Courtesy Reuters

Stuck Fast

Politically, Western Europe is enfeebled if not paralyzed. And the dilemma of the world's most civilized concentration of peoples, deploying more economic power than any region save North America, is more than paradoxical. It is disturbing and potentially troublesome. One wonders if there is still time for Europeans to do anything about it, and, if so, what. Western Europe is caught up in fresh political currents strong enough to restrain any serious efforts by the European Community to enlarge significantly the political influence of the member states and to reduce their dependence on America.

A fine irony runs through this picture of Europe stuck fast. After all, there is movement in Europe, in both East and West and within the European Community. Brandt's Ostpolitik and Brezhnev's decision to respond have inspired more contact between the two halves of Europe in the past three years than in all the preceding years since World War II. Much more heartening to "good Europeans," for whom an enlarged and eventually unified European Community remains an article of faith, Britain and other candidate members have finally taken their places in Brussels; the moment then is historic. The question is whether it is also transitional and, if so, to what.

Optimists can and do take heart from the September meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which restored the amenities between Europeans and Americans struggling to maneuver the world payments system out of limbo and onto solid ground. The NATO flank is also abnormally calm. Reasonably enough, Europeans do not see a unilateral American troop withdrawal around the next bend, and nobody is quarreling about strategy for the moment. The caucus of West European defense ministers known as the Euro-group has acquired experience and some coherence. Of greater importance, relations between the senior political figures in London, Bonn and Paris are good. The mutual suspicion and even antagonism that tormented most relationships of the three predecessor régimes seem to have been largely dissolved.

Briefly, West Europeans

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