Xi’s Costly Obsession With Security
How a Quest for Control Threatens China’s Economic Growth
The differences that arise more or less regularly between the nations bordering the two sides of the North Atlantic are customarily laid to "misunderstandings." But the fact that these differences multiplied all through 1980 indicates that there exists between the United States and two of its principal European partners something of a crisis of confidence.
It was, to be sure, not the first time this has happened: remember the Suez episode, or the U-2 incident, or, especially, the Vietnam War, when President Lyndon Johnson fumed at not receiving the slightest support from his North Atlantic allies. Then there was the Arab-Israeli conflict of October 1973, which witnessed an explosion of ill humor among the allies when they discovered the extent of their dependence on Middle Eastern oil and, at the same time, the indifference of a protector who had completely forgotten to consult them. What is new is that Europeans generally doubt the reliability of the United States, just when that country is deploring its partners' failure to maintain the solidarity of the free world.
This doubt has almost always existed in France. When President Charles de Gaulle came to power in 1958 and decided to develop France's own nuclear deterrent force, it was not just because there can be no political independence without freedom of military decision. It was also because President Charles de Gaulle was convinced that the more weapons were "modernized"-in other words, the more terrifying they became-the more a normally constituted nation would hesitate to employ them to protect regions that were not indispensable to its survival.
The doubt that de Gaulle and a few others shared has now become universal, as evidenced by a poll in Time on June 30, 1980, showing that 49 percent of the West German population thinks the Federal Republic should be more independent of the United States. Moreover, Jimmy Carter's vacillating behavior greatly helped to spread European doubts. That Uncle Sam was powerless to prevent the collapse of the imperial Iranian regime, in which he had invested so many dollars and hopes, struck Europeans all the harder for the fact that at the beginning of 1979, at the Guadeloupe summit conference, the President had still expressed great confidence about how the situation would evolve. Who would have supposed that, as we have since learned he did, he would have gone so far as to push the Shah out himself-the same man on whom, during his visit to Tehran, he had heaped the most extravagant praise, even hailing him by the title-a highly debatable one at that-of champion of human rights?
The hostage affair ended by discrediting him, even if European leaders were secretly relieved that "the Great Satan," in the Ayatollah Khomeini's term, abstained from using force in so inflammable a region. That the richest and most powerful country on earth was unable to force a gang of frenzied revolutionaries to yield seemed a chilling illustration of America's decline. Consternation was raised to its highest pitch when the fiasco of the commando raid, dispatched in April to free the hostages, became known.
Reaction in Europe was the same with regard to Afghanistan, the invasion of which had clearly been in preparation for weeks, if not months. The sanctions taken in reprisal seemed like mere pinpricks. As for the boycott of the Olympics, the fact that the West German and British committees reacted differently from the French and Italian ones did not mean that the various individuals concerned were not agreed that the gesture was pointless, but only that the former decided it was riskier to displease the Americans and the latter to displease the sports fans.
The same can be said about the cut in wheat shipments; it was obvious that with the help of Argentina and a few other champions of Christian civilization the U.S.S.R. would manage to get around it. As for the embargo on advanced technology, the president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of West Germany was quite correct in forecasting, at the Leipzig Fair last spring, that it would have even less effect on the U.S.S.R. than the sanctions imposed by the United Nations had had on Rhodesia. American sales to the Soviet Union in this category have never amounted to much: $200 million at the most, according to an estimate published last April in the Financial Times.
This is not to say that the White House-and American public opinion-did not have ample reason to lament the allies' passivity in this matter. The reactions of both Paris and Bonn certainly lacked forcefulness. In the absence of any conceivable alternative to détente except war-which Valéry Giscard d'Estaing conjured up as a possibility in his 1980 New Year's message and which Helmut Schmidt warned could break out, as happened in 1914, without anyone really wanting it to-strenuous efforts were exerted to find soothing explanations. French Premier Raymond Barre himself privately maintained that the U.S.S.R. was only intervening within its outer boundaries, thereby betraying his profound ignorance of the history of Afghanistan, which, after being partitioned into British and Russian zones of influence, regained complete independence in 1921.
Improving on this theme, a man as close to the President of the Republic as former Minister of the Interior Michel Poniatowski unhesitatingly declared that the invasion was a Russian move, not a Soviet one. "It appears," he wrote, "that what is taken for aggression and imperialism is in part, in the minds of Russian leaders, only an expansion of defense and self-protection."1 Critics like Walter Laqueur can invoke "the heritage of Vichy,"2 but it was in almost the same terms that, during World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt explained Uncle Joe's behavior to William Bullitt: "Harry [Hopkins] says that he doesn't want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace."3
If Poniatowski's observation signified anything more than a wish on his part to feel reassured, it had just the opposite effect: it increased anxiety. In the light of the age-old czarist push toward ice-free ports, the invasion of Afghanistan could only be seen as a renewal of that threat to peace. Interpreting the invasion as a Soviet operation, on the other hand, inescapably called to mind the interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia: for the Kremlin it was a question of preventing by any and all means the collapse of a vassal regime. But the real question that should have been raised long before-and that applied to the United States no less than its allies-was why and how they had all, without reacting, allowed a handful of communists to seize power in Kabul in April 1978.
The answer to that question also explained the West's lack of response to the invasion: it didn't react because it didn't have the means to do so. Similarly, nothing had been done earlier to keep pro-Soviet powers from occupying by force Aden, Ethiopia and Angola, or to prevent Vietnam from invading Cambodia. And if nothing could be done it was because the United States after the Vietnam War no longer commanded either the material means or the will to force the Soviet Union to clear out. Thus, in spite of all the cries of indignation the invasion aroused, the Afghan resisters are fighting alone, receiving only the most paltry amounts of help and weapons.
Basically, what both Paris and Bonn found wanting in America's attitude was not that it was too firm, but that it was not firm enough. To resist, there has to be a wall to lean against; the feeling was, tragically, that the wall was not there. The French and West German reaction would not necessarily have been what it was if the United States had had the resources to back up its stand. And the reinforcement of its military presence in the Gulf during 1980 was not on a big enough scale to change significantly the general estimate of the situation.
If a fear of seeing a return of international tensions lead to catastrophe has shaped the attitudes of European governments, so, too, have economics; hence the allies' extreme reluctance to impose commercial sanctions on Iran except to appease the United States. Mr. Giscard d'Estaing is, as a matter of fact, strongly influenced by Samuel Pisar, who, in his Arms for Peace, expounded the thesis that the way to achieve a true international détente is through the development of trade. But the fact that Europeans must import a large portion of their energy requirements from the Persian Gulf is enough to alarm their governments at the prospect of their oil supply being cut off in the wake of an armed conflict. It was already bad enough to have to endure a doubling of the price of crude a few months after the fall of the Shah's regime. But that, in turn, caused a rapid rise in the inflation rate: 21 percent in Italy, 16 percent in Britain, 13.5 percent in France, and 5.5 percent in West Germany.
The brutal rise in the price of oil imports inflicted such a shock on trade balances that it became necessary to export more at any cost-but this had to be done in a world where, because of the energy crisis and competition from Japan and certain developing countries, demand was tending to slack off. For all the countries of Western Europe, the markets of Eastern Europe constitute an important source of revenue which they could not forego without experiencing still further increases in unemployment, which in 1980 reached alarming levels: more than 2.1 million in Britain, more than 1.6 million in France, and about one million in West Germany. The latter, for the first time, experienced in the summer of 1980 a deficit in its balance of payments. As it happens, West Germany's exports to the eastern bloc (excluding East Germany) amount to a little over five percent of its external trade, compared to America's approximately two percent.
Another factor affecting East-West relations is the eagerness of Chancellor Schmidt, who considers himself responsible for the freedom of West Berlin and to a large extent for the fate of his compatriots on the other side of the Iron Curtain, not to provoke reprisals from East Germany. This also accounts for the extreme mildness of his reactions to the developments in Poland and to the decision of East Germany's Party chief Erich Honecker, immediately after the success of the SPD-FDP coalition in the federal elections on October 3, to increase considerably the amount of East German marks visitors from the West have to buy. Indeed, Schmidt simply limited himself to putting off to some future date the scheduled meeting with the chief of the East German Communist Party, a meeting which had already been postponed until the start of the new year because of Afghanistan.
Even in the most anti-Soviet circles, no one raised his voice in Europe to advocate postponing deals concluded with the Warsaw Pact countries in response to Afghanistan. Far from it: Honeywell-Bull France sold the U.S.S.R. the computers it needed for the Olympic games, and which IBM had to forego supplying, while Creusot-Loire signed a contract for $350 million to construct, south of Moscow, a steel mill originally entrusted to an American company, ARMCO. For his part, Helmut Schmidt signed with Leonid Brezhnev, in the course of the visit he paid him on June 30, a long-term agreement on trade and economic cooperation, the biggest West Germany has ever negotiated with the U.S.S.R. In the first three months of 1980, West German sales to the U.S.S.R. increased by 24 percent over those effected during the corresponding months of 1979. Apparently the Carter Administration got the message, for the day after Mr. Reagan's election it authorized a big deal for Caterpillar to sell the U.S.S.R.-for $79 million-machines for laying pipelines.
It is certainly a fact that the economies of the Eastern bloc countries have become very vulnerable. Growth has slowed spectacularly, productivity remains extremely low, and no one has yet come up with a magic formula to protect Soviet agriculture from the hazards of drought and poor harvests. The U.S.S.R. lacks the capital and technology to exploit the vast mineral resources under the subsoil of Siberia and the Arctic regions to an extent commensurate with its needs. Exporting a considerable share of its oil outside the communist bloc to obtain foreign currency, it is no longer the exclusive supplier of oil to its East European allies. The latter must consequently turn to the world market, from which they import in turn an inflation that their systems of rigid planning are particularly ill equipped to digest. In order to feed populations that have become more demanding and to increase their own productive capacity, the socialist countries have plunged headlong into an ambitious policy of importing foodstuffs and machine tools, even entire factories "ready to roll"-consequently, they are now deeply in debt.
A cynical and resolute West could conceivably deny the U.S.S.R. and its allies these credits, which, by lightening the burden of their state expenditures, have enabled these countries to increase their arms spending to the point where they have caught up with the United States in terms of military might. But men who believe in force have never been known to give up guns in order to have butter: if the West did withhold credits, the hawks and hardliners might dictate policy, and Moscow, by one means or another, might seize various sources of oil, threatening the Western economies with asphyxiation.
Indeed, almost half of the growing debt of the Warsaw Pact countries, some $24 billion, is owed by Poland, which every year has to import three billion dollars' worth of food-without, even at that, avoiding rationing and queues. The ideological appeal of the regime being just about zero in the country, as was evident when the election of Pope John Paul II showed it as the most Christian nation under heaven, it is no surprise that the leaders in Warsaw showed little enthusiasm on learning about the invasion of Afghanistan. This development could only increase military expenditures, which were already too high, and threaten to destroy the climate of détente so crucial to the procurement of Western aid and the maintenance of internal stability.
It is not surprising, then, that Warsaw intensified its efforts to rebuild bridges between East and West that had been cut by the Afghan affair. The personality of the Polish Party chief, Edward Gierek, contributed greatly to the success of these efforts. Giscard and Schmidt never dreamed that he would be eliminated, just as his predecessor Gomulka had been, for failing to anticipate and control an explosion of popular discontent.
The Chancellor spoke with uncharacteristic warmth of the Polish nation and its chief, while Giscard believed that he had established a genuinely privileged relationship with Gierek. Whenever Giscard met with the Polish leader, the subsequent joint communiqué stressed the existence of a "climate of extreme cordiality and reciprocal confidence," and the importance of the "close political dialogue" they had conducted.
This "Polish connection" was largely to blame for the blunder the French chief of state committed in going to Warsaw in May 1980 to meet Mr. Brezhnev. Having no more confidence in Mr. Carter's reflexes than in his resolve, he depended on his own gifts in trying to keep humanity from sliding farther down the slippery slope on which, in his view, it had been floundering since the eruption of the Iranian and Afghan troubles. Convinced that there was no way of getting the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan, he had publicly ruled out any notion of a bloc-to-bloc confrontation only a few hours after signing a communiqué with Helmut Schmidt, on February 5, declaring the occupation of Afghanistan "unacceptable." Far from agreeing with his strictures against acting en bloc, Washington called a meeting of the Western foreign ministers to frame a common response to the invasion; France reacted on February 8 with a brusque refusal to attend, an act which gave rise to acid comments even within Giscard's parliamentary majority, notably among the Gaullists. As for the American leaders, their irritation could be measured by the fact that none of them was available to receive Prime Minister Raymond Barre when he came to New York to deliver a speech.
Three days later, on February 11, Gierek proposed convening a pan-European disarmament conference in Warsaw. In doing this he was taking up an idea put forward by Giscard d'Estaing in an address to the United Nations two years earlier. In the mind of the President of the Republic, this conference was to be open to the 35 signatories of the Helsinki accord on European cooperation and security. Its objective would be not only to clarify the confidence-building measures provided for in the agreement but also to undertake the "limitation" and then the "reduction" of "conventional weapons with great offensive capacity," a field in which Soviet superiority is hardly disputed.
Approved with little enthusiasm by the Atlantic council, this suggestion was discussed during Giscard d'Estaing's visit to the Soviet Union in April 1979. But Brezhnev, and later the Warsaw Pact, insisted on adding nuclear weapons to the agenda, clearly a way of giving new resonance to the strenuous campaign the Kremlin was preparing to launch against intermediate-range missiles to be stationed on the soil of Western Europe.
Did the Elysée hope, following Gierek's proposal, that the East European countries would rally to the proposed French agenda? That would have been a way to reestablish a dialogue with the Soviet Union and-who knows-quietly persuade its leaders to use the escape hatch the foreign ministers of the European Community had opened on February 19 by suggesting the neutralization of Afghanistan under international control if the U.S.S.R. would kindly withdraw its troops.
Meanwhile, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko went to Paris in late April, his first visit to a Western country since the invasion of Afghanistan. The extremely virulent statement made a few days earlier by his ambassador in Paris, Mr. Chervonenko, offered no grounds for expecting that he would be conciliatory. In fact, he was extremely brutal, to the point where the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean François-Poncet, lost his temper with him.
Contacts continued to be carried on, however, with Warsaw. On May 1, to everyone's surprise, the Elysée ordered the French ambassador to Moscow to attend the annual military parade. None of his Western colleagues was there. Just about everywhere, including in France, the press expressed indignation. It was unaware that Mr. Giscard d'Estaing had apparently let himself be persuaded to try his chances with Leonid Brezhnev in person. A meeting between them in Warsaw had been arranged, in great secrecy. It took place on May 18.
The idea that Mr. Brezhnev could, in a tête-à-tête, go back on what Mr. Gromyko had said in Paris two weeks before seemed highly naïve. Yet that alone can account for Giscard's trip to Warsaw, which was to provoke a heated reaction from Jimmy Carter, who was furious at not having been consulted. The Elysee could reply, not without some justification, that Edmund Muskie, who had become Secretary of State a few days earlier, had not consulted his French counterpart before holding talks with his Soviet colleague in Vienna, at the ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of the Austrian state treaty. That Giscard came home empty-handed is no longer in question. Moreover, he rendered significant service to Brezhnev, whose propaganda could continue to affirm that France is more conciliatory toward the East than the other Atlantic countries.
At least one man whose irritation with Mr. Carter had become proverbial was bent on making common cause with Giscard d'Estaing after the Warsaw tête-à-tête. Chancellor Schmidt firmly asserted to the participants in a colloquium held in Bonn in mid-June that that interview had cleared the way for the journey to Moscow that he himself was preparing to make at the end of that month.
The announcement of this trip was greeted in Washington with suspicion. On June 13, Mr. Carter had warned the Chancellor not to propose to the Soviets a "freeze" on the deployment of Euromissiles. In fact, Helmut Schmidt never suggested anything of the kind, but merely pointed out that it would take some time-four or five years, he first said, then, after ascertaining the facts, three years-to position the Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe, in line with the decision taken by the Atlantic council at the end of 1979. Why not use this time, he asked, to try to negotiate with the Soviets, in anticipation of a SALT III treaty limiting intermediate missiles? Although the Moscow press rejected this suggestion out of hand, the West German opposition, in this electoral period, eagerly ascribed all sorts of impulses toward capitulation to the Chancellor. Unfortunately, on reaching Washington, these accusations fell on willing ears.
The facts of the matter are that Helmut Schmidt not only stuck to what he had previously said but got the Soviets to ignore their initial nyet. It is essentially thanks to him that exploratory talks between the two superpowers finally got started in Geneva last October.
Meanwhile, the Polish crisis had erupted, illustrating the extreme precariousness of what people persist in calling détente. It thus struck a serious and painful blow to the hopes of mediation cherished by Messrs. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt. Raising the price of meat on July 1, a consequence of disastrous economic management, produced active social unrest in Poland to which the authorities responded by proceeding to arrest the "ringleaders." One immediate response to this was a wave of strikes, which, emanating from Gdansk and other Baltic ports, soon spread to cover the entire country; the other was the joining together of all the free unions constituted at that time into a single movement, "Solidarity." Finally, on August 31, the government had to resign itself to the existence of these unions and endorse 21 demands, including some relating, quite simply, to freedom of speech.
For the first time in a communist country the Party had to abandon the doctrine that power proceeded only from itself. It appeared unthinkable that the Kremlin could resign itself to this development, when that would entail an inevitable risk of contagion from such a confirmation of Solidarity's success. It is not surprising that many Western leaders and observers quickly concluded, on the basis of the Hungarian and Czechoslovak precedents, that the U.S.S.R. would intervene militarily rather than permit any challenge to its authority over a country of obvious strategic importance.
The tone of the Soviet press, the dismissal of Gierek, the threatening statements made in the first days of September by the leaders of East Berlin and Prague-all these fed such fears. Soon NATO took into account the concentration of troops ringing Poland. Although its Secretary-General, Joseph Luns, publicly declared that the West had no intention of resorting to force if the Soviets came in to reestablish order in Warsaw, the upper echelons of the Atlantic community unanimously favored multiplying warnings to the Soviet Union and saying out loud that an invasion would deal the sacrosanct détente a fatal blow.
Is this fine unanimity, in striking contrast to the flabby and contradictory reactions to the occupation of Afghanistan, the reason why, by the end of the year, Soviet divisions had not yet crossed the Rubicon? It hardly seems so, considering that at the very time when rumors of imminent invasion were occupying the front pages of the newspapers, France and West Germany continued to conclude big business deals with the Soviets, which indisputably increased their dependence on the Kremlin. Thus, starting in 1985, 25 percent of Western Europe's supply of natural gas will come from the U.S.S.R. What are they going to do if the Kremlin decides to turn off the tap?
Other elements also have to be considered in determining the attitude of Mr. Brezhnev and his associates-to begin with, the new team about to come to power in the United States, with whom they hope to negotiate a SALT treaty and resume the kind of relations that existed in the Nixon-Kissinger era. Then there is the continuing need the U.S.S.R. and its allies have for the West's credits, technology, and grain. And there is the fear the Soviets feel that they may find themselves in Poland confronting a large armed resistance while the Afghan mess is still on their hands. Finally, the Soviet leaders know that a decision to invade would deal a very serious blow to their relations with West European communist parties. The Italians, for their part, have threatened to break with them, purely and simply: already last spring their Secretary-General, Enrico Berlinguer, went to Beijing, where his Spanish opposite number, Santiago Carrillo, followed him in the fall.
Today, there are only the French Communists left to play the part of unconditional loyalists. But French Communist leader Georges Marchais' visit with Leonid Brezhnev at the beginning of the year and the support he gave to the invasion of Afghanistan stirred up eddies of protest within the Party, which could not readily withstand the shock of another invasion. Besides, the French Communist Party organ L'Humanité never stops repeating that rumors of a possible invasion are sheer inventions, a deliberate provocation by Western anti-communists.
Under these circumstances it would appear that the troop movements reported on the Polish frontiers were meant as intimidation: the Soviet masters wanted to persuade the Polish unions not to push their defiance of Big Brother too far and to be content with what they had obtained, knowing that the state would sooner or later do its best to take back a good part of it. The Party's best ally, in this effort, was, curiously enough, the Catholic Church. The Polish Pope is more aware than anyone else of limits not to be crossed. There is no certainty, however, that the limits in question will not be crossed by a people who have been too long beguiled with false promises, and who are today some of the worst off in Europe.
Nothing is ruled out, and it would be a grave error to believe otherwise. It goes without saying that if Mr. Reagan impressed Paris or Bonn with an excessive inflexibility that provided the Soviets with a pretext to invade, there would be more gnashings of teeth registered within the alliance. Besides, the question of the military budgets of the various member countries is already a source of continuing friction within the Atlantic Alliance. In 1978, at the insistent request of the United States, the West Europeans imprudently accepted the principle of increasing their military budgets every year by three percent in constant dollars, an engagement which West Germany is already resisting.
But in fact this does not mean a great deal. The Chancellor has maintained that in West Germany the actual increase would amount to 2.8 percent by the end of the year. (In any case, only three NATO countries were likely to reach the three percent mark.) The Chancellor also pointed out that obligatory military service in West Germany constituted a much more important contribution to the collective defense effort than one that could only be calculated in money. It was a way of saying that if the United States were to reestablish conscription it would make a better show of firmness.
Here is an assertion to which a good many leaders and opinion-makers in the Community would doubtless be prepared to subscribe. Generally speaking, it seems to them as they observe the behavior of Americans that the latter no longer really assume their responsibilities, not only as regards the common military effort, but also as regards energy and money. Hence the growing tendency of the Community-which became quite apparent in the course of 1980, even though most of the people concerned hesitate to mention it in public-to constitute itself as a political entity more autonomous than it used to be with respect to Washington. Europe, as de Gaulle used to say, should become European.
This is, of course, the primary objective of France, even though that country is headed at present by a man the Gaullists tend to consider a usurper. It is, after all, a tradition of absolute monarchs to appropriate other people's ideas after defeating them, and those who still pine for the General can at least find consolation in the fact that Giscard d'Estaing, who used to scoff so much at their hero, is now at great pains to have it known he is inspired by him.
But even if their objective is the same, Giscard has none of the prickly passion for France that filled de Gaulle and so often led him to break lances with the United States. This President of the Republic belongs-by his birth, his tastes, his culture, and his liberal economic convictions-to the Atlantic world. While France has no wish to reintegrate its military structures into NATO, the fact is that of all the United States' allies she is the one whose military budget is showing the most growth. As for her ambitions for European independence, they hardly go beyond what Henry Kissinger, before managing American foreign policy, found perfectly normal and even, conceivably, desirable for the United States.
All the same, the French chief of state does not let an opportunity go by without pointing out that when his paratroopers intervene in this or that African country (for which he does not, as a general rule, receive many congratulations in France), they are doing so in the common interest of the Western world, directly threatened by various forms of subversion. Despite these boasts, at the end of the year there was the example of Chad, where Libyan forces, operating in full view of everyone, installed their protégé Goukouni Oueddi in power; clearly France is far from doing what she pleases south of the Sahara.
The Nine's privileged field of action in 1980 will surely have been the Middle East. Paris did not approve the Camp David agreements between Egypt and Israel and has long thought that the way to peace is through an accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The sole means of attaining that, however, is to exert enough pressure on the Jewish state to make it accept such an accord. It was largely at the behest of Giscard d'Estaing that the European Council, meeting in Venice on June 13, adopted a resolution approving self-determination for Palestine, and in so doing ensuring that the PLO would be associated with the negotiations as well as providing for a more active role for the Community in the search for a negotiated Middle East settlement. Most of the Nine had already said more or less the same thing, but each in its own way, and in less solemn circumstances.
Since then, the Middle Eastern situation has evolved very considerably. Syria flung itself into the arms of Brezhnev and Libyan leader Colonel Qaddafi. In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein hurled his troops against Iran, counting on both the fall of the Khomeini regime and the support of the Arab population of Khuzistan, where most of Iran's oil lies. Despite the declared support of most of his neighbors to the south, he only advanced step by step. The result is a new reduction of exports of crude and another increase in the price of oil.
Once again, the Europeans reacted by according priority to their oil supplies, and in the case of Paris, by maintaining close cooperation with Baghdad. The ample supplies of stockpiled oil and the at least temporary resumption at the start of December of two-thirds of Iraqi exports staved off panic, but no one underestimates the gravity of the situation that would arise if the Iranians carried out the threat they have so often raised of closing the Strait of Hormuz. Since this strait is, at this writing, virtually unprotected, a resort to force could well occur in that event. There does not seem to be any great difference of approach on this score between Europe and America. Obviously it remains to be seen what would happen in such an eventuality if Moscow decided it did not like what was going on.
It also remains to be seen what impact Mr. Reagan's election will have on the Middle East situation. Mr. Carter intended to make the Camp David agreements the nucleus around which the process of pacifying the entire region would take form. Had he been reelected he probably would have increased pressure on Israel, and the pro-Palestinian stands of the Nine would have been helpful. If the new President sticks to the line he took during the campaign, he will risk opening up a serious breach between Europe and the United States. Thus, just after the election, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Carrington, took a cautious step backward by saying that implementation of the Venice resolution might be put off for the time being. The European summit meeting in Luxembourg, moreover, made no headway on this matter, as France had expected it would. It is certainly true, as The Economist observed on December 20, that "the prospect of a European initiative to solve the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock has never been accorded more than marginal importance" and that "the main job for the Europeans is to help the Americans in the unlocking process."
Lord Carrington's remark shows that, as Prime Minister Thatcher pledged on her visit to Washington in December 1979, Britain fully intends to remain a faithful and even unconditional friend of the United States. The victory of the Republican candidate, to whom she feels so close ideologically, can hardly have caused her to change her mind. But the new President should be under no illusions: the United Kingdom has already had to renege on its commitment to scheduled increases in defense appropriations.
Elsewhere in Europe, and even perhaps in certain circles in London, the prospect of Mr. Reagan's success at the polls was unquestionably viewed with a certain uneasiness: "a devil they don't know," as Lothar Ruehl, one of the best German commentators, called him in The Wall Street Journal of October 16. Because of his Hollywood past it was all too easy to think of him as a guntoting character in a Western with his finger always on the trigger. And since nobody had much esteem for the outgoing President, the general impression was that the Americans were faced with what the London Financial Times called a "poor choice."
With the American election over, Mr. Schmidt, himself reelected by a comfortable margin in October, and Mr. Giscard d'Estaing, who hopes to enjoy the same fate in May, were both relieved to be rid of Jimmy Carter, and their satisfaction led them to take apparently quite genuine pleasure in Mr. Reagan's victory. It is in their interest, after all, for a firmer hand to direct America's course, even if that sometimes necessitates frank explanations and leads to the resumption, over their heads, of a Soviet-American dialogue (if not what former French Foreign Minister Michel Jobert terms "condominium").
Finally, Europeans noted with interest Mr. Reagan's campaign speeches about the need to stabilize the dollar at long last. Over the last ten years the United States' free and easy manner in monetary matters with respect to its allies has contributed greatly to the growth of inflation, stimulated speculation worldwide, and discouraged productive investments. The creation in 1979 of the European Monetary System and its consolidation in 1980-on a provisional basis, at any rate-constituted new proof of the determination of at least some members of the Nine to seek common solutions to their common problems.
It remains true that the solidarity of the Nine is not exactly total: before Britain took a very firm step toward reinforcing its European ties at the end of the year, Mrs. Thatcher seemed about to slam the door with regard to the Common Agricultural Policy and the British contribution to the Community budget-problems which still have not been completely resolved. France, for her part, is blocking the candidacy of Portugal and still more firmly that of Spain, while she favored that of Greece. Greece, therefore, can celebrate two almost simultaneous developments: its entry into the European Community as a full member and its reentry into the integrated military organization of the Atlantic Alliance, from which it withdrew in 1974 to protest U.S. support of Turkey.
This last country became once again "the sick man of Europe." Terrorism raged there on a wide scale, killing some 2,000 people during the first eight months of the year. Massive aid from the World Bank and from West Germany, which acknowledged a particular responsibility there, did not keep the land of Kemal Atatürk, overwhelmed by its debts and by the growth of its oil bill, from teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Fascists, fundamentalist Muslims, and left-wing extremists competed by every possible means to undermine the heritage of Kemalism, paralyzing democratic institutions that were, for all that, incapable of producing agreement on anything, even on electing the president of the republic.
This situation posed a grave threat to a strategic position that is doubly vital to the West, since it commands the Soviet Black Sea fleet's access to the Mediterranean and is itself close to the oil of the Gulf. Attached though they are to representative institutions, the Americans and their allies were therefore not displeased to see the army emerge from its barracks on September 12 and seize power. Some observers suspected it was something more than coincidence that NATO exercises were being conducted at that very moment on Turkish soil.
Since that date violence has diminished considerably. Only time will tell whether this calm will last. In any case, terrorism in Europe is not a Turkish monopoly. It continues to drench in blood Northern Ireland, the Spanish Basque country, and Italy, without sparing the Federal Republic of Germany or even France. Although none of the terrorists has yet been identified, the bombs that went off in the Bologna railway station, at the Munich beer festival, and in front of the synagogue on the Rue Copernic in Paris bear out Brecht's statement that "the womb from which the foul beast issued" is still fecund.
It need not be so. The aggravation of the economic crisis and of the fundamental imbalances within states-and even more between the developed and the underdeveloped states-together with the lack of vision of the leaders both East and West, have spread miasmas of despondency and selfishness throughout the populace. People who are downcast, fearful about the future, watching the living standards of which they were so proud gradually deteriorate, must have an ambition that drives them to surpass themselves if they are to regather their energies and regain confidence and vigor. Can one imagine an ambition more ennobling and at the same time more necessary than seeking to reconcile East and West in order to assure the survival of humanity, which is threatened by scarcities of every sort and even by war?
Is it too much to dream that Europe might play a part in this effort at reconciliation? That effort would surely mean convincing the capitalist world, the communist world, the oil producers, and the non-oil-producing countries of the Third World that there is no other way.
1 Bulletin de I'Institut de prospective politique, January 7, 1980.
2 Walter Laqueur, "Defeatist France," Harper's, June 1980.
3 William Bullitt, "How We Won the War and Lost the Peace," Life, August 30, 1948.