The Hollow Order
Rebuilding an International System That Works
It becomes clearer and clearer that January 14, 1963, is fated to go down in history as the "black Monday" of both European policy and Atlantic policy. What occurred that day was something much more significant than the mere dooming of negotiations between Great Britain and the European Community. It was, in plain fact, an attack on the Atlantic Alliance and the European Community-an attack, that is, on the two most significant achievements of the free world since the end of the Second World War.
Those who have been active in international politics since 1945 must sometimes wonder whether they have done better or worse than those who were in power after 1919. It can be said quite objectively, I believe, that they have done better. They adapted themselves-though not without some difficulty-to the formidable process of decolonization; they created NATO, the greatest defensive alliance the world has ever known; and by setting up the Common Market they halted the process of deterioration which was beginning in Europe. If it be added that the likelihood of a European war which might grow into a world war now seems very remote, one might conclude that there was no reason to be too dissatisfied.
But the decision taken by General de Gaulle on January 14 puts all this either directly or indirectly in jeopardy.
We must begin by analyzing the method which he used to break up the negotiations with the British, the pretexts given and why the true reasons were concealed. When we have ascertained what the real reasons were, we shall be ready to draw conclusions regarding such a dangerous diplomatic action.
The background of the problem can be sketched rapidly. For a long time-for too long a time-Britain refused to accept the idea of a united Europe. Its hesitations and procrastinations are regrettable, but the reasons are understandable: a great country which has just won a great war is naturally reluctant to acknowledge that it must radically alter its age-old traditions. The mere fact of victory works against the effort of readjustment.
Great Britain accepted the Council of Europe with reluctance. It deliberately refused to take part in the Coal and Steel Community. It stayed out of the discussions on the European Defense Community. It chose not to participate in the negotiations which were to culminate in the Common Market. For a long time it did not believe that the European idea would work, and it would not abandon its traditional views and policies in order to embark on what it deemed to be a hazardous adventure. But the European Coal and Steel Community was formed, the Treaty of Rome was concluded and ratified, and the European Commission was set up. The achievements of the new organization were as swift as they were sensational.
During this time, the British Empire was failing apart and both economic and political relations among the Commonwealth countries were becoming less important. The hour of agonizing reappraisal was drawing near. It struck in 1961.
Mr. Macmillan's Government understood that it had to choose, and it made its choice with courage. In October 1961, Mr. Heath declared in Paris that his country was ready to accept the principles of the Treaty of Rome, with the attendant political consequences. He added that the three main problems involved in Britain's entry into the Common Market were: the existing ties between Britain and the Commonwealth countries; British agriculture; and the interests of the European Free Trade Area. The six members of the European Economic Community, France included, declared that they accepted this statement of the problem and agreed to open negotiations on the basis of it.
Was France ready at that time, or was she not ready, to admit Britain into the Community? No categorical reply can be given. What is certain is that France executed a triple play designed to make it more difficult for Britain to enter the Common Market. France invented a procedure for the discussions which contained dangers that I, for one, perceived at once. Britain should have been regarded as a possible future partner and treated as we had treated each other when discussing the Treaty of Rome. Instead, it was decided that the Six as a group would negotiate with Britain standing by itself. Throughout the negotiations, therefore, there were double parleyings, first among the partners of the E.E.C., and then between them and Britain. In preparing for the Treaty of Rome we had set up a Committee of the Whole on which all the partners were represented and which sought mutually acceptable solutions; this time we were adversaries confronting each other without having suggested possible solutions.
During the talks among the Six, France cleverly insisted on a strict interpretation of the provisions of the Treaty of Rome. This naturally hindered the granting of exceptions and accommodations which Britain asked for, and such as we had generously accorded to ourselves. France also demanded that real negotiations with Great Britain should not begin until after agricultural policy had been settled within the E.E.C. and until after relations between the E.E.C. and the African countries had been regulated. France knew that by hardening the position of the E.E.C. on these two points it would be erecting obstacles which Britain would find it hard to surmount.
Without giving the matter enough thought, even those who were most in favor of Britain's entry into the Common Market accepted these tactics. In such circumstances the negotiations were bound to take a long time, and did. But long and difficult as they were, progress was made. The relations between the E.E.C. and the Commonwealth countries were practically settled. With only a few exceptions, Britain adopted the E.E.C.'s external tariffs. Finally, Britain agreed to align its agricultural policy with that of the E.E.C. by December 31, 1969, at the latest.
Two full weeks of further discussion were planned to begin January 14, 1963. Optimists among the negotiators hoped during this period to reach the final stage which would open the way for the British entry. A few days before the beginning of the session, Mr. Fayat, Belgium's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, went to Paris to settle the details of the proceedings. Everything went smoothly. He returned to Brussels very pleased with the talks he had had. The negotiators met as scheduled on January 14. Nothing gave them the slightest hint of the bombshell that was about to explode.
On the afternoon of January 14, General de Gaulle held a press conference at which, to everyone's stupefaction, he propounded two ideas: (1) Great Britain was not ripe for admission to the Common Market; (2) the Brussels negotiations, having reached a deadlock, should be terminated. The effect in the conference was dismay, confusion and also anger.
There can be no doubt that the method employed was totally inexcusable. I have never heard anyone-anyone at all, not even the most loyal Gaullist- attempt to justify it. Not only was the method inexcusable as regards Britain; it was equally inexcusable vis-à-vis France's five partners. One simply cannot comprehend how negotiations begun by general agreement among a group of six nations could be broken off at the wish of one member of the group without any previous discussion, or why a press conference should be chosen to make this wish known abruptly to its partners.
Let it not be said that this procedural aspect is secondary. I regard it, on the contrary, as very important. It reveals General de Gaulle's open contempt for the views of his partners and at the same time a will to make his own views prevail at the expense not merely of the rules of common civility but of the rules by which a community must be governed. When one partner in an organization like the European Community thinks it natural to impose its will on all the rest, nobody can be surprised if the spirit of collaboration languishes.
Certainly the concept of the European Community which lies behind this "diplomatic method" is a highly individual one. In General de Gaulle's mind, the partners in the Community are not really equal, as the founders had planned. What we are witnessing is an attempt by one partner, who regards himself as the strongest, to impose his own will on the others. In the coming year, however, the partners have no intention of accepting such treatment.
It will long be argued whether the negotiations with Britain might have reached a successful outcome or whether they were in any case doomed to failure. No definite answer can ever be given. The only way of discovering whether negotiations will be successful is to pursue them to the end. That is what General de Gaulle would not permit.
Of all those concerned, only the French believed that the negotiations would fail. France's five partners in the Common Market, Great Britain and the European Commission were unanimous in taking the opposite view. Though the negotiators realized that difficulties existed and that there were still important problems to be solved-even tackled for the first time-all who took part, except the French, laid greater emphasis on the ground already successfully covered. All except the French foresaw the possibility of a satisfactory final settlement.
But further controversy on this point is futile, not only because it can never be decided, but chiefly because it soon became apparent that the two grounds cited by the President of the French Republic for terminating the negotiations were only pretexts; the real reasons lay elsewhere.
When we search for these real reasons I do not think that anyone can deny today that the Nassau agreement between Great Britain and the United States was the underlying cause of General de Gaulle's decision. Doubtless he had never been enthusiastically in favor of Great Britain's entry into the Common Market; but judging from his attitude between October 1961 and January 1963, he was reluctant to show his hostility openly or to take direct responsibility for the failure of the Brussels negotiations. He would certainly have preferred them to fail for technical reasons. The Nassau agreement seems to have been a new element in the situation which caused him to explode his bombshell on January 14.
I believe that, as he saw it, the British at Nassau had the choice between a nuclear policy pursued in close collaboration with the United States and a European policy carried out in collaboration with France. By choosing the first, Britain definitively cut itself off from Europe.
From this we may deduce that the key element of General de Gaulle's doctrine, the one which has the highest priority, the one which shapes his international policy, is his determination that France shall have her own nuclear force de frappe. All those who do not help him to carry out his "grand design" must therefore be against him. For myself, this is not a new view of General de Gaulle's policy; I already held it when I was Secretary- General of NATO.
General de Gaulle's thinking might be summed up in simplified form as follows: "Every great country must have its own nuclear deterrent. France is a great country. Therefore France must have her own nuclear deterrent." I am convinced that nothing will persuade him to advance beyond the stark simplicity of this syllogism. Because the United States did not accept it, Franco-American relations within NATO deteriorated. Because Britain would not adhere to it at Nassau, the doors of Europe were shut in its face.
I do not share either General de Gaulle's ideas on the French force de frappe or his concept of the defense of the free world. Before I explain my reasons, however, let me note two arguments in support of his thesis which I think carry some weight:
1. It is difficult to suppose that great European countries such as Great Britain and France can be completely excluded from the formulation of nuclear strategy and from the execution of it in time of war. Their standing in the world, their history, their great military traditions all speak against their being reduced to such a secondary role. It would be all but impossible to get them to agree that in a war in which their existence was at stake they were to have no say on its most important aspect.
2. To abandon the idea of building up a national force de frappe would very probably mean the closing of important avenues of progress in certain scientific and industrial fields which are today of paramount significance. The fact is (and it does not do us honor) that most of the vast sums needed for scientific research and development can be obtained only through military budgets. National defense is often the only reason that seems adequate to justify many kinds of expenditure. Considerations of national defense are what have enabled the United States and the Soviet Union to take the lead in the conquest of space. One must either imitate them or renounce the pursuit of that tremendous adventure.
Both arguments, I repeat, are sound. True, the United States has made an effort to meet the first, at least indirectly. Its proposals for an inter- allied nuclear force or a multilateral nuclear force within the framework of NATO would certainly furnish a basis for collaboration in which the largest allies would participate in making nuclear strategy. And in fact it is inconceivable that there should not be close coöperation between the NATO and the American forces. Nevertheless, the American proposals as they stand have not solved the crucial question as to which authority is entitled to make use of the nuclear weapons. Thus far, the famous question, "Who will push the button?" remains unanswered. It seems to me, however, that an answer can be found.
On the other hand, the problem created by the scientific and industrial knowledge that may be acquired through military research in atomic and electronic fields remains wide open. I have thought for a long time that this is the weakest point of the Atlantic Alliance. When I was Secretary- General of NATO, I used to say: "Is it really essential to European pride that Europe discover again what was long ago discovered in the United States? And on the other hand, would the security of the United States be jeopardized if it told its friends secrets which are already known to its enemies?" This great gap in the field of collaboration, this refusal to share knowledge which extends beyond the scope of military needs, is the chief reason for the difficulties we have mentioned, and to some extent it justifies the French attitude.
In the interests of objectivity, I hasten to add that General de Gaulle's frequent allusions to the temporary nature of the Atlantic Alliance and his repeated references to a Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals are not of the kind to inspire great confidence on the part of the United States Government. Secrets can be shared only with an unconditional ally.
General de Gaulle's television speech of April 19 sheds further light on his concepts. Twice at least, in seeking to justify the crushing financial burden which he asks the French people to assume in order that he can build up his nuclear force de frappe, he stated that the effort was necessary in order to defend France if it were attacked. This brings us to the crux of the problem.
The planning of a military organization, and the tactics and strategy for its use, must be based on a set of political assumptions.
It seems to me that from the political standpoint General de Gaulle visualizes a future war as a virtually unaltered repetition of what happened in the wars of 1914 and 1939: France is attacked-and I presume that in his mind the Communists this time take the place of the Germans. Such a conception strikes me as entirely outdated.
In my view, if a third world war occurred, it would have nothing in common with the wars we have known. It would not be fought for the purpose of restoring frontiers, or of territorial conquest, or of economic expansion. A third world war could have no other objective than to fulfill the Communist desire for world domination, and in such a conflict Europe would play only a secondary part. If, contrary to the ideas expounded and defended by Mr. Khrushchev-for which we should be grateful to him-Communism should one day decide to resort to war in order to achieve world supremacy, the country it would have to attack would be the United States. The Communists know that the outcome of the conflict could not be decided in Paris, Bonn or London, but only in Washington; consequently, France would be attacked only to the extent that all of Europe was attacked, and the United States at the same time as Europe.
The Atlantic Alliance was founded on the principle that the defense of the free world, on both sides of the Atlantic, is one and indivisible. This principle remains valid today, and it is my profound conviction that this political reality should determine the form of our military organization. This means, I believe, that the military organization should become steadily more closely integrated.
To these various considerations should be added General de Gaulle's expressed belief that sooner or later the United States will withdraw its armed forces from Europe and that as it becomes increasingly concerned with its own security in a narrow sense it will refuse to employ its nuclear weapons in the defense of its allies. This is contrary to the constantly repeated declaration of the American leaders. Apart from the fact that it may be somewhat dangerous to keep on questioning their words, it seems to me inconceivable that the United States would allow Communist forces to overrun all of Europe when obviously this would be only a first step toward the next goal-that of knocking out the United States itself.
I might add that it is rather difficult to imagine the Soviet Union starting a war with Europe, in which it would risk sustaining serious damage, while leaving the United States out of the conflict with all its forces intact and capable of intervening when and as it chose.
All these various theories and assumptions seem to me mistaken. They fail so plainly to take into account the real situation that exists in the world today, the forces in being and the goals that might be sought, that I wonder whether they do not conceal a line of rather complicated political thinking. I wonder whether in reality General de Gaulle is not seeking to speed the departure of the American forces from Europe, since he regards it as in any case inevitable. The void thus created might lead the other European countries to take refuge under the sheltering wing of France, which then alone could afford them some protection. This would be tantamount to a French hegemony in Europe, the achievement of the Gaullist grand design.
If such is the notion, then it is indeed composed of dreams and idle fancies. It is a completely outdated notion, an anachronism. It looks back to the policies of centuries past and rejects the two major ideas which have dominated international life since the end of the Second World War: the building of a united Europe and the global defense of the free world.
What conclusions are we to draw from all this? Without dramatizing the situation, we must recognize that the Atlantic Alliance and the European Community are going through the most serious crisis they have so far experienced.
One of their largest members, France-or at any rate, official France-no longer believes in the two basic principles which led to the formation of NATO and of the Common Market. It no longer believes that the defense of the free world is indivisible, and it is looking for a substitute formula. It also does not believe in the community spirit which animated the authors of the Treaty of Rome. The French concept of the Europe which must now be created is a sort of alliance, with the bonds between the partners no closer than those which held the Triple Alliance together before 1914. Paris may attach a little more importance now to cultural and economic matters, but if so it is only a little seasoning added to very ancient recipes. We are thousands of miles away from the concept of a federated Europe, where each country would retain its basic national characteristics while pooling what the modern world requires must be handled in common- international policy, defense and economic policy.
There is much more here than a difference in tactics. The differences are of fundamental principle. In such circumstances there is but one thing for NATO and the European Community to do: hold fast. We must be faithful to the rules laid down for NATO in 1948 and for the Common Market in 1957. We must persevere and not give way.
Within NATO, this means basically that in the political field we must consult together more and more closely on a widening range of problems, with a view to evolving a joint Atlantic policy. It means that from the military standpoint, after establishing a set of principles and determining the eventuality for which we must prepare, we must integrate conventional and nuclear means of defense to the highest possible degree. That will be the best reply to those who doubt the indivisibility of defense.
Within the European Community, we must continue the work auspiciously begun. If possible, we must skip some stages of tariff abolition, advance rapidly toward a common policy in trade, transport and social affairs, tackle the great monetary problem, work out an agricultural policy, and, by avoiding autarchy and protectionism, demonstrate that the European Community is an open organization.
These ideas are still held today by the overwhelming majority of European statesmen. They are shared by the overwhelming majority of European peoples. Let us not, then, be dismayed.
If we review in our minds the policy of the Western world during the years following the Second World War, we still, in spite of everything, arrive at the cheering conclusion that there is no need to change its main lines. Some details of application must be altered. But it is not an agonizing reappraisal that is called for, only an intelligent evolution based on experience. The dissident element constituted by current French policy may be a cause of delay, but it cannot prevent the ultimate success of the great undertakings to which Europe and the United States have set their hands.