Courtesy Reuters

The Long-Term Crisis of the Alliance

That the Western Alliance is undergoing one of its recurrent crises is beyond doubt: the important question is whether this crisis is different in nature and more perilous in its likely outcome than those of the past.1 If NATO simply faces the chronic tensions of an alliance constructed of 16 members of varying size, geographic location and temperament, there is little cause for concern. The disputes of the moment-the questions of trade with the Soviet Union (including the Euro-Soviet natural gas pipeline) and European theater nuclear force (TNF) modernization-will be resolved by inelegant but workable compromises; the petty resentments of the moment will be understood as such: fits of pique which lead to the spats common to any couple, no matter how secure their marriage.

Even if we assume that the disputes are serious ones, it is possible to argue that differences between Europeans and Americans could have been avoided, and can be resolved by enlightened statesmen. In this view the disagreements are major but amenable to solution. What is needed is intensive investigation of the merits of each issue coupled with a strenuous effort by politicians to change their way of doing business. One version of this argument is that the current crisis has been produced by the gaucherie and diplomatic ineptitude of two American Presidents, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and can be remedied if the second will only try to acquire some worldly wisdom. To continue the marital metaphor: husband and wife quarrel over where to live or what house to buy. Generosity, good sense and tact are needed-indeed, in their absence a serious breach may occur-but the dispute can be resolved on its own terms.

The third possibility, and unfortunately, the one closest to the truth, is that profound antipathies imperil the marriage. The current crisis of NATO is, in fact, a structural one, which no accommodations on such issues as the Euro-Soviet gas pipeline or TNF can solve. Forces beyond the control of any statesman, no matter

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