The threat of war in central Europe still exists. One does not have to credit Soviet leaders with an intent to attack Western Europe to believe this. The peoples of Eastern Europe are no more satisfied today with Soviet dominance than they were before 1914 with Austrian and Russian rule. Nor is it yet clear that the Soviet rulers are more ready to yield control of this region than were the Romanovs or the Hapsburgs.

Indeed, central Europe remains second only to the Middle East in its potential for conflicts that could embroil the great powers. To be sure, security arrangements in the region have helped to keep the peace for almost half a century. But these arrangements are changing, and new trends are taking shape:

-There are pressures for a reduction in U.S. and West German active forces on the central front; the emergence of a West European defense entity is being discussed more actively than in the past.

-Political and economic trends in Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe make an agreement on the reduction of conventional forces in central Europe more likely, with consequences that could lead to major changes in the defense posture on both sides.

-Military trends could move both NATO and the Warsaw Pact toward a structure of forces with a more defensive character, and with greater emphasis on new technologies that could reduce the role of heavy armored divisions.

If current security arrangements are in fact changing, what will take their place? To answer this question we turn first to an examination of political and economic trends in the West and in the East. This is followed by a review of changes in the military environment that will confront both alliances. In conclusion, we examine the courses of action that seem most likely to advance U.S. interests in regard to central European security.


The bulk of NATO's forces on the central front consists of the 12 well-trained and well-armed active West German divisions, plus supporting air and naval forces. The ability of the Bonn government to maintain this structure is critically affected by demographics. West Germany's population is now declining; from the present 60 million, some demographers predict that it may eventually go as low as 35 million. Even if this trend is eased it will almost certainly mean a reduction in active West German armed forces, particularly the army. Earlier there were plans to extend the period of compulsory military service from 15 to 18 months to maintain these forces, but this extension is now to be deferred, mainly for domestic political reasons. There are alternative remedies-notably enlisting women or drafting foreign-born residents (mainly Turkish workers)-but both are unlikely.

The challenge presented by the military consequences of West Germany's demographic pressures is aggravated by new German political attitudes on East-West issues, issues that have traditionally played a large role in German politics, for obvious geographic and historic reasons. Since the Soviet threat seemed especially acute to West Germans in the 1950s and 1960s, the current perception that it has declined takes on a special importance. A recent opinion poll showed that 75 percent of the respondents saw no major military threat; most West Germans want to believe that Gorbachev will succeed.

Other pressures to reduce the level of German active forces include a desire by some Germans to reduce draft call-ups and also to see fewer military convoys on their autobahns and fewer combat aircraft flying over their towns. More serious are the fiscal strictures. The German body politic does not readily accept large-scale budgetary deficit financing. The new finance minister, Theodor Waigel, is under heavy pressure to cut taxes in order to reform the tax structure and stimulate growth. These pressures cannot be accommodated without increased deficit financing unless government expenditures are reduced. This will be hard to achieve if the active German armed forces remain at their present levels.

The pressures to reduce active forces also exist elsewhere in Europe, in varying degree. Britain is committed by the Western European Union treaty to maintain 55,000 soldiers in Germany. Because the British Army of the Rhine, like the rest of Britain's armed forces, is an all-volunteer force, the issue of the draft does not arise. Nor do military aircraft fly low over British villages or convoys clog British roads. Fiscal problems do exist, however, and they exert pressure on the BAOR.

The Benelux countries contribute four divisions to the defense of Germany. Their draft periods are shorter than Bonn's and, again, the issue of convoys and low-flying aircraft does not arise. However, as in Germany, there is the same perception of a waning Soviet threat, and there are also serious fiscal problems. Nevertheless, the size of the active Dutch and Belgian armed forces has not yet become a central political question in these countries.

French forces, of course, are not under NATO command. Furthermore, the small First French Army based in Germany lacks the heavy armor that characterizes other NATO forces on the central front; so does the Force of Intervention, stationed in France, which would be committed in the event of war. The resources available for these conventional forces are limited-not so much by demographic or political considerations as by the expensive needs of France's nuclear force.

At present, the five U.S. divisions stationed in Germany, and those divisions stationed in the U.S. that are earmarked for early wartime use in Europe, are made up predominantly of active-duty forces. There is a powerful argument, the current administration points out, for keeping it that way while we seek to negotiate an agreement with the U.S.S.R. for mutual reduction and withdrawal of forces. To reduce the active element and increase the reserve element in U.S. NATO forces before an East-West agreement is reached would degrade U.S. bargaining power in that negotiation.

Whether a reduction in active forces can be deferred until an agreement is concluded, however, will depend partly on how rapidly political pressures for greater NATO burden-sharing build up in the United States. There is a widespread feeling in the Congress that the European members of NATO should be doing more. The obstacles are formidable; none of the European countries that maintain forces on the central front are likely soon to spend more-in real terms-for defense; German active armed forces are more likely to decline than to expand.

The resulting U.S. frustration will probably be expressed in growing congressional demands for reduction in U.S. forces in Europe, even before it becomes clear whether an East-West agreement can be secured. This trend, as well as other factors, has focused increased attention on the possibility of a new European defense entity.

There is some French interest in this idea, in part because it corresponds to the French desire for closer French-German relations. It also reflects the French Gaullist view that Europe's destiny should be settled by Europeans, not Americans, and the view of supporters of the late Jean Monnet that in defense, as in other fields, there should be a "two-pillar" approach to relations between the United States and Western Europe.

Whether consensus could be reached in France to maintain the larger French conventional force that would be required for a European defense entity is another question. A European army that consisted mostly of German forces would not be acceptable to most Europeans, though the French might argue that their powerful nuclear contribution justified a lesser conventional share for France.

The United States also has shown some interest in the concept of a European defense entity-partly from a desire for greater burden-sharing and partly because of fears that NATO, as presently constituted, is "structurally disarming" itself; i.e., that allied nations, because of the increased cost of every replacement program, are procuring reduced numbers of each new weapons system. Some experts propose to avoid structural disarmament by building a two-pillar NATO arsenal, based upon cooperation between an increasingly integrated European defence production effort after 1992 and a corresponding effort in the United States.

Some see the concept of a European defense entity as a logical extension of the general movement toward European unity. In the United Kingdom, however, there is vocal and substantial opposition from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who sees European union as a free market and little else. In this she probably mirrors a significant element of British opinion. After Thatcher leaves power, the complex process set in train by the Single Act of 1992 may well carry Britain along with other European Community countries toward political, as well as economic, union. If political unity thus emerges, might not a measure of military integration also follow?

A decisive factor will be the U.S. role in Europe. So long as five U.S. divisions remain in Germany, most Germans will not want to jeopardize their presence by moving toward a European defense entity. Only if a significant U.S. withdrawal seems likely might they consider the radical changes in NATO that would be needed to create a European defense entity. Even then, the Europeans would face difficult questions:

-Would there be a common European program for production of weapons and equipment; how could cooperation be arranged between European and U.S. research, development and production efforts?

-Would there be "European" combat forces? If so, at what level would integration be sought? (In Switzerland, most divisions are either French- or German-speaking; not until the corps or army level is integration generally achieved.)

-What would be the relation of a European defense entity to NATO? Would France join that entity if it meant that its forces would come under NATO peacetime command?

-Would the French and British nuclear forces come under European control? If so, through what mechanism?

These questions show how difficult it will be to proceed toward a European defense entity. As indicated above, even slow progress will depend on U.S. policy. This, in turn, will depend on fiscal and political pressures in America and on East-West relations.


President Bush has said that he intends to keep U.S. forces in Europe, but there is a new element in the NATO equation-Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviet leader's general posture, including his announced troop reductions and withdrawals from Eastern Europe, are believed by many not only to reduce the Soviet threat to Western Europe but also to increase the possibility of an agreement to reduce both sides' conventional forces in central Europe.

To enhance his chances of success on the economic front Gorbachev apparently wants to reduce the burdens on the Soviet economy. He means to reduce the size of the Soviet armed forces and has taken some steps to this end, but the reductions of 500,000 troops announced thus far are not large enough to affect the Soviet economy. He probably will not go much further unless the West offers a reciprocal reduction. In an attempt to induce this Western reciprocity, Gorbachev has promised to reduce not only the size and presence but also the offensive structure of Soviet forces in central Europe.

These steps will not shift the balance of East-West military power in central Europe, but they seem to signal a willingness to take even larger steps in the context of future East-West agreements. In the talks in Vienna the U.S.S.R. has proposed East-West reductions of over one million troops on each side, to achieve common ceilings of 1.35 million troops and 20,000 tanks.

Gorbachev wants to achieve conventional arms control not only to reduce his defense burden but also to weaken military and political links between the United States and Western Europe. Nevertheless, Gorbachev cannot ignore the views of the Soviet military. The most powerful opposition to Gorbachev's policies may come not from the heirs of a discredited Marxist ideology but from an authoritarian and nationalist tradition with deep roots in Russian history. The army's leaders could be a powerful ally of opposition from this quarter. Soviet military leaders will be concerned over any withdrawal of units from Eastern Europe that might open the way to a loss of Soviet control over this strategic area, or to dangerous new conflicts among its nationalities. It would be a very unusual Soviet general officer who did not consider it vital for Russia to control the approaches to its western borders.

The military will not be alone in wishing to maintain enough Soviet forces in place to ensure political control of East Germany, and to protect Soviet lines of communication in Poland and perhaps Hungary. Conservatives inside the U.S.S.R., as well as the current governments of East Germany and Czechoslovakia, will share this concern. These groups will press for an agreement that only sets overall limits on NATO and Warsaw Pact forces, or that concentrates less on force reductions than on measures to provide warning against surprise attack.

Speculation about these trends is shadowed by the possibility of more radical change in Eastern Europe. Forces may emerge, particularly in Poland, with demands that threaten what the Soviet Union considers its vital interests in the area's stability and governance. Gorbachev may, in this case, feel that he must threaten or even actually use force to uphold these interests; this could change the whole character and outlook of his government. On the other hand, if Gorbachev accepts far-reaching changes in Eastern Europe, Russian disenchantment with the resulting turbulence could feed back into political and economic problems in the U.S.S.R. and threaten the survival of his government.

This scenario is intended not to forecast what will happen, but to illustrate a general proposition: that destabilizing changes in Eastern Europe-not only in Poland but in Yugoslavia, Hungary and elsewhere-could produce results that would be so unacceptable to important groups in the U.S.S.R. as to change Gorbachev's most basic policies. If so, the Soviet government might, as suggested earlier, become more nationalistic, and this could mean a harder line not only toward non-Russian nationalities in the U.S.S.R. and toward the Eastern European nations, but also toward the negotiation or observance of arms agreements in central and Eastern Europe.

Obstacles to an agreement on force reductions are not confined to the East. Although there is growing West German criticism of the U.S. military presence, there is also great concern that the United States provide a strong commitment of its forces to the country's defense. In other West European countries, especially France, there is also fear that the United States and the U.S.S.R. could make a deal over the heads of Europeans-a deal that would not take adequate account of their interests. This fear is the greater because they know that, in the end, bilateral U.S.-Soviet discussions may be the only way to reach a major agreement on conventional forces. The large number of participants in the Vienna negotiations is often cited as one reason those talks have made so little progress in so many years.

Greater progress now seems feasible, however. The Soviet proposal delivered by Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze at the March 1988 meeting in Vienna had many aspects in common with NATO proposals-including the levels to which troops would be reduced, the equal limits on specific weapons, and the requirement to increase verification measures. How little the differences are in some of these areas is exemplified by the NATO proposal to make cuts of between five and ten percent from the current NATO level for certain weapons and the Soviet proposal to reduce both sides' forces to equal levels ten to 15 percent below the lowest current strength of either side. In practical terms this means the NATO level.

Major disagreements still exist, such as whether tactical air and naval units and weapons will be included in negotiations. But the differences between the two sides seem to be narrowing.

A few major conclusions emerge from our analysis of political and economic trends in both West and East: the changing demographic, political and fiscal environment foreshadows some change in the mix of active and reserve units in U.S. and German armed forces. These pressures may, when combined with other factors, bring consideration of a European defense entity increasingly to the fore. In the East, present trends and pressures may lead to reductions in Soviet forces and to East-West negotiations about forces in central Europe that will have better chances of success than in the past.

Military factors, however, still play an important role. It is to these factors that we now turn.


For the past twenty years the strategy upon which NATO has depended to deter war and to shape the force structure of its member nations has been one of extended deterrence. Its basic components have been conventional defense positioned as far forward as possible, the use of tactical nuclear weapons if conventional defense fails, and the use of strategic nuclear weapons should it not be possible to contain the war with lesser means. The principle behind this strategy is one of continuously escalating use of an amalgam of conventional and nuclear forces.

As American intermediate-range nuclear forces are removed from the continuum of extended deterrence, as required by the INF treaty signed in December 1987, and as the Soviets indicate their intention to change the size and structure of their forces, some basic questions are being asked about the viability of the current NATO military strategy: For example, is a strategy viable that requires nuclear intervention at an early stage of any future war? Is there any need for new short-range nuclear weapons?

The starting point for considering these military trends and questions is the change in the threat posed by Warsaw Pact forces. President Gorbachev announced to the U.N. General Assembly on December 7, 1988, an intended reduction in Soviet forces within the next two years of 500,000 men, the withdrawal of six tank divisions (2,000 tanks) and another 3,000 tanks from the central front, and the reorganization of all Soviet divisions in Warsaw Pact territory into "clearly defensive" forces. Of the six tank divisions, four are being removed from East Germany, one from Hungary and one from Czechoslovakia. Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, the former chief of the general staff and now a special adviser to Gorbachev, has indicated that the remaining 3,000 tanks to be reduced in the forward area (i.e., the territory of other Warsaw Pact allies) will be removed from the 22 divisions that will remain in the Soviet forces in the Warsaw Pact area bordering on Western territory. Another 5,000 tanks will be removed from the Soviet forces stationed farther from the NATO-Warsaw Pact border. Significantly, both Akhromeyev and Gorbachev have indicated that the tanks taken out of these divisions will be destroyed, although most of them are among the most modern tanks in the Soviet armed forces.

Similar reductions have been promised for other weapons of concern to military strategists and force planners: 8,500 artillery pieces, 800 combat planes, and combat support for the forward deployed Soviet divisions will also be reduced.

These announced changes represent about a ten-percent reduction in the capabilities of the Warsaw Pact forces. There are differences of opinion as to the military significance of these reductions.

In November 1988 NATO released "Conventional Forces in Europe: The Facts," an agreed NATO comparison of conventional forces in the area from the Atlantic to the Urals. In January 1989 the Warsaw Pact released its own comparison. Table I shows some of the pertinent facts contained in these two estimates.

Obviously, there is a significant difference in the balance of forces as seen by the Warsaw Pact and NATO. If one uses the NATO figures to assess the impact of the Warsaw Pact unilateral reductions, there will continue to be a significant conventional numerical imbalance in central Europe after the proposed Soviet unilateral reductions. This is why Western governments seem agreed not to undertake unilateral NATO reductions, except in response to further Soviet actions.


NATO Warsaw Pact

Estimate Estimate

NATO Personnel 2,213,593 3,660,200

Warsaw Pact Personnel 3,090,000 3,573,100*

NATO Tanks 16,424 30,690

Warsaw Pact Tanks 51,500 59,470

NATO Artillery 14,458 57,060

Warsaw Pact Artillery 43,400 71,560

NATO Combat Aircraft 8,200 7,130

Warsaw Pact Combat Aircraft 4,507 7,876*

* Includes naval figures.

The proposal to create Soviet divisions that will become "clearly defensive" in the forward area is also important. In discussions with senior Soviet military and civilian officials earlier this year, U.S. participants emphasized how difficult it is to define "clearly defensive" forces. The argument was made that nearly all weapons systems and organizations can be used in offensive operations. While this is a military truism, it is nonetheless also true that units can be made less threatening, hence more defensive, through organizational changes.

The changes proposed by the Soviet Union, if carried out, would indeed make some units less threatening. Converting tank units to mechanized or motorized infantry units, and reducing their bridging capability and their forward refueling and rearming capability are all steps that would decrease the capability of Warsaw Pact forces to conduct large-scale offensive operations.

If it becomes clear that the proposed changes are being implemented, increased warning time for NATO will become a distinct possibility. For the past decade, NATO planning has been based upon 14 days of "strategic" warning and ten days in which to react to that warning. These planning factors have been the basis upon which NATO force structures have been developed. They also form the basis for reinforcement plans that determine how soon after mobilization NATO forces should be in wartime positions on the central front. For example, the requirement to have ten U.S. divisions in Europe ten days after mobilization flows from the planning criteria established by the estimated 14 days of warning and ten of reaction time.

This estimate has been driven largely by the forward locations of Soviet and Warsaw Pact divisions in peacetime. It is also based on the offensive capability of these divisions and of the supporting units (artillery, engineers, supply, maintenance, etc.) which are essential in rapid offensive operations. If the changes proposed by the Soviet Union do in fact occur, U.S. and allied intelligence estimates will begin to posit longer periods of strategic warning, which means that greater mobilization times will be available to NATO nations.

Additionally, the processes for verification of unilateral Soviet reductions should increase NATO's confidence in being able to detect any significant change in Warsaw Pact force dispositions. These and other activities designed to make both sides' forces more transparent should give the intelligence community greater confidence in its estimates of the warning time that NATO could expect to have if the Warsaw Pact decided to conduct a large-scale offensive operation.

An increase of seven to ten days in the warning time would have significant impact on the number and mix of active forces that NATO nations need to maintain. It could provide a basis for better rationalization of European, U.S. and Canadian contributions.

In addition to increasing warning time, the reductions and restructuring proposed by the Soviets could significantly reduce their capability to undertake large-scale offensive operations. If the bulk of the Soviet forces deployed forward in Warsaw Pact territory were in a clearly defensive mode, it would take significant time and effort to reconfigure and retrain these forces to operate in an offensive mode. With the threat of sudden large-scale tank attacks thus decreased, NATO could develop a force structure with less forward deployed combat power.


One reason for this is that new technology provides NATO forces along the inter-German border with the ability to determine any significant changes in the Warsaw Pact forces. In assessing the wider potential of such new technologies, it must be understood that technology can be a double-edged sword. It can permit outnumbered NATO forces to defeat Soviet forces that are inferior in quality. It could also prove destabilizing if, as a result of conventional arms control agreements, NATO and Warsaw Pact forces were to become relatively equal in the future. Under such conditions of negotiated parity or "reasonable sufficiency," any significant breakthrough in technology could have a dramatic effect on the balance of forces in central Europe.

The early introduction of directed-energy weapons or long-range precision guided missiles would be of great concern to the side without such a capability. This concern has been expressed frequently by Soviet military and civilian leaders in recent discussions of conventional arms reductions. It is an issue that will have significant impact on future NATO force structure and weapons, as well as on arms control negotiations.

Several other technological developments could profoundly influence the reshaping of NATO forces over the next decade. First and foremost is the application of modern technologies to determine whether the tank, in its current form, will become obsolete on future battlefields. The tank/antitank equation can best be described by the up and down modulations of a sine curve. Protective armor defeats antitank weapon; then the tank is in the ascendancy. Antitank weapon is improved and defeats armor; antitank is in the ascendancy. The cycle continues, and this technological game of wits absorbs extraordinary efforts on both sides.

This is a good time, therefore, to try to determine whether, with the new technologies that are now available, substitutes can be developed to perform the missions the tank has performed in the past. The U.S. army tank of the future is likely to be significantly heavier than current models. If a decision is taken to make all vehicles that accompany a tank as heavy as a tank, the strategic mobility of U.S. forces for use in central Europe would be degraded. The continued urbanization of the Federal Republic of Germany raises a question, moreover, as to whether newer and heavier tank forces would be consistent with operational needs and conditions in central Europe.

Directed energy weapons, lasers, longer-range top attack weapons systems, unpiloted aerial and ground vehicles, the use of robotics to offset manpower shortages, low observable technology, and other technologies that might contribute to survivability-all will have an impact on future forces. How soon these technologies can be introduced in weapons and vehicles will depend on whether, while NATO is verifying changes in the Warsaw Pact force structure and trying to negotiate conventional arms reductions, it can spend sufficient money to hasten research and development of these new technologies.

Finally, in considering military trends, certain U.S. manpower issues need to be understood: more than 50 percent of the combat soldiers of the U.S. Army are stationed overseas, and the largest proportion of these are in NATO territory. An axiom of military peacetime planning has been that it takes two infantrymen in the United States for every one overseas. The U.S. rotation base provides the opportunity for schooling, non-unit assignments, etc. Without such a rotation base, it has been considered essential that soldiers going to Europe take their families with them. Otherwise combat soldiers would spend one-half of their term of enlistment overseas and away from their families. For NCOs and officers, this would be a disincentive to a service career. To take any future force structure reductions solely in the United States would thus compound what is already a major personnel problem.


What needs to be done?

When beginning a consideration of this question it is important to bear in mind that none of the trends discussed are solely political, economic or military; each has components of the others. Moreover, all of the trends are long term; they permit at least a two- or three-year time buffer before final decisions on the most critical issues need to be made. For example, the announced unilateral Soviet troop withdrawals will occur over the next two years.

Three courses of action that appear prudent for U.S. and NATO national-security planners to follow over the next few years are suggested below.

The first course of action is reciprocal reduction and structural change in U.S. and Soviet forces stationed in central Europe. The focus should be primarily on U.S. and Soviet forces, because their presence is at the heart of the correlation of forces between the two alliances in Europe, and because there are already substantial pressures for change and reduction in these forces. To ensure that these changes proceed in tandem, and that they contribute to stability rather than to one-sided advantage and instability, it will be important to link them to each other either by negotiated agreements or by tacit understandings. Unilateral Western cuts would not be useful.

The goal of any reductions or structural changes in U.S. and Soviet forces should be to increase warning time and reduce the threat of large-scale offensive operations. Some of the changes in Soviet forces that would unilaterally reduce their offensive character will need to be verified. The means of verification developed to monitor the promised withdrawal and destruction of Soviet forces over the next two years should become part of the security and confidence-building measures that will be needed to confirm any further changes by either side. Such measures should create an environment in which larger cuts can be made by both sides with confidence that significant cheating would be detected at an early stage.

The search for limited agreements deserves special emphasis. Comprehensive agreements have become so complex that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get all members of the NATO alliance to agree on them; limited agreements may well be more feasible. Focusing negotiations on armor and artillery units, or on close air support aircraft, may be more rewarding than efforts to agree upon armies, frontal aviation and navies as part of a comprehensive treaty.

While the focus in this course of action should be on changes in U.S. and Soviet forces, neither superpower can ignore its allies in devising these changes. This is particularly true for the United States, in view of its close relations with West Germany. Henry Kissinger is surely right when he suggests that current German concerns over the foreign military forces on German soil are nothing compared to the concern that would be aroused were some of these forces to be withdrawn without full German approval.1 That approval would only be likely if the withdrawals took place within the context of formal or informal East-West agreements and/or the emergence of a European defense pillar.

Kissinger also suggests that the East-West arms agreements should be designed to prevent Soviet forces from intervening in the internal affairs of Eastern Europe. Some reduction in the Soviet capacity to intervene may follow from the type of force reductions and force changes that we suggest. Progress toward East-West security agreements and greater stability on the central front may also encourage the Soviet Union to allow Eastern Europe a freer hand.

The second broad course of action that we recommend relates to change in the relationship between the United States and the European members of NATO. U.S. dollars, armed forces and nuclear weapons have buttressed NATO since its infancy. But the alliance is no longer an infant or even an adolescent. An arrangement in which the twin pillars-the United States and Western Europe-would become more nearly equal in both their contributions to, and their management of, the alliance may now be feasible. With its present combined defense manpower and money, Western Europe could make a more effective contribution to the common defense. This will be particularly true if political, structural and fiscal changes are made that would facilitate progress toward a European defense entity. Whether this happens will depend on the Europeans; if they want to move, the United States should be responsive.

"Equal pillars" does not mean that the pillars will be mirror images of one another. Each pillar has unique capabilities which can be enhanced for the benefit of both. The European pillar could launch a major research and development effort to improve and exploit the new defensive non-armor military technologies. While the results of this research should be available to all NATO countries on an equal basis, they might be especially useful to those European forces (e.g., West German defensive infantry reserves and French light forces) that are not equipped with heavy armor.

Equal pillars does mean more equal sharing of command responsibilities. Several proposals have been made to this end-e.g., for a European SACEUR or for a European force that would only come under NATO command in wartime. Some of these proposals might help to meet the problem posed by the refusal of countries such as France and Spain to permit their forces to operate under NATO peacetime command.

Whether or not a twin-pillar arrangement comes about, it will be important to get on with the creation of a resource strategy that reverses structural disarmament-by weapons cooperation that involves competitive markets, technology transfers and the opening of markets on both sides of the Atlantic to all weapons systems. Absent such a resource strategy, other actions discussed in this article will not suffice to maintain the balance of military power in central Europe.

One other aspect of change in Western Europe should be mentioned. Progress toward greater economic unity in the European Community after 1992 could enhance the possibility of stronger links between the nations of Western and Eastern Europe.

The history of Eastern Europe is one either of domination by outside powers or of conflict among the nations of this region. An alternative to both domination and conflict might be found if the East European countries were both members of the Warsaw Pact and associates of the European Community. They could seek not only continuing security in the pact but greater economic progress in association with an increasingly prosperous and united Western Europe-to which they are drawn by both memories of the past and hopes for the future.

The third course that we recommend is to change the composition of NATO forces in central Europe. Such changes make sense on their merits. Where possible, they should be related to progress in the other two courses of action discussed above: arms reduction and more equal relations between the European and U.S. pillars.

In devising these changes, greater account needs to be taken of the geographic asymmetry that the Atlantic Ocean creates not only between the United States and the U.S.S.R. but also between the United States and Western Europe. U.S. officials have argued for years that arms reductions between the United States and the Soviet Union must be asymmetrical because of the differing times required for Soviet and U.S. forces to reach the central front. A similar criterion should be established in rationalizing the U.S. and European contributions to the defense of central Europe. This is an issue not of burden-sharing but of strategy and tactics.

During the early stages of any wartime NATO mobilization, both the West European nations and the United States are supposed to move heavy armored forces to the central front. This requires more transport and more time for U.S. than for West European forces. It would thus make sense for more of the heavy armor reinforcements to come from Western Europe and for the U.S. reinforcements to consist, in greater degree, of forces equipped with non-heavy-armor technologies described elsewhere in this article. This is a long-term goal to be kept in mind; its fulfillment will depend on progress both in developing these technologies and in achieving a European defense entity.

The most important factor in any revision of NATO's present force structure will be whether measures to increase warning time against surprise attack can be agreed between East and West. If the likelihood of large-scale attacks on the central front with little or no warning decreases, changes could be considered in the structure of not only U.S. but other NATO forces as well.

If NATO could count on 20 days of mobilization, both the West European and U.S. forces could rely more upon reserves. German army divisions could have some percentage of their battalions in the reserves, as could the central front forces of the other NATO nations. The United States could place a larger percentage of its active cadre in National Guard and reserve units, thus increasing the readiness of these reserve components. The U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps provide excellent models for the army and navy to use in seeking thus to improve the readiness of their reserve components.

If agreement can be reached with the Soviet Union to move toward forces that pose less of a threat of a sudden large-scale attack, NATO could begin to design forces for deployment close to the inter-German border that would be more defensive in character. Such forces might include greatly improved intelligence-gathering means, secure communications equipment, survivable mobility for soldiers, unattended aerial and land vehicles, surface-to-air defense systems, longer-range precision-guided munitions, and other high-technology contributions to defense, verification and early warning. The United States could use a test-bed division such as the one currently being considered for deactivation at Fort Lewis, Washington, to experiment with organizations along these lines. This might help the United States, in the context of tacit or explicit agreements with the Soviet Union, to reduce the U.S. Army commitment of heavy forces to central Europe, substituting forces that are lighter and more responsive, and that can take greater advantage of new technologies.

Such shifts by U.S. and other NATO forces will depend, in part, on whether research and development reduces the importance of the current heavy tank, in which the Soviets have such a striking qualitative advantage. There will always be a need to move survivable direct firepower on the battlefield in response to enemy armored and other forces. If this function can be performed by means other than heavy tanks, the nature of NATO forces could be significantly altered. Significant research and development funds devoted to this problem, before embarking on a new and heavier tank project for NATO, would be money well spent on both sides of the Atlantic.

Any review of NATO strategy and force structure will have to include a reexamination of the strategy of extended deterrence. A decision to reaffirm this strategy will require upgrading the current short-range nuclear stockpile (i.e., the Lance missile) and renewing the commitment that these weapons will be used. This poses evident problems for the present German government and, even more, should there be a Social Democratic successor.

It may be easier for the Federal Republic of Germany to accept both extended deterrence and a short-range nuclear component now if the alliance is concomitantly trying to reduce dependence on nuclear weapons in the long run, through the arms control negotiations and new non-nuclear technologies suggested above. If this approach is successful, the prospect of conventional forces eventually playing a greater role in extended deterrence might reduce the political problems associated with the present reliance on short-range nuclear weapons.

In the meantime, the controversy over whether to modernize the Lance short-range missile will continue to pose serious problems. There is no prospect that the present German government will agree to Lance modernization before the next general election in West Germany; there can be no assurance that any German government will agree to it after the election. Pressure on the Bonn government will not change this prospect; it will only embitter U.S.-German relations and weaken the government of Helmut Kohl. Furthermore, it will seem to cast West Germany in the role of a noncooperative ally, and thus make it more difficult to withstand congressional pressures for American troop withdrawals that would, among other things, weaken the U.S. bargaining position in negotiations with the U.S.S.R. Washington now seems to understand that it need not abandon the cause of Lance modernization to avoid pressing it with such vigor as to damage the interests outlined above.

The West German government will no doubt continue to urge negotiations with the U.S.S.R. on short-range nuclear weapons. The alliance is sharply divided on this question, and so the negotiations will not happen in the near term. Again, the object should be to avoid a sharp U.S.-German confrontation. It is as much in Bonn's and our interest to show moderation on the issue of negotiations as on Lance modernization. The Germans need not renounce their goal to avoid pursuing it in ways that will exacerbate inter-allied disputes. Neither the modernization nor the negotiations on short-range nuclear weapons will soon occur. In the meantime, the alliance should focus on the courses of action that are feasible rather than those that are not.

In all of this, we need to remember that it is German power, totally and responsibly committed in support of the alliance, that has helped NATO to keep the peace in Europe since World War II. Germans are now more conscious of that power and of their own concerns than in the past. This is natural and, indeed, inevitable. It need not mean a weakening of the alliance. But it does mean that we will have to be particularly sensitive to those concerns, especially when, as in the present case, they are shared by at least some of Germany's and our allies on the continent.


The courses of action outlined above would radically alter present security arrangements in central Europe; they also would take time. Fortunately, the trends to which they respond are also slow moving; time is available.

If we are to enter the next millennium with a reduced threat and greater mutual security in central Europe, we will need to pursue these courses of action simultaneously in three different contexts: East-West negotiations, any discussions relating to a West European defense entity, and unilateral steps to adapt NATO forces to new military technologies. The objectives will be the same in each case: to move toward more defensive forces, change the relations between the U.S. and European forces in NATO, achieve greater warning time, reduce forward deployed U.S. and Soviet forces, explore alternatives to heavy offensive armor, and change the present mix of active and reserve NATO forces.

The difficulties are evident, but change is already under way. We will either shape that change or become its victims.

1 The Washington Post, April 15, 1989.

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  • Henry Owen served as Chairman of the State Department Policy Planning Council (1966-69) and as Ambassador-at-Large for annual economic summits (1977-81). General Edward C. Meyer (retired) served as U.S. Army Chief of Staff from 1979 to 1983.
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