IT is time to make a fundamental review of our NATO policy. For regardless of what we might prefer and despite assurances to the contrary, several factors are going to force some important changes in our relation to NATO over the next few years. The basic choice is whether we are going to recognize these facts of life early enough to plan and implement effective solutions, or whether we are going to try to hold onto the status quo in all respects. If we choose the latter, we choose an inevitable deterioration in the Alliance and in European security in general.

One of the most important pressures is the growing contribution to our balance-of-payments deficit caused by the presence of some 300,000 U.S. military personnel in Europe. There are two underlying trends that will continue to make this problem get worse, not better. One is the increase resulting from normal military and civilian pay increases; our military expenditures in Europe go up almost directly with pay increases. If the recent rate of pay increases continues and if the United States maintains its current force levels in Europe, our overall military expenditures will go up about 50 percent in the next ten years. At the same time, European purchases of U.S. military equipment, the traditional means of offsetting the effects of our military expenditures abroad on our balance of payments, have leveled off as the German armed forces have completed their initial equipping, and as European production of military equipment has begun to supply a greater proportion of needs. Taken together, these two trends have already created a net military deficit in Europe of over $1 billion per year (if the temporary expedient of bond purchases is excluded). Even allowing for indirect effects, this is no longer a minor element in the overall U.S. balance of payments.

Severe budgetary pressures provide a second major force for change in the present U.S.-NATO relationship. Even if the Viet Nam war ends soon, the Defense budget is likely to remain surprisingly high if all currently approved programs are retained, to say nothing of major new programs, such as the Safeguard system, a new bomber and nuclear-powered surface ships. A good bet is that it will stabilize at somewhere over $70 billion after the Viet Nam war unless permanent force levels are reduced. We can also be sure that the pressure to divert some of this money to pressing domestic problems will remain high. Past experience suggests that much of this pressure will focus on our NATO-related expenditures. U.S. forces for NATO are not minor items in the Defense budget. The total annual cost of our NATO-oriented forces is over $12 billion.

In addition, for reasons closely related to the budgetary and balance-of- payments problems, the Congress will undoubtedly revive the very serious pressure for major troop withdrawals that existed prior to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of 1968. In the two years preceding the invasion, over 30 Senators had gone on record as favoring major withdrawals of U.S. forces from Europe. And one, Senator Symington, had prepared a resolution which called for stationing only 50,000 American military personnel in Europe compared to the 300,000 there now. He and other Senators have said it would almost certainly have passed the Senate in some form if not for the Czech invasion. Senator Mansfield has pointedly noted that these Congressional pressures were only temporarily abated by the invasion of Czechoslovakia.


With these points in mind, it is well to start off a review of U.S. policy toward NATO with an analysis of the real functions of our NATO forces, both those in Europe and those kept in the United States.

The most obvious functions of these forces are symbolic. They are a living reminder of America's continuing commitment to European security and the nuclear guarantee that this commitment includes. They also help to maintain U.S. political influence in Europe and act as a restraint on Soviet and West European fears of a rearmed Germany. These are vital functions, but they are inadequate to justify the presence of 300,000 men, equipped with expensive aircraft and tanks, supported by a large fleet of ships, supplied with large stocks of ordnance and ammunition, sustained by a huge logistic and maintenance infrastructure, and backed up by the additional divisions, air wings and naval forces in the United States. Senator Mansfield and his colleagues are right in arguing that if hostages and symbols are all we need in Europe, one or two U.S. divisions (plus the more than 7,000 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe) would do the job just as well and at far less cost.

Another function of the U.S. forces, and one that makes more sense to some people (and less to others), is to provide the ability to fight a limited nuclear war in Europe, using tactical nuclear weapons. The idea here is that, although NATO forces are alleged to be much smaller than those of the Warsaw Pact, these differences would be offset by the early use of nuclear weapons by NATO. NATO would thus maintain the ability to defend its interests in a crisis or to stave off a massive conventional attack, without immediately engaging U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear forces and without necessarily escalating the war to attacks on cities, either European or American. The trouble with this concept is that it rests on faulty assumptions (for example, that civilian casualties and collateral damage can be kept to low levels); it ignores a basic lesson that the leaders of the U.S. Government in all cold-war crises have learned-that when faced with the decision to start a nuclear war, almost any other alternative looks better; and it is too risky to serve as the foundation for a preferred strategy. To a great extent it is a carryover in thinking from the days when only the United States had large numbers of nuclear weapons; now the Soviets have them too.

Since both sides now have more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other side's forces, there is no reason to believe that they provide any particular advantage to NATO. In fact, if the Soviets really had far larger numbers of troops for conventional reinforcement-as is often claimed-they would hold an even bigger advantage after nuclear weapons had destroyed the front-line forces of each side.

Furthermore, from the European standpoint, there is likely to be little difference between a so-called "tactical" nuclear war and a strategic war. The civilian casualties and property damage from such a war would be enormous, as many studies have shown. In addition, there would be great pressure to escalate the war by attacking fixed targets such as airfields, logistic installations, lines of communications and rear areas where enemy nuclear delivery systems would be located.

Soviet planners seem to have recognized these problems in the design of their tactical nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Rather than building large numbers of short-range, low-yield missiles, which would be very vulnerable and useful only for killing discrete, well-located targets, the Soviets have emphasized higher yield, mobile tactical missiles, primarily useful for terrain or blanketing fire, or for strikes against fixed logistic installations and airfields. Equally important, most of the Soviet's nuclear delivery capability in Europe is based inside the Soviet Union. In short, the Soviets have neither the organization nor the force structure for a limited tactical nuclear war fought exclusively against military targets in an engaged battle zone.

Even if one discards all these considerations, the concept of limited nuclear war in Europe is still not a persuasive rationale for the large and expensive land, sea and air forces now stationed in Europe. If it were a valid concept, large forces on the NATO side-unless backed by reinforcements very much larger than those on the Warsaw Pact side-would not be needed because they would have little effect on the outcome of a "tactical" nuclear war. Enough tactical nuclear weapons exist on each side to neutralize any plausible number of ready forces. Rather than adopt such a weak and yet expensive concept as the basis for our strategy, we would be better advised to recognize that we are really banking on the belief that a war in Europe will never actually occur (either because of the fear of nuclear escalation or for other reasons), and maintain only a symbolic conventional force at a fraction of the current cost.

This does not mean, of course, that nuclear weapons no longer have an important role in NATO. They do. But the point is that this role is (and will remain) intrinsically a limited one, Nuclear weapons enhance the deterrent against all forms of attack. But they are not a substitute for conventional forces. They are usable only under the most extreme circumstances. In all cases less than the most extreme, they are not likely to be used. Thus, without a strong conventional capability, NATO would be weak in a variety of possible crises, and few observers are willing to predict that there will not be such crises in years ahead,


If neither symbolic functions nor the concept of tactical nuclear warfare hold up as justifications for our maintaining large conventional forces in Europe, then the only potentially realistic justification for them is that they provide significant capabilities for conventional war.

The value and cost of a conventional option for NATO has been debated at great length and with great intensity for many years. The official change in NATO strategy in May 1967 indicates general acceptance within NATO of the value of maintaining conventional forces to provide more credible and usable military power.

Strong conventional forces are needed in Europe because there are many likely situations in which the use of nuclear weapons would be inappropriate. For the same reasons that dynamite does not make a good substitute for a fly swatter, nuclear weapons (even "tactical" nuclear weapons) are not a good substitute for conventional forces against a wide range of likely military threats. An alliance (or a nation) which maintains a strong nuclear but weak conventional posture puts itself at a great disadvantage in a confrontation with another power that has both strong nuclear and strong conventional forces. The side with inadequate conventional forces has no means for effective military resistance in such a confrontation. The side with strong conventional forces can make its aggression piecemeal in the confidence that it will be able to have its way in all but life-and-death matters. Or-without overt aggression-it can mount political pressures which will seem irresistible.

Without strong conventional forces, NATO would, in a crisis, have a choice only between holocaust or humiliation, suicide or surrender. With strong conventional forces, NATO has more desirable alternatives. In fact, because of the great political and military limitations of nuclear weapons, the only military options immediately usable and upon which governments could quickly agree seem to be those requiring conventional forces.

But while recognition of the worth of conventional forces has grown, the key question has always been and remains whether or not a NATO conventional defense is feasible at acceptable costs-in view of the alleged size of the Warsaw Pact conventional forces. As it now stands, many military and civilian experts believe that a conventional defense is not possible without major and politically unacceptable budget increases, and some political leaders seem to accept this point of view. We believe, however, that a strong conventional capability is feasible within current force and budget levels.

This conclusion is critical because different views on the feasibility of a major conventional capability in NATO lead down widely different paths in search of solutions to the financial pressures mentioned earlier. If, for whatever reason, one accepts the conclusion that a major NATO conventional capability is infeasible, the justification for keeping large U.S. forces in NATO becomes quite vague, as a substantial part of the Congress and a large segment of the public seem to have concluded. Moreover, given this view, the issues involved are simple and the solution to the financial pressures quite obvious: we should reduce our NATO conventional forces since they are expensive and would do little good anyway. On the other hand, if one believes a major conventional option is feasible, as the writers do, the justification for keeping large NATO forces is quite clear: we should keep them because they provide a usable form of military power with a minimal risk of self-destruction. They allow us to oppose non- nuclear aggression without the need to use nuclear weapons, and to oppose political aggression based on the threatened use of military power without having to face the "suicide or surrender" dilemma. At the same time, however, such a view means the issues involved become much more complex and the solutions to our financial woes become much more difficult to find.

The case that a major NATO conventional option is infeasible rests mainly on the alleged size of the Warsaw Pact conventional forces. We believe the size of these forces, particularly Pact land forces, has been greatly overestimated. This overestimation stems primarily from: (1) a continued preoccupation with planning against the "worst case" (i.e. a deliberate concealed mobilization followed by a maximum-scale attack); (2) a continued belief that the best way to get more forces and larger budgets is by exaggerating the size of the threat; and (3) a continuing tendency to rely on traditional measures of military power such as numbers of divisions and aircraft without looking further into actual effectiveness.

The traditional military preoccupation with planning for the "worst case" has led to an excessive focus on a massive surprise attack by the Warsaw Pact. In such a scenario-which assumes among other things complete coöperation of the Pact allies, complete surprise, near-perfect preparations, untrained Pact reservists equal to regular NATO troops, and no credibility of the NATO nuclear deterrent even though a direct threat to NATO's most vital interests is clearly present-the Warsaw Pact easily overwhelms NATO's conventional forces. Identifying the concept and value of a conventional option with such a highly unlikely and politically senseless scenario has not only discredited such an option, but has made the requirement for active forces appear beyond reach.

The recent invasion of Czechoslovakia is a much more likely scenario against which to design NATO's conventional forces. Over a period of several months, political tension built up, leading to a series of ultimatums. At the same time, the Soviets increased the readiness of their own military forces, deployed units along the Czech border and finally invaded. If the Soviets should act this way against one of our allies, NATO should have the capability to respond militarily by building up its own conventional forces and defending itself if necessary. Such an objective does not require us to be prepared to defend against any scale of conventional attack in any kind of situation that the Warsaw Pact is conceivably capable of creating. However, it does require sufficient forces in place to deal with the Pact's immediately available forces and sufficient capabilities for mobilization and reinforcement to respond to a Pact build-up. An approximate balance of conventional capabilities, both before and after mobilization, should enable us to meet such an objective.

The continued exaggeration of Warsaw Pact forces also stems from the widely held and long cherished belief among the military that, when in doubt9 the safe thing to do is to overstate the enemy's strength; supposedly this will frighten the political leaders into providing larger budgets and more forces. This belief has not only been proven wrong; it often backfires. It can be just as dangerous to overestimate the enemy as to underestimate him. Overstatement of the Pact threat has led to strategies of desperation (the prompt use of nuclear weapons), to a feeling that NATO's conventional forces are irrelevant and to a failure to take many necessary actions to improve the readiness and effectiveness of existing forces. Far from eliciting larger budgets and more forces, exaggerated estimates of Pact forces have made it extremely difficult to justify maintaining NATO's present force levels.

Press stories often compare some 175 Warsaw Pact divisions with about 25 NATO divisions without making clear that the Pact total includes many cadre and "paper" divisions, that the NATO total excludes many divisions that would be available for reinforcement, and that a typical NATO "division force" (the division plus its service and combat-support units) is almost twice as large as its Pact counterpart, and a U.S. division force is three times as large. Similarly, comparisons of tactical air forces are frequently based on a count of deployed aircraft, or aircraft "assigned" to NATO without adequate consideration of the important and costly qualitative advantages of NATO aircraft or of NATO's larger reinforcement capability. Very different conclusions emerge if one uses the same rules and assumptions to evaluate Pact and NATO forces and does not stop at a count of divisions and aircraft, but rather considers real elements of military power, such as soldiers, guns, vehicles, training, logistic support, etc.

The essential facts regarding conventional military forces in the critical Center Region of Europe (as of mid-1968) are as follows:[i] While the Pact outnumbers NATO in divisions 46 to 28-2/3, NATO has as many men in these divisions as the Pact, and more men (677,000 to 619,000) in the division forces. Even at the rifle platoon level, NATO has as many men immediately available as the Pact.

That manpower on both sides is roughly equal is particularly significant. A soldier, unlike a division, is a relatively equivalent unit on either side, if he is similarly trained and equipped. Also, manpower is by far the largest cost item-about 80 percent-of a Western army. Thus, since the number of soldiers in the Center Region is about equal, we are in fact already paying most of the cost of maintaining an equal conventional capability.

No less important, NATO can maintain this rough equality during a build-up of forces on both sides. While the Pact has certain advantages in reinforcing the Center Region during a mobilization, these are not large enough to attain a decisive force ratio. This is more understandable in light of the facts that: (1) worldwide, the NATO countries have 30 percent more men under arms (and even slightly more men in land forces) than the Warsaw Pact, excluding U.S. increases for Viet Nam; and (2) NATO consistently has a larger defense budget than the Pact-50 percent greater in 1968 for example-measuring both in terms of U.S. prices and excluding U.S. expenditures for Viet Nam.

In addition, NATO forces are superior both qualitatively and quantitatively in such important areas as logistic support, ammunition, weapons, vehicles, artillery and engineers. Only in numbers of tanks does the Pact have an edge and the main reason for this is that NATO armies have chosen to place less emphasis on tanks than do the Soviets. NATO also has a significant advantage in offensive tactical air power. While NATO has about one-fourth fewer aircraft immediately available in the Center Region, it has consistently more aircraft in its worldwide inventory and thus a much greater reinforcement capability. More significant, NATO aircraft are far better qualitatively by almost every measure of relative capability and far better suited for conventional operations than Pact aircraft. This advantage in tactical air power adds to the confidence that NATO's land forces could not be readily overwhelmed in a conventional attack.

In sum, NATO's conventional forces are not grossly inferior to those of the Pact. This is not to say that NATO could now defeat the Pact or that there are no serious problems. Basically, we are not getting all we are paying for because we are not providing many of the "horseshoe nails" needed to realize the full potential of NATO's existing conventional forces. The major missing "horseshoe nails" include aircraft shelters, modern air ordnance, allied ground ammunition, and a greater capability for allied mobilization. Improvements are also needed in troop deployments, allied pilot training, and allied manning and training levels. NATO could greatly increase the effectiveness of its conventional forces without big increases in cost if adequate attention were paid to these important qualitative factors. But to do so requires concentrating our efforts on solving the real problems of military readiness and effectiveness against realistic threats.


By correcting these deficiencies to realize the full potential of what we already have, NATO should be able to maintain a conventional balance without major increases in overall manpower and budgets. But how shall we achieve even this?

In view of the importance of European security, it might seem that the only wise course would be to try to adhere as closely as possible to the status quo in NATO, finding whatever "band-aids" we can to patch up the balance-of- payments problem, resisting to the maximum Congressional and budgetary pressures for force reductions and, when force reductions can no longer be avoided, making sure that support and overhead personnel are withdrawn before the combat forces. Aside from the fact that neither the balance-of- payments problem nor the other pressures are likely to go away by themselves, however, there is a fundamental weakness in trying to retain the status quo. And this weakness is in many ways at the root, of all the other pressures and problems. The weakness is that the relationship between the United States and its European allies in NATO is no longer satisfactory. Even an explicit recognition that a military balance now exists between NATO and the Pact does not change the fact that the U.S. contribution to maintaining this balance is far above that of its allies. Recognition of the balance might make our sacrifice seem more worthwhile, but it does not change the basic inequity of the sacrifice.

The Europeans are not contributing to the Alliance what their prosperous economies would easily allow them to do. Even the conventional forces they do maintain are often poorly equipped, trained and supported. And despite U.S. efforts, the Europeans have done little to improve these forces. Their reluctance rests in part on the continued myth of overwhelming Pact superiority, which makes small improvements in NATO's forces seem rather useless; and in part on the belief that any war in Europe would inevitably escalate to the nuclear level, which makes conventional forces themselves seem rather pointless. The answer to these views is that analysis does not support the first and the history of warfare since 1945 does not support the second.

Another reason for the Europeans' reluctance to improve their conventional forces is the widely held belief that a war in Europe is unlikely. This view is understandable. The Soviets probably have little interest in invading and conquering Western Europe; at the same time, however, they most assuredly would like to make a Finland out of it. Thus, we would argue, the need for strong conventional forces is not based primarily on the danger of a premeditated, all-out conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact. Although such an event is conceivable, the threat it would pose to our most vital interests and the risks of a nuclear response make it extremely improbable. Rather, the need is to prevent political aggression based on one kind of military superiority, to add to NATO's overall deterrent and to reduce the likelihood that NATO would be forced to initiate the use of nuclear weapons.

For these reasons, the United States continues to try to fill the gap of conventional forces by providing large land, sea and air forces for the Alliance besides maintaining the huge nuclear and naval forces which guarantee the security of Europe as well as that of the United States. Economically, this situation has the triple disadvantages of: (1) being very inefficient, since the Europeans could replace all of the U.S. forces at roughly half the cost to the United States; (2) requiring the United States to devote a much larger share of its gross national product (GNP) to defense than the allies, at a time of a major conflict in Southeast Asia and grave domestic needs for funds; and (3) contributing substantially to a serious and growing balance-of-payments problem. In this situation it is difficult to argue effectively against Congressional demands for troop reductions. It is not easy to answer when Congressmen ask, in effect: "Why is the United States more interested in European security than the Europeans?"

The facts about NATO's burden-sharing are quite straightforward. The Europeans are spending a much smaller fraction of their GNP on defense than is the United States and this fraction continues to grow smaller. In 1968, our Center Region allies spent less than 4.5 percent of their GNP on defense; the United States spent nearly 10 percent. Even excluding the Viet Nam war (assuming that this involves an incremental cost of $20 billion per year), we still spent well over 7 percent of our GNP on defense. In terms of defense spending per capita, the United States in 1968 spent roughly six times as much as Belgium, four times as much as the Netherlands and three times as much as Great Britain and Germany, again excluding Viet Nam expenditures. In addition, the allies are maintaining a much smaller proportion of their population under arms. In 1968, the Center Region allies had about 8 men under arms per 1000 population; the United States had over 13, not counting the additions for Viet Nam-over 17 if Viet Nam is included.

If the United States were to reduce its non-Viet Nam defense expenditures and military manpower to the average level of its NATO Center Region allies (which we do not recommend), it could reduce defense spending by over $25 billion per year and could demobilize over a million men. Conversely, the Germans alone, for example, could replace half of our divisions in Europe and half of our air wings besides and still keep their defense expenditures under 6 percent of their GNP, less than the percentage they were spending in 1963, and still less than the percentage we are spending now.

The unsatisfactory economic sharing of the Alliance's burdens stems in part from our unsatisfactory political relationship to NATO and the psychology it fosters. All too often this relationship seems to be based on the assumption that the responsibility for European security is more American than it is European, De Gaulle had some factual grounds for criticizing the over-Americanization of NATO. In the day-to-day affairs of the Alliance, the United States clearly dominates the scene. The most obvious indication is that the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR) has always been and continues to be an American. In addition, we hold most of the subordinate NATO commands. All told, seven U.S. officers in Europe hold four-star NATO jobs; no other country holds more than two. Americans predominate on the NATO staffs and we even go so far as to "support" certain NATO headquarters unilaterally by operating airfields, signal equipment and other facilities.

Equally important is the tendency for all initiatives aimed at strengthening the Alliance to come from the United States. Even in the case of the Czech invasion, where the increased threat was clear, it was the United States that urged and pushed the Alliance on, An outside observer might well assume that NATO was an entirely American organization in which we tried to keep the price of the stock up by badgering the European stockholders not to sell. Continued assumption of this role-20 years later- cannot help but make out periodic pleas for greater European contributions seem like little more than the routine scoldings of a benevolent father, and likely to pass with little more result

There is an analogy to Viet Nam here. In both cases, many American officials have lost sight of the original purpose of the U.S. effort, which was to help our allies defend themselves. In their eagerness to build effective defenses, they have, in effect, redefined the basic goal to be U.S. defense of our allies with allied help. Both in Europe and in South Viet Nam, the situation has been over-Americanized, fostering a psychology in which our allies can pressure us into doing more under the threat of "collapsing" if we don't. American actions have encouraged our allies to believe that their security is our responsibility, not theirs.


This unsatisfactory and increasingly unstable U.S.-European relationship in NATO, and the financial and political pressures it causes, mean that, in the long run, we cannot successfully defend the status quo. What, then, are the alternatives? Some have suggested a negotiated mutual force reduction between NATO and the Warsaw Pact Desirable as such an agreement might be, its chances seem remote, Too many countries are involved with too many conflicting interests. More serious, the problems of definition, identification and verification seem to be too intractable to permit a treaty that has a realistic chance of being accepted. (We have not been able to resolve the first two even among the NATO allies as yet.) These factors would make such a treaty far more complex and difficult to achieve, for example, than a U.S.-U.S.S.R. strategic nuclear arms limitation agreement-and that seems difficult enough. In any event, such an agreement would not be incompatible with the main suggestions we have to make. More important, a necessary condition for successful negotiations is that we have a satisfactory alternative in case the negotiations fail.

The alternative suggested here also has risks and difficulties. It requires the kind of hard, long-term decisions that governments find very difficult to make. The alternative is to confront the Europeans boldly and soon with the unsatisfactory nature of the current burden-sharing, explain the necessity for their taking a new view of the European security problem, and offer a plan to carry out some basic changes in the Alliance, Greater European economic contributions and greater political leadership by the Europeans would of course be necessary, but equally important would be a change in basic attitudes-a recognition and acceptance by both sides that European security is primarily a European responsibility.

There are four guiding principles which should be followed in working out the details of such a plan:

The first basic principle is that NATO must maintain a rough balance of conventional forces with the Warsaw Pact In its negotiations with the allies, the United States would have to be clear that there is no way of rationalizing reduced NATO conventional forces by returning to a nuclear "trip wire" strategy, The nuclear tranquilizer has been used too often in such situations in the past. It does not solve the problem. It is not cheap if one considers risk. Nuclear weapons have not been, are not and cannot be a substitute for conventional forces.

A rough equality in the size of conventional forces has much to recommend it as a peacetime goal. Given such a balance, the Soviets would be strongly deterred from conventional aggression because they could have no confidence of success unless they planned an attack so massive that NATO's most vital interests were clearly threatened. Approximate equality is also a condition that both sides can accept politically. If the forces on the two sides are equal and generally known to be so, neither side need feel threatened; the relationship can be stable. A matching posture would not create the arms- race problems likely to arise if NATO attempted to exceed substantially the Warsaw Pact's conventional strength. And it is a goal whose reasonableness, realism and simplicity would recommend it for public support-if the publics in the NATO countries were given the facts.

The second basic principle is that there must be greater equity in sharing the Alliance's economic and manpower burdens. The relative contributions within NATO today are clearly unfair. The changes proposed here would simply shift the relative contributions to the Alliance; they would not alter basic strategy. Any U.S. force reductions should be offset by the allies. In this effort, we would have to assume that the allies will not react by reëmphasizing an independent European nuclear deterrent. The danger of falling between a nuclear and a conventional stool, and having neither posture adequate, is even greater now than before. The increased European understanding in recent years of the problems, costs and limitations of nuclear weapons-partly as a result of discussions in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group-make these assumptions much more reasonable now than they would have been five to eight years ago.

Whatever balance of allied contributions to NATO is agreed upon, it is important that it be stable over a fairly long period. Leaving aside the question of associated naval forces, an example of a sensible U.S. contribution might be three divisions with supporting units plus four air wings (as opposed to the four and one-third divisions plus seven air wings in Europe now) with active reinforcements of a comparable size kept in the United States for rapid deployment. Such a force would reduce our military personnel in Europe by almost one-third and reduce our military balance-of- payments deficit by about $250 million annually. (The balance-of-payments reduction could be four times as much if the allies agreed to pay for the support costs of the remaining forces.) Budgetary savings would result only if the forces withdrawn from Europe were disbanded. If this occurred, as it ought, the savings would be about $2 billion.

At the same time, a major streamlining of headquarters and support personnel in Europe should also be implemented. Much of this streamlining is possible independently of force reductions or negotiations with the allies, and should be undertaken regardless of any overall policy decision. This can make a large contribution but cannot by itself close the balance- of-payments gap.

The timing of a force reduction would be important in two respects: first, to make it entirely clear to the Europeans that we were seriously planning a significant change and not just bargaining for a bigger "offset" payment, we would need to explain the entire plan in detail at the beginning; and second, to give the Europeans time to react and to build up their own forces, the actual reductions would have to be phased over a considerable period of time, say five years.

The third basic principle is that there must be greater equality in the policy-making affairs of the Alliance. This means a greater degree of European political leadership in the Alliance, and a corresponding reduction in U.S. domination of NATO command jobs and staffs. It would be particularly important symbolically and practically to give the job of SACEUR to a European.

The solution to this problem ties in with another possible objective- namely, an attempt to bring France back into more active participation in planning European security. If NATO were restructured and U.S. dominance reduced, it is possible that France might now be willing to accept a position of leadership. The prestige of the SACEUR job might be one inducement. If the French were unwilling to accept the SACEUR post, with all that would imply, an alternative solution would be to give the post to one of the smaller countries, implicitly making it more of a technical post than the traditional "father figure" role of the past. An American deputy could be retained for handling problems of liaison concerning nuclear weapons.

The fourth basic principle of any such plan is that there must be more than a token U.S. contribution to NATO. It is one thing to argue that the United States should not dominate the Alliance, but it is quite another to argue that we should essentially withdraw from it. A token contribution, such as the 50,000 proposed in the Symington resolution, would undoubtedly drive the Europeans to a reliance on nuclear forces or an accommodation with the Soviet Union or both. It would also destroy any chance of a mutually negotiated reduction of forces in Central Europe. Without a substantial American contribution, the Europeans are even less likely to believe that maintaining a conventional military option is feasible, much less make the necessary increased effort to achieve this goal. And these considerations aside, are American interests in the whole of Europe less than those in South Korea, where we have over 50,000 men?

A substantial U.S. contribution to NATO is necessary and important. Despite the prolonged emphasis on Asia, we believe the United States' most vital interests are still in Europe. For reasons discussed earlier, we need the alternatives offered by strong conventional forces to protect these interests. We will lose these alternatives if U.S. forces are unilaterally reduced to 50,000. It is just as unreasonable to expect the allies to make up this kind of deficit as it is for the allies to expect the United States to maintain indefinitely its present contribution.

The American force suggested here is considerably more than token. It would consist of over 200,000 men and over 300 fighter/ attack aircraft in Europe plus associated naval, air and land reinforcements in the United States. This may or may not be the "best" or "optimum" contribution to NATO, but it is a "not clearly unfair" contribution. It is large enough to make a substantial contribution to European security and to demonstrate our continuing commitment. It goes a long way toward offsetting the Soviet contribution to the Warsaw Pact. The suggested reductions would also be large enough to convince our allies that we are trying to end the unplanned nibbling away and establish a force level that we can maintain over the long run. (In the view of many of our European allies, more important than U.S. force levels is the certainty regarding them.) At the same time, the suggested reductions are not so large that, with reasonable increases by the allies, the goal of maintaining a rough conventional balance with the Pact is beyond realistic reach. Finally, by reducing annual defense spending and balance-of-payments costs by some $2 billion and $250 million respectively, the reductions are large enough to attack directly some of our fundamental economic problems.

The risk of proceeding with a plan for restructuring our relationship to NATO-even a plan based on the four principles outlined above-is that instead of causing a positive and constructive response it might so frighten the Europeans that NATO and collective security in Europe would be dealt a death blow. Or, somewhat more probable and still serious, the conventional forces of the Alliance could end up greatly reduced, leaving the Alliance heavily dependent on the early use of nuclear weapons in a crisis. An evaluation of these risks depends on several considerations. One is the estimate of our ability to communicate in a clear and straightforward way the facts of the present balance, the feasibility and importance of maintaining such a balance, and the need to change the relative contributions necessary to maintain this balance-as well as an assessment of the European reaction to what we are saying. The official adoption of the "flexible response" strategy by the NATO Defense Ministers in May 1967, the increased interest in keeping strong NATO forces as a result of the Czech crisis, and the growing prosperity of the allies, suggest that the prospects for accomplishing this are better now than they have been at any time since the Korean War.

A final consideration is the prospect for a gradual but almost certain deterioration in the Alliance that will result from a continuing series of unplanned responses to the financial and domestic political pressures described above. The risks here are quite high. Public and Congressional sentiment-to the effect that we are "overcommitted" and that others are not doing enough for themselves-is strong. And when and if the reductions now being considered are carried out, the United States will have run out of measures to cut our military expenditures in Europe without significantly reducing our combat capability.

Regardless of what course one believes should eventually be followed, it is clear the United States needs to face up to this problem as a high-priority matter. Simply to delay serious study and decision is almost to guarantee more trouble later, when fewer options may be available. Common sense-both political and economic-strongly suggests that the present situation cannot endure much longer.

[i] For a fuller discussion, see Alain C. Enthoven, "Arms and Men: The Military Balance in Europe," Interplay, May 1969, p. 11-14.

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