How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
After President Nixon and I met at Key Biscayne on December 28 and 29, 1971, a commentator pointed out that the joint statement issued on our talks seemed more like an American-European than an American-German communiqué. This, he felt, showed itself even on the surface in that the terms "European" or "Europe" appeared 11 times whereas German" or "Federal Republic of Germany" were only mentioned twice.
The talks at Key Biscayne did indeed center on the American-European partnership rather than on German-American relations. This will not surprise anyone who knows to what extent bilateral relations between West European countries and the United States are overlaid by a network of multilateral relations which is steadily getting more dense. In the Federal Republic of Germany there is not a single question of any importance that could be treated outside the context of American-European relations. This applies to international currency and trade affairs as well as to security police and above all to efforts to decrease tensions between East and West.
In the European Community we have not yet reached the point where the head of a member state is authorized to speak for his European colleagues. All the same, we have at least come to the point where none of us-be it the President of France, the British Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Italy or the West German Chancellor-could or would refrain from bringing joint European interests into play. Each one of us tries in his own way not only to look after his own nation's interests but also to articulate European considerations. This is true even in cases where one or the other might feel tempted to extract some special advantage from talks with the Americans.
Relations between Western Europe and the United States have reached a kind of in-between stage. Some symptoms of this lie in the area of currency and trade affairs; others in the desire of the United States to lighten its burden; others in the wish of West European nations to establish closer political ties with each other besides their economic unity inside the Common Market; and, last but not least, in America's long-standing recommendation to speed such development, which today, however, is modified by her concern lest her own interests might suffer in the process. To be sure, these factors are somewhat contradictory, which only proves my point about this being a kind of in-between stage.
There is no predicting future developments; they may go in a variety of directions. Responsible forces-on both sides of the ocean-should realize that decisions will be expected from them in this crucial area of "Westpolitik." From my own point of view and considering my own responsibilities, I should like to specify in which direction we should move if we are to take our partnership seriously.
People in Europe, at least in Western Europe, are quite aware of the role America assumed at the end of World War II. It was the role of a world power and helpmate who made only limited distinctions between former and future friends. In other words, yesterday's wartime opponents were given aid along with the rest. This aid meant a great deal to them and-this I can say at least for my own country-they have not forgotten it. The twenty- fifth anniversary of the Marshall Plan, which we are going to commemorate this year, offers a special opportunity for remembering with gratitude what the United States has done for Europe.
It does not diminish this gratitude to point out that the position then taken by the United States also happened to suit its own interests; the reconstruction of Europe was a sensible thing for it to undertake from its own point of view. Not only then, immediately after World War II, but through succeeding years relations between America and Europe were marked to a large extent by the polarity between the United States and the Soviet Union. To be sure, there was much talk about bipolarity long after it had, in its original sense, ceased to exist. Now there is talk about tripolarity, when it should be obvious to anyone that both economically and politically there are more than three centers of power.
Here I should like to take up President Nixon's recent remark that the risk of war is declining while economic rivalry is increasing. If this is so, it must mean that the nations or groups of nations among which economic rivalry is increasing are not the same as those among which the risk of war is on the decline. One might also put it this way: if and because the risk of war is diminishing between the United States and the Soviet Union, limited rivalry has a chance of developing between America and Western Europe without the parties concerned having to regard this as a threat to their security. I speak here of economic rivalry, in the sense of President Nixon's remark. This does not mean that we should overlook the danger stemming from the fact that no foolproof line can be drawn between economics and politics.
Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that, on the whole, the existing situation regarding Western security, or security in the Atlantic area, has hardly changed at all in recent years. European security requires that it be actively geared to the American interest. In military potential, the gap between the American superpower and the West European nations is continuously widening. It is going to be a long time, if ever, before Europe will be in a position to guarantee her own security effectively. This is a fact well-informed Americans understand as fully as they do the possible consequences of disengagement within the Atlantic defense community. A role imposed by history cannot be shaken off except at one's peril even if, at times, it seems a burden. I can well understand isolationist trends within Europe, but I think they will not significantly influence the decision-making process. If, some day, there should be a fundamental change in the relationship between the superpowers, new questions will develop with regard to engagements inside the Alliance, which may then be easier to solve.
For the foreseeable future, Western Europe will have to remain militarily geared to the United States. This dependency will diminish as peace is made more certain and as tensions are reduced. This is another reason why both Europe and the United States must maintain a strong interest in efforts to decrease conflicts between East and West. For the benefit of some of our contemporaries who have refused to take note of this, it should be stressed once again that for the past five years the policy of the Atlantic Alliance has rested on two pillars: readiness for defense and an effort to decrease tensions. It is from these principles, demonstrated in the consultations of the Alliance, that what is called our Ospolitik has developed.
If, militarily, we speak of West Europe's dependency on the United States, the reverse is also true. It is dictated by U.S. interests. This needs no special explanation, since the play of interests which expresses itself in interdependence has not changed in many years even though many changes have occurred on the international scene. The United States is politically engaged in Europe, and regardless of incidental disputes in current affairs this fact has never for a moment been questioned, as was confirmed only recently in the form given in the Four-Power agreement on Berlin. The American engagement in Europe is essentially a result of World War II. The communist-governed countries of Europe recognize it as such and have dropped their objections against the United States and Canada taking part on equal terms in a European conference on security and cooperation.
There has been much discussion as to whether or not the unification of Western Europe might relieve the United States of the burden of its military guarantee. Certainly a more or less politically united Western Europe would wish-and be able-to organize its security. While we are on our way to that point, West European efforts within the Alliance as presently structured and European participation in certain American planning mechanisms may play an important part.
But nothing can change the fact that, as far as security is concerned, the United States and Western Europe will retain their close connection and remain dependent on each other. Moreover, only in a limited way can the U.S. burden be transferred to other shoulders. People who somewhat simplistically argue that Europe should now be rich enough to do more about her own security skip easily over the actual contribution made by the European partners within the Alliance; moreover, a readiness to make additional contributions has been shown, particularly in the past year. As is well known, NATO's "Euro-Group" has launched a program to reinforce European defense, and the participating members, including the Federal Republic of Germany, have allocated additional funds for defense and have started to cooperate more closely on joint projects. The foreign-exchange balance for the U.S. forces stationed in Germany has once again been regulated. Nobody will deny, however, that American troops leaving Europe can hardly be replaced by European forces, either with regard to their nuclear equipment or their political and strategic deterrent power. Moreover, repatriated forces stationed at home are not cheap either.
To be sure, one may argue about the number of American troops that it is advisable or necessary to maintain in Europe in the interest of mutual security. The German side has not shunned such a discussion, but on the contrary has taken an active part in a preliminary study of the complicated but important question of an even reduction of forces. However, this concept precisely does not mean only that joint burdens must find joint relief. It means, above all, that a reduction of the American armed presence in Europe must be a part as well as a result of decreasing tension between East and West. To my mind, a one-sided weakening of the West is foolish, and a substantial one-sided reduction of American forces-coupled with a request to restore the balance through an equal number of European substitutes-may easily turn out to be equally foolish.
From this point of view, Europe has no less interest than the United States in reducing the risks of conflict. For the future of Europe, the chances for her development, the opportunities to find her role in world affairs and to play it adequately, will take shape only when it becomes possible to view the security factor in a calmer way. Europe will be able to find her identity in a convincing and lasting manner only when peace becomes a fairly certain working hypothesis.
If we are to accept this working hypothesis that a destructive East-West conflict can be avoided, an interesting picture emerges. We now identify economic spheres of more and more equal potential strength; the much- discussed bipolarity between the United States and the Soviet Union widens into a quadrangle in which Western Europe and Japan have their place. And, obviously, China as an independent force of special potency must be included-though for the time being she remains a strange combination of the most populous nation, an underdeveloped country and a developing nuclear power.
There seem to be more or less equal opportunities for the participants, and herein lies the crucial point of the remark about a possible rivalry between Western Europe and the United States. Those who have followed the discussions of the past few months may almost have come to the conclusion that the working hypothesis mentioned above is more widely accepted in America than in Europe. For it is largely in America that concern has been voiced over an extension of the European Community to ten members-provided the plebiscites in Denmark and Norway have positive results-and that their joint trade policy might lead to angry rivalry, even to economic warfare. To my mind these concerns are understandable, in some instances even justified, but on the whole exaggerated. After all, experience has shown that the American economy has not suffered from the Common Market; quite the contrary. Nowhere have American exports increased more than in the Common Market countries. This is equally true of exports of capital. And perhaps it should be noted that this has something to do not only with the problem of the American balance of payments but also with the international currency crisis (which in essence, it is hoped, we may have overcome).
Those who remember how strongly Americans advised Europeans to unite, those who have not forgotten the statements of American statesmen that the political advantages would be well worth certain economic sacrifices, those who recall American annoyance at the slowness of these Europeans and who now, when the Community of the Ten is beginning to take shape, compare all this with some of the American voices we hear today, might ask themselves whether certain of our American friends have not lost their sense of success. Were it not for American policy over the past two decades Western Europe would never have reached its present point. The United States should actually congratulate itself, for it has helped Europe achieve what it recommended : West European unification has come within reach. And in view of the power relationship even in the economic area one is oddly tempted to say to American friends: "Don't worry! Europe is not as strong as some might think and, above all, she has no intention of making unfriendly use of her new possibilities."
So far we have seen that joint interests and rational thinking are strong enough to prevent any undue aggravation. For many years-and again since I became Chancellor in 1969-I have stressed that it would be desirable to give an organic form to the economic dialogue between the United States and the Common Market. On the American side this was not taken too seriously, probably because people had ceased to believe in an extension of the Market. In Europe, not least of all in Paris, there was concern lest an organized dialogue, meaning one that was held on a high level and with a certain regularity, might lead to a kind of American "co-regency" in the Common Market. I am convinced that we will be able to overcome misunderstandings and obstacles of this or any other sort.
After the disputes in the field of currency and trade policy which we have witnessed in the past months, I feel encouraged in my belief that luckily there is no question of a crisis or a threat of serious estrangement. The economic and currency warfare which the pessimists predicted has not taken place and will, I hope, never take place. There is agreement between the United States and Europe that questions of partnership with other powers- among them mainly Japan-must be settled. This can happen only on the basis of independence and responsibility.
The way to European unity is developing along lines different from those foreseen by perfectionists, including Americans. Everything goes more slowly and less systematically than they had thought. But it should have become clear over the past two years that there is vitality in the European Community. Since the summit conference at The Hague in December 1969, the process of unification has received a definite boost.
When the 12-year transitional phase of the Common Market terminated, as prescribed, at the end of 1969, the Community decided that the enlargement of it into an economic and currency union should be the central task of the seventies. Since January 1, 1971, a new financial constitution has been in force, under which the Community has its own income and, step by step, becomes independent from contributions of its members. The very desirable enlargement of the Community, as urged by the United States, to include Great Britain (as well as Ireland, Denmark and Norway, subject to their ratification) is an accepted fact; it will come about on January 1, 1973, after the governments have accepted the conditions negotiated at Brussels and have signed the Rome Agreements. Finally, and with all due modesty in view of previous results, the international cooperation which started last year and which has included the member candidates, is beginning to take firmer shape.
All this goes to show that the process which will make Western Europe a more serious partner of the United States is fully under way. Past and present experiences warn that along the road snags and contradictions will be encountered. The project involves incorporating independent nations which have evolved over centuries and the social structures of which, despite many similarities, are on the whole quite different from one another, into a Community transcending national borders. The task is not going to become easier with the forthcoming enlargement of the Community from six to ten members. This is true not only of the development within the Community itself but also of the shaping of its relations with the rest of the world. On the other hand, enlargement should not necessarily slow down integration; in certain vital areas the new mixture of interests may very well provide an easier way to overcome some previous obstacles.
The members of the European Community basically agree that economic and political unification belong together. The rule still holds that whoever wishes to join the Community as a full member must, in principle, adopt its political aims. (To put it more precisely: must be able to adopt them, for, as we know, there are European nations whose status is respected by East and West-indeed, in some cases has even been determined by East and West- but which aim only for an associate relationship with the Community.) Among them is the concept that at some as yet unforeseeable point, a kind of European government should be established which would be able to take the necessary decisions on joint policy, subject to parliamentary control.
I am convinced that the Community will gradually approach this goal if in the coming years we are interested in further developing the present beginnings of international cooperation. A step-by-step development of an economic and currency union is in itself a major political project. The realization of it will require continuing political decisions as well as further institutional development from which political unification as a whole will benefit.
The next objectives in West European unification will have to be defined at the summit conference of the heads of state or governments of the extended Community. This conference will probably meet in Paris in the fall and, I hope, will generate as much momentum as did the summit conference at The Hague in December 1969.
The Federal Republic of Germany ranks foremost among those who insist that the European Community must not encapsulate itself but should be turned outward to the world. We in Europe cannot integrate a number of important industrial nations without considering the consequences of this for the rest of the world. It would not only be irresponsible toward the others but also very short-sighted with regard to our own interests. One does not have to be an expert to recognize that such integration is bound to have a considerable impact on international trade. We must, therefore, strive for liberal world trade policies in order not to upset the entire international economy. This means that the European Community must remain open, above all, in its relations to the United States-and also to that other great "Western" power, Japan. Here it will not always be possible to avoid confrontations of economic interests. But I do not see any danger in this as long as we all take care that natural competition does not lead to angry rivalry.
Some American statements about the alleged protectionism of the Common Market strike me as unfounded, or at least exaggerated. I have already pointed out that American trade and export of capital to Western Europe have grown out of all proportion-if we go by value, even as regards agricultural products. I could with good reason add that the Community as a whole is less protectionist than the United States. Besides, I am not one of those who complain about foreign investment in Europe; but this does not change the fact that among certain Europeans its volume has aroused fear of "Americanization" in the economic and technical sectors. Many Americans understand the dangers to the U.S. balance of payments of an excessive accumulation of American investment interests in Europe without an equivalent counterflow. The warnings and steps taken by various American governments to safeguard the dollar were, after all, largely related to this.
Yet I would be the last to deny that there is room for improvement in the exchange between the United States and Europe. Here I do not exclude the agricultural area. On the other hand, our American friends are aware of the difficulties which extensive short-term changes may cause in this particular area. I mention these difficulties, although they deal with a worrisome chapter as far as the Federal Republic of Germany's interest and point of view are concerned. But there is no getting away from the fact that if the agricultural Common Market is jeopardized this threatens the Community's entire future development. This fact has to be taken into proper account, especially when it is a question of finding additional outlets for American agricultural products in Europe. A sensible joint policy on agricultural structure, as well as worldwide efforts for a more balanced exchange of agricultural goods, will in the long run change the situation.
I am aware of American criticisms of the Community's policy of forming, by means of associations, closer trade relations with their members' former colonial possessions, although here too we naturally try to abide by the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Totally apart from this, it seems to me that these associations have not had an adverse effect on American trade; on the contrary, they correspond to the need for economic progress and political support in the countries concerned. This is particularly true of Africa. To this I will quickly add that I am against an overcommitment of the European Community in this area and that I am in favor of having special arrangements with developing countries transferred to a worldwide system of preferences.
In view of their immediate geographical proximity and their historical, economic and, to some extent, political ties with the member states of the Community, West European countries which, for one reason or another do not wish or are unable to join the Community still aim for a closer relationship with it. It would not be in the interest of political stability in Europe if the Community were to close its doors to these countries and pretend that they did not exist. They, too, have a right to contribute, within the limits of their possibilities, to European cooperation and unification. One must look to the coming negotiations to bring the agreements into accord with the requirements, if possible, of a liberal world trade.
The joint responsibility of the United States and Europe for a global economy developing on the basis of a stable currency system, which will also help growth and stability in the third world, makes inevitable the establishment of an organized alliance between the United States and the European Community in the not too distant future. I have already pointed out that hitherto the dialogue between America and Western Europe has been left too much to chance and has not always been conducted on a high enough level. It will be a priority of the near future to establish a system of information, consultation and definition of interests which takes the new partnership into account.
It is in the nature of things that even those countries in COMECON-the Soviet-East European economic bloc-will normalize their relations with the European Community as well as with Japan and probably also with the United States. We are dealing with realities. Obviously this, too, must come about on the basis of equality, i.e. of nondiscrimination with regard to markets and rights.
The possibilities of East-West cooperation in Europe are vast; the tasks involved are immense; the chances to realize them jointly are beginning to improve. Here a way may open to bridge a dangerous gap in a vital part of the world and make a peaceful contribution to the future.
The more this succeeds the more America should rejoice. Peace and welfare in Europe are always advantageous to the United States. In this connection I am reminded again of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Marshall Plan. Without the support and protection of the United States, Western Europe would never have been able to develop into the prospering Community it has, on the whole, become today. Without this support and protection we would not have succeeded in building a democracy in Germany's Western portion. Without this support and protection it would not have been possible to safeguard Berlin. How could a long-time mayor of that city ever forget that!
Precisely because our partnership is based on common ideals and joint experiences it will continue to prove itself at a time when a mature Western Europe, confident of its newly acquired strength, sets out to assume an independent and responsible role in the efforts for peace and progress.
I have said on another occasion, and I should like to emphasize here especially: Western Europe will form a union beyond that of the economic community which will be able to take its share of international responsibility independently of the United States but in firm partnership with it. At the same time, there will be chances for all-European cooperation and security, perhaps even along the lines of something like a European partnership for peace.
And I should also like to emphasize that Europe and America, which in my opinion can hardly be separated in terms of objectives, should not let each other be separated subjectively either. They need one another as equals. As I said at Oslo in December 1971, the heavier the burdens America has to bear the stronger will become our friendship for that great country.