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Whatever may be the final outcome of this autumn's Middle East crisis, accompanied, as it has been, by a major political upheaval in the United States, it seems certain that it has brought about a deterioration in relations between America and her European allies not easily remedied. Acknowledgment of this fact, indeed, appears to be common ground between the two sides of the Atlantic. A recent editorial of The New York Times makes the point clearly enough:
What the United States had envisioned as the Year of Europe, a period of imaginative updating and refurbishing of the NATO alliance, capped with a new Atlantic Charter, has become instead the year in which Washington's relationship with its European partners has struck an all-time low.
Symptoms of this outburst of bad temper have included numerous attacks from American sources on the unhelpfulness of European allies at the height of the Arab-Israeli fighting. The West German government, indeed, protested publicly against the use of its ports to ship U.S. war matériel to Israel. For their part the British are said to have refused the use of bases in Cyprus to U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and to have been unwilling to sponsor a ceasefire resolution in the Security Council at the request of the State Department (the British Foreign Secretary has subsequently denied this last accusation). There followed Secretary of State Kissinger's complaint to a group of parliamentarians from the European Community that Europeans had "acted as though the alliance did not exist" and his reported aside: "I do not care what happens to NATO, I am so disgusted."
These were strong words, and, for good measure, more were added by other leading figures in the Administration, including the President himself and the Secretary of Defense. Moreover, Secretary of the Treasury Shultz has once again suggested that Europeans are being unhelpful about the coming trade negotiations within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)-something to which Europeans could riposte, if that were useful, with complaints about the shelving of President Nixon's trade bill. It is all rather as if the masks of good manners between allies had suddenly dropped, revealing the unpleasant contorted faces behind the fixed smiles.
All these public complaints, insofar as they concern the crisis in the Middle East, no doubt reflect a certain reality. In this case there is a genuine divergence between U.S. and European interests-the situation has been described by some commentators as a "Suez in reverse"-and it was hardly to be expected that countries totally dependent on oil from Arab states should take the same attitude toward an Arab-Israeli war as a country only marginally so. For Europeans it was essential to be seen to dissociate themselves from the supply of military aid to Israel by America, and the joint declaration of the foreign ministers of the Nine on November 6 was another expression of this imperative. This was not perhaps a very heroic or dignified position-it was even one which left many Europeans with a feeling of moral discomfort-but it represented solid national interests which could not be brushed aside. What elected government, after all, could risk the reactions of its public opinion to the economic chaos consequent on the cessation of oil supplies? Despite Dutch and Danish reluctance, European governments finally appear to have been as one in their desire to adopt a "low profile" during the crisis. Any move associating them in Arab eyes with military help to Israel was bound to seem harmful and unnecessary.
To the Nixon administration-preoccupied with establishing a stable balance in an area where both superpowers have clients whose behavior they can control only with difficulty and with reaching a final Middle East settlement before the United States itself becomes largely dependent on Arab oil-the European desire not to be counted may appear both disloyal and pusillanimous. But this does not alter the fact that there are such things as overriding national interests and that, for members of the European Community, the continued flow of oil is one of these. A refusal to help in the supply of arms to Israel is their major bargaining counter here. To expect them to join in an Americanled policy of keeping an even balance in the Middle East is to demand too much in the way of altruism, even though, as some American spokesmen have pointed out, stability in the area is also a long-term European interest.
Moreover, the United States did not choose to consult its allies either about its general Middle Eastern policy or about its declaration of a state of military "alert." Admittedly, there was not much time to discuss the latter move, made in response to a Russian threat whose nature remains somewhat obscure, but which seems to have stemmed from fears in Moscow that any continuation of the fighting would bring about the total collapse of the Egyptian armies, this plus an element of strategic opportunism. But, in the absence of high-level briefing on what U.S. policy in the Middle East actually was, not surprisingly Europeans felt bewildered and apprehensive at a failure to take into account facts which, for them, were vital.
It is impossible to sympathize or coöperate with a policy if one remains uncertain what that policy is; and it rather looks as though Party Chief Brezhnev had a better idea of it than President Pompidou, Chancellor Brandt or Prime Minister Heath. In the Cuban crisis of 1962 President Kennedy dispatched special envoys-envoys known to, and trusted by, European statesmen-to explain his position. Nothing of the kind occurred on this occasion. Nor does the transatlantic telephone appear to have been used to any effect. All that Europeans could see were a number of diplomatic moves played out as the result of bilateral negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union-a game of chess from which they were excluded but whose incidental effects might have a catastrophic impact on the welfare of their own peoples. Yet here was an issue where the genuine differences of interest between America and her European allies urgently required discussion. Of course, it may well have been the case that, in the short term, those interests were irreconcilable. Still, it ought to have been possible to arrive at some understanding of each other's point of view, to camouflage differences that could not be eliminated and, in any event, to avoid public recriminations. In short, allies should have been able to behave as allies. This was not done, however, and dissension is now out in the open as a political fact whose effect on American-European relations will continue to be felt.1
Naturally, allowances must be made for the appalling strain undergone by President Nixon and Mr. Kissinger. The combination of a constitutional crisis at home and a major international explosion in an area liable to excite the maximum domestic emotion and the widest economic repercussions is unexampled. There is no need to insist on this point, but the tensions engendered may well have had the effect of making allied resistance and reticence appear unbearably irritating. These are contingent factors, but anyone interested in the maintenance of good relations between America and Europe would be wise to take a more general view of the situation. In the last weeks, realities have become starkly apparent whose nature had been somewhat concealed previously by the secrecy of diplomatic consultations and the platitudes of diplomatic language. The situation has been clarified, but not necessarily to the benefit of all concerned.
It is significant of the present confused state of relations between the United States and the Community that the latter should be criticized both for what it has achieved and for what it has failed to achieve so far. In America there have been fairly constant complaints that Europeans have failed to develop the politicial dimension of the Community which alone could impart a positive purpose to the use of their economic power and enable them to bear some of the international responsibility at present carried by the United States. In his speech of April 23, 1973, Mr. Kissinger drew a picture of an essentially parochial Europe:
In economic relations, the European Community has increasingly stressed its regional personality; the United States, at the same time, must act as part of, and be responsible for a wider international trade and monetary system.
Again on the political level:
The United States has global interests and responsibilities. Our European allies have regional interests.
But apparently even the cautious emergence of common European policies will not necessarily be to the taste of the Nixon administration, however much it may theoretically favor European unification. In fact, during the Middle Eastern crisis there has been a large measure of agreement among the countries of the Community as to where their interests lay. That consensus was expressed negatively-by avoiding giving offense to the Arab states or identification with U.S. aid to Israel-and it was precisely this common attitude which called down the angry criticisms of President Nixon and his advisers. Presumably, if the European role had been more positive-suggesting solutions and taking initiatives-it would have been still less welcome in Washington. Yet any common European attitude toward the Middle East represents precisely that development of a political role-admittedly in an area where vital European interests are at stake-which the 1973 presidential report to Congress on foreign policy seemed to regard as desirable:
We believed that ultimately a highly cohesive Western Europe would relieve the United States of many burdens. We expected that unity would not be limited to economic integration, but would include a significant political dimension. We assumed, perhaps too uncritically, that our basic interests would be assured by our long history of coöperation, by our common cultures and our political similarities.
But it is hardly enough to hope that a sort of magic coincidence of interest will carry Europe and the United States in the same direction. Only the prior discussion of policy and the working out of compromises which take account of the interests of all concerned can do that. The Middle East crisis affected a crucial area of divergence between American and European interests. It also occurred so quickly and in such unexpected circumstances that there was little time available for discussion. In any event, the United States took one road and the Europeans another. But should this not rather be used as a lesson for the future than as an occasion for recrimination?
Of course, American irritation can be easily enough understood. The European Community is in a transitional phase. The leaders of its member-states decided at the Paris summit meeting of October 1972 to achieve European union by 1980. The political implications of this are only just beginning to appear, whereas in the economic sphere the European Community already looms large as a tough and powerful bargaining partner whose flexibility in negotiation is often hampered by the need to arrive at prior agreement among its member-states. Reports from Brussels speak of squabbling among the Nine, of all-night sessions, of horse-trading, and, sometimes, of deadlock, since such disagreements provide the most dramatic episodes. The resulting picture is one of a feebly obstinate giant whose lack of directing force prevents its power from being turned to positive ends. Irritation with European policies is compounded by disappointment with European achievements.
Such a picture, however, is unjust and does not stand up to examination. What participant in an important trade negotiation does not bring to the conference table some reservations dictated by internal politics? In a year which has seen three new countries join the Community, and despite the considerable administrative upheaval this has caused, a great mass of creative thinking has been carried out in Brussels, extending common policies into areas where they did not exist before. With the Commission's proposals for a new regional policy, a social action program and an environmental policy, a start has been made on creating a Community not simply dedicated to economic growth but also concerned with the quality of life led by the average European. A common policy has been agreed on for the new round of negotiations in GATT, and the negotiations now beginning with a large number of states of the Third World-from the Pacific to the Caribbean-are being conducted in a spirit which is itself a refutation of charges that the Community is "egotistical" or "inward-looking." These examples are not exhaustive, but they suffice to show what has been achieved in the nine months (compare the speed at which national bureaucracies elaborate policies) since the entry into the Community of the new member-states. True, not the whole timetable set by the summit conference may be carried out by December 31, but the wonder is that so much has been done in so short a space of time.
As to the political dimension, an important precedent was set when, at the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Copenhagen, the Danish president, Mr. Nørgaard, was given authority to represent the Nine in talks with Mr. Kissinger, following the latter's call for "a new Atlantic charter setting the goals for the future." This was the first occasion on which the Nine have been willing to speak through a single spokesman on a political subject. Its importance should not be underestimated. What is in question here is the gradual emergence of a political Europe.
Now, partly under the impact of the Middle Eastern crisis but also as the result of a gradually increasing conviction that further institutionalization of political consultation among the member-states of the Community was needed, another step is about to be taken. President Pompidou has taken the lead in suggesting that there should be regular summit meetings between the heads of state and government of the Nine, a "crisis procedure" for consultations when an international emergency requires it, and a meeting between finance and economic ministers to prepare common measures for monetary stabilization and the fight against inflation. These proposals have already been welcomed by Chancellor Brandt and Mr. Heath. Now there will be a European summit before Christmas, and it is probable that this will see agreement on new methods of consultation along the lines suggested by the President of France. Some kind of permanent secretariat will certainly be required for regular summit meetings, and it is easy to imagine how a continuous consideration of policy on such occasions could impart political direction to the European Community.
A genuinely political Europe, therefore, seems about to be born, and it is hard not to believe that the effect of this on relations between Europe and the United States will be positive. The present difficulties over the Middle East would not have arisen in so acute a form had the Europeans been able to put their views clearly to Washington beforehand. The European delay in responding to Mr. Kissinger's call for "a new Atlantic charter"-admittedly worded in a way that caused great difficulty for the French government-was caused, at least in part, by the time taken for consultation among America's allies. Regular European summits will be able to agree on policies in a more continuous way and before, rather than after, agreement is needed. As the habit of working together at the political level develops, such European policies will have to be heeded in Washington in a way in which those of individual European states have not been. A degree of simplification will have been introduced into American-European relations which can only improve them.
The question of the nature of those relations, however, remains open. The changes wrought by Mr. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger in American foreign policy have produced an altered situation from that prevailing in the early 1960s when the Kennedy "grand design" aimed at creating a balanced alliance between a unified Western Europe and the United States and Canada. The more ambitious concepts of American policy during that period foundered as a result of the Vietnam War, which left American public opinion increasingly reluctant to bear the burden of international commitments. The Nixon Doctrine, evolved by the new Administration in 1969, corresponded to that mood. Its implications included: (i) increasing pressure on America's allies to provide for their own defense; (2) the replacement of active American participation in local situations by a balance of power composed of the states present in the areas concerned; and (3) a diminished reliance on the institutional connections among allies which it had previously been the aim of American foreign policy to create. In effect, the new foreign policy abandoned the attempt to build a stable international system through the gradual establishment of institutional links among nations in favor of a flexible diplomacy which, it was hoped, would enable the United States to hold the conflicting forces in equilibrium, while itself maintaining a central balance with the other nuclear superpower.
The limits of this policy have been clearly shown in the Middle East where, once battle was joined, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union have been able to be certain of exerting full control over their respective clients-a real attempt to exert such control might indeed have had the reverse effect from that intended-and relations between the superpowers were badly strained as a result. The events of the last months, in fact, have raised the question of whether balance of power is enough. In certain situations it may be all that can be obtained, and this is probably true of the bipolar nuclear balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. But is not something more required to create a safe and stable international system?
The question is especially pertinent when applied to U.S.-European relations. For one of the lessons to be drawn from their present condition is that alliances cannot stand still. If they do so, then they will be gradually dissolved by the changing historical conditions. The Atlantic Alliance was founded in response to a military threat which at a period of détente may appear less urgent-the security that it has brought to Western Europe is, in any case, widely taken for granted. Nevertheless, its existence is still a condition of stability in Europe, and the Middle Eastern crisis has shown that the international environment conceals dangers that may suddenly threaten disaster. An alliance between America and Europe is an essential element of a safe international system, but that alliance will not be indefinitely maintained in a sort of historical vacuum or without adding to its military core new forms of political and functional coöperation. The emergence of a political Europe must mean a stronger voicing of European views and a stronger representation of European interests on the international scene. It also means that changes will be required in the structure of the alliance to accommodate a new political situation. But this makes it all the more essential for an attempt to be made to reach agreement with America on matters where there is a divergence of interest or opinion. For their part the leaders of America must recognize that the phase of unmodified U.S. leadership of the West-a phase which lasted from 1945 to 1965-is now over and must be replaced by a concept in which the interests of both sides receive equal consideration and there is a genuine reciprocity of advantage.
Over the last few years there have been a number of occasions for dispute between the United States and its European allies. The policies of the European Community-in particular the Common Agricultural Policy and the reverse preferences resulting from Association agreements-have been denounced as harmful to America's economic interests. Europeans have been accused of unhelpfulness in the field of international monetary reform. Mr. Kissinger's accusations of parochialism were especially aimed at what he considered to be the narrow European view of world economic problems. On their side Europeans have been worried by the increasingly dominant role played in American foreign policy by the dialogue with the Soviet Union. Understandably enough, the establishment of a modus vivendi with Russia and the conclusion of agreements to regulate the relationship between the two superpowers have been the central preoccupation of American foreign policy since 1969; this is hardly surprising, given the risks involved in any failure to stabilize the balance of nuclear power. Europeans, however, have shown increasing disquiet lest these bilateral negotiations should lead to a sacrifice of their interests and a European settlement in which they were not consulted. Yet another perennial cause of friction has been the American complaint that the United States was bearing too great a proportion of the cost of defending Western Europe. Such a claim is basically untrue, but it has added fuel to the demand for the withdrawal of American troops from Europe which is now making itself felt in Congress and reflects the desire of American public opinion to get rid of overseas commitments, suddenly felt as intolerably wearisome.
In all this there is certainly matter for quarrel if we are foolish, for negotiation and compromise if we are wise. The resolution of the questions between America and Europe at the present juncture has certainly not been made any easier by the differences between the two sides over the Middle East or by attacks in Washington on the European attitude during the crisis. Yet technical solutions are not lacking to the economic problems that face Europe and America; it would not be hard to work out a more equitable system of burden-sharing within the alliance; and, as for the real problems posed by U.S. negotiations with the Soviet Union, Europeans could be reassured by a greater measure of consultation (which existed during SALT I) and by some restoration of the feeling that they, too, as allies of America, represent a priority in U.S. foreign policy. Provided goodwill is present, there is nothing particularly insoluble about the present difficulties in American-European relations.
Provided goodwill is present. . . . That is perhaps the point. If the alliance is to continue, if there is to be a relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic which can, in any sense, be called healthy, then some commitment to coöperation must be present on both sides. Americans and Europeans must decide-and the present moment is perhaps a good one for such a decision-whether or not they wish to continue the arrangements to which, in great measure, the peace and prosperity of the Western world over the past 25 years have been due. If they believe this to be in their interest and in that of the world, then there are consequences to be drawn in terms of behavior toward each other, in terms of making allowances for each other's interests, in terms of mutual trust.
For the member-states of the Community, an American alliance is still vital. Nothing can as yet replace the American nuclear deterrent as a guarantee of European security or the presence of American troops as a guarantee of the efficacy of the deterrent. For Americans, the arguments for the continuance of their European commitment must appear more mixed. After Vietnam there is a strong and understandable temptation to shrug off the burdens of a constructive foreign policy. Nevertheless, it remains an American interest that there be a democratic, independent and prosperous Western Europe and that no power vacuum should exist in so sensitive and important a part of the world. It is hard to imagine how the United States could ever dissociate itself from the fate of Western Europe or, in the late twentieth century, isolate itself in a "Fortress America." Of course, it is possible that there may be some shift in responsibility for defense as between America and her European allies. Such a shift would even be desirable. An emergent political Europe might be expected to take its fate into its own hands to a greater degree than in the past, and such a development would answer many criticisms on the other side of the Atlantic. But a mutually agreed remodeling of the alliance would be a very different thing from a simple abandonment of it.
If it is in the interest of Europe and the United States to continue that close coöperation which has been the most successful feature of postwar American foreign policy, then there is little point in both sides adopting an adversary relationship every time there is a difference of opinion or position. Europeans must resist the temptation of affirming their identity through opposition to American policies. Americans must realize that the European Community has taken on a political dimension and that even an ally cannot determine the interests of its partners for them.
In the case of the Middle East the oppositions are especially hard to reconcile. But, while due attention should be paid to these short-term differences, the Middle Eastern crisis has raised in an acute form a much longer-term problem: here America, Europe and, indeed, Japan have a common interest. The dilemma in which Europeans and Japanese today and Americans tomorrow (in five or ten years' time) find themselves in respect to energy, their vulnerability to political upheaval over which they can exercise no control, can only be remedied by concerted measures to develop alternative sources of energy, husband the stocks that exist, and allocate them fairly. A concerted energy policy agreed upon by the leading industrial societies of the world has become an urgent necessity, and it is in undertaking this task that the present dispute between the United States and its European allies may be resolved.
And what is true of energy is also true of many of the questions that today appear as potentially divisive. In many fields-economic, monetary, technological, environmental-the advanced industrial societies have common problems which can only be solved within a wider context than that of the single nation or even the single group of nations. These provide an opportunity to transcend national or regional rivalries in the search for a solution. Ultimately there is a solid ground of common interest on which to base new structures of coöperation, and it is only in such structures that the gradually accumulated and dearly bought wisdom derived from international experience can be expressed. Here the methods of the European Community may serve as an important model-a technique to maximize the common interest and mediate conflict.
In the case of American-European relations there is urgent need to construct a forum in which outstanding problems can be discussed, and, for this, ordinary diplomatic techniques and visits by individual European statesmen to Washington will hardly suffice. What is required is regular contact at the highest level-in the American case the presidential level or, for the time being, that of the Secretary of State. If there are now to be semi-annual European summits, then it would be a modest and reasonable proposal to suggest a yearly summit meeting between Americans and Europeans-a meeting which could perhaps lay down lines for the discussion of policy by joint committees.
Admittedly, any such idea represents a halfway house. There are those who would claim that perfectly good forums for such discussion already exist in the shape of the NATO Council or the OECD. And others would wish to pass immediately to the more ambitious task of organizing a community of advanced industrial societies-at the very least to associate Japan in any American-European summit. To the one group, it might be answered that the present crisis in American-European relations shows clearly enough that existing forms of consultation are insufficient; to the other, that everything cannot be done at once and that much will be done if we make progress where we can.
All this is perhaps far from the present scene of transatlantic bad temper. But, at this difficult moment in American-European relations, it is as well not to succumb to sheer irritation, rather to recall the common aims that can unite Europe and America and the primary values that lie behind those aims. A sense of historical perspective is necessary. Europe is seeking its political identity and America is searching for a new role in the world. Both of these are very difficult quests, but the difficulty can only be increased if their paths diverge too far. At a time in history when we hover on the verge of a new and unexplored international system-perhaps more perilous than that which preceded it-idealism might appear the most realistic approach: to work for the best solutions the only way of avoiding the worst.
1 Of course, a more Machiavellian interpretation of events is possible: Mr. Kissinger's angry remarks were of help to the Europeans in their dealings with the Arab states. . . . But the annoyance in Washington seems to have been genuine.