NATO’s Hard Road Ahead
The Greatest Threats to Alliance Unity Will Come After the Madrid Summit
The aims of German foreign policy are three and inseparable: to preserve peace, to defend the freedom of the country and to restore German unity by peaceful means. None of them should be pursued at the cost of neglecting either of the others.
In the early 1950s, there was a great debate about the framework in which German rearmament should take place. The Western governments and the Government of the Federal Republic advocated a German military contribution to NATO, hoping thereby not only to strengthen Western security but also to force the Soviet Union to permit the reunification of Germany under free conditions. The Social Democratic opposition were doubtful about the second proposition. They wanted to explore whether the Soviet Union would not be more ready to accept reunification if security arrangements in Europe did not involve the participation of two Germanys in opposing military alliances. It was clear that armed neutrality and unarmed neutralization were out of the question: no one would have allowed the necessarily gigantic rearmament of a united Germany (nor would the Germans have wanted this); and a Germany unarmed and neutralized would have created an undesirable power vacuum in the heart of Europe and a bitter feeling of frustration within the German nation. Such a situation would have been a permanent cause of foreign intervention in Germany's internal affairs. Therefore only a European security system which provided for the balanced participation of Germany and her neighbors under proper control and with adequate guarantees by the world powers could have offered a suitable framework for German unity at that time-thereby eliminating the understandable Soviet fear of the combination of American power, German military tradition and all the unsolved problems in the heart of Europe.
In his press conference of February 4, 1965, de Gaulle spoke in terms similar to those of the German opposition in the 1950s: "The United States, whose policy was inspired by John Foster Dulles, may have believed that the West could make Moscow withdraw by strongly reinforcing NATO, and thus restore German unity. But that was only a dream, unless someone made war, which Washington and its allies were in no way disposed to do." I am curious to see if some of the right-wing admirers of de Gaulle in Germany will now accept that reasoning too.
But we cannot go back to the 'fifties. Conditions have changed. Some of de Gaulle's ideas nevertheless appear to assume that we are still in that epoch-for example, his strategy of massive retaliation against any kind of aggression. His concept that the German problem is an exclusively European one and his attempt to endow Europe with the attributes of a Third Force between East and West reflect a touch of neutralism.
In 1955 the Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO and the three Western powers ratified the Paris agreements by which Germany made a substantial military contribution to NATO in exchange for their support for German reunification under the principles of the right of self-determination and a free democratic constitution. We cannot shape our policy now as if these international commitments had not been made. They bind all the signers. But the strategic situation has changed, and so have its political implications. In 1950 the United States alone had operational atomic weapons and a strategic air force to deliver them; it could hit the Soviet Union in case of a conflict but was not itself vulnerable. Now the possession by both countries of a wide range of nuclear weapons and an advanced missile technology has created a stalemate. The achievements of the Soviet Union in this field made it euphoric about its new-found power, as we saw in the Berlin ultimatum in the fall of 1958. Only the Cuban crisis succeeded in modifying the Soviet position somewhat by making the Soviet leaders understand that the United States would use nuclear force if necessary.
This stalemate precludes an effective threat to use military force against a nuclear power as a means of achieving political aims. The situation has made the German problem no easier to solve. Security is still one of the key questions relating to it, but not the only key to its solution.
The legal position is clear: until there is a peace treaty, Germany's boundaries continue legally to be those of 1937. And it is common Western policy that only a freely elected government representing the whole of Germany has a legal mandate to negotiate that peace treaty. No government of a part can set the boundaries of the whole. But politically we have to admit that no all-German government will come into existence until certain problems relating to German unity have been clarified. Therefore the unification of Germany and the preparation of the peace treaty are two sides of the same coin-the future of Germany. This also means that no peace treaty can be made on present Soviet terms, that is to say, a treaty with several Germanys. Unity and a peace treaty form one political complex. Linked to it is the security problem. Germany wants to be sure of her freedom from foreign intervention or aggression, but her neighbors want also to be secure against German aggression, from which they have suffered in the past. Therefore the problem of security and of the German frontiers will also be part of the whole negotiation.
And finally, economic problems will play an important role. The present Soviet zone has many links with the Soviet Union and the East European states. Reunification of Germany will be possible only if the whole of Germany-or better, the European Common Market-can become more attractive as an economic partner in the eyes of the Soviet Union and the East European countries than the present Soviet zone of Germany can be alone.
The West cannot impose a solution of the German problem on the Soviet Union. But neither is it necessary to allow the Soviet Union to impose its solution on the West, confirming the partition of the country, cutting Berlin's links with the West and in addition discriminating against the international standing of the Federal Republic of Germany-all this without any countervailing benefits whatsoever.
Only Moscow can negotiate on German unity. East Berlin cannot; it is hopeless to talk with a régime about the terms for liquidating it. Therefore the only hope lies in creating a Soviet interest in restoring German unity. In the meantime, administrative arrangements with the authorities in the Soviet zone are useful in order to diminish the human sufferings created by the division of the country and by the Berlin wall. Economic and cultural contacts, the visits of West Berliners to the eastern part of their city, the visits of old people from the Soviet zone to West Germany-all these maintain links appropriate between parts of a single nation. In order to preserve these links and to protect the bargaining position of the Federal Republic of Germany in obtaining civil access to Berlin, interzonal trade should be increased. This should not be regarded by Germany's Western partners as unfair competition, for it is not foreign trade but a small remaining part of the blood circulation through what formerly was one national and economic unit. If German interzonal trade is too largely replaced by trade between the Soviet zone and Western countries, one further link between the parts of Germany would be destroyed and Mr. Ulbricht's capacity to vex Berlin enhanced.
There is one limit to these administrative arrangements: they cannot be pushed to a point (as wanted by Ulbricht) where they would acquire the character of foreign policy relations between sovereign governments. In that case Ulbricht would no longer be forced to make concessions in order to gain benefits for East German citizens. To go so far would be tantamount to accepting the partition of Germany forever, and would be regarded as treachery by the Germans in the Soviet zone. This is no legalistic quarrel but the unavoidable consequence of the iron tenacity with which Soviet policy tries to achieve its aims.
Under present conditions, with no immediate solution visible, the German question has to be held open. Berlin itself is proof that it is still open. There we have the last visible evidence of the four-power status. The physical presence of the Western powers and the physical links of West Berlin with the Federal Republic are vital for the city's survival in freedom. These links have more than an economic importance; they also have political meaning. The occasional visits to West Berlin of authorities of the Federal Republic, including the President and the parliament, are, like the permanent presence of agencies there, necessary elements to counterbalance Mr. Ulbricht's establishment in East Berlin. If the Federal Republic does not show those symbols of freedom in West Berlin, the four- power status would shrink to West Berlin alone and be regarded as allowing the Soviet Union to have a say there without any corresponding right of the Western powers in East Berlin. The wall is a permanent violation of the four-power status. There is no reason to add voluntary gifts to the Communists-for example, by agreeing not to have plenary meetings of the Federal parliament in West Berlin. Since the Soviet ultimatum in 1958, a sound formula has been: no provocation, but no capitulation either. If this is valid, we have to exercise our rights and not give them up, either wholesale or in slices. The way in which the Western powers and West Germany deal with Berlin is regarded as an indicator of how they stand regarding the future of Germany.
Who is to negotiate that future with the Soviet Union? The answer is found in formal international commitments-the four-power agreements of 1944 and 1945 and the Paris agreements of 1955 binding the three Western powers to work for German unity. To achieve the objective, they can use all possible channels. The United States can act as the common spokesman if it becomes possible to raise German problems in a proper context. But of course precise consultation is necessary to avoid misunderstandings. The working group in Washington is a good instrument to prepare such talks if they are to lead to a four-power conference or to other forms of East-West contacts. Diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union can also provide useful services. But Germany should be careful not to fall into the Soviet trap of isolated direct negotiations; to pit small Germany alone against the Soviet world power would lead nowhere. The Soviet attempt to refer the German problem to Ulbricht comes to the same end; in negotiations with Ulbricht, the Soviet Union would be present, but the Federal Republic would be alone, having lost the support and confidence of its Western allies and perhaps having raised the old fear of a Rapallo. To achieve results, there must be a partner at the conference table equal in strength to the Soviet Union. Therefore, no serious negotiation is possible without the participation and backing of the United States. Its responsibility for Germany's security and for the protection of Berlin makes its participation vital in any event.
This points to a dangerous remark in de Gaulle's press conference of February 4. He said then that he regards the German problem as a European question to be solved by the Europeans alone-i.e. with the Soviet Union but without the United States. This destroys the four-power responsibility for Germany and denies the formal commitment made in the Paris treaty. If the French Government now says that de Gaulle's remark was misinterpreted, it must explain what his words do really mean; for taken at their face value, they would destroy the power equilibrium in Europe and bring the Soviet military superiority and geographical proximity to bear full force on European politics. That power cannot be balanced by French or European aspirations, but only by coöperation and close links with the other world power-the United States.
De Gaulle's long-term expectation that Germany will be united only after the Soviet Union ceases to be a totalitarian state and after the East European nations are free is a great vision but of no help in the foreseeable future. Nor does it indicate what our present policy should be. Indeed, his forecast destroys hope, for there is very little probability that Russia will give up Communism, even though we can admit that the forms of Communism will change.
The situation in the East European states and that in the Soviet zone of Germany are not the same. The greater part of Germany is free, and there exists there a German government which is truly independent and which participates actively in important international organizations. In the Soviet zone the existing authorities are detested by the people, as evidenced by the stream of refugees and the wall erected to hold them in. The régime there is not in a position to defend national aims as the Communist régimes in Eastern Europe do. It is bound to act against the national interest; otherwise it would immediately align itself with Bonn. Therefore it is useless to suggest that the German problem be left to the forces of evolution and meanwhile to do nothing to solve it.
In his press conference de Gaulle found very warm words with which to emphasize the necessity of German unity. He said there would be no peace in Europe without the unification of Germany, but he did not draw the right conclusion-namely, that it is necessary to work for that unification as a means to further the movement toward greater freedom in Eastern Europe.
President de Gaulle was right to urge that the fear of Germany among her East European neighbors should be reduced. German policy has already created better relations through trade missions to those states and through individual and cultural exchanges, and these might well be increased. Also, German industry is making an interesting attempt to build industrial plants in cooperation with the Communist governments of Eastern Europe in order to utilize their available manpower. But we have to differentiate between Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. We should strengthen the economic basis for independence in the East European countries without trying to create tensions between them and the Soviet Union. Credits to Eastern Europe do not have the same effect as they do in the Soviet Union; credits to the Soviet Union are equivalent to development aid without political dividends, and should not be given without political advantages. The Soviet Union has shown in Egypt that it is able to lend large sums. Why should we help to create more trouble for the West? In East-West trade a minimum of coöperation between the Western governments is necessary; otherwise the competition between individual nations and between business firms puts them at a commercial disadvantage in dealing with a state economy operating as a single trader-to say nothing of the political problems involved.
There will be no solution of the German problem without a new approach in the field of security. As long as the arms race continues, Germany will remain divided. But arms control and limitation of armaments will not automatically lead to German unity, since they could be based on Germany's continuing partition. However, arrangements made on that basis would provide only illusory security, for a new arms race will surely start unless one of the main origins of tension can be eliminated. The German interest is not to block but to help disarmament. Therefore we welcome the decision of the Federal parliament to appoint a disarmament commissioner in the German Foreign Office who will have the necessary staff and research facilities. He will have to determine which proposals in the disarmament field would be detrimental to German unity, which could help German unity and which would have no implications for it. Only then will it be possible to put forward German proposals which may contribute to international negotiations.
It has been a Western aim to avoid the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The British attempt to give up its existing nuclear arsenal must therefore be welcomed, but it makes sense only if we replace national by community solutions. The French example would lead to nuclear weapons for everybody. No responsible German wants national nuclear weapons for Germany; but in a world where every nation would have them, it would be impossible to exclude forever one country alone without creating feelings of frustration that would lead to violent nationalism. Therefore Germany advocates a community solution within the alliance. For years I have urged that the European partners in NATO be given a share in planning, in deciding on common strategy, in preparing future weapons developments and similar matters, leaving the ultimate decision on the use of nuclear weapons in the hands of the President of the United States, acting as trustee for the alliance but basing his decision on a commonly agreed strategy. The Multilateral Nuclear Force was a second-best alternative to the simpler solution of giving every partner in NATO-provided he is making a fair contribution to the conventional field-a say in the nuclear part of the strategy too. Since no government took up this proposal, the M.L.F., with its features of common ownership and financing, was a step in the right direction. A community solution might take other forms, but any solution must serve the community and not be simply bilateral. If Europe achieves unification, its participation in the common defense could be integrated with that of the United States; but it could not replace it.
The division of labor should not exclude the exchange of knowledge and experience in all aspects of modern technology, as otherwise the peaceful application of military technology will remain a monopoly of the few. If the industry of all NATO members is not helped, there will be a strong tendency to develop national nuclear weapons industries in most of the Western countries, or perhaps on a European scale, with all the waste of resources and all the bad psychological consequences which this would entail for the solidarity of the alliance. Not everybody has to provide everything, but the whole potential of the alliance has to protect every single member.
This would be the spirit of European-American partnership, based on two pillars. But pillars must support something; they are useless without an Atlantic bridge. The two pillars would not be independent but would be a function of the interdependence which is already a fact and not a distant aim. Geography, technology and the cost of modern defense make American participation-even integration-in the defense of Europe a vital necessity. We sometimes hear in France that the United States is not reliable because in two wars it entered too late. But there is a vast difference in the formal American commitments and the actual American presence in existence today and the situation as it was in 1914 or 1940. Raymond Aron was right when he pointed out in Le Figaro that present French policy makes sense as a means of winning more influence only if the United States is more reliable than some quarters of French opinion pretend and only because American nuclear power and American and German conventional forces provide the necessary shield.
According to present French strategy, every kind of aggression is to be deterred by the threat of the immediate use of nuclear weapons. This threat has lost its credibility even when it is posed by the United States, but in Western Europe it was never credible, for Europe was, and is, more vulnerable than the United States to Soviet blows. An aggressor is deterred only if the defender has more alternatives than suicide or capitulation. To establish a credible deterrent there must be a capacity to fight a war if deterrence fails. Only that amount of force should be used which is adequate to meet the threat and to stop aggression on the spot. A nation that disposes only of nuclear weapons is defenseless against other forms of aggression or blackmail. In the light of her strategy, neither France's present strength nor her future capability is an alternative to the American commitment and presence, which are necessary unless and until substantial progress is made in disarmament-in fact and not on paper.
On these questions the United States has developed concepts for a common strategy of the alliance. Understandably, it does not want to be accused of imposing its will on reluctant allies. But if the political will of the strongest power in the alliance is not visible, the gap will be filled by others. This explains the growing influence of de Gaulle in some European countries, including Germany. Of course, the friendship which has been established between France and Germany is one of the great achievements of the postwar period. It can never be given up; it is deeply rooted in the two nations which have suffered for so long from mutual hostility. But the preamble to the German-French Treaty, which was added by the German parliament, says that this friendship must be placed within the framework of the European community and Atlantic solidarity.
Chancellor Erhard returned from Paris and Rambouillet with a statement of full agreement with de Gaulle. After the Chancellor's last visit to President Johnson, he was in full agreement with him. Is there really complete agreement between Johnson and de Gaulle and Erhard or are these statements without real meaning? It is more than doubtful that agreement does exist on the future of Germany, the shape of Europe, the future of the alliance and common strategy. The climate in the alliance is better than it was some months ago, but this is due more to postponement of necessary decisions than to new agreements. To reach decisions, open-minded discussions are necessary. A strategy for peace requires a common Western position on disarmament issues, but unfortunately France has not taken her seat at Geneva. Better relations between East and West cannot be achieved by Western competition but only by carefully harmonizing Western policy, allowing for some flexibility in individual positions. Since no better security arrangements have come into effect, we need to organize our defenses so as to cover all kinds of contingencies, and not just the least likely-that of nuclear attack.
Europe must become a real community so that it can be a partner of the United States speaking with one voice. The harmonization of policies by a series of government conferences will not bring this community into being, as the history of diplomacy has demonstrated for two thousand years. Europe needs institutions. Statesmen who are not willing to develop those already existing, to add new fields of community action, to give a proper degree of democratic control to the European executives, and to attempt to enlarge the European framework by the addition of new members are not shaping the Europe of tomorrow but trying to influence independent sovereign nations by the methods of yesterday.
Europe must make up its mind whether it wants the relationship of partner with the United States or whether, while paying lip service to the idea of partnership, it casts the United States in the role of distant friend. The concept of Europe as a Third Force cannot create political cohesion in the Atlantic Alliance; yet de Gaulle at his last press conference came pretty close to such a concept, with this qualification: that he refuses even to organize that force. Never has he indicated how Europe should be organized in an effective way.
The future of Germany cannot wait until a miracle occurs. We have to prepare better conditions for a new approach-doing our homework in Germany, looking into the complexity of all the related problems, creating a common position in the West which alone can offer a possibility of presenting the Soviet Union with a serious Western approach. At his last press conference de Gaulle was restrained and polite. His earlier utterances had made an impact on some circles of public opinion in Germany, creating a tendency to blame the United States for being too soft and making unnecessary concessions to the Soviet Union in contrast to what some believed to be de Gaulle's hard policy. Now those who adopted that view will understand their error. De Gaulle will have his détente-and will therefore postpone the German problem. American policy has at least offered the possibility that progress with the German problem may be made part of a policy of détente.
Words like "national sovereignty," "grandeur" and "pride," though sometimes given a European label, could become dangerous in Germany and excite nationalistic emotions-especially if they are combined with an overestimation of German and French capacities and an underestimation of the real power situation in the world.
We should not confuse these dangers with the expression of a healthy national solidarity. German democratic forces must prove that they strive for the freedom and unity of the whole nation. If the legitimate interests of the nation are not well served by these forces, others may take up these national aims and turn them against democracy. We witnessed the rise of those dangers in the Weimar period. Therefore our Western allies must stand firmly with us in support of Germany's vital interests. If they do not, the alliance will lose its attraction for Germany. Commitments are mutual, not unilateral. The German people know very well that they cannot go it alone, that no peaceful solution of the German problem is possible without the help of friends and the understanding of others. They know that they can only persuade-not force. If this conviction is to be maintained, we need to make a permanent effort, work carefully and have confidence in one another.
The European Community is making progress; its institutions prove that patience and hard work pay if they are combined with a firm will. Let us restore that will to the Western Alliance and its leadership! Without an effective alliance, there will be no adequate help for the developing areas, no peace and security for all of us, and no German unity.