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The linkup of American and Soviet forces at Torgau on the Elbe in April 1945 may be taken as the event symbolizing a new era in international relations--one largely dominated by the central relationship between two great powers, later known as the superpowers. The meeting at Torgau meant the splitting of Germany, the preeminent European power for three-quarters of a century. Germany's division was to be both a fixture of the postwar era and, additionally, a continuing source of unease. Also, the event dramatically initiated what was to become die Wacht an der Elbe, an American protection against the power of the East of what was to become a democratic Germany--and behind Germany an abiding American commitment to the security of Western Europe. Despite the misjudgments in the immediate aftermath of the war, the lessons of two world wars had been insinuated into American foreign policy. Finally, in the way of symbolism, perhaps the brief exchange of fire between Soviet and American forces on the Elbe provided an early harbinger of the tensions that were ultimately to emerge.
Would nuclear war endanger civilization or even the human species? Does that possibility require us to subordinate all considerations of freedom to survival and to dismiss any possibility of responding justly to a nuclear attack--or at least without committing suicide? The question has a familiar ring to anyone whose memory stretches back as far as 1958 to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the famous controversy between the philosophers Bertrand Russell and Sidney Hook over whether it was better to be "Red or Dead."
During the past few years, the American economy has demonstrated impressive resiliency and America's economic performance has improved substantially. Inflation has dropped from 13 percent to four percent. The rise in unemployment that was an inevitable consequence of the accelerating inflation of the late 1970s has retreated to just a fraction over seven percent. And real GNP has increased more than 12 percent in the two years since the recovery began.
New Zealand's decision to exclude nuclear weapons from its territory, and the American response to that decision, have raised serious questions about the character and management of the ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-United States) alliance and the security of the South Pacific.
The end of Hitler's New Order in Europe in May 1945 ushered in a new order in America's relationship to Europe. The arrangements that were designed, debated and put in place during the following four years endure to this day. They are part of the world into which the present generation of foreign policy practitioners and commentators were professionally and intellectually born; and they shape the perceptions and limit the imagination of the general public. NATO, in particular, is a fixture in the international political and strategic firmament. The present Atlantic relationship is not without flaws, but since its framework has the aspect of a given, critiques fix on surface phenomena and proximate factors--apparent weaknesses or apparent strengths. Improvements are considered within the given framework, not as alternatives to it. Even the flaws are felt as mere irritants, inspiring only enraged political opposition or petulant geopolitical daydreams.
The issues of strategic arms control are complex in their technical details, but they nonetheless revolve around a reasonably simple central problem. The United States is primarily interested in reducing the level of strategic force deployments in order to alleviate a perceived threat to the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile forces and a politically sensitive imbalance in weapons deployed in Europe. The Soviet Union is primarily interested in restricting the process of technical improvement in order to alleviate what it perceives as an emerging threat to Soviet ICBMs and ultimately to the entire structure of Soviet military forces. With the United States committed to revising the past and the Soviet Union to shaping the future, viable compromise requires arrangements that do both. The issues are too extensive and the underlying hostility too great to allow an immediate, comprehensive solution. Thus, compromise must be achieved through a series of partial measures, each of which balances force reductions and modernization restrictions.
The Republic of China (R.O.C.) has a unique international personality. It was a founding member of the United Nations, yet since 1971 it has not been a member state of the U.N. or of any of its specialized agencies. It has scored impressive successes in political, economic and social development and in science and technology--indeed, the R.O.C. today is ranked as one of the most developed of the developing countries. Yet it has been asked to leave the World Bank, the World Health Organization, UNESCO, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international organizations. The R.O.C. even faces the danger of losing its membership in the Asian Development Bank.
The coming decade will be critical for Taiwan, and for its relationship to the Chinese mainland. Taibei will face the difficult problem of succession to President Jiang Jingguo, its economic development will meet new and serious challenges, and its relations with the People's Republic of China will evolve--in one direction or another.* Developments in Taiwan-P.R.C. relations will continue to influence the Sino-American relationship and the political structure of east Asia. Relations between the two governments claiming to rule over China, however, will increasingly depend on the interaction between Beijing and Taibei themselves, rather than on Washington and other international players.
The foreign debt of African nations has increased so rapidly in recent years that threats of bankruptcy hover across the continent, raising the prospect that Africa's most serious crisis will be triggered not by drought, but by debt. The debt problem is not only slowing economic growth and increasing poverty; it is fomenting political upheaval by forcing these nations to neglect social and economic development in order to make debt payments. People in many countries are denied the most basic public services as their governments devote dwindling export earnings, their main source of income, to economic and political survival.
Until recently, the countries of North Africa have seemed in a state of political equilibrium. Morocco and Tunisia, both regarded as close friends of the United States, reinforced each other as moderate states with similar outlooks; they served as geopolitical balance across the Maghreb to the stable but ideologically more radical Algeria in between. Libya, erratic and unpredictable, was isolated and could expect to encounter the hostility of the other three if it embarked on any adventures against any one of them. That was the situation until the middle of last year.