The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
In a major address on July 4, 1962, the President called for a partnership between the United States and Europe. With the passage of the Trade Bill this "great design" seems to have come a step closer. To many, the Atlantic Community beckons as the great hope of the 1960s. The possibility of establishing a vital Atlantic system is indeed one of the great opportunities of our time. It may well be that to future historians it will appear the distinctive feature of our decade, far transcending in importance the crises which form the headlines of the day.
Yet the lustre of the ultimate goal should not hide the obstacles in the way. Too often, there is a tendency to speak of an inevitable development toward greater cohesion in the West. The fact is, however, that the West's opportunity has come at a time of serious internal division. After nearly two years of intensive debate, our views with respect to strategy are treated with skepticism by many of our allies. According to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, McGeorge Bundy, the disagreement about nuclear matters has impaired the United States' line of communication with France.[i] Despite repeated protestations of unity, there have been periodic expressions of distrust in both Bonn and Paris about our conduct of the Berlin negotiations. The smaller European nations are torn between their worry about Franco-German hegemony and their eagerness to play a role in Europe greater than their individual resources and influence permit. At the same time, our policy in colonial areas, notably New Guinea, has disillusioned some staunch friends and reduced their traditional enthusiasm for giving priority to Atlantic, over European, relationships.
Of course, not every criticism need be taken at face value; some of it reflects a tendency to use us as a scapegoat for painful decisions which may be privately recognized as inevitable. But equally many European leaders have refrained from expressing publicly the full extent of their uneasiness. Many of them have built their political careers on close ties to the United States. Their domestic opponents would surely construe a public criticism of U.S. policies as an admission of failure.
Were the Europeans to express their real views they would admit varying degrees of disagreement either with our estimate of the Communist danger or the means for dealing with it. The merit of these views is not at issue. Their existence has diverted attention from constructive tasks and absorbed energies in debates about short-range purposes. Indeed, the specific criticisms hide a deeper reality: the emergence of a new Europe-dynamic, powerful and self-confident. In many ways, this Europe represents the culmination of a farsighted American policy consistently pursued since World War II. But the fact that the first priority of our effort had to be given to economic assistance may have blinded us to the political consequences of our success. It was always likely that nations with the traditions of our European allies would sooner or later attempt to assert their own political view of the world. The dynamism and sense of mission which projected Europe overseas for a period of five centuries have now been turned first toward the reconstruction of Europe and then toward enlarging its influence in world affairs. This effort is all the more energetic because, for the first time since the carnage of World War I, Europe has an intact young generation eager to assert its own ideas and vision of the world.
To be sure, the ways in which Europeans have expressed their new self- assurance have not always been fortunate. Questioning the good judgment of the United States is one thing; attacking our good faith is another-even granting that we ourselves have a tendency to confuse the two. To construe U. S. reassessments of policy as a priori proof of our inconsistency is to discourage any Western initiative. Obviously, too, not all measures taken by our European allies are in response to our policies, and many will be unaffected by what we do. Whatever our course, President de Gaulle will seek to assert his leadership of Europe, and basic differences of policy will continue to be aggravated by his indifference to causing personal irritation.
It is legitimate to inquire, however, to what extent U.S. policies have exacerbated the divisions of the West, especially as the Cuban crisis has created conditions in which such a reexamination can be particularly useful. The fact that we acted decisively yet selectively has done much to restore confidence in our leadership. On the other hand, it has underlined some of the differences in outlook between us and Europe. On balance, the impact of the Cuban crisis has been highly beneficial to us, but the credit we gained will prove fleeting if we do not make an effort to understand recent European attitudes toward our policies.
The perspective of nations differs with their obligations, their geography, their history and their power. No alliance can perfectly reconcile the goals of all of its members, particularly if one ally has world-wide responsibilities while the others focus their attention on regional or national concerns. But the minimum condition for effectiveness is that the requirements of the alliance should not clash with the deepest aspirations of one or more of the partners.
These considerations are especially relevant to what has come to be called the "German problem." The reason the Berlin issue has been so sensitive is not primarily because the city is physically vulnerable, but because all Germany is psychologically vulnerable. To many in the West, the crisis over Berlin seems to turn primarily on an effort to find new modalities of access to that beleaguered city. To these Western observers, conditions in Germany as a whole seem more or less tolerable. Not everyone accepts the division of Germany and some might prefer a unified Germany; but none of Germany's allies makes reunification a major goal. Underlying many attitudes toward Germany is distrust-particularly in Great Britain-based on the experiences of two world wars. Thus there are many voices in the West arguing that the logical solution is to negotiate new access procedures to Berlin in return for accepting the "fact" of a divided Germany. To concede the continuance of a status quo which is not intolerable seems a small price to pay for a promise of stability.
However, stability gained in this manner would upset the domestic equilibrium of the Federal Republic; indeed, this is what makes the Soviets so anxious to secure recognition of the status quo. If the West tacitly or explicitly abandoned the principle of national unity, the Germans would consider it a sacrifice of their basic interests. Whatever stability might result from the settlement would seem to have been purchased at their expense. No German political leader can accept as permanent the subjugation of 17,000,000 Germans by Communist guns. His minimum goal must be to ameliorate conditions in East Germany-a goal which he will be under increasing pressure to pursue independently if the allies prove indifferent to it.
This is why the building of the Wall in Berlin and the hesitant Western response to it gave such a shock to the German public. Many in the West looked on the Wall primarily as another unilateral abrogation of a treaty obligation by the Soviets and an act of inhumanity to the people of Berlin. In Germany the Wall symbolized the difficulty if not the end of the previous hopes for unification. For better or worse, the policy of the Federal Republic had been based on the premise that there was no inconsistency between Germany's national aspirations and its Western orientation. In fact, the Western Alliance had been sold to the German public with the argument that it represented the best method to achieve these aspirations. This belief was badly shaken by the Wall. The psychological basis was thus laid for a German reassessment of policy, and this has barely begun.
This difference in perspective has been at the heart of the disagreement between Bonn and Washington regarding the negotiations over Berlin. The United States has held the unexceptionable view that a showdown cannot be faced until the West has demonstrated that all honorable means of negotiation have been exhausted. It was widely assumed that the primary Soviet goal is to stabilize conditions in Central Europe. The United States was therefore inclined to seek some way to deal with the immediate irritant- the problem of access to Berlin-by making concessions which might enhance the status of the East German authorities without impairing the physical means of access. Progress on the national question would be achieved by increasing the contacts between the two parts of Germany. In these contacts, it was supposed, the superior strength of Western Germany could not fail to make itself felt.
All of these elements were contained in the United States plan leaked to the press in April 1962. It provided for an International Access Authority in which East Germany would enjoy the same status as the Federal Republic; a number of East-West German commissions to deal with German problems; a nonaggression treaty between NATO and the Warsaw Pact; and an agreement to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries.
The position of the Federal Republic has been extremely ambivalent. Conscious of the danger of being accused of bellicosity, it has accepted the need for negotiations. But Chancellor Adenauer and his associates have been very uneasy about the way we have posed the issue. They have held that Soviet "salami tactics" had already so sharply curtailed West Berlin's margin of safety that any further concessions were likely to undermine its viability. They have been torn between the desire for initiatives on the German question and a suspicion that any proposals we made would only mask further concessions on Berlin. They still remember that in 1959, at the Foreign Ministers' Conference in Geneva, the Western powers first coupled a proposal on German unification with some concessions on Berlin. When the Soviets refused even to discuss unification, the West refrained from pushing the German plan, but still kept possible modifications of Berlin's status on the agenda.
Chancellor Adenauer and his associates, having based their entire postwar policy on close ties with the West and especially with the United States, have chosen not to bring into the open the full extent of their disquiet. Similarly, the Administration has preferred to stress German agreement to specific formulas in order to maintain the appearance of allied unity. However, nominal German agreement has frequently depended on the Chancellor's knowledge that President de Gaulle would exercise his veto in allied councils. At other times, the Federal Republic has gone along not because it considered our course desirable but because it felt that it was the least undesirable of the available options.
One result is that part of the polemic between Washington and Bonn has been conducted by means of inspired leaks to the press. During the summer and fall of 1961, many American newspapers pointed out that Germany's bills for World War II would be coming due. We were said to be delaying proposals until after the German elections so that a new government would be able to bear the brunt of the inevitably unpleasant decisions. There were demands for "initiatives" and "imagination" from the Germans.
On the German side, the suspicion has frequently been voiced that sooner or later the United States would confront Germany with a fait accompli. Planted stories have expressed doubt about the validity of our nuclear guarantee. The frequent demand that the Germans undertake "initiatives," it was said, really masked our desire that they should offer unpalatable concessions which we were reluctant to make ourselves. Repeated comments about the vulnerability of Berlin were said to be proof that the reliability of our nuclear guarantee was decreasing. Otherwise, Berlin would be no more vulnerable to military attack than Hamburg.
A more important result of the misunderstanding between Bonn and Washington has been the emergence of France as guardian of the Federal Republic's interests. France's role is not without its own ambivalence. French leaders are not likely to have transcended their historical reflexes so thoroughly as to have become passionate believers in a united, powerful and self- confident Germany for its own sake. But President de Gaulle has understood that France by itself can no longer have a determining voice in world affairs. Its future influence depends on its ability to lead Europe and this in turn presupposes close ties with the Federal Republic.
President de Gaulle has grasped the fact that if Germany feels itself an outcast it cannot remain a willing partner of the West. He has realized that an irredentist, dissatisfied Germany would be a menace to the security of all of Europe. He has therefore deliberately flattered German self- esteem. In his view, devising negotiating formulas on Berlin is less important than making the Germans feel that when under stress they do not stand alone. He has seen that there is no permanent solution to the Berlin problem as long as it is considered in isolation. To accuse the French of cynicism is irrelevant. They have pursued the policy appropriate for their objective.
As a consequence, the French position sometimes reflects German feelings more accurately than the German one does. French intransigence would, after all, have served no purpose-and it could not have been so effective-if French views had not been closer to the true convictions of the Chancellor than ours. That President de Gaulle has used the United States' nuclear umbrella to pursue his "tough" policy adds to the irony of the situation and to the irritation of some of our policy-makers. But, as President Kennedy has recently remarked, "Life is not fair."
These motivations and misunderstandings created a diplomacy which combined the disadvantage of allied disunity with the inability to gain any real benefit from the negotiations. France refused to negotiate. The Federal Republic approved diplomatic contacts with the Soviets only with great misgivings. The "exploratory talks" were first conducted by Secretary Rusk and later by Ambassador Thompson with Foreign Minister Gromyko. Thus, the Federal Republic, on an issue affecting it most immediately, stood on the sidelines in a position to criticize the unfavorable features of specific proposals without having to weigh them against alternative courses. By assuming the role of chief negotiator, we played into the hands of the French and disquieted the Germans, and all without being able to bring about a settlement. Since we could not commit the West as a whole, the Soviets were in a position to treat our offers as fishing expeditions or to engage in fishing expeditions of their own. If they considered allied discord a feint, this gave them an incentive to be rigid. If they took it seriously, they could in effect bank every concession and use it as the starting point for the next round of talks.
Moreover, our desire to "stabilize" conditions in Central Europe turned the conversations into an effort to find something in the Soviet catalogue of demands which could be conceded without destroying the freedom of Berlin. Instead of using the talks to define the West's conception of the future of Germany and of security in Central Europe, American spokesmen concentrated on what change in the status quo in and around Berlin might prove barely tolerable. They did not advance a program either for eventual German unification or for ameliorating conditions in East Germany. Such schemes were considered "non-negotiable" and therefore likely to undermine any chance of a settlement. The impression was thus created that only the issues which the Soviets chose to raise stood between us and lasting peace. This set up a pattern of negotiations in which, in return for Western concessions, the Soviets would withdraw the threat which they themselves had initiated.
The more negotiations were conducted in this manner, the more relations between Bonn and Washington suffered. The mere fact of bilateral negotiations raised the spectre of a U.S.-Soviet accommodation at the expense of our allies. Our tactics thus encouraged the Franco-German entente. The French inclination to create a Third Force would probably have been pursued in any case; but it was given impetus and opportunity by German uneasiness about our course. In the resulting atmosphere of distrust, even our determination not to diffuse nuclear weapons to our allies could be represented as further proof that we were collaborating with the opponent against our friends.
By focussing the negotiations on access rights and modalities, we stressed an issue most likely to lead to misunderstanding. A city divided by a wall, surrounded on three other sides by barbed wire, and existing as an enclave in hostile territory is not ideally placed for the exercise of so-called "flexibility." This is illustrated by the original U.S. scheme for an International Access Authority which the Germans leaked to the press in April 1962, as a means of torpedoing it. It provided that the Authority to regulate access to Berlin was to be composed of five Western and five Eastern nations and three neutrals, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria. The Eastern nations included East Germany and East Berlin. The Western group included the Federal Republic and West Berlin. This implied the tacit recognition of East Germany, as well as a different political status for West Berlin, which lent color to the Soviet claim that it should be a free city. On the narrower question of access, the determining vote would have been in the hands of three neutrals, two of them living in the immediate shadow of Soviet power. The people of Berlin are not likely to believe that their security has been enhanced by substituting the judgment of Austria, Sweden and Switzerland for the responsibility now exercised by Great Britain, the United States and France. Of course, if an international authority actually manned the check points on the access routes with its own personnel, the current situation would be greatly improved. If, however, the authority merely supervised the East German police, three small nations would be in the position of having to defend current Western rights and in effect to decide questions of peace and war.
There are indications that we are rethinking our policy toward Germany-and in doing so it is important that we understand the proper priorities. Access to Berlin can be the subject of various face-saving formulas if the Soviets ever genuinely want a settlement. But the issue will not depend on our ingenuity in devising these formulas, but on whether the Soviets decide to settle for real stability and to envisage a comprehensive settlement of the issues in Central Europe.
Any more comprehensive program comes up against several obstacles. The West, remembering two world wars and the atrocities of the Nazi period, does not find it easy to accept that for the third time in 50 years international tensions should focus on Germany. But the West must rise above its memories, keeping in mind that the disasters of this century arose in part because Germany strove to assert its own narrowly conceived interests against both East and West. Whatever the difficulties of the alliance with Germany, they pale before the alternative of an embittered Germany basing its policy on resentment.
Ten years after the decision to rearm Germany it is too late to invoke Germany's past transgressions as a justification for policy. The younger generation in Germany will not be forever content to pay for the sins of its fathers by being considered morally second-class. It is possible to argue that other choices should have been made a decade ago. Today, the sole hope for having Germany be a responsible member of the Atlantic Community is to treat her like one.
The fate of the 17,000,000 people in Eastern Germany is one of those intangible issues that can remain quiescent for many years, only to erupt suddenly and dramatically. Although few West Germans expect to achieve unity rapidly, fewer still are prepared to accept as permanent their country's division and the present fate of their compatriots in the East. Growing prosperity in the Federal Republic only magnifies this uneasy feeling of guilt and responsibility. Any determined, perhaps demagogic, group could suddenly bring the issue to the fore. Coupled with setbacks in other fields, this could severely shake the political stability of the Federal Republic.
It is not even necessarily a question of nascent nationalism-though this too could recur. Nationalist feelings undoubtedly exist in the older generation. For younger people, the motivation might be to ameliorate the conditions of life for their compatriots in Eastern Germany. Many of the new generation who are most European or Atlantic in their outlook will measure the West by the concern and understanding it shows on this issue. If the West should appear indifferent or treat Eastern Germany entirely as a tactical object, the present undoubted Atlantic orientation of the younger Germans may be undermined.
To the degree that the Western Allies seem to abandon interest in the future of Germany, German political leaders are likely to become more active in pressing the issue of unification. The flexibility so often demanded of the Federal Republic will not necessarily be exercised on the issues most dear to the heart of those who advocate flexibility. It may take the form of separate dealings with the Communists to change conditions in Eastern Germany. A so-called Rapallo policy-a change of fronts toward the East-is extremely unlikely; but the transformation of the Federal Republic into a sullen, reluctant ally would be serious enough. The Soviet Union would then be able to appeal to it on a national basis and to the other Western countries on the basis of their fear of Germany.
In its own interest, the West should see to it that Germany faces its future within the framework of the Western Alliance and not apart from it. We and our allies must remember that a people which has lost two wars, undergone three revolutions, the trauma of the Nazi era and two periods of extreme inflation is not likely to be as stable as its prosperous economy and the policy of a leader born in the last century make it appear at present. Contemporary Germany's chronic sense of insecurity is not removed by lectures on the drawbacks of a too legalistic approach to policy. The best hope to prevent a latent nihilism in Germany from again menacing the West is to give the Federal Republic a stake in something larger than itself. The future of the Federal Republic depends on two related policies by the West: (1) recognition of the psychological and political dilemmas of a divided country, and (2) the ability to make the Federal Republic part of a larger community. These policies are interdependent; to pursue one without the other is to defeat both.
For its part, the Federal Republic has an obligation not merely to affirm its ultimate goals, but to assume responsibility for indicating at least some intermediate steps for achieving them. Theoretical discussions about the right of self-determination cannot substitute for facing issues which must be settled if there is to be progress on the national question: the frontier with Poland, for example. If the West is to deal with the future of Germany seriously, Germany must define its program in an atmosphere of less distrust of its partners.
In short, since the issue of the future of Germany must be faced, it would be wisest to do so within an Atlantic framework. The purpose should be to show reasonable elements in the Soviet leadership group and in the satellites that neither security nor economic advantage requires the maintenance of a Communist régime in a divided country. Failing that, it should demonstrate to the Federal Republic not simply that the Soviets reject the West's optimum program but that they reject any scheme consistent with even the loosest definition of self-determination. For example, it might be possible to accept the notion of a German Confederation and thereby the existence of an East German state. But recognition should be made conditional on a degree of internationally supervised self-determination in Eastern Germany. To make the proposal symmetrical, it might be proposed that any party operating in any part of Germany be permitted to function in every part. A confederation so constituted would permit special security arrangements to be made for Eastern Germany-including its neutralization-and if necessary, the maintenance of existing economic ties with the East for a specified term of, say, 10 to 15 years.
Beyond any specific program it is crucial to keep in mind what is really at stake in Germany. One of Chancellor Adenauer's most notable achievements has been to bring about the optical illusion that conditions in the Federal Republic are as firm and stable as his policy. This is not the case. The problem of succession in Germany is therefore of vital significance-though not necessarily in the sense often mentioned. Whatever one may think of Chancellor Adenauer, he stands for a principle which it cannot be in our interest to undermine: Germany's Atlantic orientation.
Chancellor Adenauer knows that long-range policy, moderation and political acumen have not been the outstanding characteristics of his compatriots in this century. Many of those in Germany who support particular American initiatives do not necessarily share our over-all views. Those who extol flexibility in the abstract, the political realists whose expertise consists in finding ways of adjusting to immediate pressures, are not always the most reliable allies in time of crisis. We must take care lest in the effort to achieve short-range objectives we encourage a political style which in the long run may prove demoralizing for the West. It would of course be desirable if Chancellor Adenauer's staunchness could be combined with greater diplomatic adaptability, but if a choice has to be made, the former is preferable. If we are equally consistent, the Atlantic partnership will still endure after the latest negotiating gimmicks have been forgotten.
Since 1958, much of the discussion within NATO has taken place against the backdrop of the somewhat out-of-scale figure of President de Gaulle. Determined to achieve a dominant role for France, distrustful of doctrines of collective security which seem to him to submerge France's national identity, he has played a lone hand apart from NATO. He has pursued a tactic of announcing a goal and then moving toward it without further discussion-regardless of the views or feelings of his allies.
Such methods are, of course, irritating. But a sense of outrage is not a good guide to policy. To be sure, we have not provoked President de Gaulle into his course. Throughout his career he has not been amenable either to pressure or persuasion. The concerns raised by our relations with France are different. Granted de Gaulle's motives, our tactics may well have eased his task by strengthening him with his own bureaucracy, both diplomatic and military. Our German policy has undoubtedly aided his effort to organize Europe. We have failed to take full advantage of the strength of character and vision which are the reverse side of de Gaulle's difficult personality.
The dispute with France has focussed on defense policy, where France has taken skillful advantage of European doubts and uneasiness. Perhaps the basic difficulty has been that we have treated what is essentially a political and psychological problem as if it were primarily technical. Thus, the speeches of Secretary McNamara at successive NATO meetings have been generally hailed as extraordinarily brilliant, yet they have almost invariably been followed by periods of intense restiveness in Europe. This is because our approach was generally to demonstrate a military capacity, which was not primarily in question, while ignoring or brushing aside the political or psychological considerations which were the real core of the uneasiness. Moreover, our somewhat schoolmasterish approach, while perhaps inevitable in view of our relative sophistication on nuclear matters, compounded the irritations. No responsible minister likes to be told that his close concerns arise, in effect, from ignorance.
The full extent of the schism became apparent in the aftermath of Secretary McNamara's speech at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on June 16, 1962. Though he used arguments reported to be similar to those that had gone unchallenged at the NATO ministerial meeting in Athens only a month before, the public reaction in Europe was intense and unfavorable. Freed of the restraints imposed at formal diplomatic meetings, many Europeans gave vent to their frustrations. The Pentagon's shocked surprise at this response only emphasized the extent to which Europe and the United States had been acting at cross-purposes.
The disagreement has concerned two related problems: the United States' view of the nature of nuclear strategy, and an increased reliance on conventional weapons for the defense of Europe. On the purely strategic level, these issues have bedeviled NATO for years. Those who advocate a major emphasis on deterrence-and this includes most Europeans-urge us to invoke the direst threats. Those who emphasize credibility advocate a more graduated response. The former argue that if our threat is sufficiently grave it will never be challenged and that an emphasis on "tolerable" strategies may actually invite aggression. The Kennedy Administration on the whole holds the view that credibility is attained by posing a challenge one is willing to implement and that deterrence which is based on the threat of suicide must prove demoralizing in the long run. Thus, the issue depends on a psychological assessment, not merely on a technical analysis. One need not agree with the way many Europeans have stated their case in order to deplore the impatience with which we have brushed it aside.
Beyond the strategic problem looms a political one: the restiveness of many Europeans due to their complete dependence on the United States in nuclear matters. Here assurances of our overwhelming power are simply irrelevant and our insistence on the "self-evident" nature of our nuclear guarantee seems to many self-righteous. Europeans do not believe that any single guarantee can reliably cover all contingencies. There have been too many allied disagreements, from Suez to the Congo to Berlin, to make it inconceivable that in a crisis we and they might see things differently.
The technical issues have been dealt with previously in these pages.[ii] Emphasis here will be on the political implications of the nuclear controversy within NATO.
Perhaps the most creative policy of the United States since World War II has been to foster European unity. We have consistently held that a strong and united Europe would be of benefit to freedom everywhere. We have recognized that when it was strong economically it would be more difficult to bargain with, but we have always considered this a reasonable price for the long-term benefits.
Having made this wise choice, however, we have recoiled before one of the necessary implications. It was inevitable that countries with the historical traditions of our European allies would not be content forever to depend entirely on the protection of our nuclear power. Even if we believe the Europeans are wrong in their technical arguments, we must allow that their desire to play a greater role in matters affecting their survival is a healthy sign of restored vigor.
The irony of the dispute between us and our continental allies, particularly France, is that in essence they are using a script learned from us. Throughout the 1950s the United States strongly urged on them the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. We insisted that our nuclear weapons compensated for the massive conventional forces of the East. When the growth of a Soviet nuclear capability threw some doubt on this thesis, we advanced the "uncertainty" theory: to be effective, so the argument ran, our threat of nuclear retaliation did not need to be perfectly credible; it was sufficient if it produced enough uncertainty in the minds of the Soviet leaders to make adventure seem unattractive. From this point of view, there was even some advantage in exaggerating the threat of nuclear retaliation. The more dreadful the consequences of aggression could be made to appear, the greater would be the deterrent effect of the threat. Almost all these arguments were advanced first on behalf of our own strategic forces. Then they were used to justify the British retaliatory forces. Now these doctrines have crossed the Channel.
Leaving aside the validity of this theory-which this author for one never accepted-we should have had some compassion for the reaction of our European allies to the Kennedy Administration's change of emphasis. A change of Administration is, of course, bound to lead to a thorough reëxamination of foreign policy. But our allies have a stake in the continuity of American policy, thinking of it as a guarantee of American reliability, regardless of their views of the correctness of individual measures.
To our European allies, the shift in emphasis in American defense thinking after January 1961 was a cause of profound concern. Ideas about conventional warfare which we had derided as outdated not three years previously were suddenly resurrected. The tactical nuclear weapons which we had introduced with the argument that they would offset Soviet superiority in manpower were now sharply downgraded. In this context, many of the technical devices which were introduced to assure political control over the nuclear weapons in Europe were taken as designed to prevent their use altogether.
The impression grew-and not only among people with questionable motives- that the United States was envisaging a completely conventional defense of Europe; that it was seeking a way to withdraw its tactical nuclear establishment from the Continent; and that, in order to control completely the decision to engage in nuclear war, we preferred that all strategic weapons be based either in the United States or at sea-the latter only three years after we had made strenuous efforts to locate intermediate- range missiles on the Continent.
In the light of this record, it is curious that so many of our officials should be outraged at the doubts expressed about our constancy. Europeans may thoroughly believe the solemn commitments made by President Kennedy. But they have had too many demonstrations of the changeability inherent in our political system not to consider providing themselves with a more direct form of assurance.
The attempt to build up conventional forces, downgrade tactical nuclear weapons and retain a monopoly position on strategic nuclear weapons reflected a carefully thought-out military policy. To be sure, it has ambiguities which have been obscured by the fact that those most responsible for developing it belong to a single school of thought and through years of association have come to take for granted some assumptions which are not really so self-evident as they have tried to make them appear. But whatever its technical merit, the policy forced us into positions which, while not irreconcilable, at least seemed contradictory. In order to justify the conventional build-up in Europe we sometimes talked as if a completely conventional defense of Europe was almost within sight. The estimate of Soviet conventional strength was sharply reduced. The goal of 30 well-trained and well-equipped NATO divisions, it was now argued, would correct the imbalance of NATO strategy. Finally our insistence that we were still capable of carrying out a counterforce nuclear strategy implied a degree of strategic superiority which seemed to support the suspicion that the real objective of our defense policy was to reserve nuclear retaliation for attacks on our own territory.
In the field of conventional defense, it was probably unwise from the psychological point of view to choose as a target the number of divisions deemed necessary in 1957 in order to implement a nuclear strategy. Then again, the notions of "pause" and "threshold" were bound to appear to Europeans a euphemism for our reluctance to face the risks of nuclear war. We maintained that the conventional build-up would enable NATO to conduct a conventional defense until the Soviets appreciated that they were running an intolerable risk of nuclear war. But our European allies were not simply shortsighted and selfish in considering that during protracted conventional operations both sides might reconsider the risks of nuclear war. Many European critics overstated their case when they maintained that a conventional build-up might invite Soviet attack; but we have considerably exaggerated the benefits to be derived from increasing the NATO shield forces from 23 divisions to 30. For example, it has been argued that 30 divisions could stop the Soviet field armies now deployed in Eastern Europe. But it has not been explained why the Soviets should attack only with those forces, without reinforcing them. In case of a massive attack, the issue of when and how nuclear weapons might be used becomes crucial.
Moreover, it is clear that the choice between nuclear and conventional war is no longer entirely up to the West. The conventional build-up of NATO at any level could be made irrelevant by a Soviet decision to introduce nuclear weapons. In order to deal with these ambiguities we have been forced to repeat our nuclear guarantee so often as to raise doubts about the need for a conventional build-up. In short, it simply was not possible to combine a strategy which depended for effectiveness on a credible and certain interplay between conventional and nuclear capabilities, with an effort to retain nuclear hegemony.
The dispute about the conventional build-up has been sharpened by our inept approach to the nuclear question. We have shown little understanding for the concerns of some of our European allies that their survival should depend entirely on decisions made 3,000 miles away. Instead, our tendency has been to lecture Europeans about how unreal those concerns are. We have asserted the indivisible community of interests in the Western Alliance, but when our interpretation of this has been questioned by the French, we have shown an unwillingness to take them seriously. We have to all practical purposes ignored not only France's nuclear program, but also French thinking on strategic questions of all kinds.
France has responded with intransigence of its own. Our nuclear weapons have not been allowed on French soil. Coöperation even on such matters as European air defense has been grudging. France has kept aloof from all negotiations on Berlin without suggesting an appropriate alternative. Washington's unhappiness over these matters has not been diminished by the difficulties France has placed in the way of British membership in the European Common Market, by which the Administration has set great store. Further, some of our other allies have coupled a reluctance to increase their defense contribution with a demand to share in the control of our nuclear arsenal.
That we have had the better of the technical arguments should not blind us to the fact that the French position has been more closely attuned than ours to the psychological realities in Europe. It was simply not in the cards for us to maintain a special relationship with Great Britain on nuclear matters without arousing the resentment of France. No theoretical arguments could overcome the issue of prestige involved in the implication that, as put by Raymond Aron, it was proper for nuclear weapons to cross the Atlantic but not the Channel.
Then again, the proposals we have made within NATO to provide an alternative to national nuclear forces have tended to magnify the motives which gave rise to these forces in the first place. "Assigning" U.S. submarines to NATO could be represented, and not without justice, as simply shifting control from one U.S. headquarters to another. We have made proposals about a NATO submarine force manned by crews of mixed nationality. But by arguing that such a force was militarily unnecessary we discouraged our friends from supporting it. By retaining an American veto and suggesting very complex conditions for the composition of the crews, we gave rise to the suspicion that we were really advancing a subterfuge for continued U.S. hegemony.
Finally, our opposition to national nuclear forces in Europe has focussed on a problem which is at best peripheral. We have sought to demonstrate that national nuclear forces could not be used independently of ours. Counterforce strategy, we have said, requires central planning and larger forces than those in prospect for any European country. And any other strategy would lead to the complete devastation of the country concerned. Notions of a Third Force ascribed to France are therefore alleged to be chimerical or dangerous; chimerical because they cannot be realized, and dangerous because they may lead to a split in the alliance.
However, even technically, our arguments tend to be overstated. Even if a Counterforce theory is accepted, European nuclear forces are not without significance. While these forces could not be decisive against the U.S.S.R., they might substantially weaken it relative to the United States and thereby exercise a deterrent effect beyond their actual strength. Second, the Soviet Union could not unleash the full force of its retaliatory power against a European ally without running an unacceptable risk of a counterblow by the United States. This triggering effect is one of the incentives for the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal and one of our reasons for opposing the spread of nuclear weapons within the alliance.
In short, European national forces are not designed for independent action. They are a device to gain an influence on our planning. In seeking to provide reassurance on that score, we have made a great deal of the fact that all targets of interest to Europeans are already covered by our forces. However, our allies do not so much doubt our ability to conduct a nuclear war as our willingness to engage in one, at least for some issues which they consider vital. Or else they fear that situations may arise where our attention will be focussed elsewhere and the U.S.S.R. will see in this an opportunity for blackmailing Europe.
The question then becomes how we can avoid being forced into nuclear war against our will. Is it wise to engage our prestige in seeking to delay the physical acquisition of a nuclear capability by our European allies? Or would it be better to use our influence to guide what we cannot prevent? Is it really true that the spread of nuclear weapons within the alliance is likely to weaken the cohesion of NATO? A great deal turns on the significance of the concept of Europe as a Third Force and what that term means.
It is important that we distinguish between strength and the purpose it will serve. In the sense of being powerful, Europe is bound to be a Third Force, partly because we ourselves have sought to make it so. This fact is now beyond our power to reverse. Whether Europe will use its new-found strength for short-term objectives of its own or for larger ends depends on whether the leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have the vision to develop common purposes and a structure to give them effect. If a political framework can be created, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Europe need not be disruptive to Atlantic unity.
One of two things can happen with the growth of European nuclear power: (1) Europe will in fact become strong enough to defend itself. This should not be a source of concern to the United States; quite the contrary. (2) Or else it will learn through hard experience that the security of the Atlantic area is in fact indivisible. If the American strategic analysis is even approximately correct, the latter is by far the more likely outcome. There is therefore no need to show so much concern over a development which may well tighten Atlantic bonds whatever the motives of individual leaders. Even a purely national French program should make France more eager for integrated planning than we are, since France has a great deal more to lose by its absence.
If Europe is determined to behave irresponsibly, the best we can do is to delay the time when it is able to do so-but not by much. If Europe wishes to have a nuclear capability there is nothing we can do to prevent it. And the effort to obstruct it may bring on what we are seeking to avoid. Once Britain has joined the Common Market, moreover, the nuclear issue will confront us full force. It is extremely unlikely that Britain can insist on a special position within Europe on nuclear matters or that it would wish to do so if it truly aspires to the leadership of Europe.
Our opposition to a development that we can only impede but not prevent has the practical consequence of depriving us of bargaining power with respect to the build-up of forces which could provide a practical alternative to exclusive reliance on nuclear retaliation. This is shown by our relations with France. At first we refused any assistance to any project even vaguely related to the French nuclear program. We then sold KC-135 tanker planes for aerial refueling of French bombers. Recently we have offered to sell an atomic submarine. Had we pledged these steps at the time of President Kennedy's visit to Paris in return for stronger French effort in the conventional field, many of the schisms in the alliance might have been avoided. At least, we could have demonstrated that France was placing its own short-term interests above the common concerns of NATO.
Rather than obstruct the development of European nuclear strength, we should seek to channel it in the most constructive direction. Rather than expend energies and prestige on proving that a European nuclear establishment is militarily senseless, we should try to define purposes for it which meet European concerns. Europe might well view the problem of local defense differently if it could feel that it had resources of its own by which to retaliate should the Soviets embark on a strategy of devastation. Even if our nuclear guarantee is as obvious as is often claimed, it does not follow that it will lose its effect just because Europe shares some of the responsibility for nuclear defense. Central control of nuclear weapons, which we correctly consider crucial, can then become a device by which to tie the Atlantic nations together politically.
There are signs that this has been recognized by the Administration. In an important speech in Copenhagen, the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, McGeorge Bundy, has stated: "It would be wrong to suppose that our aversion for individual weak and non-integrated nuclear forces would automatically be extended to a unified and multilateral European force which could be effectively integrated into joint NATO defense planning."
A great deal depends on how we interpret such words as "unified," "integrated" and "multilateral." Heretofore, when applied to a NATO force we have taken this concept to mean that a multilateral force had to be seaborne and that the crews had to be of mixed nationality. Mixed crews seemed to imply that one means of control was to be the threat of mutiny. As for the multilateral political control mechanism, neither we nor our allies have ever defined it.
The danger in these proposals is that we have stressed a technical solution for the composition of the crews at the expense of the political problem of control. And we have created the wrong psychological climate by implying that we would support only one particular solution. We must be careful to take our stand on fundamentals. There is no need to commit ourselves to so rigid a pattern with respect to a European nuclear force. It is not wise for us to use up our credit by insisting on patterns we cannot impose. We have every right to indicate our preference for a European force rather than a multiplication of national ones and we are correct in extending fuller support to the solution we prefer. But our primary goal should be to define the relation of this force to ours rather than to prescribe its internal characteristics. We should be more concerned with political coördination than with technical safeguards.
For the immediate future, it may not be practical to merge the national forces in Europe into a completely integrated force. The more useful step would seem to be to urge a European political control mechanism for its national forces and then to coördinate them with our strategic force. Such a control mechanism could become a spur to closer European political integration.
Our efforts should be exercised not in defining the internal mechanics of particular solutions, but in developing an over-all strategy for the alliance. The best way toward partnership is not so much to devise safeguards against irresponsibility as to afford the maximum incentive to responsible common action. A generous approach to our allies will in the long run prove the most productive.
What matters most in our relations with Europe is the degree of confidence which can be generated on both sides of the Atlantic. In the absence of confidence, unity amounts primarily to a technical coördination of policies confined to specific issues. In such a framework agreement is limited by the short-term nature of particular crises. Disagreement is magnified out of proportion to its real significance and the alliance wastes its energies in recriminations. The creation of the Atlantic Community, which should be the next step forward in Western policy, depends to a considerable extent on the ability to define what Atlantic relationships should be like five or ten years from now. Many technical questions which now divide the alliance can be dealt with only in a larger framework.
It can be argued, of course, that the Atlantic partnership is basically healthy. The current difficulties can be ascribed to the obstinacy of two old men who will soon disappear from the scene. Adenauer's successors, so this argument runs, will prove more flexible in the conduct of diplomacy. De Gaulle's heirs will either stop the French nuclear program or turn it into an appendage of ours. Britain's entry into the Common Market, the argument continues, will give us a voice in European councils where presently are heard only the voices of two lonely figures whose policies are unlikely to survive them. With the assistance of Great Britain we can rally the smaller European nations and Italy into a bloc to prevent the Franco-German axis from dominating Europe and transforming it into a Third Force. The new Trade Act will enable us to forge Atlantic links similar to such institutions as the Coal and Steel Community which ushered in the Common Market.
These arguments have a certain plausibility. Yet to base policy on the expectation that historical evolution will do our job for us is to abdicate statesmanship. A policy which sees in two great national leaders an obstacle rather than an opportunity runs the risk of making us prisoners of events. The time for creative action is at a moment when old patterns are disintegrating, not some time in a future which is problematical and when the challenges may prove quite different.
In any case, it is quite unlikely that the succession in Germany or in France will have the consequences many expect of it. If Adenauer's legacy of Atlantic partnership is undermined, a more flexible German policy may be concerned primarily with national issues rather than with European or Atlantic ties. This tendency can be prevented only by forging now Atlantic relationships which may to an extent serve as a substitute for thwarted national aspirations. In France it is highly unlikely that the nuclear program which preceded de Gaulle will end with him. The consensus behind the program is too wide, the vested interests back of it-bureaucratic, political, industrial and military-are too firmly established.
It would be a mistake to consider that our natural allies in Europe are all those who oppose the Franco-German partnership or de Gaulle's nuclear aspirations. Some of them, true, are friends of long standing. Others are more favorable to the Third Force idea than President de Gaulle. The American nuclear umbrella, now sometimes exploited by France to gain a reputation for toughness, can also be used-and more dangerously for the West-to support policies amounting to neutralism. Some leaders who are now most critical of the relations of Bonn and Paris to Washington were urging precisely such a course three years ago.
It would be dangerous to assume that the direction of Europe toward greater cohesion is foreordained. A post-Adenauer Germany may lack the Chancellor's degree of dedication to the ideal of a greater community. A post-de Gaulle France may be rent by internal schisms. An Italy dominated by the "opening to the Left" may seek to confuse man?uvring with statesmanship. After the death of its aged dictators, the Iberian peninsula could descend into chaos. None of these events is within our control. But the shock of any of them could be mitigated by a stronger Atlantic Community.
Nor should we assume that present strains in the Atlantic Community will disappear automatically if Great Britain enters the Common Market. To be sure, her political maturity will weigh heavily in European councils. With Britain playing a leading role, Europe's policy may be more subtle, more skillful and, at least in form, less demanding. Yet the direction in which Britain's influence will be exercised is still far from clear. Will Britain try to organize a grouping of the smaller powers and Italy against the Franco-German axis? Will it be a spokesman in Europe for a British-American view on international affairs? Will our problems with Europe necessarily be eased?
There are many who would answer each of these questions affirmatively. Yet there is reason for doubt. Prime Minister Macmillan has chosen his difficult path in order to revitalize Britain's claim to greatness. This vision implies a Europe led by Britain and playing its own specific role in international affairs. The great-power status which Great Britain has so tenaciously sought to sustain throughout the postwar period can now be achieved only through the closest association with the Continent. But to do this effectively Great Britain may have to adopt views similar to France's, ameliorating them with its own subtle style. One ironic result of Britain's entry into the Common Market might well be that Europe will henceforth conduct de Gaulle's policies with British methods.
Similar considerations apply also to the view that the new Trade Act passed by Congress will offer the means to transcend many of the differences here described. In a new era of Atlantic economic relationships, it is expected, the structures will be built for an eventual Atlantic partnership similar to those which preceded the foundation of the European Community. However, the two situations are not comparable. In 1947, Europe's economy was shattered. Economic integration promised benefits to everyone. It is far from clear that a prosperous and dynamic Europe will see its relations with us in the same light. Across the Atlantic, the Trade Act has been treated not so much as the inauguration of a new era as a commercial measure whose benefits will have to await the outcome of detailed negotiations. Even if lower tariffs prove to be the ultimate outcome, we would do well to prepare ourselves for some hard bargaining. In any case, it is quite possible that the economic integration of the Atlantic area will follow and not precede Atlantic political partnership.
In short, we cannot wait-either for the political succession in Germany and France, or to observe the effects of Britain's entry into the Common Market and of the Trade Act-to begin building the political structure of the Atlantic partnership. Its nature will have to be defined. If we wish to shape events, we can no longer rely on time to do our work for us.
The aftermath of the Cuban crisis provides us with an improved environment for putting forward creative ideas. Many doubts about our capacity for decisive action have been removed, and we have shaken the myth that in every crisis the Soviets are willing to run greater risks than we are. To be sure, we have had to pay a price as well. Some critics will probably ask why 40 missiles in Cuba should threaten our vital interests while the potentially larger French force has been declared by us to be useless. Our unilateral action which faced Europe with the risks of nuclear war without prior consultation probably strengthened the hand of those who argue that only by being powerful in its own right can Europe insist on an equal voice in allied councils. We must be careful in coming months not to feed the suspicion that we have purchased the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba by concessions of European interests.
However, on balance the Cuban crisis can turn into a net gain provided both we and Europe draw the correct conclusion from it. It demonstrated the power of a united Atlantic Community-despite the fact that this unity was forged by unilateral U.S. actions which our allies had no choice but to support. Also, the Cuban crisis has illustrated how a powerful Europe can complement our strength. When we become involved in other situations where European vital interests are not immediately at stake, a strong Europe can remove Soviet temptations to hold it as a hostage.
The choice we made a decade and a half ago in favor of a strong and self- confident Europe is as wise today as it was then. Real partnership is possible only between equals. Europe as a Third Force can become a step toward an Atlantic Community if a framework for common policy is created. We can best counteract plans for a Third Force based on a form of neutrality by conducting ourselves so that most of our allies will always consider the advantages of an Atlantic partnership greater than those that could be gained within the narrower conception.
Given the extraordinary importance of creating a political framework for the Atlantic area, this may be the occasion to implement the proposals for some form of Atlantic coördinating body put forth in various forms by such men as Dean Acheson, Lord Avon and President de Gaulle in his scheme for a Directorate. A great deal might be said for having this group composed initially of senior and highly respected private citizens charged with making recommendations to the governments concerned. The objective is to give the "great design" of Atlantic partnership more concrete form.
It may be argued that the model of the Common Market demonstrates that it is preferable to move step by step without abstract discussion about ultimate ends. However, the lessons of history cannot be applied so mechanically. Today we stand in danger of being mired by the prudent, the tactical or the expedient. What is needed now is an assertion of our future goals to give us perspective.
Indeed, excessive realism may well be the chief obstacle to realizing the opportunities before the West. On both sides of the Atlantic, affairs are conducted increasingly by experts of high technical competence, superior intelligence and great skill in exercising power. Problems that are recognized are treated with considerable adeptness. But many opportunities are not recognized. The expert has a vested interest in the existing framework; doing the familiar as well as possible, after all, has made him an expert. His temptation is to confuse creativity with a projection of the present into the future. He respects "facts" and considers them something to be adjusted to, perhaps to be manipulated, but not to be transcended.
The unsatisfactory nature of much of our dialogue with Germany and France derives from the fact that their current leaders are a very different sort. Whereas many of our officials look on the daily flow of cables and the tactics for dealing with them as the essence of policy, this is what seems most ephemeral to men like Adenauer or, even more, de Gaulle. Their reality is their concept of the future or of the structure of the world they wish to bring about. The overly pragmatic approach of many of our policymakers seems to many Europeans to involve the risk of latent unsteadiness, just as the European's conceptual tendency appears to our officials as overly legalistic and theoretical.
In the decade ahead, the West will have to lift its sights to encompass a more embracing concept of reality than that which is today fashionable. In many ways this problem will be even more acute after Adenauer and de Gaulle have disappeared from the scene. For the generation which follows them stands as much in danger of exalting technique over purpose as do their contemporaries in the United States. But on both sides of the Atlantic we should remember that there are two kinds of realists: those who manipulate facts and those who create them. The West requires nothing so much as men able to create their own reality.
[i] Foreign A fairs, October 1962, p. 16.
[ii] See "The Unsolved Problems of European Defense," Foreign Affairs, July 1962.