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NATO's "disarray" has been made into a crisis by President de Gaulle's decision to withdraw French forces and facilities from the integrated structure of the Alliance. For the other NATO powers, and for the United States, this has provided a shock, but—in some ways—a salutary one. The fundamental issues of Europe's future, of Soviet-Western relations and of American policy are now more likely to be addressed. Before the French action these issues would likely have been evaded. Now there still is time to think relatively slowly and carefully about the objectives of the European-American alliance and of the United States itself in Europe's affairs.
But some of the possible responses to the immediate Gaullist challenge could foreclose certain options in dealing with these larger issues. Decisions may be made now in haste, with consequences that might not be easily disentangled later. In responding to France's NATO action, it is most important to keep open our long-range policy options, to practice moderation in the face of what appears to be provocation and to use the time thus gained to reappraise our needs and interests in the Europe of the 1970s.[i]
What would be the likely result of a harsh response to France? One pessimistic but reasonable supposition—not a prediction but a cautionary illustration of certain issues that must be considered—might be as follows:
With American urging, the NATO powers adamantly resist changes in the Alliance. France then circulates proposals for an all-European political settlement with the Soviet Union—including a plan for German unification or neutralization—which are held to be acceptable in Moscow. These proposals are said to signify the "end" of the cold war and a normalization of political relations among all the nations of Europe—a normalization chiefly resisted, French and Soviet spokesmen note, by the United States, which indeed presses West Germany to reject these overtures, to require the removal of all French forces from Germany and take economic reprisals against France. The French, in turn, grant de facto recognition to the East German authorities as the provisional government of East Germany, subject to the negotiation of a German peace treaty and political settlement. This antagonizes many West Germans not merely against the French but against the United States, since they argue that West Germany was compelled to act against France as the agent of American anger or frustration, and yet must pay the principal costs in a weakening of its diplomatic position, the effective demise of the Hallstein Doctrine and severely strained relations with its most important neighbor, France. They argue further that by asking Germany to "choose" between France and America in the period between 1962 and 1966, the United States has in fact played as large a role as President de Gaulle in wrecking the Western European Union and its basis in Franco-German reconciliation, a development which many had regarded as an achievement of permanent significance in European history.
The United States—following this hypothetical but by no means fanciful projection—simultaneously recommends to the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Great Britain new logistic and other military programs that can alleviate to some degree the difficulties the French have created for NATO. But all of these countries continue to discount the Soviet military threat to Western Europe, particularly so long as there are American military "hostages" stationed in West Germany. Many in these countries believe that it makes little difference whether these American troops make up an effective military force; their mere presence in Germany effectively deters the Soviet Union from any hostile actions or serious pressures—thus "solving" the European defense problem. They conclude that Western Europe's essential interest is served by keeping those American hostages in West Germany, and that any more elaborate European military measures within the NATO framework—particularly any that might tend to "extend" NATO or enlarge its political content—are not only unnecessary but contraproductive, tending to exacerbate troubles with the French.
As a result, relations within NATO deteriorate further, and as American pressures and European domestic controversies mount, several of the European members tacitly or openly opt out of the Alliance. This leaves NATO as, effectively, an alliance of the United States with West Germany, Britain and Canada. And as Great Britain subsequently makes further reductions in the British Army of the Rhine, the defense of Europe becomes almost entirely a matter of U.S.-West German cooperation. While there are attempts to disguise the German-American alliance in a NATO framework, the façade thus provided is unconvincing. Over a period of time a feeling against this abridged NATO gains strength within Europe (as well as elsewhere in the world), representing a convergence of European autonomist, nationalist and neutralist sentiments with the political left, as well as anti-German, anti-American and "anti-nuclear" attitudes.
One outcome could simply be the final break-up of NATO, with Western Europe, less Germany, taking up essentially the Gaullist position. Another outcome could be independent European settlements or agreements with Russia—in effect, a limited, if tacit, Russo-European alliance against West Germany and the United States. At the very least, the United States would find that its principal commitment was to the one European power which is necessarily "revisionist" in policy, ambivalent in its attitude toward its legally unratified eastern borders, and thus a fundamental source of concern to the other European states. The United States would find itself transformed into an "outsider" so far as Europe was concerned. The West Germans, for their part, would find themselves isolated in Europe, their only close friend an overseas power, and with little prospect of unification on favorable terms or of a full role in the development of Europe's political future.
Needless to say, the outcome of this scenario may be exaggerated, nor do its episodes necessarily follow from any particular American policy. But the possibilities it illustrates cannot be safely dismissed, for a sequence of responses of the sort suggested is not implausible.
If, then, a program of frank opposition to France clearly increases dangers of this kind, what are the alternatives? We have already suggested that the United States cannot and should not simply acquiesce in the French challenge. Is there a middle way? This problem is perhaps best approached from the starting point of American interests in Europe. The first of the fundamental objectives that have inspired U.S. policy in Europe for at least half a century is to prevent the domination of Europe by any hostile power. Since 1947, this has meant a U.S. commitment to aid Western Europe against Soviet armed attack, and subsequently, nuclear blackmail.
Most Americans and West Germans believe that neither an American guarantee (nuclear or conventional) nor the simple presence of American troops in Europe (as "hostages") provides a sufficient defense. Some Americans believe that the United States Seventh Army and the twelve German divisions in existence today provide a local superiority over the twenty smaller Soviet divisions now deployed in East Germany. Most American and West German analysts would agree that such a local conventional superiority over the Soviet forces stationed in East Germany is desirable as a means of controlling a crisis situation and of checking escalation to the nuclear level.
Even those who do not believe NATO forces enjoy local superiority (in the absence of Soviet reinforcement) attach great importance to the presence in Europe of 200,000 U.S. soldiers as a "trip-wire" of considerable deterrent effect. Most Europeans believe that the West European states, if they were wholly independent of American military aid, would be vulnerable to Soviet pressures, blackmail and, potentially, to Soviet conquest. On the other hand, many believe—among them the present writers—that, given the desire and will, Europe could provide adequately for its own defense in a broad range of circumstances.[ii]
In addition to its concern for defense, the United States has major political interests in Europe. We are anxious that Western Europe be independent of inordinate Soviet influence as well as of Soviet domination, and we are also concerned that as an end in itself Europe be politically stable. This has meant that we have interested ourselves in the success of popular government in Europe and in good and coöperative relations of the European states among one another and with ourselves. These interests are justified because the European nations are major world powers, even if not, individually, superpowers; because good U.S.-European relations are an important factor in securing and sustaining American freedom of action in other parts of the world; and because of our economic and cultural interests and involvements in Europe, and our concomitant concern for the well-being of the European cousins with whom we have our closest family and emotional ties and a shared civilization. Finally, our interest in the stability of European politico-military affairs is inspired by the fact that twice in this century we became involved in major wars that originated in Europe.
Existing U.S. policy has generally been directed to the political and economic as well as the military integration or unification of Western Europe as a means to European security. Some have seen unification as a step toward the political unity of the West as a whole, or even of the world. Thus the achievement of some more qualified form of integration or federation of Europe, and of Europe with America, has also been held to be an intrinsically desirable goal, especially as national rivalries in Europe have been seen as a fundamentally disruptive force in modern history; hence their suppression, or accommodation in a larger political framework, is indispensable to the future stability of Europe, and indeed to the future stability of the world.
If this is a generally acceptable statement of the avowed and implicit American policy objectives in Europe, we can approach the problem of NATO policy with a sense both of the positive goals to be sought and the dangers to be avoided. The provisional program sketched below is consciously designed to leave open a number of future options, and yet to involve the least divergence from the established lines of American policy of the recent past.
Our interest in protecting Europe makes it inescapable that we allow (or invite) France to remain included in NATO guarantees, designating her a non-integrated member with a newly defined "associate" status. France would be covered by the collective defense provisions of Article V, but would be largely excluded from other NATO privileges and obligations not specifically mentioned in the treaty. After 1969 France should be invited to enter into new defense arrangements with the NATO powers as a group or individually, but in fairness to the other allies the United States should hold that a refusal to integrate is not compatible with full membership in the organization. If the allies wish to preserve NATO, they cannot allow France to enjoy an exceptional status and yet enjoy the full benefits of the Alliance. On the other hand, the new bilateral arrangements could provide concessions to France of objective value to all parties and of help in preventing an intensification of the quarrel.
Thus, while France should be treated with absolute correctness, dignity and courtesy between now and 1969, her participation in any NATO activities not specifically defined in the NATO Treaty (basically the North Atlantic Council and the Military Commission) should be refused. This should be treated as a matter-of-fact distinction deriving from France's own decisions. We should make clear that we expect NATO to work fully with France, and vice versa, if a crisis or a sharp deterioration in international relations occurs; and that in the meantime we find it acceptable, if regrettable, that in the absence of tension and crisis France prefers not to bear the responsibilities of an integrated defense. We should also make it clear that NATO can tolerate French withdrawal, and is able to make contingency plans for coöperation with an independent France in time of crisis—precisely because of the active cooperation and effort of the other members. The point should also be stressed that NATO can help to solve problems within Western Europe, even if the Gaullists are correct in assuming that the cold war is no longer likely to create any major military threat in Europe.
We should preserve the structure of NATO by avoiding burdensome new demands on any of the full members except Great Britain and West Germany. All full members should be included in all meetings and consultations, and there should be a conscious cultivation of general participation and voting on policy issues. All of the "peripheral" NATO activities, such as the NATO Defense College, various professional meetings, the Hague Defense Center and the like, should be restricted to the full NATO members with their roles enlarged. The full members should be given sound reason to feel that they are getting important benefits and paying little, while every reasonable effort should be made to emphasize Great Britain's role as one of the three major members. The United States and West Germany should be prepared to make serious concessions to support the British Army of the Rhine and to make it possible for Britain to keep 50,000 men in Germany. The defense of Germany should not become, or seem to become, a matter of a U.S.-West German "special relationship."
Toward West Germany, the United States should take this position:
1. The American contribution to West German security is not contingent upon any particular German policy with respect to France, European unification or Atlantic partnership. It is based on American friendship for Germany, but also on objective American interests with respect to the security of Europe as well as the security of West Germany. That is to say, Germany should regard our contribution as "free" and without strings.
2. The import of this assurance is that Germany must think through its own problems and make the fundamental decisions affecting its own future free of any sense that it must "pay" for the American guarantee. The United States is determined not to allow its contribution to German security to jeopardize in any way that country's future relations with the other European powers or its own unification.
3. Therefore, whatever the course of events leading to a "normalization" or settlement in Europe—whether negotiated or not—we are prepared, if Germany wishes, to commit four American divisions to be stationed in West Germany with a strictly defined mission of defense against aggression for a finite period—say twenty years.[iii] This too is "free." On the other hand, should the present West German Government or any successor government request it, we will immediately withdraw those forces.
4. Whatever West Germany's immediate decision with respect to relations with France, or its future decisions with regard to European unity, German unification or relations with the U.S.S.R. and the Warsaw Pact powers, these must be fully independent West German decisions, and must be conveyed as such to the German public and to the world.
Under this proposal, then, the defense of Europe would rest chiefly upon German, American and British capabilities. These are probably competent to deal with Soviet forces currently stationed in East Germany. That competence should be maintained, with the NATO force so equipped as to be able to fight a full-scale conventional war against those Soviet forces for about 30 days. There should also be an ability to develop reinforcements if the Soviets slowly increase their forces in East Germany.
This program is not put forward as necessarily the best of all the alternatives open to the United States, but rather as a series of sensible and moderate steps compatible with present American policy toward the Soviet Union, the extent of the détente, European estimates of the immediate and long-term Soviet threat, the American commitment to NATO's preservation, and the existing American policy toward Germany. It obviously is concerned to avoid the most immediate dangers of the present situation, which we see as (1) a severe weakening of Western defense in Europe, and (2) the creation of conditions in which Germany could become estranged from the other European democracies. It represents a temporizing policy. The fundamental issues—of German unity, European settlement, American-European and American-Soviet relations—are left unresolved, and the conditions for their eventual solution are left open. This seems to us the decisive advantage of this program over those alternatives which include reprisals against France or a hardening or "fixing" of U.S.-German relations.
But to buy time on fundamental European issues can become an error, if buying time becomes a policy by default. It may be that the program we have outlined could be prolonged beyond the immediate period of NATO crisis, and it might prove preferable to the longer-range policies we note below. However, we are inclined to believe that, without a serious redefinition of American goals in Europe, this program is likely to prove inadequate to serve America's future interests in the conditions now developing in Europe. Of course, a policy involving little change may be chosen over other alternatives merely because it does involve little change. But a conciliatory and temporizing policy makes sense only if the options it keeps open are seriously examined; only then can they be rejected—if they are rejected—on sound grounds.
The general long-range policy options available to us include three (not wholly exclusive) lines of action:
(1) to pursue a reformulated "Atlanticism" that leaves a "vacant chair" for participation by a future French government;
(2) to seek "partnership" with a genuinely autonomous United Europe able to defend itself;
(3) to seek actively a formal European settlement which would involve the withdrawal of U.S. and Soviet forces from Europe, a settlement (probably provisional or conditional) of the German question, and the replacement of the major existing military guarantees and constraints in Europe with political arrangements competent to secure the interests of all parties.
The first of these programs could mean as little as increased strategic and political consultation among the members, or enlarged programs of joint military staffs. Or it could mean working for a true North Atlantic legal community, involving major political concessions by the members and undoubtedly sacrifices in sovereignty. This might well involve precedents of international coöperation and unification which could have important influence on the non-Atlantic states. In any case it would join together almost a half billion people, with most of the world's assets and technology, into a tightly coördinated force for peace and prosperity. An accomplishment of this kind may have been possible in the late 1940s or even in the 1950s; the plan has had eloquent advocates. It may not be possible now. While it is true that nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come, there is a corollary, that nothing is so weak as an idea whose time is past. So far, the United States has not shown itself prepared to make the political sacrifices this program entails. It is not easy to believe that the obstacles which were insurmountable in the past will prove easier to overcome now, when NATO itself is in jeopardy and European-American relations are strained. And while an Atlantic policy can be formulated in ambitious terms of interdependence and genuine partnership, it could also, in practice, prove to be simply a continuation of what we have been doing in recent years. This, on the evidence of those years, would seem to be a mistake.
The second of our general policy options would be to encourage, and to accept the implications of, a united Europe—even one which excluded much direct American influence and involvement, or whose development was partly motivated by anti-Americanism. Such a Europe might be described as Gaullist, but probably would arise from a nexus of European forces in which Gaullism in France is merely one element. It remains to be seen, of course, whether a politically united Europe can actually develop—on these or any other terms. But if the United Kingdom were to enter the Common Market—apparently a possibility once again—the European movement might regain momentum. The United States will have an effect on the kind of Europe which emerges, but a Europe which possesses a common political authority is most likely to develop in conditions of some tension with the United States and will claim an autonomous role that we will find inconvenient. Thus the issue for the United States is whether to seek a new relationship to this Europe, redefining the terms of European-American partnership and accepting a diminution of the influence which we have enjoyed in European affairs since the end of the Second World War. To maintain that influence, or an American policy which tried to do so, would seem to be incompatible with a successful European union.
Such a Europe could, particularly in the transitional stage, enjoy the protection afforded by a unilateral American guarantee obligating the United States to declare war on the Soviet Union if the Soviets invaded Western Europe. However, such a guarantee would not necessarily imply a full-fledged missile strike on the Soviet heartland, though it would surely imply a willingness—at the minimum—to risk tens of millions of Americans and to spend hundreds of billions of dollars.
Such a unilateral guarantee would recognize two important military facts. One is that we probably do not need European help if we ever get involved in war with the Soviet Union on non-European issues. The second is that it might be the height of folly and perhaps of immorality to drag Europe into such a war. There are said to be, after all, six to seven hundred I.R.B.M.s trained on Western Europe. It is difficult to invent a plausible sequence of events in which the Soviets would have any "rational" motivation to fire any large part of this force. Nevertheless, these missiles represent a physical potential for obliterating most of the population and economy of Western Europe; they are most likely to be used—if used at all—in a situation in which the Western Europeans volunteered their help in a non-European confrontation of the super-powers.
Such a unilateral guarantee would also make clear that the United States intends to keep a free hand in Asia and elsewhere and that, while we are very interested in the advice and opinions of West Europeans, they should neither expect nor be entitled to exercise a veto on our actions outside Europe. This relationship is in contrast to partnership concepts which create expectations of joint agreements and joint obligations. But the existence of such an independent Europe need not destroy a very important part of Atlantic community—the unity that grows out of having a common culture and common interests in much of the world.
The third of our general policy options, and one that is not necessarily inconsistent with the first two, is to seek a European settlement. It is now two decades since World War II ended, yet the status of Germany remains unsettled. U.S., British and Soviet troops are deployed in Central Europe, Berlin is occupied by right of military conquest, and constraints still exist on the full freedom of the East European nations and Germany. These war-born conditions are anomalies, as nearly all would acknowledge, in the Europe of the present day. They exist because we have not found the way safely to release the knots which war and cold war have tied. Yet many of the factors to which these conditions originally responded are overcome or have vanished. The Soviet-American military confrontation in Germany coexists with a détente which, on other issues, has seen significant coöperation between the two superpowers. Both the United States and Russia have new and pressing concerns in Asia. The discipline of the Communist bloc is gravely shaken, and many in the West see NATO as a significantly outmoded instrumentality. West Germany is increasingly and rightfully troubled by the anomalies in its situation and the seeming lack of any means by which, alone, it can remedy them.
Conditions exist now for a European settlement which did not exist a decade ago when the various schemes of disengagement were put forward in the West and in Poland. In the mid-1950s the Soviet bloc was in crisis and Western Europe was still without the means of independent defense—to take only the two largest of the factors which, in circumstances of virulent cold war, stood as obstacles to any settlement.[iv] All this is dramatically changed. We can here only suggest that, from the American point of view, the possible terms of such a settlement would have to assure reliably: (1) that Western Europe is physically and politically secure; (2) that the East European states are politically autonomous; and (3) that the German problem is resolved on terms which are tolerable to the two Germanys and do not place unrealistic or unenforceable constraints on either Germany, or create the conditions of future instability in Central Europe.
This last condition would probably imply a regularization of Germany's division for a specified period of time, with foreign troops withdrawn and effective guarantees against change of any German frontier (including both the inter-German border and, substantially, the Oder-Neisse line), and undoubtedly nuclear or other military limitations or "neutralization," but for a fixed term. Or German unification might be possible on a shorter time scale, but again with constraints that are tolerable to the Germans, effectively enforced, and fixed in term, with Germany left fully autonomous and with complete independence of action at the end of a given period of years.
Specific terms for a European settlement are, of course, hard to develop and to negotiate. Nevertheless, the argument for renewing the effort is a very powerful one. A settlement will eventually come—or happen—and American interests which can be ensured by intelligent action now might be sacrificed in a settlement in which the European powers, or the Soviet Union, took the initiative. Indeed, it is not impossible that the whole American political relationship to Europe could be damaged by events in which we remained passive or defensive. The one thing that seems likely is that U.S. and Soviet troops will not be garrisoning Berlin for another quarter of a century.
Despite our capacity to influence events, there are possible outcomes of the European situation which might be reached in spite of the United States. In the absence of American initiative, the European powers and the Soviet Union might take actions to achieve a settlement in which the United States would be expected to acquiesce (and probably would, since our physical presence in Western Europe, excluding Berlin, is at the pleasure of our allies). Such an outcome would, of course, amount to a West European repudiation of United States policy and would undoubtedly provoke a serious crisis in American attitudes. This is not, perhaps, a very likely development in the short run, but it is plausible within the decade if we are immobile in our policies.
There are other forms which future events in Europe might take. The European reunification movement might regain momentum, with or without coöperative relations with us, drawing the East Europeans into an association that outmoded today's security arrangements. Or French visions of a Western Europe led from Paris might be realized in circumstances of a momentous West German turn away from the United States, and the French might then deal with the Russians in ways that were disadvantageous to the United States. Or there might be a renewal of Russian expansionism under a régime of young and ambitious men, making Europe once again a political battlefield and NATO valuable, if not indispensable, to Europe's defense. Or, finally, the United States and the Soviet Union, acting out of a concern for nuclear stabilization and in resistance to the unsettling forces of European nationalism, might actively or implicitly attempt to impose some kind of tacit "condominium" on Europe. This doubtlessly would be resisted by Europe, but it also might succeed, at least for a time.
More plausible is the emergence of a de facto settlement of the German problem deriving from concessions on unification by the two zones on terms which East and West find tolerable—or impossible to challenge without incurring serious costs. Even more plausible is a de facto European settlement which arises simply out of the attrition of passions and threat in Europe, or in consequence of great-power preoccupations in Asia, or a shared mood of "neo-isolationism" among the big powers, or the progress of what might be called "psychological disengagement" between the U.S.S.R and the United States. Major Soviet and American troop withdrawals might then take place over time and without formalities; both East and West European states would assume greater political responsibility and exercise increasing independence of action; and NATO and the Warsaw Pact might be renegotiated as traditional alliances, with the German problem left unresolved but also drained of much of its passion and tension. This outcome for Germany—prolonged division without intolerable tension—is not, one might add, as improbable as it often has seemed in the context of recent history, especially if Europe as a whole were to move in the direction this projection assumes. Obvious anomalies in the present situation would have to be remedied—most important, the question of Berlin. But a Berlin solution should not be beyond the wit of German and other European statesmen if the U.S.-Soviet confrontation within Germany were removed as a factor or reduced over the course of time.
But attractive as they seem in many respects, and even plausible as they seem in conditions of American drift or immobility, these de facto settlements have one grave flaw in them from the American viewpoint. They preëmpt decisions in which this country has a need—and right—to be heard. Our interest in Europe is not merely its security from Soviet aggression. As a nation which twice has been drawn into great European wars we have earned the right to concern ourselves with the stability of Europe itself and with the stability of the arrangements by which Soviet power is withdrawn. We have commitments to the West Germans as well as to our other NATO allies which not all European settlements would assure. If it is true that, as a consequence of the events of 1932-1945, Germany must inevitably pay a price in any European settlement, we have undertaken that that price shall not include sacrificing the political freedom of the West Germans. If the Europe that in fact emerges in the 1970s is to be stable, secure and sound in its relations with the United States, we shall need to play an active part in creating the conditions for its emergence, discarding, it may be, programs that have served their purpose and are outmoded, but acting intelligently and vigorously in a changing situation. The alternative is the role of reaction, which can harm us and do Europe and the world no good either.
[i] This paper grew out of a program of studies to which Frank Armbruster, Max Singer, Edmund Stillman and Anthony J. Wiener, all of the Hudson Institute, made important contributions.
[ii] For example, recent discussions on proposed multilateral forces have brought out the fact that for substantially less than a billion dollars a year for five years it is possible to procure a force of 200 missiles stationed at sea and that such a force probably presents a greater threat to the Soviet Union than, say, Soviet strategic forces presented to the United States throughout the fifties and early sixties. This is not to say that there may not be important weaknesses in such forces but rather that almost all strategic forces have (or have had) important weaknesses, which do not necessarily decrease their credibility to the vanishing point. This means that, if with our technology we help them to the extent of about 20 percent of their current budgets, any one of the major European powers could acquire a very substantial nuclear force—one that would likely be substantial enough to deter Soviet attack.
[iii] A similar position might be adopted with respect to the Geneva negotiations on a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The present American position is that any such treaty must contain a provision that would allow West Germany to join a multilateral or international nuclear force provided that one of the existing nuclear nations also joins that force and gives up its national nuclear forces to international command. Because of this situation, it seems likely that West Germany may find itself widely criticized for blocking the achievement of a non-proliferation treaty, yet without deriving any advantage—never actually being offered membership in a multilateral or other international force. We should weigh the advisability of an American declaration that our position will be maintained whatever the opinions—pro or con-of the West German Government, on grounds that a nuclear restriction on Germany which is unconditional and unlimited in term is both unenforceable and an error.
[iv] The nuclear defense of Europe is feasible in several ways that support or supplant any American guarantee. This is not the place for detailed discussion, but it is worth noting that the programmed British and French nuclear forces can provide plausible deterrents in a wide range of possible situations. Moreover, many of the usual objections to multilateral forces, particularly those involving control of the trigger (authority to launch an attack) and control over the safety catch (authority to prevent an attack), can be greatly reduced if one distinguishes between the mission of strict and proportionate retaliation, and acts of nuclear escalation. How this distinction might be applied in practice is discussed in H. Kahn, "On Escalation: Metaphors and Scenarios," p. 264 ff. (New York: Praeger, 1965)