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 static peacekeeping to dynamic peacemaking that in the Norwegian Storting an anti-militaristic Left could without embarrassment join a Conservative government in passing a pro-NATO measure by a vote of 144 to 6. The Western democracies, their competitive spirit aroused, had dipped their toes in "coexistence" and found they could live with it. Defense and détente had been glued together for the difficult period of "peaceful engagement" assumed to be just around the corner.

Then the Warsaw Five moved into Czechoslovakia, and showed that the Soviet leaders are no longer so sure they can live with competitive coexistence themselves.

II

Very few Europeans or Americans can honestly say they correctly predicted this enormous event. Most of them were holding in their heads two propositions we now perceive as contradictory: first, that the Czechoslovak liberalization program would be fatal to the communist system; second, that the Soviets would inveigh but not invade.

The experts and intelligence analysts soon testified that the Russian move was perfectly rational and indeed inevitable from the Soviet point of view. Being professionals, most of them could even point to passages in their own writings which "did not exclude" an invasion. But the truth is that few experts really thought of invasion as a rational move before the event; Budapest 1956 was regarded as one of a kind. Perhaps Western experts should be excused for underrating the will of the Soviets to use force in Czechoslovakia; so did Ceaucescu and Tito-not to mention Alexandre Dubçek.

Why did the Russians do it? Because they decided that their hold on the Warsaw Pact countries had first priority-ahead of East-West relations in Europe, ahead of Soviet-American relations, even ahead of Russian leadership in the world communist movement.

"The defense of socialism in Czechoslovakia is not only the internal affair of the people of that country," said Pravda on August 22. "Can a country wrested from the socialist community really safeguard its genuine sovereignty?" asked Izvestia on August 24. The Warsaw Pact nations "have the right of self-defense," Poland's Gomulka argued on September 8, "when the enemy mines our own house, the community of socialist states, with dynamite." "Marxism is irreconcilable with nationalism no matter how 'just,' 'clean,' fine or civilized the latter may be," Soviet Russia declared on September II. "Neutrality for the socialist countries means alienation from the socialist camp," said Pravda Ukrainy on September 14.

Sovereignty has thus been collectivized-at least for the purpose of justifying, ex post facto, the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia. It took until September 26 for the Soviets to work out a full-blown intellectual defense of their August 20 action, but when it appeared in Pravda it was nothing if not perfectly clear. The particular must give way to the "general" (read Soviet) interest; "the sovereignty of each socialist country cannot be opposed to the interests of the world of socialism." Sovereignty, as preached and practiced by unidentified anti-socialist elements in Czechoslovakia, would have enabled NATO troops to "come up to the Soviet border, while the community of European socialist states would have been split." In such conditions "law and legal norms are subordinated to the laws of the class struggle."

An older Soviet adage said it less bureaucratically and more frankly: "Law is like the tongue of a wagon-it goes in the direction in which it is pointed."

III

The forces of the Warsaw Pact began moving at 11 p.m. the evening of August 20. A couple of hours later, in Paris, London, Washington and some other capitals, Soviet Ambassadors hastened to deliver assurances that the tanks and planes were in Prague by invitation, and were not directed against the "state interests" of the United States or other allies. At 2 a.m., August 21, Prague radio aired news of the invasion; at 2:09 the Associated Press carried its first "flash," based on the Prague broadcast. Meanwhile some of NATO's air defense radars were partially jammed-a by-product of Soviet jamming in Czechoslovakia, as it turned out. By breakfast time in Europe, the NATO "crisis-consultation" machinery was in high gear.

The first big debate inside NATO was not about long-term policy but on a disturbing tactical question: Why didn't we know the invaders were going to move before they moved?

For NATO strategists, the question is no side issue. NATO's flexible strategy rests heavily on the assumption that the West would have two kinds of warning of any move by the Warsaw Pact against NATO. We would have political warning, because a surprise attack not preceded by a build-up of political tensions seems almost inconceivable. We would have strategic warning, because we would see and sense the build-up of forces the Soviets would require to undertake a serious military operation against the NATO defense system. But it has always seemed unlikely that we could tell in advance the precise moment at which an attack by those built-up forces would be launched. So the doctrine has been: There shouldn't be any such thing as political surprise or strategic surprise, but tactical surprise is always possible.

In the first shock of seeing Russian troops just across the Bavarian border, this whole set of assumptions was called into serious question. But if anything, the events of August show that our warning doctrine stands up pretty well. We (and the Czechoslovaks) had eight months of quite visible political warning-the Soviets had been visibly distressed ever since Dubçek came into power. We had a number of weeks of strategic warning, as the Soviet forces got into position to threaten the Czech leaders with a military invasion.

As far as it went, therefore, our analysis in NATO was about right: the Soviets, we thought, were massing most of their strength in Eastern Europe on the Czech border. NATO correctly guessed that these very large military movements-the largest in Europe since the Second World War-were not aimed against NATO; they were designed either to pressure the Czechs or, if the pressure failed, to be ready for invasion. What we didn't know was whether they would invade-until they started to move, and told us they were moving. Certainly the military plan was laid long before all the negotiating and palavering in Warsaw, Cierna and Bratislava. But the political decision was evidently taken quite late in the game.

The Soviet military move was impressively rapid, well planned and well executed. It was of course massively overdone to meet the contingency of armed resistance: more than one-third of a million men, more than twenty- five ground divisions, some airlifted from as far away as the Baltic regions, and the occupation of all the large airfields in Czechoslovakia. Yet this efficient operation was in the service of an almost childishly sloppy political scenario.

The Soviets' poor political planning, and the passive but remarkable resistance of the Czechs, made quite a drama for a few days. The first quick assumption was that once the Soviets set their mind to it, the deed was as good as done. The troops rolled in, the airfields were taken, the borders sealed; then something went wrong. If the Soviets achieved tactical military surprise, the Czechs achieved a tactical political surprise by keeping their government in being and in motion-and in communication with the outside world. Czech diplomats remained busy and at work at the U.N. and in foreign capitals, still in touch with a government in Prague which astonishingly was neither controlled nor swept aside by the otherwise efficient Soviet forces. The Czechoslovak radio and press networks went underground, and the world could actually witness the arrival of Soviet tanks filmed by Czech television cameramen and relayed by the Czech television network to Eurovision.

In the end, that much power was bound to prevail-for the time being-over the stubborn, resourceful and embarrassing passive resistance of the Czech leaders and people. In a quick change of plans, the Soviets "negotiated" with their prisoners and elicited what amounted to an "invitation"- retroactively, with duress, in a communiqué issued not from Prague but from Moscow. Another arm-twisting negotiation in October confirmed Prague's agreement to a Soviet garrison of indefinite duration. Just how many Soviet troops will stay is not important: whatever troops the Soviets keep in Czechoslovakia will be enough to make sure they can bring more in whenever necessary. And they will stay as long as Moscow pleases.

IV

What does all this mean for Western security? The quick answer-too quick-is that détente is dead and the cold war is back on. Once again at a moment of doubt and disarray, the Soviets have done something to illustrate for the doubters the case for hanging together. Their take-over of Czechoslovakia in 1948 helped pass the Marshall Plan; the invasion of 1968 sidetracked the Mansfield Resolution and the Symington Amendment, which called for pulling U.S. troops out of Europe. But 1969 is not 1949 all over again.

In 1949 the communists thought one big war was inevitable. The Soviets were just testing their first atomic bomb, and thought they were in an arms race against us; now they (and we) find the race was really against time, and we both won it in the sense of achieving a capability for Assured Destruction no matter who strikes first. Then (in 1949), a would-be monolithic movement, run by one dictator, was promoting and presiding over world communism; now (in 1969) a collective leadership is busy trying to hang onto a dependable socialism-in-one-region. Then the Soviet empire was expanding; now its rulers are trying by force to prevent it from coming apart.

In short, the invasion of Czechoslovakia can be read as the latest and most dramatic spasm in the nervous decomposition of the "socialist commonwealth" and the attempt by its bosses to arrest the rot by repression. The result is a range of dangers, but also some opportunities, which are neither the cold war of our bygone fears nor the warm détente of our recent dreams.

The East-West military confrontation in Europe is certainly more acute than it was before. There are, quite simply, more Soviet troops, farther west, in a higher state of readiness than before last summer. It is true that the large Soviet troop movements were directed against their own allies and not against ours. But there is more to intentions than current plans of action. There are many ways in which turbulence and terror inside the Warsaw Pact area could spill over onto NATO's frontiers.

The collective decision to beef up NATO's military strength, and the national decisions to invest more men and money in NATO-committed forces, were caused less by the sudden rise in Soviet military readiness than by the quantum jump in uncertainty about Soviet behavior. If the Soviet leaders could misread as badly as they did their near neighbors, the Czechs, how well are they reading us today?

The disturbing fact is that we do not really know what the Soviet leaders have in mind. They have said all too clearly that they propose to hang onto their empire no matter what. But how big is the empire they have chosen to "defend"? How far beyond the Warsaw Pact does the "socialist commonwealth" extend? Rumania is hard-line communist on the inside; how independent an external policy can Bucharest get away with? Is Jugoslavia a link in the "chain of socialist states"? In whose "camp" do the Soviet leaders place Albania today-or will they tomorrow? Beyond communist rule there are other European lands not part of the NATO defense system which we have been assuming were safe from Soviet "protection" but where new anxieties have arisen.

On the first day of the Czechoslovak crisis, a perceptive European made this relevant comment in a NATO meeting: "The Russians have said they're serious about protecting their harem, but they haven't said how big it is." Trying to limit it by preventive diplomacy, fifteen Foreign Ministers, meeting as the North Atlantic Council on November 16, warned the Soviets that any more interventions "would create an international crisis with grave consequences."

V

The first reaction of the North Atlantic Alliance to the mounting Czech crisis-before the invasion-was to watch carefully but lie low. Despite the big build-up of Warsaw Pact forces around Czechoslovakia, despite their vigorous man?uvres not far from NATO's borders, the political judgment (that this threat was directly against a Pact ally, not against the NATO alliance) led to agreed Allied policy: scrupulously to avoid giving the Russians any Western excuse to move into Czechoslovakia.

This restraint was not, as restraint so often is, the paralysis of timidity. It was a conscious policy consensus in the North Atlantic Council. It did not save the Czechs, of course; nor was it intended to. But the policy "worked" in the sense of helping to make ridiculously unbelievable the pathetic attempts to pin the ideological "crimes" of the Czechoslovak leaders on "imperialists" and other dark forces of external subversion.

When the Russians struck, NATO was readier for round-the-clock crisis management than it had ever been before. For one thing, when NATO's political headquarters was moved from Paris to Brussels in October 1967, the Council decided to build into the new headquarters a modern Situation Room, complete with up-to-date visual aids and serviced by a new NATO-wide communication system. And the Council's Committee of Political Advisers, in earlier times a once-a-week mutual information society, had been converted to an every-day "watch committee" producing overnight political assessments to guide NATO's military commanders. These facilities proved their value as the allies turned immediately to consulting together about what had happened, and what it meant for Western security.

The Council's first political decision after the invasion was to continue to lie low-to take some obvious precautions but not to imply by a noisy alert or mobilization that there was a sudden danger to the West. Nothing, it was felt, should be done to distract from the efforts to condemn the Soviet invasion in the U.N. Security Council.

But behind the scenes the invasion had brought into being a NATO work program of impressive and exhausting scope-a book of lessons learned from the invasion about Soviet logistics and mobility and tactics, a special inquiry into the "warning" issue, a reëstimate of Soviet intentions, a complex consultation about the dampening of East-West contacts, a study on the economic implications, a revision of plans for regional arms-control proposals, and a new look at NATO's force plans in the light of the new uncertainties. The first product of the intensive daily work-"drafting by night and tearing it to pieces by day"-emerged on September 4, when NATO's Defense Planning Committee (a euphemism for the North Atlantic Council when it meets without France) published a declaration marking the end of the "lie-low" policy. The statement reminded a suddenly attentive world of the defense-cum-détente policy formalized by NATO Ministers at their May and June meetings. Prospects for mutual force reductions having "suffered a severe setback," the NATO nations said they proposed to maintain their military capabilities, and announced a thorough assessment of NATO's forces in the light of "recent developments in Eastern Europe."

In effect, this was a pledge that there would be no reduction of forces pending comprehensive analysis and deliberate decision-making by the Council. It was needed as a stopgap policy because many of the allies were well into a process of trimming defense budgets, shaving their contributions to NATO, relaxing their readiness levels and neglecting standards for weapons and stocks. The natural urge to save money on the defense establishment had been reinforced by apparent symptoms of a growing détente.

VI

To shift gears, from reverse to forward, is hard enough inside a single government; in an international organization the task is compounded by a factor somewhat greater than the number of its members. An international organization moves by fits and starts, and the fits are called Ministerial meetings. Western Europe's first reaction to the Czech invasion was to assume that NATO would call a special meeting of Foreign and Defense Ministers-Chancellor Kiesinger even suggested a meeting at summit level-to stress Alliance solidarity and rebuild the Western defense system.

The other NATO nations began by looking to Washington for a cue. Somewhat to their surprise, Washington passed the initiative back to them: a great gathering of NATO Ministers would be useful only when each government had had time to give its allies "concrete indications" of what it thought it could do to enhance its contribution to the NATO defense system. We should know the denouement before turning on the drama.

None of the other potential leaders-the Germans, the British, the Italians- quite felt able to step forward and break the multilateral game of "Après vous, Alphonse." And the smaller allies, considering it a big crisis, thought the big countries should take the lead. Thus for a variety of reasons-all related to their internal politics-none of the members wanted to blow the opening whistle and suggest a new target for NATO-after- Czechoslovakia. Yet most said privately that they could do more for NATO if NATO asked for more to be done. The problem was to put together concrete national steps in the form of a "collective initiative" in which no member seemed to be out in front, and to which each member could respond. This was a job for the Council in Permanent Session. In time, with mutual prodding, there were enough "concrete indications" of added defense efforts to justify moving up to mid-November the regular December meeting of NATO Ministers.

It was a foregone conclusion that the collective Western defense system would have to be strengthened. As the meetings were held, the deficiencies unveiled, the plans for improvement laid and the cost of alertness calculated, a wide consensus was soon evident on what kind of collective response NATO should make. (The question of exactly who should do exactly what, for how much, at whose expense, naturally took a little longer.) Before the end of September, NATO's fourteen active defenders had decided that what was needed was not so much more, as better forces. If the Soviets are readier, NATO had better be readier. If Soviet behavior is less predictable, then NATO needed an even more flexible "flexible response" strategy, with all that implies for mobility and trained reserves and speed of reaction in a crisis.

NATO's force goals-part of a five-year defense-planning system to accompany the "flexible response"-are a blend of military requirements and the resources likely to be available. They have a built-in "carrot factor," or incentive gap, of about 10 percent between the feasible and the desirable. The post-Czechoslovakia plans are, by and large, to try to meet the full force goals immediately. Every NATO ally has latterly been below NATO standards of manning, equipment and training; the allies quickly agreed that each of them should try to meet the agreed standards. The Mobile Force that serves Allied Command Europe is to be enlarged. NATO-committed tactical air forces, which have been too largely reserved for the "least likely eventuality" of general nuclear war, are to be converted more rapidly for use in less glamorous but more relevant conventional roles- tactical bombing, close support, air defense, reconnaissance. And the much- discussed "transatlantic bargain," whereby the Europeans improve their capacity to mobilize ready reserves in a hurry and the North American members improve their capacity to provide air and ground reinforcements in a hurry, is also part of the "collective response."

Some of the new effort is being applied outside of Central Europe, which naturally got most of the attention at first because that was where Czechoslovakia happened to be. NATO was already planning, for example, to take on as an alliance responsibility the surveillance of Soviet naval activities in the Mediterranean and to organize an "on call" NATO naval unit for special exercises and limited emergencies. New anxieties about the future of Jugoslavia and Albania stirred in NATO's Mediterranean allies an even livelier interest in organizing NATO-committed naval power so that it would be usable in something short of a general war. A NATO Command of Maritime Air Forces for the Mediterranean was officially established in November; its program will include use of some planes newly based by the United Kingdom in Malta, as well as those provided by the Italian and U.S. forces in the area.

Beefing up the NATO defense system is going to cost money, and much of the man?uvring by each ally to get the others to speak up first was occasioned by the enormous difficulty each government perceived in reversing a budget- cutting trend already well started between 1967 and 1968. In reporting their defense plans to NATO, the twelve participants other than the United States said last year they expected to spend upwards to $90 billion over the five-year period 1968-72. Taken together, they have been using just under 5 percent of their Gross National Product for defense purposes. (We spend about 10 percent of our GNP for defense, but that of course includes the heavy budgetary burden of the war in Viet Nam; the "pure" U.S. contribution to NATO would run well under 2 percent, even if our Atlantic Navy and all our nuclear weapons in the theater are included.) But in 1968 our allies' spending was down to 4.5 percent of GNP. The first essential will be to turn this allied spending curve back up; for the allies other than the United States, a total expenditure of $100 billion, rather than $90 billion, might be a reasonable target over the next five years.

The new pledges of men, matériel and money, announced at the November 14 Ministerial meeting of NATO, were a big step in this direction. And for the first time in Alliance history, the lion's share-80 to 90 percent of the new effort-was contributed by the Europeans.

VII

The Soviet action in Czechoslovakia was a deep wound to the agreed Western policy of pursuing détente between East and West. During the last ten days of August every NATO country hastened to dampen contacts, postpone political visits and generally defer the building of East-West bridges. The Minnesota Band did not visit the Soviet Union, and the Red Army Choir was not heard in England. The Mayor of Moscow was shipped hurriedly out of The Hague. Ministers in half a dozen Western countries who had been preparing trips designed to bolster their personal contributions to peace, suddenly discovered urgent business at home. Diplomatic parties celebrating Polish Army Day, the Bolshevik Revolution and the like were boycotted by all but minor Western officials. The Italian fair in Moscow went on, but when in a show of business-as-usual the top Soviet leaders turned up as visitors, they found no Italian official of comparable rank had made the trip.

All these moves were the product of quick, instinctive agreement, made explicit in political consultations at NATO headquarters in Brussels; nobody wanted to be accused of acting chummy with the Warsaw Five in the fall of 1968. But how long should the period of mourning be? The more difficult policy choices are in the longer range.

The rationale for all this East-West bridge building, all these cultural exchanges and reciprocal political visits, has been the underlying assumption that the limits of tolerance in Moscow would permit the highly differentiated impulses in Eastern Europe toward independence, toward internal reform, toward easier and closer relations with the West to help bring about gradually, and perhaps erratically, a sea change in the climate of East-West relations. This process was seen as a prerequisite for a renewed approach to the fundamental issues which have divided Europe for more than two decades; and it is only by resolving these fundamental issues that one can begin to think seriously about a "European security system" that is any improvement over a stalemated balance of military forces.

Assumptions of this sort were fundamental to West Germany's Ostpolitik, to France's decision to pull out of NATO's military work, to the British interest in an East-West "code of conduct," to the beginning of "special relationships" between several pairs of states on opposite sides of the dividing line, and to the Group of Ten-an informal small-country forum of NATO countries, Warsaw Pact members and European neutrals. The sense that things were loosening up in the East was equally fundamental to President Johnson's bridge-building policy; in a major policy speech October 7, 1967, he pressed Congress to act on U.S.-Soviet consular relations, loosened controls on East-West trade, allowed the Export-Import Bank to guarantee commercial credits to more East European countries and spoke of easing the Polish debt burden, helping the Fiat auto plant in Russia, liberalizing travel, completing the U.S.-Soviet civil air agreement and exchanging photographs taken from weather satellites.

The Russian leaders have now made it brutally plain that the efforts of the Dubçek régime to create a "socialist humanism" went well beyond the limits of their tolerance for change in Eastern Europe. If each step toward liberalization or closer relations with the West produces another turn of the repressive screw in the East, the NATO allies are face-to-face with an excruciating policy dilemma. Peacemaking efforts by Western leaders will run into more political criticism at home; "détente politics," which assisted many European Ministers to power, will lack the thrust it had in European politics before August 20.

The new obstacles to disarmament dealings with the communists are especially obvious. On August 20 NATO's hand was outstretched, holding a proposal to talk seriously with the Eastern allies about arms control in Europe. The desire for détente is so deep, in the domestic politics of the NATO allies, that this welcoming hand will probably not be clenched into a fist. But the staff work on "balanced and mutual force reductions," the building of models, the development of concrete proposals, are bound to be accorded a low priority within Western governments and in NATO until the Soviets give some sign that they are thinking hard about them too.

The sharpest dilemma of all presented itself when the Johnson Administration had to face the question of whether and when to talk to the Soviets about the limitation of strategic nuclear missiles and anti-missile systems. Before the invasion, Canada and our European partners were unanimous in urging us to get on with strategic arms limitation talks. Immediately after the invasion, just to set a date and begin such talks with the Soviets would have been widely resented. And it was not in the U.S.-or allied-interest to help the Soviets wipe out the stain of Czechoslovakia by conducting business as usual.

On the other hand, the case for trying to do something about the nuclear missile race, and do it soon, is simply overwhelming; subjects that even possibly bear on survival cannot long be postponed for the sake of appearances. We are at one of those historic moments when technology has made possible another great leap in history's costliest and most terrifying arms race: we have learned how to shoot at incoming missiles, and at the same time we have learned how to multiply the number of warheads in each offensive missile. If both the United States and the Soviet Union exploit to the limit the known technologies, the mutual escalation will add enormously to the cost, while if anything subtracting from the security each side would be trying to buy with the extra billions of dollars and rubles. We cannot know, from their mere agreement to talk, whether the Soviet leaders have at last concluded, or are open to persuasion, that the next phase of this arms race makes no more sense for them than it does for us. But if there is even a fractional possibility that we could get some agreement on this cosmic complex of life-and-death issues, it would be madness to pass it up.

VIII

It is too early to judge what the new Soviet doctrines, backed by Soviet forces, may do to the Western Alliance system in the long run, but it is already clear that the long run has been lengthened. Even before the invasion of Czechoslovakia, it was apparent that no NATO ally was seriously proposing to avail itself of the provision by which signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty can, after the twentieth birthday of its coming into force-that is, after August 24, 1969-give one year's notice of withdrawal from its obligations and protections. The betting was that even France, which participates in political consultation while standing aside from the NATO defense system, would stay in the Alliance in its special way. Now, at a stroke, the Warsaw Five have solved what remained of the much-debated question: After 1969, what of NATO?

The authoritative answer was provided by the Foreign Ministers of NATO in the communiqué issued after their moved-up annual meeting. Skirting the kind of formal commitment that would constitute an amendment to the withdrawal clause of the Treaty (and would therefore have to be ratified by legislatures), the Ministers declared on November 16, 1968:

"The North Atlantic Alliance will continue to stand as the indispensable guarantor of security and the essential foundation for the pursuit of European reconciliation. By its Constitution the Alliance is of indefinite duration. Recent events have further demonstrated that its continued existence is more than ever necessary."

In what amounted to a concurring opinion, French Foreign Minister Michel Debré adapted some 1966 language of General de Gaulle to add that "unless events in the years to come were to bring about a radical change in East- West relations, the French Government considers that the Alliance must continue as long as it appears to be necessary." And Secretary of State Dean Rusk let it be known that the U.S. intention to stick with NATO "for the foreseeable future" was bipartisan U.S. policy checked out earlier that week with President-elect Nixon.

It also seems probable that this Alliance will continue, despite Czechoslovakia, to consider its task to be defense-cum-détente-the preservation of Western security as the essential basis for making peace with the East. In the midst of all the autumn talk about beefing up European defenses, the NATO allies had no difficulty at all in agreeing that "the only political goal consistent with Western values is that of secure, peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between East and West."

But peacemaking takes two or more. The prospect for getting back on the road toward détente in Europe is deeply shadowed by the very fact of the Soviet invasion, no matter what happens next in Czechoslovakia itself. The Soviet fear of man's natural instinct for freedom will for some little time force NATO to concentrate, more than its members would prefer, on the peacekeeping side of its dual personality-while its latent peacemaking function awaits better days and brighter prospects.

The Russians may have the raw power to contain with tanks and terror the growing desire of the East Europeans for the decencies of freedom and the niceties of life. But repression cannot indefinitely smother expectations in the East which are produced, not by NATO's machinations but by the yearnings of people for a more humane society-nourished, to be sure, by the lively example of more liberal life in the West. A cartoon in a European newspaper last fall managed to say it all in a single caption. It showed a group of students and workers standing on a street corner, discussing politics with animation. In the background, two Russian commissars are wringing their hands, and one of them is saying to the other: "The trouble with all these people's democratic republics is that they seem to be producing democratic republican people."

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

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