Courtesy Reuters

America's Move

A European Security Conference (ESC) will almost certainly take place in 1973. It will convene with active, if reluctant, American participation. This unfortunate reluctance is especially pronounced in Washington. The United States now has not only an opportunity but a responsibility to lead the Western nations in a search for a new system in Europe. In view of the inevitability of the conference, it would be especially short-sighted to forsake the dynamic and innovative role we could play. Unhappily, I see no signs, at least from a vantage point on Capitol Hill, that the United States will enter this decisive stage with any policy ideas which might wrest the initiative from the East. The Western impetus for a constructive conference comes almost entirely from some of our NATO allies, whose cautious enthusiasm is under a steady restraint from the Washington flagship of the Atlantic Alliance.


The Soviet Union first proposed such a conference in 1954 to forestall West German rearmament. As a manifestation of Russian refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a U.S. presence, Americans were to be relegated to observer status.

Although cold-war tensions effectively mooted positive security moves in Europe for a decade, a breakthrough came in 1964. In a U.N. speech, Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki revived the prospects for an ESC and his remarks were shortly seconded by the Warsaw Pact's Political Consultative Committee. Only after the setback in détente diplomacy following the August 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, however, did the Warsaw Pact change its position and agree to full participatory status for the United States and Canada.

Unquestionably, Russia and her allies have been the prime movers for an ESC. Soviet motives are probably a combination of the following: (a) to legitimize the European territorial and ideological status quo by a multilateral renunciation-of-force agreement; (b) to forestall or delay West European political-military integration by decreasing perceived security threats and freezing current institutional arrangements with a treaty; (c) to increase trade and technology exchanges with Western Europe,

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