WORLD POLITICS has changed. There is a new alliance altering the balance of power and will.
It is called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. It is led by a powerful nation that had been discounted as isolationist and broke, the United States.
This new NATO is like nothing before, especially the former NATO, which had outlived its reason-for-being without new purpose or will.
This new NATO emerged in September, when its air forces picked apart the high-tech air defense in Serbian-held Bosnia that NATO members had helped the former Yugoslavia erect against the Soviet threat.
This met French and U.S. demands for greater will in Bosnia. It came after three years' refusal to act there because members sought contradictory outcomes and agreed only to prevent a recurrence of World War I at all costs.
As a result of the September bombing, the following happened:
* Serbia decided the alliance was for real and sought a way out of its aggression and the U.N. economic sanctions against it.
* The U.S., after being ignored for three years, convened a Bosnian peace conference in Ohio and compelled an agreement which ends the war.
hTC The accord sells out Bosnian Serbs, ratifies ethnic cleansing while halting further genocide, and solemnly assumes that Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are war criminals while Slobodan Milosevic is not.
* Javier Solana, the Socialist foreign minister of Spain, became secretary general of NATO, which Spain joined 13 years ago over his objections.
The U.S. got the consensus-building Mr. Solana this job after vetoing the pro-American Dutch former prime minister, Ruud Lubbers, whom Secretary of State Warren Christopher found wimpish on Bosnia.
* France, which had kicked U.S. soldiers off its soil and withdrawn from NATO military planning in 1966, rejoined the military side of NATO. It wants a voice in the only alliance that counts.
* At least 15 of the 16 NATO nations and 14 non-members agreed to send troops to Bosnia under effective U.S. command. Russia is among the latter. More are likely.
Born to resist Soviet power
NATO was created in 1949 to contain Soviet expansion in Europe.
It was soon joined by the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization or SEATO (which included France); and by the Central Treaty Organization or CENTO (which joined Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Britain).
The Soviet Union was contained or, from its perspective, surrounded. SEATO and CENTO self-destructed under the pressure of forces other than the Cold War. But NATO won, without a shot fired, when all Eastern Europe went free of the Soviet Union, which broke up.
NATO might have declared victory then and disbanded, but lacked the will and unanimity even for that.
The former Soviet satellites all clamored to join as protection from Russia, which saw that as a threat. The NATO compromise was to decide they might join but not now.
This is the NATO that for three years could not deal with Serb aggression. Finally, Bosnian Serb bullying of NATO troops in U.N. helmets went too far.
The September bombing that came in response was so spectacularly successful, politically, as to vindicate those who had urged it three years earlier.
And now NATO lives, with new vigor and purpose, not as Europe's sentry at the gate but as its fireman, quelling the menacing blaze outside the walls.
NATO not only lives. It even seems to know what for.
Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Sun.