It was the third week in August 1968 and the North Atlantic allies were relaxing on their beaches, in their mountains and in their chancelleries too. There was plenty to relax about, for 1968 had started as a big year for détente in Europe. The East-West exchange in political leaders was at an all-time high; a Western leader who had not recently been in Poland or Rumania was hardly alive politically unless he was home preparing to receive his opposite number from Hungary or Bulgaria. The Mayor of Moscow was in The Hague; the Red Army Choir was about to entertain in the concert halls of England; the University of Minnesota Band was practicing for its trip to the Soviet Union. The John F. Kennedy Airport was braced for the second ceremonial Aeroflot flight, part of the new nonstop service between Moscow and New York. In Moscow, carpenters were hammering together a big Italian trade fair. And in Washington, the White House was working hard on the possibility of talks with the Soviet Union about strategic nuclear missile and anti-missile systems.
The atmospheric improvement in East-West relations was matched by a growing clarity in the West that making peace with the Russians would require a judicious mix of collective desire and collective defense. In May 1968 the NATO Defense Ministers, meeting in Brussels, "reaffirmed the need for the Alliance to maintain an effective military capability and to assure a balance of forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Europe and elsewhere. . . . Ministers endorsed the proposition that the overall military capability of NATO should not be reduced except as part of a pattern of mutual force reductions balanced in scope and timing."
Then in June at the Reykjavik meeting, NATO's Foreign Ministers signed a Declaration which, in effect, invited the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies to negotiate about mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe- while repeating their determination to maintain NATO's defensive capability. NATO was so credibly anxious to move beyond
Loading, please wait...