The Unsolved Problems of European Defense

Henry Kissinger.

The recent meeting of NATO defense and foreign ministers at Athens ended with the usual proclamations of Allied unity. A great deal was made of the United States commitment of five-and later more-Polaris submarines to NATO. Yet the significance of the meeting went far beyond this largely symbolic gesture. The Athens conference marked the point at which a reassessment of NATO strategy could no longer be avoided. It underlined the urgent need to resolve the debate of the past years about the relative role of nuclear and conventional forces, the relationship of deterrence to strategy and the control and use of nuclear weapons.

This debate was first given impetus when, shortly after the advent of the new Administration, the United States proposed that the conventional forces of NATO be strengthened-specifically, that they be brought up to the level of 30 divisions agreed upon in 1957. Our allies, in turn, inquired whether the United States was reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons, and whether our nuclear guarantee was being deprived of its credibility. We replied that the build-up of conventional forces did not imply a reduced reliance on what has been called the Deterrent. On the contrary, the strategic striking force was being expanded and made more invulnerable.1 The non- nuclear build-up, far from diminishing the credibility of our nuclear power, would actually enhance it.2 In short, the NATO policy being promulgated was not new, according to our official statements; we were simply asking our allies to live up to their previous commitment. Our goal was flexibility of response.

This curious dialogue, in which a change of emphasis in United States policy was defended in terms of traditional doctrines of NATO, in many ways only increased the uneasiness of our allies. There were a number of reasons why the NATO goals for conventional forces had never been met. An important one was the fact that in terms of the prevailing NATO strategy these forces did not make much sense.

That strategy had been developed

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