Courtesy Reuters

The European Initiative

In the 30 years following the enunciation of the Truman Doctrine in March 1947, promising military aid to Greece and Turkey, America's relations with her Western European allies have been subject to many tensions and fallen into many vagaries, but the alliance has been underpinned by a clear perception of common interest at the most fundamental levels of strategic argument. For the United States, Western Europe has represented not only a vital extension of the American economic system but also a bulwark against geopolitical encroachments on that system by the Soviet Union. For Western Europe, the United States has been not only the sole credible source of military security but - notwithstanding Europe's increasing prosperity - the ultimate provider of her economic security as well.

These basic truths are worth restating at the outset of any account of transatlantic relations in 1978. It is so easy to overestimate the extent to which they have been challenged at various points during the last 30 years; and equally easy to underestimate how much they were shaken during the last two. The point is best understood by comparing 1978 with the period of greatest strain within the alliance during the previous three decades - that is, the early 1960s when General de Gaulle launched his frontal assault on the "American challenge." The Gaullist attack failed at that time for a variety of reasons, the chief of which was that it failed to carry the West German government with it. The Germans still felt psychologically and militarily dependent upon the American connection and, as far as economics was concerned, the net American outflow of about one billion dollars a year appeared to the Germans as to nearly all the other allies (and despite French mutterings about the American takeover) to deliver growth without excessive inflation. From the American perspective, the Gaullist position, though irritating, seemed equally irrelevant to essentials. The cohesion of the rest of NATO and the social stability of the rest of the European Economic Community reassured successive

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