For several years there has been a general feeling on both sides of the ocean that the central institutions of the Atlantic Alliance, especially NATO itself, are inadequate to the steadily widening complex of problems which confronts them. The Berlin crisis, which directly concerns only three or four of the fifteen allies, has in fact illustrated, as no doubt Mr. Khrushchev intended that it should, a number of important divisions among them in both political and military policy, and has brought to light certain weaknesses in the organization of the alliance which have been visible below the surface of events for some time past. Indeed, the Berlin crisis could be a blessing in disguise, even though only a fragile or unsatisfactory negotiated compromise emerges over the city itself, if it forces governments and public opinion in the Atlantic countries to confront some distasteful facts about their shortcomings in constructive coöperation.

But before attempting any analysis of the internal and external pressures that demand a refashioning of NATO, it is wise to set out the frame of reference within which we must work over the next few years. There are two particular boundary fences which must be accepted.

The first is that NATO is in no sense a synonym for "the free world" and can only very partially act as the focus of that "cohesive community of free nations" which Senator Fulbright has suggested as our goal (Foreign Affairs, October 1961). This, if it can be achieved, presupposes an identity of view and purpose with powerful democratic countries-India, Japan, Sweden, Brazil, Australia among them-which cannot or will not become members of NATO. It is not a substitute for the United Nations, and would have only an indirect influence upon the course of events in areas far from the Atlantic-the confrontation of China, for instance. Nor is it the sole center for the coördination of Atlantic interests; the creation of O.E.C.D. has fortunately resolved any argument that the cure for NATO's ills should be found by a synthetic injection of new responsibilities. NATO is an instrument of limited usefulness: it is concerned with meeting the Soviet challenge to the security and interests of the Atlantic powers, with the cold war and the deterrence of hotter war, and with the eventual construction of a more stable system of international relationships in the area where the majority of its citizens dwell-Europe. It is only by being clear about the limitations of NATO that one can see how vast and expanding its real responsibilities are. The fact that questions of military policy play such a dominant part in NATO is a reflection of the dominant part they now play in the whole of international relations, and no extension of its responsibility in the cultural or other fields should obscure the fact that its success or failure depends on the extent to which its central institutions can grapple with the hard and dangerous facts of power politics.

The other limitation that must be accepted is that NATO is an alliance and that its institutions have no supra-national powers (except in time of war). Occasionally, when statesmen or thinkers become too despondent about the problems of inter-allied coöperation, they turn to the idea of creating an Atlantic political federation. It may be that at some point in the future it will be necessary to take such a step. All one can say for certain is that at this moment neither public opinion nor political leaders in the Atlantic countries are prepared to think in these terms, or to accept such a proposal if it were put to them. The only responsible course, therefore, in the years immediately ahead is to work for the improvement of the central machinery of intergovernmental coöperation and coördination that does exist.


When one considers the ramshackle world that would now surround us if no Atlantic system of collective security had been established, one must conclude, I think, that the Atlantic powers would be foolish if they did not seek to improve the instrument that they have roughly fashioned. The difficulty is to be certain that the effectiveness of the Alliance, as a political as well as a military instrument, will increase at the same rate as the demands upon it. There seem to me a number of developments, pressures both from within as well as from without, which may necessitate considerable modification of its central structure if the burdens which the alliance imposes are not thought by its members to outweigh the additional strength which it creates.

The first development is by no means new. It concerns the steady widening of the range and types of challenge which the Soviet Union now feels able to offer to the Atlantic powers. Mr. Khrushchev's confidence in this regard is very largely justified. In the first place, while it is true that by any numerical count the United States can, and perhaps always will be able to, pose a much more formidable threat to the Soviet Union than vice versa, the Soviet strategic threat to the European allies is not only very formidable but becoming more so. Any period of tension is likely, therefore, to create an unequal incidence of risk for the different NATO countries. Since the disintegration of NATO as a political alliance is one of the most consistent aims of Soviet policy, this is an asset of considerable value. In the second place, as both the Soviet Union and the United States transfer their strategic strength into relatively invulnerable forms of striking power, the certainty of being able to destroy the opponent's strategic weapons systems must fluctuate, and probably diminish. If, as the sixties progress, the prospect of strategic war is seen with increasing clarity to involve an exchange of blows on great cities, the credibility of the American resort to it even under severe provocation must fluctuate or diminish also. This would be true even if the United States were to undertake a massive civil defense program which, because this option is not open to the European allies who lack the warning time and wealth, would itself be a source of tension within NATO.

The great uncertainties and dangers that technological progress has created dispose of any lingering Western hope of being able to deter a tactical move by a strategic threat. The American military reactions to the Soviet moves on Berlin exemplify an appreciation of this fact. But, far beyond Europe, Mr. Khrushchev knows that the equivocal nature of the contemporary and developing strategic balance increases his freedom to support "movements of colonial liberation" and to exploit the forces of change in Asia, Africa and Latin America, unless not he but his agents can be thwarted at the seat of trouble. Thus, the widening range of Soviet options, below the level of strategic war, is not only creating the need for a wider range of Western military responses, but making it important to coördinate non-military policy in a way never envisaged in the early years of NATO.

The second external development of which any reconsideration of NATO's responsibilities must take account is that the process of disimperialism, which has been set in motion by its own members, is inevitably creating a precarious world order which may take a generation or more to find firmer foundations. As the number of new sovereign states increases, so the likelihood of situations of internal chaos or local aggression-a Laos, a Congo, a Kuwait-increases also. This is, unfortunately, happening at a time when the peace-keeping machinery of the United Nations is still very immature, but when modern communications are shrinking the world so as to increase the speed of action and reaction, and affect the balance of political power, however remote the original seat of trouble may be from the Atlantic area. It is a problem to which none of the NATO powers can be indifferent, while at the same time it tends to sharpen conflicts of interest or policy among them.

The third interrelated development concerns this uncertain balance of strategic power. It seems to me to be imposing three requirements on NATO itself. One is that the military preparations of the alliance must now be constantly considered with an eye to advancing the prospects of limited agreements with the Soviet Union to mitigate the worst dangers that arise from the combination of cataclysmic destructive power with very fast means of delivery-surprise attack, accidental war, miscalculation; and this in turn requires effective civil coöperation in all aspects of military planning. Another consequence of the delicate balance is to increase the importance of civil control over military action, to ensure that political judgment is interposed between each step of military decisions, and, in a world dangerously dependent on computer-fed information, to eliminate the dangers of automatic reaction to mechanical intelligence. Finally, the delicacy of the balance of power sets a high premium on unified political responses in the kind of swiftly moving diplomatic exchanges we have seen over Berlin. As the speed of action and reaction accelerates, as factors of public morale come to play an increasingly important part, disagreements over diplomatic strategy can, in a tense situation, undermine the strength of NATO every bit as much as weaknesses in military power.


But perhaps the least explored developments are those that are altering the balance of power within NATO itself. Clearly the most crucial is the gradual change in the politico-strategic relationship of the United States to its European allies. Briefly, my proposition is that the military power of the United States within NATO is growing, while on non-military questions it will have a less dominant role than in recent years.

As the problem of maintaining a credible system of strategic deterrence in the open countries of the Atlantic area becomes more and more complex, the disparity between the strategic resources of the United States and the European allies becomes more and more marked. As the premium on invulnerability of bases increases, strategic weapons systems not only involve scientific and economic resources which no one European country or even a large group of them can command, but are the product of continuous American programs of research and development in which the European countries have been only sporadically engaged. Moreover, even if the European allies could muster the technical resources, nothing can provide them with the geographic advantages of the United States-a distant, large and relatively underpopulated land area bounded by two great oceans.

The European allies are becoming strategically more dependent on American technological prowess all the time, for reasons clearly set out by Albert Wohlstetter in the April 1961 issue of Foreign Affairs ("Nuclear Sharing: NATO and the N + 1 Country"). Even the British government, which set out to acquire a measure of strategic independence, now acknowledges that, for reasons of both geography and economics, it can make only an "independent contribution" to the deterrent and only with active American technological assistance. The feasibility of the attempt to construct a system of strategic deterrence in France around a small force of manned bombers by 1965 and around an I.R.B.M. by 1970 is now widely questioned, even in French government circles. Moreover, American strategic power will, as the years progress, be less and less dependent on European bases except for marginal services. Whatever European leaders may say about the impossibility of being dependent on another country for their ultimate survival, the fact is that they are and will remain so.

The overwhelming strategic dominance of the United States extends for the moment also to tactical forces. Because France is still heavily committed in Algeria and has not fully grasped the implications of the age of nuclear equipoise, because British policy has yet to be readjusted from the disastrous misreading of the future which led her to concentrate in 1957 on a policy of increasing nuclear firepower at the expense of conventional manpower, and because the dramatic growth of the economies of Western Europe has created a manpower shortage in many countries, the main burden of increasing the flexibility of Western strategy and diplomacy falls for the moment principally on the United States. Until European defense and manpower policies are adjusted, this unhappy imbalance will persist, but to remove it must first require the hammering out of a common view in NATO of what the tactical requirements of the age of nuclear equipoise really are.

Yet the military hegemony of the United States within NATO is counterbalanced by the extent to which it is becoming increasingly affected by the general policies of its European allies. For one thing, as international relations become more complicated with the rise of new states, as Communist policy concentrates on discrediting the Atlantic countries as a whole in the eyes of the uncommitted world, so the United States becomes more and more involved in the colonial or post-colonial policies of her allies. Dis-imperialism has helped solve the old American dilemma between championing colonial freedom and maintaining close ties with the colonial powers, but it has created a new range of problems that affect the United States and those countries alike. For another, the Kennedy Administration has expressed an understandable desire to shift some of the burden of technical assistance, economic aid and other programs onto the shoulders of the wealthier European countries, which means close involvement in their policies.

But the group of allies with whom the United States must maintain this close political relationship are very different societies from those whose governments signed the North Atlantic Treaty 12 years ago. Most of them have recovered, and surpassed, their old economic and social dynamism. Moreover, their confidence in American political leadership, which was high in the early days of NATO, is nowadays qualified, largely because of the failure of the American policy-making process in Washington to mature at the same pace as American physical power and responsibilities. It is unwise to generalize about European opinion, but one can be certain that the restored pride of Europe will make the countries that compose it play a critical or even obstructive role in the formulation of allied policy, unless a means can be found which enables them to play a constructive one. This will be so whatever the military realities. For the diversification of the external challenge now makes it as impossible for the United States to use its strategic dominance within the alliance in order to lay down general policies for the West as it is for the European allies to develop independent strategies. This increasing dependence of the two halves of the alliance on each other could be the source of great friction or of a better working relationship and more useful central institutions, depending on the candor with which it is confronted.

But if the balance of power and mutual dependence between the European allies and the United States is becoming clearer, the relationship between the European allies is in transition. Nevertheless, I think one can identify two developments which point toward a strengthened and revised NATO. The first is the collapse of the idea on which the structure of NATO is largely based, namely that the alliance consisted of three "great" powers and nine (later 12) others whose prime concern was with the security of their own particular area. In 1950 when Britain and France were still vast imperial powers and the rest of the allies were preoccupied with reconstruction, this view was a tenable one. But in recent years not only have the world-wide responsibilities of Britain and France considerably diminished but the interests and influence of the other NATO countries have markedly expanded. Italy, for instance, has developed important economic and political relationships in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Canada is expanding her relationships not only with the new Commonwealth countries but also in the Far East. Norway and Denmark have a very special relationship with their northern neighbors. Germany not only plays an important part in the defense of Europe, but is spreading her interests to every corner of the world. Turkey is vitally involved in Middle Eastern affairs. Greece, like Norway, is now a world-wide shipping power. The Netherlands has an unfinished chapter in her relations with Southeast Asia, and Belgium and Portugal still play a vital role in African affairs. Though the old ideas may die hard in London and Paris, any attempt to perpetuate a distinction between the "great," the "middle" and the "small" powers in NATO will create increasing friction. The only durable solution is to devise means of drawing all 13 countries (for Iceland does not claim to have more than local interests, though these she claims tenaciously) into a better form of political association with the United States. For between them its allies have a range of world interests, information, opportunities and commitments equal to its own, whereas no smaller group of NATO power has. It would be ironic if we were to accept and perpetuate the idea of a troika in NATO when we are resisting it in the United Nations.

At first sight, the other development-the creation of stronger forms of regional associations within Europe-suggests that NATO might one day become less important or be transformed into a quite small body consisting of the United States, Canada and the E.E.C. It is very likely that as time goes on the E.E.C. will acquire not only political functions but also some responsibility for defense. It is difficult, for instance, to imagine Britain, France, Italy and Germany being for long in an economic association without evolving agreements to rationalize and standardize the production of aircraft or tanks on a European basis. E.E.C. may acquire some of the characteristics of the abortive E.D.C. not only for European defense, but also for the protection of certain overseas interests which are of greater concern to Europe than to the United States. (This will be all the more probable if China becomes a serious nuclear power, forcing the United States to concentrate more resources on deterrence and defense in the Pacific and to ask her European allies to assume a considerably larger share of the defense both of Europe and of their overseas interests.) But not one of the European countries will be prepared to expand the political or defense responsibilities of E.E.C. if it means weakening its association with the source of Western strategic strength, the United States. It is fair to say that the possibility of creating more than just an economic union in Europe depends absolutely on maintaining and improving the central political and military institutions of NATO as a 15-nation alliance.


If one is right in thinking that these are the most important external and internal pressures to which NATO must respond, there are three aspects of NATO which need close examination. The first is the effectiveness and authority of the machinery of political consultation and control. The second is the basic concept and the structure of the defense of Europe, which will remain the central responsibility of NATO. The third is the relationship between the European allies and the United States as it concerns strategic weapons and policy.

In the early days of NATO the principal emphasis was on the speedy development of central military commands. The central political institutions, the NATO Council with its permanent representatives and the Secretariat, were developed more slowly, and were not really considered of prime importance until the Suez debacle led the smaller powers to insist on increasing the authority of the Secretary-General and widening the Council's terms of reference. But even so, neither the Council nor the Secretariat today wields the authority or is equipped for the responsibilities which the need for a high degree of political consultation imposes. These responsibilities divide into two categories, those concerned with the direct confrontation of the Soviet Union in Europe, and those deriving from the need to maintain a stable pattern of international relationships in the rest of the world.

It would be absurd to suggest that the NATO Council does not devote a great deal of time to questions of European security. But consultation between national representatives on problems as they arise is one thing; joint planning is quite another. There are two serious deficiencies. One is that the NATO Council has little authority over military planning in the Standing Group or Supreme Headquarters Europe, and therefore, unlike a national government, little control over the military environment in which it may be asked to reach political judgments. The other is that the civil secretariat in NATO is not a strong enough body to undertake effective long- range planning on behalf of the alliance, nor to play the dominant part it should in the evaluation of political, economic, technological and strategic trends which themselves shape military goals. There are some 23 intergovernmental committees reporting to the Council, including the Military Committee (which meets only sporadically), but this is not joint planning. Because political consultation and military planning are conducted in separate compartments, NATO has made virtually no contribution to the evolution of constructive arms control and disarmament proposals-a subject that is as central to its responsibilities as defense policy, and more complex. Because there is no central civil-military staff in the NATO Secretariat permanently concerned with this problem, the proposals of national governments have more than once foundered on the hostility or misunderstanding of other NATO governments; for this reason one must feel considerable doubt about the wisdom of establishing a strong Disarmament Agency in the United States Government without creating any counterpart in NATO.

The problem of resolving differences of national policy on questions outside the NATO area is somewhat different. It has been growing in importance and has now become acute as Europe's neighboring continent splits into a score of sovereign nations. Belgian policy in the Congo, British policy in the Rhodesias, Portugal's actions in Angola, French policy in North and West Africa increasingly affect the interests of their other allies. There is no simple answer here, for the new countries- especially in Africa-are intensely suspicious of any attempt to devise a monolithic Western policy towards them, and Lord Avon's recent suggestion of a "political general staff" might do considerably more harm than good. But equally illusory is the hope still cherished by every NATO government that it can somehow or other be made clear to the new countries that its membership in NATO implies no responsibility for the policies of other allies; as the nationalist revolution gathers force, so the white West comes more and more to be regarded as collectively responsible for the acts of individual countries. What this does is to impose an absolute responsibility on member governments to inform their allies through the NATO Council of changes in policy or of plans for action in other parts of the world which may involve the use of force. In view of the widening interests of the smaller NATO allies and the accelerating tempo of action and reaction, the processes of conventional diplomacy are not always adequate. This is primarily a question of intergovernmental consultation and only secondarily of joint planning, although there is a great deal of forward thinking to be done on an international basis on developments beyond the NATO area.

Both these problems raise the question of whether the status of the NATO Council should be enhanced. The value of the Permanent NATO Council is that it is the only body of Western political representatives which meets every week or more, so that important subjects can be considered by men who have a thorough knowledge of each others' minds and without creating that unnecessary sense of crisis or tension which special gatherings of ministers or officials from different capitals often produce. The practice has been to appoint professional diplomats or officials as national representatives on the Council; but, skillful as they may be, there now seems to me a strong case for appointing men with political standing in their own countries who can speak directly to heads of governments and, where constitutionally possible, to parliaments. The exact title or constitutional device would have to vary with different countries. In countries with cabinet government, it would involve the appointment of a Minister of State (or, to follow a British precedent, a Minister Resident) for Atlantic Affairs. Under the American Constitution, it would involve the appointment of a special representative who would be a member of the National Security Council or would report directly to the President as the U.S. representative at the United Nations does. In those NATO countries under personal rule, it would involve the appointment of someone high in the confidence of the head of government. The purpose of this reform would not be to give the Council supra-national powers, nor to abandon its essential rule of private discussion, but to increase the authority of its views with governments, electorates and adversaries by appointing men who can interpret its conclusions and directives to their own people with high authority. Moreover, it is probably only by this means that NATO can respond swiftly to diplomatic probes or avert the kind of ragged and belated response which was all that the NATO powers could make to the closing of the East Berlin frontier on August 13. If the inherent disadvantages of a large alliance when confronting a single adversary are to be overcome, it is as important in times of tension to have a political operations center as a military one; in an alliance of democracies this can be manned only by men who wield political authority in their own countries.


It is the nature of the strategic balance of power which determines the means by which Europe must be defended. The United States must be the best judge of this strategic balance, since its officials must live daily with the problem it presents. But the modification of European defense plans profoundly affects the policies of its allies, especially if they involve additional military manpower. It is therefore a vital American interest to ensure that the European allies have a continuous and clear picture of strategic realities-something that is much easier said than done, given the inevitable time lag in communicating ideas across geographic, language and intellectual barriers.

To avoid the cleavage that now exists between the military thinking of the United States and that of its allies, ways must be devised whereby all members of NATO have continuous access to the inner debate from which American policy emerges, and can be treated with greater candor about new developments. If policy for the defense of Europe is to keep abreast of the rapid pace of technological development, there seems little alternative to a system of joint international planning in which the United States has a powerful but not a dictatorial voice.

On paper such a system exists. The two Supreme Commands, Europe and Atlantic, are international though their commanders are American. They report to the Standing Group, that is, representatives of the U.S., British and French Chiefs of Staff in Washington whose recommendations are transmitted through the Military Committee (which consists of all the Chiefs of Staff of the alliance) to the Council. But this is no longer in fact the way NATO military policy is evolved. The Standing Group has become largely a shadow organization and the Supreme Commander Europe (whose headquarters is only 12 miles from Paris whereas the Standing Group is 3,000) has had to become the Chief of Staff of the alliance. Thus, one man is required to function as a planner, military adviser to a civil international body, and commander of a vast area. Consequently he is placed in an impossible position; he is asked to be judge and advocate in his own cause; and, as an American, his views are generally supposed in Europe to be American policy, although, being quite independent of the American policy-making process, they may not have the backing of Washington.

But there are two even more serious defects in the NATO military planning process. One is that the formulation of military policy takes place almost entirely within military channels, with civil-military liaison only at the highest level. Thus NATO procedure is contrary to the developing practice within national governments where, as weapons and policies become more lethal and more costly, treasuries, foreign offices and other civil agencies have become deeply involved in the evolution of military policy from the ground up. The other is that American practice precludes American officials from discussing with fellow members of international staffs any factors that involve the possible use of strategic nuclear weapons. No one wishes to prejudice security, and there is clearly no requirement for American officials to, say, tell their colleagues how to make a thermonuclear bomb. But the net effect of this extreme secretiveness about the factors which govern and change American strategic policy is to deprive international military planning of much of its value, and to leave European governments with a very hazy and inaccurate picture of the trend of American strategic policy-which, after all, governs so much of allied foreign policy-often pieced together from leaks in the American daily and technical press.

To meet these difficulties, the strengthening of the NATO Council provides only part of the answer. For it cannot act as an authoritative center for the evolution and continuous modification of allied military policy nor as the effective and coördinating agent of other policies if it continues to be served only by a maze of intergovernmental committees and a largely autonomous military machine. What is required is a strong secretariat in which civil and military planners work under a central authority. But whereas in the Council the fact that internal developments within the alliance have made it impossible to create any form of directorate of the representatives of the larger powers or to operate on any narrower basis than the full 15 members, the Secretariat could effectively serve the Council only if the division of functions was related to the contribution which different countries make to the collective military and economic resources of the alliance.

Official blueprints are for officials to devise, and there are probably several routes to the same objective. I sketch the outline of one for purposes of illustration.

The office of Chairman of the Council and Secretary-General, combined since 1957, would be separated: the Chairman to be a distinguished European political figure, who, apart from running the Council's business, should be its principal public spokesman and concerned with maintaining contact with allied heads of governments.

The Secretary-General would occupy a position analogous to a British Secretary of the Cabinet, responsible, not for making policy, but for drawing together the threads of official planning and debate so that his political masters can be presented with intelligible choices in a proper order of priority; a powerful but not a public position. The foregoing analysis suggests that he should be an American civilian (perhaps also an Assistant Secretary of State or Defense to ensure that he has the proper access) in order that the alliance can be in continuous contact with the development of American policy at the working level.

Three Deputy Secretaries-General would deal respectively with (a) European questions; (b) extra-European questions including liaison with the other alliances; (c) economic and industrial questions affecting NATO policy (including the ugly commercial lobbying which so distorts and delays agreement on weapons and aircraft). These three posts would be filled by officials, lent for long terms by the governments of Britain, France, Germany, Canada or Italy.

A civilian Deputy Secretary-General would be responsible for both military planning and arms control policy; he would not be an American. Under him would come a Chief of Staff, who would be an American (and perhaps a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), and three Deputy Chiefs of Staff drawn from Britain, France and Germany at the head of a combined staff drawn from the whole alliance. As in a national government, the Chief of Staff would in the first instance tender his advice to his civil superiors, but would have the right of access to the Council itself. The Standing Group in Washington could then be abolished and the military representatives of the smaller powers absorbed into the national delegations of the NATO Council so that members of it could assess the military advice tendered by the Secretariat in a more expert fashion. The Supreme Commander Europe could then become once again what his name implies, an operational commander, though if NATO had a powerful staff organization in Paris it might well prove desirable, on close examination, to split this vast area into more than one command. Whether he should continue to be an American must depend on the long-term priority which Britain and France decide to give to their European commitments. Throughout the Secretariat, the representatives of the smaller powers would form part of planning teams, according to their special interests.

Since NATO does not have supra-national powers, it would be important, if the work of this powerful new staff were not to be undermined by national doubts and jealousies, to devise means of subjecting its work to regular review by governments. This could be done by supplementing the biannual meetings of Foreign Ministers, which are so brief as to provide scope only for the most general tour d'horizon, by a quarterly meeting of Ministers of Defense (whose rise in importance in every country is symptomatic of the way in which military policy is ceasing to be a matter of purely military consideration), and regular meetings of Ministers of Finance and Trade or Industry.

Finally, it should be made clear that what is at issue is not the creation of a large bureaucracy to duplicate the administrative responsibilities of national governments; what is required is a staff of very high quality, consisting of men whom only considerations of the greater importance of allied rather than national planning will induce governments to spare, so that within the glass walls of the new NATO building in Paris a candid and informed assessment of the requirements of today and tomorrow can be conducted by international teams composed of men of real ability.


I have left to the last any consideration of the relationship between the European allies and strategic nuclear weapons and their planning, because it seems to me that the solution of this problem depends on reorganizing the central institutions of NATO along some such lines as I have sketched. True, the ambivalent fears of some Europeans that the United States might unleash strategic war too readily or not find Europe worth the price of strategic war are losing much of their force with the development of an effective American second-strike capacity. But the problem will not solve itself. No alliance has ever before been based on a virtual monopoly of strategic power in the hands of one ally; and the problem might become more acute with the attenuation of various forms of dual control as American strategic bases are withdrawn from Europe. At the same time, the idea of NATO control of some American strategic weapons-the so-called "NATO deterrent" (which I among others thought would have to be considered seriously if it proved necessary to deploy land-based M.R.B.M.s in Europe)- will no longer have any real validity if those American strategic weapons that are based in Europe are to be withdrawn and if the NATO system of deterrence in Europe is to be supported primarily by Polaris submarines.

But the controversy which the idea has created in recent years has illuminated a profound confusion of thought that exists within the alliance, as in disarmament negotiations, between the French concept of contrôle which means examination, verification, the right to criticize, and the English word control which in this context means the physical grasp of buttons and levers. If one analyzes European fears, or examines the reasons why first Britain, then France, embarked on an independent nuclear capability, it becomes clear that the basic European desire is not so much for operational control of bombers or missiles as pour controller American strategic policy, to gain some measure of control over the context of peace and war.

It is here that a strengthened Council and a powerful European-American Secretariat would play such an important role. If the United States could present a clear and continuous picture of its strategic policy through these strengthened institutions (which need not include such highly classified secrets as targets, though it must include the general considerations by which it would fight a war as well as deter one) and accept informed criticism of its plans, then not only would European governments at last have a clear picture of the considerations which must govern their own defense policies and diplomacy, but their main motive for wishing to acquire operational control of nuclear weapons would disappear. The United States would not then have to consider devolving operational control of nuclear weapons; by bringing NATO within the American policy planning process, the President's operational freedom of action in an emergency would thus be enhanced.

Two further developments could then be expected. First, it is not unreasonable, in these circumstances, to assume that if it were clear in London and Paris that the civil-military machine of NATO provided a better channel of contrôle than the independent maintenance of increasingly expensive national nuclear strategic forces, these could be replanned within NATO as tactical forces and in the end very probably dispensed with. Second, the operational control of tactical nuclear weapons could then be vested in the Secretary-General or Chief of Staff of the alliance under strict "rules of engagement" laid down by the Council (though the weapons themselves would remain in American hands), thus creating joint European- American responsibility for nuclear weapons remaining on European soil, and also for defining their true role and value (a process which must be the essential precursor of an equally constructive arms-control proposal for Europe).


The evolution of a stronger center for the Alliance is not a final goal for the Atlantic Community, but a means to a common end-the avoidance of war, the coördinated defense of legitimate interests and the construction of a better system of security and stability which demonstrates that the allies are in full control of the military strength they have created. At present no better means presents itself, and we shall be neglecting our opportunities if we fail to make what we can of NATO simply because we must acknowledge that its functions are limited and that other agencies also have a constructive role to play In creating a new world order.

In conclusion, I would like to point to the degree of common interest that exists in evolving such a center in all the countries of the Alliance, for it has too often come to be assumed in recent years that any modification that advantages one ally must disadvantage others. First, the smaller countries of the Alliance would gain immeasurably. At present they are tarred with the brush, in Soviet or uncommitted eyes, of alignment with the three Western nuclear powers without really being able to play a constructive or influential role in the formulation of Alliance policy. At present they have not the sense of participating in centrally evolved policies-as Mr. Khrushchev knows very well when he invites their Prime Ministers to the Kremlin. Their contribution might not entitle them to many of the key positions in a new civil-military Secretariat of enlarged responsibilities, but it would entitle them to participate in every aspect of its work.

For France the new system would reject the shadow and offer the substance of what President de Gaulle has always required of the Alliance. There would be no French veto on the decisions of the Alliance, but instead an opportunity to exert a strong French influence upon policy in its formative stage. If closer association with the real problems and needs of NATO should convince President de Gaulle that it is the historic role of France to revitalize the defenses of a Europe that must inevitably become more dependent on its own resources, rather than standing aloof from what he conceives to be largely American organization, the power and influence of France within the Alliance would grow rapidly.

For Germany, where both major parties now attach great importance to NATO and German membership in it, the strengthening of the central institution would help to mitigate that sense of frustration which a divided country is bound to feel. The present German loyalty to NATO and the declared readiness of her government to abide by its decisions could easily wither if NATO proved incapable of taking decisions.

For Britain, a decision to submit more of her policy planning to the contrôle of NATO would be to grasp history by the forelock. As Britain becomes less a world power and more intimately concerned with Europe, so the importance of NATO to her must rise. Her aloofness from Europe, the tendency of successive governments to treat her NATO commitments as expendable, has diminished British influence in continental Europe at a time when, for economic and political reasons, she is becoming vitally dependent on it. If national pride can accept the hard fact that the old Anglo-American partnership is dissolving, that henceforth the main road to Washington will lie through Paris, Bonn and Brussels, a strengthened and expanded NATO becomes a vital British interest.

For the United States, such a proposal creates both difficulties and opportunities. It would require a great firmness and consistency of policy to accept the role of NATO as an integral part of the American policy- making process. Yet if it be the case that the United States is becoming politically more affected all the time by the policies of its NATO allies, and if it wishes to shift part of its material and political burdens and responsibilities onto their shoulders while retaining sole control of strategic weapons and decisions, it has really little alternative but to take the lead in evolving means whereby Canada and the European allies have greater access to American counsels.

The great assault which Soviet policy has launched is aimed not at the military forces of the Alliance but at its political cohesion. If NATO can be dismembered politically, then no amount of physical rearmament can redress this defeat. It is to the increase of confidence of ally in ally that any reform of NATO must be addressed.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now