussed, a few deserve special emphasis:

1. The organizers of the Conference (US State Department and American Enterprise Institute) demanded a speedy recognition of Kosovo, according to international law.

2. It was explained by the organizers that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia must be kept out of every rule – of – law organ, and especially out of the Helsinki accords.

3. European rule of law is a hindrance to NATO. The American system of law is therefore more suitable for Europe.

4. The war against Yugoslavia was fought to rectify an incorrect decision of General Eisenhower during World War II. In this manner, because of the strategic reasons demanding the stationing of US soldiers in this region, the faulty determination has been corrected,

5. The European allies took part in the war against Yugoslavia in order to, de facto, overcome the dilemma which presented itself after the acceptance of the “new strategic concept” of the Alliance in the April of 1999, and to overcome the inclination of the Europeans to secure a previous mandate of the UN or the Organization for European Security and Cooperation.

6. Europeans allies may legalistically reason that this war against Yugoslavia, which was outside the treaty’s domain, was an exception. However, it is clear that this is a precedent, which they can and will call upon at any moment.

7. NATO should now fill the area between the Baltic and Anatolia, as it was filled by Roman forces during the height of the Roman Empire.

8. In addition, Poland must be surrounded from the north and the south by democratic neighbor states; Bulgaria and Romania should provide the territorial connection to Turkey; in the long run, Serbia must be kept out of European development (probably to further the safety of the American military presence).

9. North of Poland it is important to establish complete control of all access routes from St Petersburg to the Baltic Sea.

10. In each process, the right for people’s self determination should be given priority before all other regulations or rules of the international law.

11. The statement that NATO’s war against Yugoslavia was a violation of all relevant regulations and rules of international law did not encounter any opposition.

After this conference, where the discussion was very open and candid, we cannot avoid the long lasting importance of the conference conclusions, especially taking into account the professional rank and competence of its participants and organizers.

The American side seems to be conscious, that in order to pursue its interests, it needs to undermine the rule of law developed as a result of the two World Wars. Power must be above justice. Where international law stands in the way, it must be removed. When a similar development was embraced by the League of Nations, the Second World War was not far away. A way of thinking that puts self-interest in such an absolute position can not be called anything but totalitarian.

With friendly regards,

Willy Wimmer


* Andrej Grubacic is an anarchist historian from the mountains of South Eastern Europe. He can be reached at zapata@mutualaid.org

* To learn more about the recent development in the Balkans, see my ZNet commentaries at : http://www.zmag.org/bios/homepage.cfm?authorID=181

* The information on the conference Bratislava seems to have disappeared from the world wide web. Try googling “Regional Round table: “Is Euro-Atlantic Integration Still on Track? Opportunities and Obstacles”.

* For those of you who read German, check out the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung criticism of Wimmer’s “simplistic views” [Christoph Albrecht, FAZ, 27th August 2001]

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