Will Ukraine Wind Up Making Territorial Concessions to Russia?
Foreign Affairs Asks the Experts
The next annual economic summit is scheduled to be held in Bonn in May 1985. What follows is a more or less fanciful account of its proceedings-not a prediction of the eventual reality, but a depiction of where present domestic and international economic trends are leading. Foremost among these trends is the growth of the U.S. trade and budget deficits. Conceivably, by next May, the actors at the Bonn Summit will have seen signs that these deficits are being reduced. More likely they will not, and the Summit will open in full awareness of the dangers that these deficits pose to the global economy.
The dramatization that follows aims to portray what might happen in the absence of effective measures to avert these dangers. Any resemblance between the heads of government described herein and those now in office is, as they say, purely coincidental. The scenario is illuminated by the author's experience as a "sherpa" at the summits of 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980.
The time is May 1985. The scene is a large building in the federal government compound in the West German capital, which is distinguished from other nearby buildings mainly by its lack of distinction. Its style is 1905 functional. Two sentries from the German armed forces stand at the entry. They present arms as each of eight political leaders-the heads of government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain and the United States, and the President of the European Community-enters. The 1985 Bonn Economic Summit of the seven major industrial democracies is about to begin.
This is the ninth in a series of summits which started in 1975, when President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of France convened the first meeting at Rambouillet. Since the 1970s, the heads of government have moved away from detailed and specific summit agreements. They prefer substantive exchanges that do not require major changes in the participants' policies. That is what they achieved at Ottawa in 1981, Versailles in 1982, Williamsburg in 1983 and London in 1984: useful discussions, rather than agreement on new actions.
The need to do more, however, is in their minds as the gavel of the German Chancellor calls them to order. This need has been underlined by recent events.
When the new U.S. Congress convened in January 1985, it quickly became apparent that neither the executive branch nor the legislative branch of government had any stomach for major changes in U.S. budgetary policy. The Administration introduced a tax reform and simplification proposal, but neither political party showed much desire to use this measure to increase total tax revenues, in the face of opinion polls that showed this to be highly unpopular. There was even less support for major cuts in defense expenditures; arms control negotiations with the Soviets were resuming, but their results were still unclear. As for cuts in domestic expenditures, notably middle-class entitlement programs, these were barely mentioned, except by a few members of Congress who had already indicated that they did not wish to run for reelection.
The economic situation in early 1985, therefore, seemed to be only a continuation of that in 1984. American interest rates remained high as the U.S. Treasury competed with private borrowing for available savings. These high interest rates, the seeming strength of the U.S. economy and consequent profitability of investments in America, plus the stability of the American body politic, continued to attract foreign funds, both long-term investment and short-term overnight money. These funds filled the gap between high domestic U.S. borrowing and investment needs on the one hand, and the relatively low rate of domestic U.S. savings on the other. They balanced the huge U.S. deficit on current account, which was due largely to greatly increased U.S. imports caused by the weakness of foreign currencies vis-à-vis the dollar and by the increased domestic demand attendant on a strong American recovery.
Although the situation seemed stable as 1985 began, several factors were at work to undermine it. Some of these had existed in 1984. All grew more evident in the first months of the new year:
-The large U.S. budget deficit and resulting high U.S. interest rates were slowing the U.S. recovery and causing fears of an eventual recession.
-The U.S. trade deficit was generating growing protectionist pressures in the United States, which threatened to abort recovery abroad, especially in countries that relied heavily on exports for their prosperity.
-The large borrowings abroad that financed the budget deficit and offset the trade deficit were converting the United States into a permanent debtor and creating an ever-larger dollar overhang that made the international financial community increasingly uneasy.
-Foreign investors and governments began to lose their previous hopes that the U.S. budgetary and trade deficits, which were at the root of these problems, would soon be brought under control.
-The efforts of foreign countries, which had witnessed the flight of capital to the United States, to make their industrial economies more attractive to investment were beginning to pay off.
For all these reasons, there was growing uncertainty over whether the strength of the dollar and the flow of funds to the United States, which had been such marked features of the economic scene in 1984, would continue in the same degree. Those sending funds to the United States noted these doubts, reflected on these destabilizing factors, and began to worry. There was a sudden brief drop in the value of the dollar in early April; it rebounded, but not as rapidly as it had fallen.
In the wake of these events, U.S. interest rates rose still further, as American public and private borrowers felt compelled to offer even greater inducements to attract the foreign funds needed to finance federal deficits and U.S. private investment. This rise in U.S. rates created special problems for debt-ridden developing countries and exacerbated fears of a general slowdown of growth in the industrial world. Protectionist pressures increased even more rapidly as a result.
To hold back the rise in interest rates, the Administration urged the Federal Reserve to show greater flexibility, but without success. The Chairman of the Fed argued that an increase in the U.S. money supply would generate fears of renewed inflation and thus intensify foreign concerns about the soundness of the U.S. economy, which would only compound the problem.
While the dollar remained strong and foreign funds continued to flow into the United States, an alarm bell had been heard in the night. Fears grew of a further and sharper drop in the dollar and of a drastic reduction in the flow of funds to the United States. Public discussion arose over whether the United States would eventually have to ask for loans from foreign central banks, if the flow of private funds to the United States dried up. Some observers speculated as to whether, if this occurred, the banks would insist on a change in U.S. fiscal policy as a precondition to their lending.
Against the background of these growing concerns about the future, the press and television gave the forthcoming Summit increasing attention. It was seen as a potential turning point, for better or worse, in the economic fortunes of the West. Comparisons were made with the last Bonn Summit in July 1978, when a package economic agreement had enabled the United States to make an overdue change in its economic policy. Would the second Bonn Summit again help an American president to take needed domestic measures-this time to reduce the large budget deficit?
The German Chancellor, host and chairman for the meeting, had been urged by his country's press to rise to the occasion and the precedent. The German media also advised him to avoid an open clash with the United States, which might strengthen pressures in Congress for a reduction of American forces in Germany. He was urged, in short, to get an agreement that would dispel economic concerns, but to do so without any confrontation with the United States.
Pre-summit telephone talks with the U.S. President had left him uncertain as to whether this could be done. Bilateral and multilateral discussion among sherpas had not removed that uncertainty, although they had suggested to the Chancellor and some of his advisers the general outlines of a possible agreement.
The Chancellor opened the first session, as is usual at summits, by asking each head of government to speak about his economic concerns and the situation in his country. He turned first to the President of the United States.
The President spoke about elements of strength in the U.S. economy: prices were relatively stable; growth was proceeding at a faster rate than in other industrial countries; the executive branch was resisting protectionist pressures; the United States was still the main force making for world recovery. But its ability to continue playing this role was hindered by the doubts about U.S. prospects reflected in recent turbulence on foreign exchange markets. The President urged the Summit participants to remove these doubts by expressing their confidence in the U.S. economy and in U.S. economic policy.
The other heads of government responded by indicating, with varying degrees of diffidence, their view that the present situation was not an accident but the inevitable result of U.S. fiscal policies. No summit communiqué could restore confidence unless these policies changed.
The President answered that the United States was not the only country to run a large budgetary deficit, but it was the only country that had staged a large recovery in recent years, the only country that offered investors reasonable profit margins instead of prohibitive wage and social welfare costs, the only country that had successfully encouraged the development of new technologies on a large scale, and the only country that had been able substantially to reduce its unemployment without generating inflation. The sum total of recent U.S. policies, including fiscal policies, had produced this outcome. It was not the United States but the countries which had done less well that needed to change their policies.
Some heads of government pointed out that the budget deficits of other countries (Japan was the best example) were often matched by high rates of savings. It was the combination of large U.S. deficits and a relatively low U.S. savings rate that had intensified concerns about the American economy.
After this exchange, more blunt than customary at summits, silence settled over the room. It was evident that the participants were separated by a chasm which could not be bridged by oratory. The other heads of state then spoke briefly about each of their countries' economic outlook, but the thoughts of all remained focused on the U.S. problem and prospects so vividly illustrated by the President's remarks.
Over lunch, the Chancellor followed the pattern of previous summits in suggesting that the heads of government discuss noneconomic subjects at meals. He encouraged the President to brief them on the current state of U.S.-Soviet arms talks. The President gave a summary, suggesting that there was some prospect for success in achieving an agreement, but that a great deal depended on convincing Soviet leaders that the United States and its allies would meet the challenge of higher defense budgets if these talks failed. The European heads of government wished him well, noting the strong nuclear concerns of their publics.
Then came the usual "free time" after lunch. Breaking into groups of twos and threes, the heads of government strolled for a few minutes around the garden. The Chancellor and the President walked together up and down a small gravel path. The Chancellor said that they should talk as practical politicians: the Summit could succeed only if the United States made some contribution. The other heads of government could not go home without some sign that there would be change in the U.S. fiscal policies that they and their publics thought now threatened world recovery.
The President responded that he had the same problem in reverse; he could not return to the United States having been forced by the allies to change his budgetary policies without getting anything in return. No one would respect a president who yielded to this kind of foreign pressure. If eventually there had to be some shift in U.S. fiscal policy, this would not be the way to go about it. The allies would also have to make major contributions to a summit package if it was to be of any help to him.
When the statesmen reconvened they showed some surprise at the chairman's proposal to move on to other topics. They would need, he said, to complete the initial coverage of economic issues that afternoon, and then take up political issues at dinner, so that they could judge tomorrow morning whether enough progress had been made to permit a constructive summit communiqué.
The President of the European Community objected. There could be no successful summit unless the basic issue that they had confronted in the morning was resolved. To this end, he wanted to pose a question: would the other governments consider changes in their present fiscal and economic policies if the U.S. budgetary policy tightened? Without such changes, a tightening of U.S. budgetary policy would only eliminate the one economic engine that was now sustaining growth in the world. To avoid this, other governments would have to adopt policies that were the reverse of the policies they were urging the United States to adopt. They would have to adopt looser budgetary policies to avoid recession, while maintaining reasonably tight monetary policies to avoid inflation. An indication that they would undertake these changes was the least that an American president could expect before tightening fiscal policy.
The response was muted. The contingency envisaged seemed too remote, in view of the President's attitude, to warrant spending much time discussing it. The chairman suggested that the heads of government move on to the next topic: trade policy.
European heads of government led off. They indicated that the high levels of unemployment which generated growing protectionist pressures in Europe were more the result of structural than cyclical factors: resources did not shift rapidly from old to new industries. Hence some industrial countries were unable to respond as effectively as others to foreign competition. In this circumstance, the astonishing thing was not that there had been increased protectionism, but that the summit countries had come through the most serious recession since World War II without worse damage to world trade. The trade record of 1984, one head of government pointed out, had been one of stalemate rather than drastic deterioration. They would not be doing too badly, he suggested, if they could continue that stalemate.
The U.S. President was less optimistic. He pointed out that 1984 was the first postwar year in which there had not been the annual increase in international trade that had hitherto sustained world economic growth. He stressed that this was a problem not only for the industrial world but also for the developing countries, which had to rely on rising exports to resolve their debt crises. The summit nations would have to lead the world out of the present trade stalemate if both they and the developing countries were to grow.
The Japanese Prime Minister pointed out that Japan's own barriers to manufactured imports had been further reduced in the past year. If exporters in other countries would make the effort required to adapt their products to Japanese tastes, they would be astonished at the opportunities open to them. Even in agriculture, he observed with a wry smile, he could promise that Japan would not lag behind the European Community in dismantling its protectionist policies.
When other heads of government complained of the large Japanese export surplus, the Prime Minister pointed out that this was due largely to two factors beyond his control: the strong U.S. dollar and the high Japanese savings rate. When his colleagues suggested that stimulative Japanese domestic measures would absorb the excess production generated by Japanese savings and thus reduce Japan's export surplus, he described the oversized budget deficit that large Japanese government expenditures had already generated, and said that it would be politically impossible for him to propose an even further increase in these expenditures.
He pointed out that Japan's export surplus was offset, as that of nineteenth-century Britain had been, by large exports of capital, which greatly benefitted other countries. The U.S. President agreed on the value of Japan's capital exports, despite the fact that they contributed to a temporary further weakening of the yen, and urged the Prime Minister to accelerate the deregulation of Japanese financial markets that had begun in 1983 and 1984. Other heads of government stressed the need to ensure that Japan's capital exports were of the kinds most needed for a world recovery, i.e., foreign aid and long-term investment rather than short-term speculative capital movements.
The discussion of trade policy then turned to the United States. European criticism centered on America's 1984 actions to limit imports of steel. The President pointed out that if the U.S. economy was viewed as a whole, it would be seen to be more open than that of Europe or Japan; widespread American public perception of this fact lay at the root of current protectionist pressures in the United States. The best way to constrain these pressures was to go forward with a new round of trade negotiations, which would reduce trade barriers, as agreed at the London Summit in 1984.
Responses from European heads of government made clear that they did not share the President's enthusiasm for accelerating these negotiations. They would be quite satisfied if a "standstill" agreement to avoid new protectionist measures could be maintained. If European trade policy was to change, some major new incentive for this change would be needed.
The U.S. trade negotiator, who had been present for this part of the discussion-along with his European and Japanese colleagues-suggested how such an incentive might be found. Europe was falling behind the United States and Japan in industrial applications of new technology; if this trend continued, Europe's already high levels of unemployment were bound to increase. The way out was to push ahead with trade negotiations, which would lower barriers to the movement of high technology, as well as of other exports. European heads of government took note, but merely stressed the need for the United States to relax the controls that it had increasingly applied to technology exports. These controls did more harm to U.S. allies than to the Soviet Union; they were a thinly disguised form of protectionism. In response, the President promised that this issue could be reviewed if the new trade negotiations made progress.
The Chancellor's suggestion that the meeting move on to examine the Third World debt problem led to a desultory review of proposals for new institutions to deal with this problem, and to a general agreement that it was more important to make existing institutions work than to start new ones. That set the stage for mild criticism of the United States for not supporting more strongly the two Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Several heads of government praised the role of the IMF in rescheduling Third World debt. They noted that the World Bank Group's provision of long-term hard and soft loans supported the IMF's short-term approaches to this problem. They asked why the United States did not take the lead, as it used to, in urging a further expansion as needed in these two institutions.
The President pointed out the incongruity of other heads of government urging him to adopt a tougher fiscal policy while pressing him to spend more money for foreign aid. He was then told by some of the Europeans that a large replenishment of the IMF, some years hence, and a World Bank capital increase, would not require large-scale expenditures by the governments of the industrial countries. As for the International Development Association (IDA, the World Bank's soft-loan window), which did require large new appropriated funds, there might be more sympathy for the U.S. position if the Administration evidenced its long-term support for this institution, while pleading temporary budgetary difficulties. The President listened, made a note, but did not answer.
In moving on to the next topic, international monetary policy, the chairman referred to proposals that had been made by experts for international agreement on target zones, beyond which foreign exchange fluctuations would be restrained by concerted action of central banks. He did not himself favor these proposals, but he thought they should be discussed. None of the heads of government, except the French President, showed much interest. Most felt that currency value changes were symptoms of governments' inability to coordinate their national domestic economic policies with each other. It was necessary for summits to overcome this problem before they could address its symptoms. The morning's discussion had made clear that the industrial countries were a long way from achieving that coordination, which would be needed before a monetary system comparable to the European Monetary System could be made to work on a global scale.
On this somber note, the chairman adjourned the meeting so that the heads of government could prepare for dinner. Most used the time to phone their governments at home, to warn that the summit might fail to achieve any evident result and to suggest that preparations be made to minimize the impact on public opinion.
After dinner, the chairman summed up the first day's work by saying that the issues had been well canvassed, but that the differences seemed larger than the areas of agreement. The heads of government should recognize that the meeting might have to adjourn tomorrow without result. In this case the traditional joint press conference by heads of government should perhaps be cancelled, since there would be little to say. For the same reason there might be no communiqué, only a short statement that exchanges of views at the Summit had been frank and useful. Given the possible effect of this outcome on foreign exchange markets, which were expecting something more tangible, precautions might have to be taken.
As the chairman stood up to leave the room, some heads of government, particularly those facing elections soon, protested against this pessimism. Could not something be done to avoid the dismal summit outcome he had predicted?
The chairman appeared to reflect. He saw one possibility: each of the issues that had been discussed, taken by itself, seemed insoluble. But perhaps, if they were viewed as a whole, a different outcome could be envisaged. Would it be useful, he asked, for the sherpas to hold an all-night exploratory session, to see whether the outlines of a package agreement could be even faintly discerned? There would be no point in going this route unless each head of government was willing to make concessions. He believed that the United States would eventually have to change its fiscal policy. The question was whether the President would do so now, to prevent trouble, or wait until the trouble was closer at hand. The question for the other heads of government was whether this Summit could help the President make that choice. Sometimes, he continued, actions that are politically infeasible, standing by themselves, can be taken when they are part of a larger package-one that includes evident benefits for all. Could such a package be assembled at this Summit, one that would include not only what other heads of government want from the American President but what he wants from them? This meant that European and Japanese heads of government must be willing to reconsider their positions on the issues that were discussed that afternoon, even as the American President must be willing to reconsider his position on the question that was discussed in the morning. If the heads of government were not ready to do this, there was no point in staying up all night continuing negotiations.
There was a long pause and then general, if unenthusiastic, approval for his proposal for an all-night negotiation.
After the plenary meeting adjourned for the night, events followed something like the procedural pattern of the 1978 Bonn Summit.
First, there were meetings between individual heads of government and their sherpas, to fix national positions on key issues.
Then came a long meeting of the sherpas and of sub-cabinet representatives from the foreign and finance ministries-briefly and pleasantly interrupted, as had happened at previous summits, by a late-night visit from the British Prime Minister, who offered encouragement. This session addressed the task that the Chancellor had defined: exploring whether a package agreement could be put together that would include beneficial changes in U.S., European and Japanese policies.
The sherpas' discussion turned first to broad economic policy, since that was the heart of the matter. The question which had been posed by the President of the European Community seemed relevant: if the United States were to adopt a more restrictive budgetary policy, would the other industrial countries change their present tight fiscal policies? If they did not, some argued, the most likely result would be a world recession. The sherpas tentatively agreed that it would make sense for the countries with the strongest economies-Japan, Britain and Germany-to follow more expansionist fiscal policies if the United States tightened its fiscal policy. This expansion should be modest, to avoid reviving inflation. While the U.S. sherpa welcomed this pledge, he made clear that it would not be enough to warrant a U.S. change of policy. It would insulate the world from the adverse effects of such change; it would not bring new benefits to the United States in other areas.
When the sherpas turned to trade policy, the discussion became more difficult. The Europeans were reluctant to promise to push ahead more vigorously in the new round of trade negotiations desired by the United States and Japan. In the end, it became clear that without this concession no package could be put together. As at the 1977 and 1978 summits, the Europeans finally agreed to set deadlines for the achievement of major reductions in trade barriers. To secure these concessions the U.S. sherpa found it necessary to repeat his President's promise that U.S. controls on exports of high technology would be reviewed as part of the new round of trade negotiations.
All agreed that even a further lowering of trade barriers would not end the large Japanese trade surplus, which would have to continue to be balanced by substantial Japanese capital exports. The other sherpas made clear that Japan would have to contribute to this part of the package by pledging a continuing increase in its foreign aid and continuing progress in deregulating its private financial markets, to improve the quality of its capital exports and thus match the trade concessions of other countries.
The U.S. sherpa welcomed these European and Japanese pledges. They were useful building blocks in building an agreement that might meet U.S. needs.
The sherpas then turned to the Third World debt problem and the need to strengthen the Bretton Woods institutions' role in meeting the problem. The bargaining here was not only among the summit countries but also (in some of the sherpas' minds at least) between these countries and developing nations not represented at the Summit. All wanted the Summit to appear at least somewhat responsive to those absent nations' concerns. The outcome was a compromise. The United States agreed to join the other summit countries in supporting a further large IMF replenishment, when this became necessary, and an increase in the capital of the World Bank, which it had hitherto opposed. The European countries and Japan agreed to contribute to the replenishment of the IDA's soft loans on the scale that would be required if the goal were the $12 billion that they had proposed for this replenishment; reversing their previous positions, they agreed to do this even though the United States made clear that its contribution would be geared to the $9-billion goal which it favored, until its budgetary problems had been overcome.
The European and Japanese sherpas then turned to their American colleague: was the package of macroeconomic, trade and aid concessions that they had assembled that night sufficient to elicit an indication that the U.S. President would propose measures to reduce the U.S. budget deficit? The meeting adjourned, while the U.S. sherpa sought an answer to this question.
The President objected to the agreement that his sherpa reported to him. It might make substantive sense, but it did not meet his political need. Most of the allied concessions were either of little interest to the American public and the Congress or else they were too vague and general. His sherpa suggested to the President that the whole might be more than the sum of its parts; the overall impact of such a package agreement could be considerable. The President was not convinced; he would not authorize the sherpa to include a pledge to make changes in U.S. fiscal policy unless the package were strengthened.
The sherpa suggested that perhaps there should be some indication in the communiqué that foreign central banks would, if it became necessary, lend money to maintain the flow of capital to the United States. The President doubted that such loans would be required; the flow of private funds to the United States would continue. If not, he expected such central bank loans as a matter of course.
The President asked if something could be included in the package that would help him more directly on U.S. fiscal policy-for example, pledges of increased allied defense efforts that would make it possible to reduce slightly the present rate of increase in U.S. defense expenditures. Even if this did not save enough money to make much difference in the budget deficit, it would help him make a political bargain at home on the deficit.
The President conceded that allied reactions at the meeting that day (and even more the events immediately preceding the Summit) suggested a need for some action to reduce the budget deficit. This meant taxes. The only tax increase that he could get through Congress quickly would be a flat tax surcharge. Liberals would object that this proposal was regressive. To overcome their opposition, he would have to give them something. A decline in the rate of increase in defense expenditures might do.
But such a decline could only be justified by some change in the external situation. Since arms control talks had not yet produced results, this meant that there would have to be increased allied defense effort. Although the Japanese were outside of NATO, there was nothing to prevent the six heads of NATO governments present from indicating the positions that they would take at a future NATO meeting. Furthermore, this was primarily a U.S.-German affair; together they contributed over two-thirds of the military strength deployed on NATO's central front. The President decided to telephone the German Chancellor.
So it came about that the U.S. and German sherpas met before dawn to draft language pledging the heads of NATO governments present to join in calling for an early NATO summit, which would renew the now-forgotten London NATO 1977 Summit agreement that each nation's NATO defense expenditures should be increased by at least three percent annually. It would be made clear that this increase was to focus on the improvement of NATO conventional defenses, thus improving the London agreement.
The U.S. sherpa told his German colleague that he was authorized to include a U.S. pledge to join its allies in exploring means of encouraging the diffusion of new conventional defense technologies within the Alliance, encouraging European weapons production based on these technologies, and ensuring that European production received full consideration in procurement of weapons for all NATO countries (what NATO bureaucrats called the "two-way street"). This was the price that the German Chancellor had told the U.S. President would be needed to secure allied acquiescence. These defense pledges were to be included not in the summit communiqué, but in a separate statement that would be issued at the same time by the heads of NATO governments who were attending the Bonn Summit.
When the heads of government met after breakfast, copies of the draft communiqué and of the separate NATO statement were laid before each chair. None of them, except the German Chancellor, had seen the full text-just as at the 1977 London Summit, the copying machine had broken down. The statesmen stared at the papers before them with a mixture of hope and suspicion. Then they began to speak-each approving some sections of the communiqué and proposing changes in others. As the discussion continued it appeared that a plenary meeting of heads of government of the world's most powerful nations would degenerate into a drafting session.
The German Chancellor realized that his handiwork was in danger. He spoke out to the group. Recent events, he said, indicated that present trends could eventually lead to a financial and economic crisis. It was far from certain that this would occur, but it was possible. The heads of government had met to try to assure that such a crisis did not take place. The package before them involved changes in policy that each would like to avoid or postpone. In that sense, it was politically difficult for each to accept some parts of this package. But it would be much more difficult for all, he continued, if he went out of the room to tell the press that the Summit had failed to produce the results that were widely desired. All would then have to return home to confront the reactions of their publics and deal with the reaction of the exchange markets to their failure. That is why he called now on all of them either to approve or disapprove these papers as they stood. He would accept but a very few amendments.
Some hours later, the seven heads of government and the President of the European Community walked out to line up before the usual audience of 2,000 or so journalists. Their chairman began: "I have to report to you a great success. The heads of government have reached agreements that will help to meet the main threats facing the industrial world. . . ." When he finished, there was a burst of applause, in which the other heads of government joined. Then each of them began to speak, echoing the Chancellor and implicitly claiming some credit for the results.
In the days that followed observers pointed out that the United States still had to adopt the unpopular changes in fiscal policy that the President had pledged to seek. The question had yet to be answered whether America could take forehanded action to avoid a crisis that was still over the horizon. Some thought that the U.S. political system could only function in reaction to a crisis that was clearly at hand, as in World War II and in meeting the Soviet threat of the late 1940s. While the Summit had underlined the need for a major change in U.S. fiscal policy, and had made clear that the allies would make responsive concessions, the outcome was by no means assured. The issue remained what it had been before the Summit: could the United States take difficult and important actions to avoid, rather than meet, a crisis? The Summit had not answered that question, only clarified the choices. Most were hopeful, but not certain, of the American answer.