Europeans enter the 1980s experiencing, for the first time since the cold war, a deep sense of concern-and even fear in some quarters-for the preservation of peace on their Continent. The decade began with speeches by European leaders, including President Giscard d'Estaing and Pope John Paul II, stressing the risks of a new world war, and polls conducted in several European countries throughout 1980 echoed similar qualms.

This concern is, of course, fueled by the rapid accumulation of crises over the past 18 months, all of which have had a direct impact on the security of Europe. The sad irony is that although Europe has had to endure this avalanche of events without having any control over them, the basic setting of European security has been drastically changed.

Paradoxically, while new realities call for urgent and drastic actions on the part of all responsible European governments, these same realities seem to enhance the inertia of these governments, so that they appear both unwilling and unable to take such actions. Up to now, most European governments have endured passively what is in effect the restructuring of their entire security framework. They have only been capable of pushing through policies which amount in practice to delaying tactics: the Warsaw and Moscow summits of last spring between the French President, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev have not succeeded in restoring East-West détente in the absence of détente between the superpowers; and the European Community's "Venice initiative" of June 1980, calling for participation by the Palestine Liberation Organization in the settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute, has yet to resolve Europe's strategic problems in the Middle East. Moreover, the stagnation of defense programs and expenditures in most European countries (with the exception of France) illustrates a general reluctance to face up to new threats of the 1980s.

The key questions for the Europeans-as well as for the West as a whole-remain to be faced and answered: How can the existing European security system adapt to the new political and strategic realities of the 1980s? What, specifically, can the Europeans themselves do for their own defense? And what would a modified European security arrangement imply for European defense cooperation as well as for the NATO alliance as a whole?


Today, amid great confusion, a new and more somber setting for European security is gradually emerging. The 1970s began with great hopes for a new era of détente between East and West and the promise of permanent stability in Europe. With the signing of the SALT I agreements in November 1972, nuclear war came to be seen as a mere theoretical possibility; the continuation of peace in Europe under a nuclear balance stabilized by arms control was now taken for granted. Few worried about European security, and, indeed, few in America worried about Europe as a whole. The Americans tended to concentrate on extricating themselves from their Vietnam quagmire and on building a new "structure of peace" with the Soviets. Meanwhile, the Europeans-and the West Germans in particular-felt freed from their obsession with security prevalent during the cold war years, and aimed at establishing their own détente relationship with the Soviets. It is typical of that period that Washington thought it necessary to launch a "Year of Europe" in 1973 to demonstrate to its allies America's continued interest in and commitment to the Old Continent. Equally telling of the prevailing mood was that France's main worries were not about security, but about the risk of a "superpower condominium" (détente being perceived as leading to "entente"), as well as about dangers of a renascent German nationalism in a Europe stabilized by détente.

Although many Europeans-including most governments on the Continent-would prefer to ignore them, it is now becoming clear that their defense in the 1980s will be shaped by the conjunction of three new realities.1 First, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 precipitated a major crisis between the superpowers that affected the overall climate of East-West relations. Although Europeans tried their best to reverse this trend, the very existence of détente-a key political condition of European security since the late 1960s-was called into question. Moreover, the prospects for détente were further undermined in the summer of 1980 by the Polish crisis, the latter bringing the risk of another Soviet military intervention in Central Europe.

Politically, then, European security will have to be maintained during the 1980s within a new and potentially lasting phase of confrontation between the superpowers. Armed with renewed moral convictions and a resurgent nationalism, the United States in the 1980s will primarily aim at restoring its overall power in world affairs and containing Soviet expansion in the Third World. For its part, the Soviet Union, conscious of its newly acquired global military might but wary of its internal weaknesses, will be preoccupied with the constant consolidation and expansion of its empire rather than the requirements of a genuine détente relationship with the United States. Whether the Europeans like it or not, this state of affairs will directly affect East-West relations as a whole, and European-Soviet relations in particular.

Second, militarily and strategically, the basic conditions of European security have also been subjected to fundamental alterations. Ever since 1977-78 the Europeans have been increasingly preoccupied with the gradual shift of the overall military balance in Europe in favor of the U.S.S.R. and about the impact of this evolution on the credibility of the U.S. nuclear guarantee. In the aftermath of Afghanistan, they face the prospect of a new arms race between the superpowers. In the meantime, however, arms control has become in European eyes a key condition for stability on the Continent as well as a somewhat bizarre justification, in the domestic politics of most European countries, for continued defense efforts. This new phase of military competition between the superpowers also means a great deal of American pressure for increased European defense efforts, at the very time when the continued deterioration of the economic situation in Europe, coupled with the emergence of a new wave of pacifist and neutralist sentiment in several European countries, make such commitments even more difficult to fulfill.

The balance of forces in Europe will continue to favor the Soviet Union throughout most of the 1980s. Given overall parity on the central strategic level, the growing Soviet superiority in Europe-both in conventional and theater nuclear forces (TNF)-will further weaken the credibility of NATO's strategy of "flexible response." In effect, the European members of NATO will increasingly find themselves caught in a strategic bind wherein:

(1) their continued inferiority in conventional means will make them more and more vulnerable to a Soviet surprise attack with conventional forces; as a result, the Europeans will become increasingly dependent on first and early use of nuclear weapons by NATO;

(2) yet, at the same time, the newly acquired Soviet superiority in theater nuclear systems, as well as parity at the strategic level, will in effect neutralize any attempt by NATO to escalate the conflict to nuclear weapons.

It is only toward the end of the decade that the new defense programs now being launched or accelerated in the United States will begin to affect some of the components of the military balance-in particular, at the central strategic level. As to the conventional and theater nuclear imbalances in Europe, these will only be partially offset in the mid-1980s by NATO's Long-Term Defense Program and TNF modernization program-assuming, of course, that both programs are fully implemented.2

Finally, on a wider geostrategic scale, the invasion of Afghanistan, coming after the extension of Soviet influence into Ethiopia and Yemen, has changed the strategic map of the Persian Gulf region, from which Europe now receives about 60 percent of her oil imports. The resulting reinforcement of Western naval forces (essentially American and French) in the area has expanded East-West confrontation beyond the traditional European theater into a region which is itself extremely volatile and unstable. Local regimes, meanwhile, are either reluctant or fearful to see the Persian Gulf area transformed into a new theater for East-West competition. To use Raymond Aron's words, "the Middle East is a void, but a void which refuses to be filled."

The promulgation of the Carter Doctrine, proclaiming the Gulf a vital U.S. interest and threatening the use of force to preserve the oil flow, and the eruption of the Iraq-Iran war in 1980, coming after the second dramatic oil-price rise in the wake of the Islamic revolution in Iran the previous year, finally brought home to Europe the lesson which had been quickly forgotten after 1973-namely, that European security can no longer be geographically limited to the European theater alone. Although most European governments are reluctant to face this new reality, the fact remains that defending Europe in the 1980s will also mean protecting the raw materials and energy sources located in faraway regions-particularly in the Middle East and Africa-without which European democracies cannot survive.

Yet without adequate conventional means to back it up-the Rapid Deployment Force has yet to be turned into a credible instrument-the Carter Doctrine carries the risk of a very unpleasant alternative: either an early recourse to nuclear weapons which could then escalate into a major war in Europe and possibly between the superpowers, or a situation of "Cuba in reverse" whereby the United States, having decided not to escalate to nuclear weapons, would suffer a military defeat on the ground, leaving the area to Soviet control.

Americans and Europeans have reacted in profoundly different ways to the transformation of the security environment in Europe as well as in the Third World. While events in the Gulf region brought about a new "awakening" in America and a major shift toward a more assertive U.S. foreign policy, Europeans have tended to react with great caution, thereby triggering a growing irritation in the United States at what is perceived, at best, as selfishness on the part of its European allies, and at worst as proof that Europe is already sliding toward "self-neutralization" or "Finlandization." So far neither side has come up with a coherent strategy to deal with the security equation of the 1980s. Instead, Americans and Europeans have tended to look for solutions belonging to the past.

Increasingly exasperated by the attitude of their European allies, more and more Americans are inclined to revive the old "Atlantic" system-in effect, to turn the clock back to the days of American nuclear superiority and absolute leadership in the Alliance. Hence, the temptation in many American quarters to try to strong-arm Europe and to threaten-in a new kind of "Mansfieldism"-to abandon her to her own fate.

For their part, most Europeans still yearn for a miraculous return to the "divine détente" of the 1970s, one which allowed them to enjoy at the same time the continued protection of the United States within the Alliance, and the "dividends" of European détente with their Eastern neighbors. Other Europeans-though a minority-still dream of a European Defense Community which would give a united Europe the means of its own defense and a new role in world affairs. In fact, neither the old Atlantic concept nor the notion of a European Defense Community corresponds to the political realities of both the Alliance and Western Europe today. Neither can provide the basis for realistic options for the future.


The magnitude of the transatlantic crisis triggered by the Afghan affair makes clear the structural transformations which have taken place in the Alliance over the past decade and a half.3 Yet the current transatlantic crisis was already evident well before Afghanistan; it is enough to recall the various quarrels of the 1970s involving the October 1973 War, economic policy and energy, nuclear nonproliferation issues, the Middle East and the Camp David process, the "neutron bomb" episode, and so forth. The longer historical record had shown that the Alliance did tend to unite in cases where the threat was really serious, e.g., the crises of Cuba and Berlin in the 1960s. But it was precisely this element of cohesion-imposed from the outside-which was missing in 1979-80, despite the gravity of Soviet behavior.

To be sure, several short-term factors did play a role in fueling quarrels within the Alliance. The lack of an adequate mechanism for Alliance consultation on crises arising outside NATO's boundaries was one of them. Similarly, the record of the Carter Administration-widely perceived in Europe as one of "zigzagging," as well as the lack of more than rhetorical American reaction to earlier Soviet and Cuban interventions in Third World areas-led many Europeans to believe that the U.S. reaction to Afghanistan would only be a short-lived sign of displeasure (due in part to the presidential campaign), soon to be followed by the "normal" pursuit of superpower dialogue.

More important, perhaps, the differences in attitudes throughout most of 1980 reflected a basic failure on the part of most Europeans to comprehend the magnitude of the shift which has been taking place in America over the past three to four years and which found its final resolution in the conjunction of the Iranian hostage crisis with the Afghan affair. For several months after Afghanistan, most European observers, including officials at the highest levels of government, were still convinced that the United States would go back to "business as usual" with the Soviets. Indeed, some went so far as to predict a "new Yalta" between the superpowers over the Persian Gulf. It was only with the November landslide which brought Ronald Reagan to the White House and a Republican majority to the Senate that Europe as a whole began to realize that she is now faced with a tougher, more nationalistic and assertive America.

Yet these problems of communication and the resulting misunderstandings fail to explain the magnitude of the transatlantic split. It would be wrong to assume that once the international situation quiets down a little, and the new American Administration shows more coherence and leadership, the Europeans will simply "fall into line" and the Alliance will go on "as usual." In fact, the roots of the transatlantic crisis are to be found in two complementary historical trends going all the way back to the 1960s: the relative decline of U.S. power vis-à-vis both the Soviet Union and the European allies; and the gradual emergence of West Germany as a new pole of power in East-West relations in a Europe that has become-to use Fritz Stern's words-"semi-Gaullist."4

One area where this transformation has been visible for some time is economics: here the quarrels of the 1970s on economic policy (the "locomotive" theory urging Germany and Japan to stimulate their economies in a recession), the creation of the European Monetary System, and the controversy about nuclear energy and nonproliferation, all point to a new situation in which Europe has become as rich and as competitive as the United States and is now able to defend her own interests (as in the case of monetary or nuclear energy policies) against the wishes of the United States.

A much more complex and perhaps less visible evolution has been taking place in the political and security area. The main transformation here involves the area of East-West relations, or rather, the way Soviet-American and Soviet-European relations have gradually diverged during the 1970s. What is at stake here is a fundamental divergence between the respective commitments of Americans and Europeans to the process of détente.

For the United States, détente was a parenthesis in its history. As Robert Tucker has rightly pointed out,5 détente was for the United States a much less costly way to deal with the Soviet Union than the earlier policy of containment: it justified a drastic decrease in U.S. military spending throughout most of the 1970s and allowed the United States, in effect, to renounce unilaterally the use of force in its foreign policy. In substance, therefore, détente was heavily based on military components (especially arms control), with little else in terms of trade or human relations. Once the Americans gradually realized the magnitude of the shift in the military balance and as they became increasingly disappointed by the actual security benefits produced by the arms control process, the American pendulum gradually moved away from détente and back toward a more traditional form of power politics.

For the Europeans, however, and in particular for the Germans, the experience of détente did not-and indeed could not-parallel that of the United States. From the very beginning, détente in Europe has meant a very concrete, day-to-day set of human and economic relationships. It means the stabilization of the territorial status quo on the Continent and the continued safety of Berlin. Economically, it translates into an important market for European industrial goods and much-needed access to a new source of raw materials and energy. Détente should also permit the stabilization of defense efforts at modest levels (between two and three percent of the gross national product of most European nations). On a wider political level, détente has allowed the Europeans to enjoy more freedom of maneuver and has provided a convenient setting in which Europe can safely assert her own identity against the leader of the Alliance.

There are, however, three inherent problems in such a situation: the first is that, in politics, when commitments become too great, they also tend to turn into vulnerabilities; there comes a stage where it becomes politically (or economically) too costly to abandon one's commitment, even if the other side has blatantly broken the rules of the game. Clearly, in the case of Afghanistan, Europeans were reluctant to give up the "dividends of détente," even if that meant accepting the Soviet notion of the divisibility of détente. The question thus becomes: Where does one draw the line? Would Poland be worth the price of détente? After all, if détente was divisible in the case of a nonaligned country subjected to direct aggression by the Soviet Union, why would it be less so in the case of a country which is recognized as an integral part of the Soviet empire?

The second problem is that the Western democracies have tended to be blinded by the short-term benefits of détente, and thus ended up forgetting that détente can only be based on a stable balance of forces. An unequal military balance can only produce an unequal political relationship. European countries have viewed détente and its corollary in the security area-i.e., arms control-as a convenient substitute for a continued defense effort. Indeed, as the Europeans' dependence on détente steadily increased over the past decade, their awareness of the central importance of the military balance declined proportionately, as did their willingness to incur the political and economic costs necessary to their defense policies. The danger here is that while the importance of détente in European politics has grown, détente has come to be based on an increasingly unfavorable military balance.

This danger is compounded by the fact that European security remains dependent on U.S. protection. This is where the gap between the respective commitments of the United States and Europe to détente produces the greatest problems. For there will come a time when Europe's commitment to détente may come into conflict with her commitment to the Alliance. Indeed, this is a point which the Soviet Union continuously presses upon the Europeans in its effort to decouple Europe from the United States politically as well as militarily.

Among all European countries, West Germany is certainly the one which is-given its partition and its location on the borders of the Soviet empire-the most committed to détente. It is also the one which has benefited most from what have been called the "dividends" of détente. Ostpolitik gave Germany the political dimension that the Federal Republic was lacking up until the 1970s: it permitted Germany's international recognition, and above all it turned the Federal Republic into the center of gravity of East-West relations in Europe. In the process, the United States (and, to a lesser degree, France) in many respects lost the initiative in dealings with the East. The Soviets in turn won a precious "advocate" within NATO as well as the means to push forward their policy of decoupling "European détente" from U.S.-Soviet relations. For the Germans, the "dividends" of détente were clearly translated into human terms (with the return of 200,000 ethnic Germans) and in economic benefits (the Federal Republic alone represents about 45 to 50 percent of Western trade with the East). Détente has also allowed Germany to enjoy more freedom of maneuver diplomatically and to assert its own independence and interests against the United States.

But, as noted earlier, such a great commitment also means great vulnerabilities. These have been plainly demonstrated in Bonn's reluctance to join the United States in imposing economic sanctions on the U.S.S.R. after Afghanistan. In fact, it remains to be seen whether a durable German commitment to such sanctions could be obtained even in the case of a Soviet invasion of Poland. There are also political vulnerabilities. In the aftermath of Afghanistan, Germany did demonstrate its solidarity with Washington by boycotting the Moscow Olympics. Yet this gesture was largely offset by Chancellor Schmidt's trip to Moscow in June 1980.

The main vulnerabilities lie, of course, in the security area. This is where Germany is most dependent both on the Soviet Union, as the potential aggressor, and on the United States, as its ultimate protector. Here, the neutron bomb episode, and the laborious intra-Alliance negotiating process which led to the TNF decision in December 1979 to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles on German soil, illustrate Germany's fundamental dilemmas in an era of détente. The TNF decision also deserves a particular reference here because it accurately reflects the structural transformation that has taken place in the Alliance as a whole.

Ironically, Germany was the first European NATO country to raise the TNF issue in 1977, because of the wider implications of strategic nuclear parity for the continued validity of NATO's strategy of flexible response. Yet after having pressed for a remedy to the growing imbalance of forces at the theater nuclear level, the Germans soon found themselves caught between conflicting pressures from the United States and the U.S.S.R. The former demanded that the Europeans favoring a TNF program say so publicly; the latter threatened that any deployment of new, longer range nuclear missiles on European territory would be tantamount to ending détente and starting a new arms race. As a result, Germany found itself entrusted with a major decision-making power on nuclear issues which it could not possibly use without risking a breakdown of its relationships with the East.

In essence, the "solution" consisted for Germany in not deciding: Bonn announced a series of conditions for the deployment of the new TNF systems, including the so-called no-singularity provision, whereby Germany would deploy such weapons only if at least one other continental European nation also accepted the weapons on its territory. Another important condition was that deployment be linked to parallel arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union on the same systems. The end result of the TNF diplomatic ballet was twofold: the whole program became suspended in the domestic politics of Belgium, Holland and Italy, none of which is exactly enthusiastic about TNF; and in the absence of a ratified SALT II treaty, and therefore in the absence of any SALT III talks, a special negotiating forum had to be convened in order to satisfy the domestic political requirements of the European countries involved. After much hesitation in view of the post-Afghanistan situation, the Carter Administration did open the TNF talks last October in Geneva simply to save the program. The final irony of this peculiar exercise in Kafkaesque diplomacy is that no one in the West has any serious idea what weapons are to be considered in the negotiations or what the negotiating objectives should be.

One thing is clear, however: the very fact that the negotiations did open was a major victory for the Soviets. Their vast superiority in intermediate-range systems will allow them to negotiate from a position of strength;6 the negotiations give them precious leverage to influence European public opinion and to delay the deployment of NATO's systems when the weapons are produced (1983-84); and, finally, if Soviet insistence on including in the negotiations the U.S. forward-based systems in Europe is accepted, the Soviets will have achieved a major breakthrough which they have been seeking from the very beginning of the SALT process in the late 1960s. With this background, the opening of the TNF talks has less to do with genuine arms control than with a short-term political expedient to try to resolve NATO's own internal political dilemmas. Given Soviet superiority in theater nuclear weapons, and Moscow's growing influence on European public opinion, the talks now carry heavy security risks for the Alliance as a whole.


The gradual weakening of the Atlantic system does not imply that Europe has reached a stage where she is politically ready to take charge of her security. Indeed, one can even speak of a regression here, to the extent that in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Europe had her first doubts about the credibility of the U.S. guarantee, her natural reaction was to look for a European substitute, either by developing an independent nuclear capability (e.g., France) or broader European defense cooperation (e.g., the French-German talks between 1958 and 1963 and the 1962 Fouchet Plan proposing political and defense cooperation in Europe).7 Today, while each of the countries in question has gone through a major defense debate at one stage or another since 1978-79, this has not led to any serious attempt at developing intra-European defense cooperation as a means to fill the gaps left by the declining validity of the American security guarantee.8

Instead-and this is what is really worrisome about the current mood in Europe-each of these governments reacted separately in trying to preserve the status quo ante in the face of growing Soviet pressures and a new wave of pacifist sentiment throughout the Continent. While some governments, particularly in the smaller NATO countries, simply decided to cut down on their defense efforts, most Europeans tended to push forward with arms control initiatives (as in the case of TNF and confidence-building measures in Europe) in the hope that such negotiations would somehow reverse the adverse trends in the military balance, keep the dialogue alive with the Soviet Union, and facilitate domestic political support for the minimum defense policies compatible with their continued commitment to the Alliance.

In this context, virtually no political capital was invested in developing European defense cooperation. To be sure, a minority of Europeans continue to dream of a hypothetical "third way" whereby a United Europe would take charge of her own defense. Similarly, the idea of possible Franco-German or Franco-British nuclear cooperation did surface at various times throughout the 1970s in several European countries. In practice, however, very little has been accomplished in that direction. To take the most recent episode, Great Britain, which had to decide upon the modernization of its deterrent force, never seriously considered "the French option": for a variety of political and financial reasons, the new French M-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile was never a serious contender with the American Trident system which the British finally selected.

As for Germany, while officially strongly committed to the French-German entente, it remains totally opposed to any kind of military nuclear cooperation with France. The issue arose in the summer of 1979 when two French Gaullists, General Georges Buis and Alexandre Sanguinetti, launched a trial balloon proposing such cooperation. Although the proposal itself carried little political weight on the French side, the German government took great pains to reject it officially. More than ever, the Federal Republic holds to its non-nuclear status, which has become one of the cornerstones of Germany's relationship with the East. Moreover, ever since the late 1950s and early 1960s, when similar approaches were made by the French, Germany has done its best to avoid being put into a position where it has to choose between America and France for its protection.

Interestingly enough, the most positive evolution toward the idea of European defense cooperation is to be found in France. Until recently, the French enjoyed a very comfortable position indeed. The U.S. nuclear guarantee and NATO protected France's neighbors without infringing on France's independence. And France could capitalize on its national deterrent to establish itself as a major world actor, and indeed as a kind of arbitrator between the blocs. The German problem-France's traditional obsession-was solved, though not quite as the Gaullists would have liked it to be: for in the early 1960s the Germans had rejected General de Gaulle's proposal for forming France and Germany into the nucleus of an independent Europe outside NATO. Yet the Federal Republic's presence within the Alliance was still a convenient way to ensure the continued security, and therefore the stability, of a divided Germany.

The situation began to change in the late 1970s: the United States was no longer the dominant power, and the credibility of the U.S. nuclear guarantee was now in doubt throughout Europe. The neutron bomb episode and the TNF debate provoked in France the sudden realization that Germany, too, was having its own "Gaullist" doubts about the United States. And, in French logic, a Germany that feels insecure means an unstable Germany and hence an unstable Europe. It also means that such a Germany would be tempted to solve its own security problem by purely German solutions: either by going nuclear, or more likely, given the situation in Europe, by looking for a separate accommodation with the Soviet Union. Obviously, neither outcome would be favorable to France.

It is therefore no accident that France's nuclear strategy, while still formally committed to the doctrine of independence as defined under de Gaulle, has evolved considerably during President Giscard d'Estaing's term in office. The evolution began in 1976 with the announcement of a new concept of an "enlarged sanctuary" and "forward battle." It was confirmed recently by repeated official statements-including those from the President himself-to the effect that France's security is now inseparable from the security of her European neighbors, and of Germany in particular. The purely "national" deterrent concept in force a decade ago has thus been replaced by a wider posture which now takes into account the European theater as a whole.

In practice, however, the evolution of French thinking about European security has so far failed to be translated into meaningful actions, let alone into a full-fledged diplomatic initiative. Given strong domestic resistance from both the Gaullists and the communists, who are prompt to denounce any evolution of France's defense policy as "Atlanticism," Giscard's treatment of the European defense issue remains extremely cautious. France chose, for example, not to take sides in the TNF debate, although Giscard's support could surely have helped Helmut Schmidt in coping with the left wing of his socialist party. Instead, theater nuclear weapons were treated officially as "NATO business." At the same time, however, France did announce an ambitious program of modernization of her own nuclear forces and let it be known-unofficially-that she was supporting a similar modernization on the part of her NATO allies. Similarly, while French officials stress the inherent link between France's security and European security, they also take great pains to remain as vague as possible when it comes to defining the actual contribution of French forces, including nuclear forces, to the security of the Continent.

This general inertia and inability on the part of key European nations to move toward greater cooperation in the security area reflects the continued divisions and basic differences of interest among the various Europeans on the global political plane. In fact, despite some progress in European political cooperation, and despite the French-German entente under Giscard and Schmidt, intra-European divisions have increased in recent years. The enlargement of the European Community has produced the dilution of the Community into what is becoming a free-trade area. The gap is widening between the largest members of the Community and the smaller states: increasingly, serious political business is treated on a bilateral basis between France, Germany and the United Kingdom with little involvement of the smaller members of the Community. And when the Community as a whole takes a political stand-as in the case of the June 1980 Venice initiative on the Middle East-the latter tends to be limited to words in the absence of appropriate means (i.e., political and military leverage) to carry it through.

Even the French-German entente, which is often cited as the one example of progress toward European unity, is flawed by basic ambiguities and conflicting interests. To the French, who have in fact never given up on the Gaullist idea of "de-NATO-izing" Germany, the alliance with the Federal Republic is the first step toward building a new Europe, one that can "assert its own voice in world affairs." But, in the French view, this new Europe would not aim at reunifying Germany; in that sense, most French leaders continue to share the basic Gaullist concept that France and the U.S.S.R. are somehow "natural" allies when it comes to keeping Germany divided.

To the Germans, the objective is to preserve the status quo both with the NATO Alliance and with the East. The alliance with France therefore serves two useful purposes: first, it helps to bring France closer to the Alliance; second, it allows Germany more diplomatic leeway in dealings with Washington, particularly when it comes to protecting Ostpolitik and the Federal Republic's commitments to European détente. This "French card" was particularly useful in the aftermath of Afghanistan: the Paris communiqué of February 1980 helped shelter Germany from American pressures, and President Giscard d'Estaing's trip to Warsaw in May paved the way for Chancellor Schmidt's own visit to Moscow the following month.

Ambiguities of this magnitude are bound to lead to strains. Indeed, as events have unfolded since last spring, basic divergencies between Paris and Bonn gradually developed. While France stiffened its attitude toward Moscow following the failure of the Warsaw meeting and the threat of another Soviet action in Poland, Germany still persisted in wanting to save European détente and was hesitant to envisage serious sanctions in the case of an invasion of Poland. Moreover, whereas France considerably increased her naval presence in the Indian Ocean and announced an ambitious program of modernization of her defense with a corresponding increase of her military expenditures, Germany categorically refused to envisage a military role for itself beyond NATO's boundaries, was still hesitant about the TNF program, and failed to reach the three-percent target set by NATO for annual increases of defense expenditures. By the end of 1980, the French-German entente began to show, for the first time, visible cracks.

The irony of this situation is that France, which used to be considered the "black sheep" of the Alliance, is now the one European nation that shows the greatest readiness to safeguard her security in the face of new threats arising both in Europe and in the Third World. The situation is now exactly the reverse of what it was during the 1960s. France is now objectively, if not officially, closer to the Reagan Administration than any other European nation in facing up to the new realities of the international security environment.


Although the need for an urgent and fundamental restructuring of the European security system is clear, it is equally obvious that the choices before us are few and rather poor. Given the realities of both the NATO Alliance and of Europe today, neither the return to the old Atlantic system nor the establishment of a hypothetical European Defense Community are realistic options for maintaining European security in the 1980s. However tempting the nostalgia for the 1960s, the United States can neither restore the absolute nuclear superiority it once enjoyed nor reestablish its dominant leadership over Europe. Given its present internal contradictions, however, the Alliance can hardly be expected to last for another 30 years without either a major breakdown or a major transformation. On the other hand, in the absence of political will among key European nations to take their security into their own hands, it is hard to see how an autonomous European security entity could be established, even in the very long term.

In essence, the only realistic option for preserving European defense in the 1980s will have to be of a hybrid nature, one that accurately reflects the historical stage at which Europe now finds itself, namely halfway between a much weakened Atlantic system and a still embryonic European framework.

The recognition of this fact points to a necessarily pragmatic, if not modest, approach aimed at achieving realistic objectives. Such an approach assumes that Americans and Europeans alike abandon their traditional tendency to think of the Alliance and of European defense cooperation in mutually exclusive terms. For far too long now, the Americans as well as most Europeans have refused to envisage any European alternative to NATO. This worked as a convenient justification for the continuation of both the U.S. dominance over the allies and the passivity of most European nations in ensuring their own security. The opposite tendency was for some Europeans (the French, in particular) to consider that Europe could only exist if she gave herself the means to protect her own security outside NATO. In effect, this logically sound but unrealistic approach served as an equally convenient justification for the general inertia that has characterized European defense cooperation since 1954.

Today, our objective should be to reconcile the Alliance with a genuine effort toward European defense cooperation. Gradually improving defense cooperation among the key European nations, in parallel to NATO , would:

(1) encourage a greater European contribution and responsibility in the defense of the Continent;

(2) compensate for the decline of the credibility of the U.S. guarantee afforded within NATO; and

(3) allow American resources and personnel necessary for the protection of vital Western interests to be used beyond NATO's territorial boundaries, as well as gradually open the way for a wider European military role in these regions.

To do these things would not require any new institution or an impracticable and risky renegotiation of the 1949 NATO treaty. Nor would it imply for the European nations involved the establishment of a specific regional body, let alone a supranational one. Instead, the objective should be to work upon-and, in effect, to enhance-the basic complementarity which already exists both at the Alliance level and in Europe between the various components of the overall Western deterrent force. Here, the precedent of the 1962 Fouchet Plan, which called for gradual political as well as defense cooperation among European states, serves as a useful model. Although the plan was rejected at the time as insufficiently "European," the basic approach of the proposal, namely, that of an evolving cooperation among states, was later proven right and even embedded in the evolution of European institutions and policies.

Militarily, the objective of a cooperative defense effort among the major European powers would be to remedy the most urgent weaknesses in the Alliance deterrent posture resulting from the growing inferiority of Western conventional forces on the Continent and the declining credibility of NATO's first use of nuclear weapons.

Such weaknesses could have the gravest military implications, should the Soviets decide, especially during a crisis, to resort to the "conventional option." This situation also carries heavy political risks, as the Soviets will certainly try to translate their local military superiority in Europe into political gains, thereby achieving in the long run the "victory" for which they are really aiming, namely the political control of Western Europe without resort to war.

Such a situation demands that the Europeans urgently undertake a dual effort-going well beyond NATO's current plans-aimed at raising the nuclear threshold through reinforcing conventional capabilities, and achieving the means and defining the doctrine necessary to restore the credibility of the first use of nuclear weapons.

This dual effort would be based on the idea of reinforcing the operational and structural complementarity among the forces of the three major European countries, namely France, the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany. Although lack of space prevents going into many details, the basic guidelines for such an effort can be proposed.

With respect to conventional forces, the Europeans will have to face an increasingly unfavorable situation given (1) the growing Soviet capacity to launch a surprise attack, and (2) the tendency on the part of the United States to move forces and equipment out of Europe for contingencies arising in Third World regions (in particular, the Persian Gulf area). Improving the conventional military balance between East and West will imply, at the outset, that a number of financial, and therefore political, choices have to be made. For such an effort will require either a major increase of defense expenditures well beyond the two to three percent of the gross national product now devoted by the Europeans to their defense, or the rationalization of the various national programs now undertaken separately.

Given the economic, social and domestic political constraints at work in most European countries, a drastic increase of European defense budgets seems unrealistic. This means that one has to do better with what one already has. And here much could be done in terms of rationalizing arms procurement policies among the key European countries. In fact, intra-European cooperation in this area is already well on its way, particularly between France and Germany, and in some instances between France and the United Kingdom. A rationalization of weapons-production programs among these three nations could be further developed in spite of the complex technological and economic obstacles involved. Such a rationalization would avoid the dispersion of scarce resources and lead to better weapons at a lower unit price.

Going beyond the issue of arms-procurement policies, the main effort of rationalization should involve the overall conception of the defense forces of the three countries. The objective here should be to establish a "division of labor" among the three national defense forces. To a large extent, this specialization already exists: the Bundeswehr is the strongest conventional European army today, whereas France and Britain are, preeminently, nuclear powers. In the future, this specialization should be reinforced by turning it into an effective complementarity both at the operational and financial level. Indeed, Britain and France already face increasing financial difficulties in financing simultaneously the modernization of their nuclear arsenals and that of their conventional forces (in the case of France, one should add the financing of special intervention forces earmarked for Third World areas). Rather than "sprinkling" scarce resources in too many directions, both countries should opt for more limited but better equipped conventional forces than is presently the case with the British Army of the Rhine and the First French Army. In so doing, additional resources would be available for both the essential modernization of the two European nuclear forces and the creation or reinforcement of mobile intervention forces.

With respect to nuclear weapons, it is clear that both the French and British forces will be called upon to play an increasingly important role in the necessary restructuring of the Alliance nuclear posture. Indeed, this process has to some extent already started.

As long as the U.S. nuclear guarantee was seen as clearly protecting the non-nuclear members of the Alliance, the two European nuclear forces had only a marginal-if not insignificant-role in the overall deterrent posture of the Alliance. France-and to a lesser extent Britain-could therefore enjoy the political benefits stemming from their nuclear status without undertaking any direct responsibility in the defense of the Continent as a whole. Today the situation has changed. The gradual decline in the credibility of the U.S. nuclear guarantee during the past decade has propelled both the French and British forces into an increasingly important European role although, ironically, neither the French nor the British really desired such a role.

In practice, the contribution of both European nuclear forces to the defense of the Continent-which is already recognized in NATO's Ottawa Declaration of 1974-will continue to grow as the French and British arsenals are modernized. The development on the French side of MIRVed M-4 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) beginning in 1985, as well as of Trident SLBMs equipped with "Chevaline" warheads on the British side, will give both countries a deterrent power capable of protecting much more than their respective territories.

In the future, one of the key objectives of European defense cooperation should be to accelerate this evolution by broadening the deterrent effect of both forces to include explicitly the European theater as a whole. In practice, this would be achieved by entrusting both European nuclear forces with the essential task of triggering nuclear escalation in the event of Soviet aggression on the Continent. To the extent that the Soviets may have doubts as to the readiness of the United States to resort to the first use of nuclear weapons for the defense of Europe, such doubts will not be possible if the Europeans commit themselves and have the capability of triggering this first use for the defense of their Continent.

When added to the existing American guarantee, this broadening of the deterrent role of the French and British nuclear forces to Germany and to the whole of Western Europe would bring two major advantages: first, the present decline of the credibility of the American guarantee would be compensated for, and, second, the coupling of European defense with the U.S. central systems, far from being diminished, would in fact be reinforced.

To be sure, implementing such a scheme presupposes the solution of many intra-European problems mentioned earlier. It also implies that the threat of French and British nuclear first use must be credible to the Soviets politically as well as militarily. In turn, this calls for an increase in the nuclear capabilities of both France and Britain, as well as for a certain visibility of the new deterrent posture. Such a visibility could be achieved by the deployment in West Germany of French and British intermediate-range systems.9 This European arrangement, which would function in parallel with NATO, would in the longer run be reinforced by a series of bilateral "double-key" agreements between Paris and Bonn as well as between London and Bonn, and possibly by the definition of joint targeting plans.


The guidelines set forth in the preceding section are no doubt imperfect. Many will view them as too ambitious and unrealistic; others will find them too modest and insufficient to resolve European security issues in the 1980s. As such, however, they illustrate the immense complexity of the problems now facing us. In the absence of a purely "Atlantic" solution or of an alternate European one, Europeans are condemned to a pragmatic and difficult route. But it is one that can preserve both the Alliance, despite its internal contradictions, and the long-term chances of meaningful European defense cooperation.

There is, however, one other route open to the Europeans, one that is surely more convenient, at least in the short run, and requires considerably less effort. This is the route of inertia, which has been followed by most European governments over the past 18 months, notwithstanding the drastic transformation which has taken place in the international security environment.

Such a path carries three sets of potential dangers: those involving European relations with the United States, with the Soviet Union, and among the Europeans themselves.

In the first instance, it is clear that the Europeans cannot hope to maintain the attitude they have adopted since Afghanistan without risking a major crisis in-and a possible breakdown of-the transatlantic relationship. The Europeans cannot simultaneously try to pursue détente with the Soviets as if nothing had happened-and therefore decouple themselves politically from the Americans-and demand that the military coupling be maintained "as usual." The ultimate price to be paid by the Europeans for keeping the "dividends of détente" may therefore have to be the dissolution of the Atlantic Alliance itself.

Toward the Soviet Union, the present European attitude, which consists of accepting in practice the Soviet notion of the divisibility of détente, is equally dangerous. As the "dividends" of détente turn into paralyzing vulnerabilities, the European obsession with preserving their peace may well lead in the long run to the end of "Western" Europe as an independent entity.

Finally, a third set of dangers threatens the Europeans themselves. These are perhaps the most likely and the most damaging for Europe as a whole. In view of Europe's deep internal divisions and given the absence of an all-powerful American leader, or of a substitute European directorate, there is a real danger that each European country will gradually be led to look for its own solutions to its security problems. Some would doubtless choose to return to the American strategic shelter; others would look for an accommodation with Moscow; and still others would entrench themselves behind an exclusively national nuclear deterrent. In the end, Europe as a whole would fall victim to such a "Balkanization" process, which is already visible in certain countries.


Above and beyond all the political and strategic problems which are threatening the security of the Continent, the fundamental question is whether the Europeans still want to exist with their own culture and civilization in a rapidly changing and dangerous world. Or, conversely, whether they simply want to watch history pass by with the sole ambition of preserving their peace and their material well-being at any cost.

However strong the temptation to do so, it would be illusory for some Europeans-or all Europeans-to believe that they can become a "large Switzerland," rich, neutral and protected from the dangers of the outside world. For if Switzerland, or indeed Finland, or Austria, exists as such today, it is because other Europeans have shown the will to exist as independent nations ready to defend themselves. And although it has become fashionable to use such terms, there will not be in Europe any general "Finlandization" or "Euro-neutralization": for there is, in the final analysis, no middle way between defense and enslavement.

1 The following discussion summarizes a much more detailed analysis published in Pierre Lellouche, ed., La Sécurité de l'Europe dans les Années 80, cited in author's note.

2 An analysis of NATO's Long-Term Defense Program (LTDP) and of the Theater Nuclear Force (TNF) modernization program are to be found in the contributions of Richard Burt, Coit Blacker and Farook Hussain to the aforementioned volume.

3 The transatlantic crisis is analyzed in depth in Karl Kaiser, Winston Lord, Thierry de Montbrial and David Watt, Western Security: What has changed? What should be done?, New York: Council on Foreign Relations, Inc., February 1981. See also Dominique Moisi, "Les Nouveaux Malentendus Transatlantiques," in Lellouche, op. cit.

7 See Wilfrid L. Kohl, French Nuclear Diplomacy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971, chapters 2 and 7.

8 See Pierre Hassner, "Europe and the Contradictions in American Policy," in Richard Rosecrance, ed., America as an Ordinary Country, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976.

9 These could involve, for example, Mirage IV, Mirage 200 and Vulcan bombers, as well as British ground-launched cruise missiles and the new French generation of mobile MRBMs.



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  • Pierre Lellouche is head of the European Security Program at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), Paris. This essay is drawn, in part, from a wider study conducted by the author in the framework of the research program on "The New Dimensions of European Security" at IFRI. The study was published in La Sécurité de l'Europe dans les Années 80, ed. Pierre Lellouche, Paris: IFRI-Economica, December 1980.
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