Europe and America are like a married couple who cannot live happily together yet cannot live apart. Their marriage, so far as it derives from mutual interest rather than a romantic attachment, might, in the old days, have been described as a marriage of convenience. A marriage of inconvenience would, however, be a more apt description of a union in which partners who are incompatible in many respects yet are welded indissolubly together. It is comforting that wedded bliss is not conspicuous in the Sino- Soviet household. There is solace in the fact, too, that when the West is challenged from without, domestic friction diminishes. But it is not only against a chronic threat from the East that it has had to close ranks. There are new developments within the West, and as it tries to adjust itself to these it may be thrown into a vexatious disarray.

Two of the recent stages in the marriage of Europe and America are familiar enough: Europe spurned by America between the wars; America striving so bountifully after World War II to bring Europe back to life. But now another stage has been reached. Europe, having been restored, feels less dependent on America than before; separation if not divorce from its consort is in the air. Will the European independence that America itself fostered go too far? Further, is the new relationship more likely than the old to drag everybody into nuclear war? Independence at what price? That is, for both Europe and America, one of the great unanswered questions.

To check the disruptive and stress the cohesive-such is the task confronting the United States as leader of the West. President Kennedy, borrowing a theme from Eisenhower and Macmillan, has therefore suggested a Declaration of Interdependence. When, moreover, he remarked on July 4 that the United States will be ready to discuss with a united Europe the ways and means of forming a concrete Atlantic partnership, he also envisaged it as not only fortifying the defense of the free world but as looking outward to coöperate with all nations in meeting their common concerns. He did not add that an inward-looking Europe might aggravate rather than allay current perplexities. But it well might.


Defense may not be the sole realm in which the destiny of free nations is decided, but unless they prevail there, others will. Isolationists and appeasers yesterday, pacifists and neutralists today, have been reluctant to admit this basic truth; but it is not by evading the realities of power that free societies can perpetuate themselves. In how good a position is Europe now to fend for itself? Will it be more able than it has been to set the terms for Atlantic interdependence? Peace-keeping in the postwar world has been mainly the duty of the United States. To what extent will a unified Europe be prepared to take this duty over?

How is peace kept? There would have been no major wars if the one over- riding aim of the Atlantic peoples had not been, at turning points in the twentieth century, the preservation of a free world order. In World War I that free world order could still best be preserved by maintaining the balance of power in Europe. But since Pearl Harbor, the area of wartime conflict has been enlarged, and since World War II so has the scope of peacetime competition. Peace has been maintained by a global balance of power underwritten for the West by the United States. Europe, while still a most crucial sector, is but one among others. During the nineteenth century the Pax Britannica profited from Britain's world-wide command of the seas and a favorable balance of power in Europe. Now in the second half of this century, however, Europeans have not been able to uphold by themselves the European segment of a global equilibrium. That is why a North American presence in NATO Europe has served as more than a symbol and supplement. What makes it so formidable is the fact that it is part of a global power structure of which the nuclear sea and air power of the United States is the world-wide prop.

That, moreover, is not the whole story. Although nobody in the nuclear missile age can win a major war with arms, the free world without arms would lose its freedom. Peace by power is thus still the watchword for the West. But as East and West deter each other in the military sphere, they vie all the harder with each other in the non-military sphere. Furthermore, the distribution of power between the rival camps has not merely brought forth an East-West equilibrium. Interior forces within each camp get from it a certain latitude for asserting themselves. Where would a unified Europe be, where would Adenauer or de Gaulle be, without it? Where would be those in Britain who have equated Soviet offensive missiles in Cuba with NATO missile bases? Where would its Afro-Asian critics and detractors be?

The neutralists might have been courted less assiduously if so much of the struggle between the antagonistic concepts of world order, the free one and the Communist one, had not shifted to the non-military sphere. As it is, some of the relatively powerless states acquire a chance to speak as though they possessed substantial power. And within the West itself a redistribution of power is rendered feasible by global power guarantees to which the United States still contributes most. Nor is the East untouched by change. Russia and China have been reshuffling their cards, and the manner in which they adapt themselves to each other must also impinge profoundly on the prospects of the West, just as will the manner in which Europe and America adapt themselves to any Atlantic redistribution of power.


The command of the deterrent is above all in dispute. Can Europe be embroiled without America or can America be embroiled without Europe? They cannot. Such immunity is ruled out by war plans; by modern war technology; by the world-wide range of the East-West contest itself; by a strategic interlock; by the fact that an adversary will regard the defense system of the West as a single mechanism and mount his assaults accordingly. Europe cannot remove itself from the line of fire simply by reconstructing its economy; to do that it would have to contract out of its alliance with America and submit to Moscow. The degree to which the allies of the United States were meshed with it in a strategic interlock was what worried them during the Korean War and subsequent events in the Far East. They began to fear that those in charge of American policy might become trigger-happy. Now some Europeans nourish the opposite fear; they wonder whether the United States will expose itself to nuclear retaliation on their behalf. Perhaps it is in Bonn and Paris that the trigger-happy may now be found.

Is it really likely that in a European emergency the United States would do too little rather than too much? Britain did not wish to be "caught short," and that was one of her motives when she built her own deterrent; but she did so in coördination with the United States. The French may protract their "sit-down strike" in NATO until they extract from the United States the same sort of nuclear information to use in building their own deterrent as Britain has been getting. And it may be imprudent for the United States to withhold this nuclear information from them much longer. But the French themselves cannot tell what kind of a régime it will be to which they ask that the United States entrust nuclear secrets, so vital for the defense of the West. With their flair for invoking reason to mask unreason, they demand that the United States and Britain have more faith in them than they, before, during and since Vichy, have had in each other. In a unified Europe the French may or may not share the direction of their nuclear deterrent with others. It can be a vehicle not only for achieving equality for Western Europe but for ensuring their own preëminence in Western Europe. The budgetary costs for France will, however, be astronomical. And, if Europeans beggar themselves to attain a full complement of nuclear arms, it might well be that they could not attain parity in other respects.

Europe and America are bound to argue over these differing estimates of future contingencies so long as the East-West contest lasts. In dispute is whether a unified Europe, regional in ambit, should have equal access to the levers of a global power apparatus that, among the nations of the West, only the United States has had the means to create and keep up. There may be no room on the trigger for more than one finger. What if there is more than one trigger?

There might, in fact, be more than one trigger if there is a European deterrent which is not coördinated with the over-all American deterrent. An alternative would be to assign the European deterrent to NATO where it could, perhaps, be run by Europeans and Americans together. If a NATO deterrent was so coördinated with the over-all American deterrent, the United States could still exercise ultimate control over the nuclear defense of the West. But if it was not so coördinated, how safe would be the West as a whole? It is of course possible that in time a unified Europe may discover how its demand for equality of status can be reconciled with its supreme need to avert any fateful mismanagement of the strategic interlock. That discovery is not in sight.

As for uncertainty about the American course, there should be less of this after the latest phase of the Cuban crisis. More uncertain are the influences to which, as a nuclear equal, a unified Europe might be subjected. The all-encompassing range of the East-West contest itself would remain, at any rate, a potent compulsion for the United States to act. Western Europe has from the outset been the chief prize of that world contest. If the Communist East were to acquire sway over Western Europe- with its human resources, its physical plant, its central strategic position-the global balance of power would shift irretrievably against the United States. Europeans might recall that during World Wars I and II Europe was nearly lost before the United States came to the rescue. American leadership and the present global balance of power are not alone in having altered all that; the very nature of nuclear weapons themselves has altered it also. To be held, Europe must be held now.

Twice, in a phrase more prescient than Canning himself could appreciate, the New World has been called into existence to redress the balance of the Old. Now the New World has called the Old World into existence to redress a balance that extends to the limits of the earth. No reversal of roles could be operationally more significant, and it is in this light that Europeans must assess it.

How, it will be asked, is the European sector of that global balance still to be held? There may be less and less need for American air bases overseas as intercontinental missiles pile up and as Polaris submarines, invulnerable with their second-strike capacity, are deployed around the Sino-Soviet imperium. However, the American presence in Europe is a special case, since in addition to being part of the over-all deterrent it has a specific local purpose. That is why, though there is bickering across the Atlantic as to how best to man the ramparts in Europe, an American withdrawal from Europe is not in the cards. For the United States voluntarily to leave Europe in the lurch would be against the American national interest.

But there are other interests involved. An East-West arms agreement might become impossible if the Western powers were to disregard the prohibition on nuclear arms for Germany. To enforce this ban, Russia, with the wholehearted support of her own East European captive states, will do her utmost. A NATO nuclear deterrent would have the advantage in the view of the West Germans of permitting them to participate in decisions over the use of the deterrent; and, secondly, it would enable them to avoid making a choice between Paris and Washington prematurely. If, however, such a choice has to be made, and if the upshot is a European rather than a NATO deterrent, the West Germans will be able to work chiefly through Paris, while Paris, having an eye to the European hegemony of France, will be glad to work chiefly with them.

The conclusion of all this is that no one can escape from the strategic interlock and that the United States will cease to be the sole manager of that interlock if there comes into existence a European deterrent which by the reprisals it would invite can set the American deterrent in motion. It is not only in the West, of course, that nuclear controls will, for weal or woe, be decentralized. Decentralization in the East could make things as difficult for Russia as decentralization in the West does for the United States. The omens for getting Communist China to sign a nuclear arms agreement will be no better than the omens for getting France to sign one- at any rate until the political ends of the Chinese and the French respectively have been attained. And it is unlikely that a world in which their political ends have been attained will be more secure.


Time has thus brought another of its strange revenges. Two antithetical theories impel the organizers of a unified Europe, and in both they may be ill-advised. They contend that, in the long run, they cannot count on the United States; conversely they are tempted to believe that, in the short run, whatever they do the United States is bound to back them up. But it is so bound and it isn't. A unified Europe would suffer if it drove the United States in upon itself. Europeans should remember that the American political system is not geared for the kind of leadership that the United States has of necessity had to exercise since the last war, and that there are elements in it which would be glad to take advantage of opportunities to diminish the burdens of that leadership. The United States, to be sure, might have done even better. It is a miracle that, with key elements in the Congress hankering for a protectionist and isolationist past, it has done so well.

Meanwhile, in any attempt to form a concrete Atlantic partnership attention will be centered on its economic rather than its strategic features. When the Common Market comes to negotiate lower tariffs with the Kennedy Administration it will boggle at the "Buy American" act; escape clauses will not escape attention; Europe will ask that discriminatory taxation and unfair customs practices be abolished. But in return Washington can remind Europeans that a disproportionate American expenditure on foreign aid and overseas defense has heavily contributed to a balance-of-payments deficit and the drastic outflow of gold. And now, after further Russian triumphs in space, the United States may feel it must spend more on the race to the moon. Can the United States whittle down its military expenditures in Europe and its aid to the underdeveloped countries without asking that a bigger share be shouldered by flourishing European beneficiaries? If they insist upon equality of status, NATO costs might be a test case. Equal is as equal does.

On both sides of the Atlantic the broadest perspectives will be required. Washington has often been highhanded, but Europeans must remember that American blunders do not erase from the record those greater European misjudgments that brought the United States, at once so brash and so reluctant, to the fore. Have American booms not been permanent? Far from eternal is the European boom. A recent American setback may tempt Europeans, not without a hint of malicious glee, to cut their own American benefactor down to size; but, unless the European stake in American prosperity has evaporated, any such vindictiveness would be self- frustrating. Jeshurun having waxed fat may kick, but care must be taken lest he also injure himself. The way in which the United States exercises the leadership of the West may not always be predictable. But as Americans try to imagine what a unified Europe will be like and how it will behave in the mooted Atlantic partnership they encounter many unknowns also.

It may be a more highly integrated Europe than most Europeans themselves yet realize. Resting upon a customs union and an economic union, the new European edifice is to be rounded out by a political union. And that is not surprising, since the modern politico-economy is not separated into watertight compartments. What happens where barriers still constrict? Quite pragmatically, and without resort to doctrine, the state's powers to integrate may come into play. If state powers are needed to get things done across the length and breadth of Western Europe, then a larger statehood may, under one label or another, swallow up component states.

And this is why European federalists can wait with comparative serenity for President de Gaulle to vanish from the scene. A union of states such as he has proposed may not long withstand the pressure for closer integration that a unified Europe must generate of its own accord. The adoption of supranational powers might be delayed by squabbles like those between French and West German agriculture. To overcome these it could also be speeded up.

An American prototype has shown the shape of things to come. But trade is not the only sphere in which the example set by the United States may prefigure the future of Europe. The Common Market does what the United States did when it organized a customs union in a semi-continental expanse; when, removing tariffs among insiders, it made them uniform against outsiders. By the same token, however, a unified Europe might have to do what the United States did in all other branches of the American economy. Among free societies it is the most successful pioneer of bigness. So with the the Common Market-the greater the flow of European trade, the tighter the grip of bigness on the European economy. But it cannot tighten its grip on the European economy without deepening the general pattern of European integration.

Trade and bigness interact, and when they do so the ground is cleared for that federal merger through which alone the full potentialities of the entire venture can best be fulfilled. The paths taken may be diverse, uneven, circuitous, without the usual signposts; the European Communities might provide novel modalities. It may be that within a political union there could be no outright pooling of sovereignty without the consent of members. What members themselves cannot do is delimit the energies which a customs union will have released and which an economic union will have quickened on an ever-enlarging scale. Deep-seated particularisms in language and culture might still impede, but even if these are not swept away they may be bypassed as a unified Europe consolidates itself indivisibly.

The United States has given its blessing to the closest integration of Europe, economic and political. But would it be pleased if, as the many are replaced by one, particularism is not banished? If, as applied to defense, diplomacy, world trade and international finance, European particularism is merely projected on a larger screen? The irony of that for the United States would be evident.

It is expected that a unified Europe will have the ability to say "no" in unison to the United States as well as "yes." The desired unison may be achieved on an American model. In other words, the more American techniques are assimilated, the more capable Europeans will be of resisting American counsels. Today it may not only have been the postwar subsidies from the United States that will have helped a unified Europe, if it so wishes, to diverge from America. The processes by which America itself was, as it were, Americanized will also help.

This paradox should be understood. The United States could never have Americanized others by its own unaided efforts. But when others emulate America in the American style of life, based as it is on mass production coupled with a free movement of trade, people and classes in a semi- continental area, they may Americanize themselves. A unified Europe will give bigness a greater chance in a region that historically has prided itself on its rejection of bigness. And self-Americanization might enable a Third Force, under the nuclear protective shield of the United States, to go it alone.


Let us now look at the political auguries as the unification of Western Europe moves ahead. Whatever it is that results in the burying of the hatchet between the French and the Germans deserves the thanks of mankind. But the underlying goals of the two peoples are not the same. France is a satisfied power, while the Bonn republic, like Germany between the wars, is a dissatisfied one. From Bismarck to Hitler, the two Germanys now in existence were a single state for less than 75 years; and for their partition between East and West the German people have only themselves to blame. Yet, in order to keep the Bonn republic well disposed toward the West, the West has had to champion its claims for German reunification. This objective could be achieved only on terms that would undo the pending unification of Western Europe and conflict, in the global equilibrium, with the West's own defense of its European sector.

For what, then, is Moscow waiting? A neutral Reich, in which the Soviets had permitted a satellite to rejoin the Bonn republic, could deny the West strategic access to German soil and deprive it of economic access to the heavy industries of the Ruhr. But it could also mean that Russia would again have to cope with a greater Germany; and among Russians as well as in the captive states of Eastern Europe the memory of German invasions is still fresh. After Moscow's experience with its Chinese ally it may prefer to have fewer and not more major powers seated on the rim of the Russian imperium. Nor can the Soviet realm be integrated economically if it relinquishes East German resources.

The prewar Reich could not be restored without resurrecting the spectre of German domination in Western minds. This fact raises critical questions. Will Western Germany try to utilize the world-wide apparatus of power with which the West, under American leadership, has warded off the East? So long as Western Germany pursues irredentist aims, should it have even indirect access to the deterrent? Do the French in this regard know what they are doing?

It took courage for postwar France to forgive and forget. Through NATO the Bonn republic was bound to the West strategically; through the European Communities it would be committed economically and governmentally. These measures, especially if there were a federal merger to clinch them, are expected to bar West Germany from accepting Russian terms for all-German reunification. But even if the two Germanys were reunited under Western auspices the French would be swamped. France could support German reunification as an objective so long as its fulfillment appeared remote; and, in return, France gets Bonn's assent to realignments within the West through which France supposes that its own status will be enhanced. A greater Reich might, in accordance with tradition, play East against West. Will Bonn first play off Paris and Washington against each other? It will not be easy for the United States, as leader of the West, or for the West as a whole, if the Bonn republic or France or the two together try to manipulate a unified Europe for their special purposes.

There are two problems here, that of fitting Western Germany into a unified Europe and that of fitting a unified Europe into a more concrete Atlantic partnership. These two problems cannot be treated apart. It may be noted that defeat and occupation by Germans seem to have left less of a scar on official France than the ill will exhibited by the American ally-a recent liberator-during the Suez crisis. A deterrent of their own might now embolden the French to talk back openly to Washington. But a global balance is what made them secure as they extricated themselves from Indochina and North Africa, staged their sit-down strike in NATO and let the Fourth Republic be overthrown. It is a question, then, whether the American guarantee, with or without a European deterrent, has outlived its usefulness.

The French have resented Anglo-American solidarity and have wanted to combine with the United States and Britain in a sort of three-power directorate for the West. But what confidence can they have inspired in Washington and London? Who, when the Gaullist régime comes to an end, will speak for France-the Army, the extreme Right, the extreme Left? President de Gaulle may dream his dream of a tranquil Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. But since this entails a basic shift in power alignments it implies that a European Third Force, over which the French will preside, can make its own settlement with the Soviet Union. But sauve qui peut was a Napoleonic cry that the French, above all, should remember; before a Third Force deserts the United States the United States might desert it. A bilateral settlement with Washington is what Moscow, cognizant of global power realities, has long sought. Western Europe should be the last to push the United States into that kind of a settlement.

It is in these circumstances that the United States, torn between hopes and fears, has urged that some room be found for Britain in the new unified Europe. If this were done it would not only ensure a more outward-looking attitude by the Common Market toward questions of trade and economic policy; it also would reduce the element of political risk. The Belgians, the Dutch, the Luxembourgers, the Italians (together with Britain's own cosignatories of the European Free Trade Association) have been apprehensive over the prospect of West German, French or Franco-German predominance. A British counterweight might avert that danger. A European Third Force, moreover, would be at variance with American leadership of the West, and here again Britain could do the most to stabilize. Britain, however, is not as strong as it was and it could not act as a European stabilizer if, as a component unit of a European federal merger, it were cut off from overseas sources of strength. One of these overseas sources of strength is the Commonwealth. Anglo-American friendship is another. And indeed they have long been interconnected.

On strategic issues, e.g. regarding the disposition of the deterrent, it is imperative that Britain and the United States should keep in step. For the time may soon come when, as a nuclear power, Britain will wish to chart a new course. Will it be safe if it amalgamates the British segment of the Western deterrent with that of France? How could Britain belong to a European political union and not do so? What view will Washington take?

Washington will feel less anxiety if a unified Europe does not cling to the command of any joint deterrent of its own but assigns it to NATO. For, through such an arrangement, the United States might still have the last word. But what if other deterrents in the West are not assigned to NATO? Then, if the British segment of the over-all deterrent must be transferred anywhere, it should be, surely, to the United States. For in every aspect of policy, and not just in one as momentous as this, Anglo-American friendship remains, acknowledged or unacknowledged, the mainstay of the West.

To restate that truth today may be to run against the tide. It nevertheless must be restated, and on both sides of the Atlantic. A free world order might never have survived if, at the gravest junctures in the twentieth century, the Anglo-American link had not pre-existed. Since World War II it has had-from the Far East to the Congo and Cuba-its characteristic ups and downs. But so rooted is Anglo-American friendship in the national interests of Britain and the United States that even the tragic Anglo-American divergence over Suez could not destroy it.

And now it is because the United States relies on Britain that it wants Britain to play a part in the unification of Europe. In the American approach to Europe it is not only assumed that the United States will persist as leader of the West but that, as it does so, Britain will march with it. It will be asked whether most of the British people still want to march with the United States. Two recent B.B.C. talks, published in The Listener, depicted Anglo-American friendship as an unhistorical myth.[i] But then truth is always a myth for those who have myths of their own to purvey.

As Europe and America re-group, what will be the British role? Opponents and proponents of its entry into the Common Market have both often taken it for granted that what confronts Britain is a choice between Europe and the Commonwealth. That, however, is a false antithesis. The real issue is Britain's status. If Britain retains an independent status, the Commonwealth fellowship, despite any quarrel over trade agreements, may still go on; if Britain cannot retain an independent status-if it is converted into a mere outer island province of a European Union-the Commonwealth will dissolve automatically, and so will an Anglo-American factor that has been another overseas source of British strength. Britain in the twentieth century has been like a tripod with a leg for Europe, a leg for the fellowship of the Commonwealth, a leg for ties with the United States. Conditions may alter. It is on the three legs of its tripod, and not on any one or two, that Britain must still stand.

It will be complex to make that unified Europe which, as the United States has conceived it, will be one of two equal pillars in the Atlantic edifice. The nature of the pillar on the American side of the Atlantic is not certain. Is Canada, for instance, to be included? The European pillar is to be cemented by close integration. But Canada, seeking to keep a national identity of its own, has long resisted close integration with its giant neighbor.

It is a question, too, where the Latin American countries will fit in, for in a hemispherically unified America they would be liabilities rather than assets. Europe as well as America must do what it can for Latin America. But Latin America has little with which to reciprocate, and it is only on a basis of reciprocity that a concrete Atlantic partnership, as advocated by President Kennedy, can function.


Two points arise, one negative and one positive. The accent is on the negative when Europe and America do not pull together. But fortunately their rivals in the East labor under even greater disabilities. Russia and China are assuredly no mere laths painted to look like iron; but Communist economies will have to do better if they are to continue to mesmerize some of the neutralist nations. Moreover, though Europe and America might differ over the common defense, the two main sections of the Sino-Soviet camp may yet have to defend themselves against each other. Thus where the West cannot by its own exertions save itself, the East, by its dissensions, may help save the West.

The West will stultify itself if its frame of reference is too narrow-if European issues are not put in an Atlantic setting and if Atlantic issues are not put in a setting that, as with the Commonwealth and Anglo-American friendship, is actually world-wide. Peoples that are underprivileged or newly emancipated may be expected to be confused as they make their bow on the world stage; for Europeans and Americans there is less excuse. As long as they uphold freedom and order on a world-wide basis the values of civilized society will be sustained. In upholding them Europe and America may forge new unities. Old-established ones must, at the same time, also be preserved.

[i] October 5, 1961, and August 23, 1962. The Listener, September 20, 1962, watered down a letter of protest.

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