The history of the Atlantic Alliance is a history of crises. But we must distinguish between the routine difficulties engendered by Western Europe's dependence on the United States for its security, as well as by the economic interdependence of the allies, and major breakdowns or misunderstandings which reveal not simply an inevitable divergence of interests but dramatically different views of the world and priorities. At the present time, complaints from West European leaders about the effects of high American interest rates on their economies, or about President Reagan's skeptical approach to North-South economic issues, belong in the first category. The current controversy in Europe over nuclear weapons belongs in the second, and now confronts the Alliance with one of its most dangerous tests.

On its face, that controversy revolves around NATO's double decision of December 1979 to deploy by 1983 new long-range nuclear forces in the European theater and to enter into arms control negotiations with the Soviets about such forces. It does not yet pit allied governments against our own. But the widespread West European popular movement opposed to the new deployments indicates both the existence in several nations of a broad politically destabilizing gap between government and a sizable, mobilized section of the public, and a growing divorce of feelings and perceptions between the two sides of the Atlantic. Far more than technical questions of deterrence and strategy is at stake; these serve primarily as symptoms of fundamental issues.


The present popular movement in Western Europe is not the first of its kind. A vigorous campaign for nuclear disarmament attracted many Britons in the early 1960s; and we should not forget the strong opposition in West Germany to the development of nuclear energy in recent years. Nor is the current agitation evenly strong; the demonstration that took place in Paris on October 25 was organized and dominated by the Communist Party and one of its front organizations, and while the Rome demonstration on that same day went beyond the orbit of the Italian Communist Party and labor union, it did not offer the same agglomeration of forces as in the northern part of the continent.

Nevertheless, the current movement is new and formidable in several respects. It is a mass movement of continental dimension, which mobilizes and moves people across borders-something quite exceptional even in the partly integrated Western Europe of today. It entails the active participation of women and of a large number of religious movements and churches-predominantly but not exclusively Protestant-in countries where they have rarely taken part in big rallies. It is particularly strong in the country that has been, until now, the most reliable partner of the United States on the continent and the linchpin of NATO strategy: the Federal Republic of Germany. While it brings together people from a variety of parties, particularly in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and is often led by well-known priests, intellectuals or politicians, the movement is largely a gathering of young people, a generational protest-the first since 1968. Above all, like the May 1968 movement in France, it is, in de Gaulle's word, "insaisissable"-beyond grasp-for it represents a convergence of different concerns, fears and aspirations on a single issue, and offers more emotion and passion than hard-headed analysis. Hence the difficulty of finding an appropriate adjective that would define it.

Some-for instance those on the left wing of the British Labour Party-argue for the complete denuclearization of Europe and for unilateral action toward that goal; others want mutual arms reductions to be negotiated between Washington and Moscow. Some remain committed to NATO, minus the December 1979 decision; others dream of a neutral Europe. Many denounce both superpowers, described as brainless monsters, and attack the "policy of blocs" which keeps Europe divided and dependent; others concentrate their fire on the United States alone. Most seem to fear nuclear war above all; yet many are also moved by indignation about what they feel to be a mistaken emphasis on military approaches to international problems, and the excessive costs of defense at a time of high unemployment, cuts in social services, and sometimes-as in England-severe industrial depression. Some are members of political parties, highly politicized and expert at manipulation. But many are almost defiantly un- or anti-political, in quest of a "concrete Utopia," or convinced that in a world in which traditional power politics has failed to bring lasting peace or to remove the threat of nuclear destruction, spectacular gestures of renunciation could prove contagious; they believe that examples of self-abnegation, even by small nations, could shame the superpowers into respect or imitation. In the German movement, many are inspired by a determination to repudiate any form of policy that smacks of Germany's past-hence any reliance on force as a key instrument-and seek an identity that would be pure and blameless; others seem moved by a more resentful or ambitious nationalism.


Why has this complex movement arisen over the issue of long-range theater nuclear forces? Two questions are involved: why now? and why does it focus on this point?

There are profound differences between the mood of the late 1950s, when peace movements flourished in various places, and that of the present. Then, paradoxically, there was both general confidence in American nuclear superiority (hence relatively low fear of nuclear war) and general agreement that the Soviets were the bullies threatening to disrupt the peace in Europe. This was the era of the Berlin crises: what was feared in West Germany-and in West Berlin, whose mayor was Willy Brandt-was American softness. Now we find the opposite mix. There are serious doubts about the U.S. promise to preserve West European security through extended nuclear deterrence. In an age of nuclear parity, Washington seems unlikely to risk America's survival for the protection of Europe, despite ritual official reassurances. Given the new properties of nuclear weapons such as accuracy and mobility, nuclear strategy seems to point to war-fighting, as deterrence through the threat of massive city-busting is no longer wholly credible, and deterrence through the threat of a first strike against Soviet forces appears eroded by the loss of American superiority.

The West European view of the Soviet Union has furthermore been transformed, mellowed by the experience of the détente years and affected by the spectacle of Soviet embarrassment in Eastern Europe. In particular, the Polish "example" has had an enormous effect. The spectacle of a nationwide grass roots movement restoring freedom, of workers rebelling against a stale bureaucracy and insisting on their rights and dignity, of a relatively small and weak country resisting a superpower and-so far-deterring the Red Army, has instilled in many Continental young people a feeling of pride-as Europeans-and not a little envy.

To these general factors, one must add some that apply particularly to the Federal Republic. A new generation with no experience of European crises-the invasion of Czechoslovakia was 13 years ago-has appeared, marked by deep revulsion against both Germany's past and Germany's present. In its view the older generation had been either too busy trying to build a new honorable society or too eager to forget about a dishonorable past-too sure of its own virtue, insofar as its members had been anti-Nazis, or too guilty to want to spend much time looking backward. Now, their sons and daughters ask questions about the bloody history of united Germany, reawaken the nagging issue of German identity and, rather romantically, seem tempted by the notion of a new mission for Germany as the harbinger of peace and emancipation for all of Europe.

Moreover, many of Germany's young people have been taught, in school or at the university, about the evils of postwar West German society-hucksterism, materialism, consumerism, conspicuous displays of wealth, etc.; even those who were educated in areas where the Marxist or New Left does not dominate classrooms find the same themes on the screens of movie houses or television, and in the novels of the Republic's best known writers.

Finally, many West Germans seem to have parted from, and even discarded, the "American model." America-as-the-example, a notion that was still prevalent in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has been replaced, if not with America-the-menace (although there are clearly some elements of this), at least with a sorry picture of the United States, soiled by Vietnam and by domestic violence, by ethnic strife and widespread electoral abstentionism, and by a bizarre mix of militarism in policy and a complacent refusal to institute a draft.

Thus we encounter the first of many paradoxes. Instead of believing that the United States provides security and that the U.S.S.R. breeds insecurity, many young Europeans now feel the opposite. Insofar as they still understand that insecurity might come from the East, they react in a direction contrary to that of the United States. Here, the public mood, expressed by the election of President Reagan and by the new Congress, is one of restoring America's strength; in Western Europe, the public mood is one of fearing war, of believing that the accumulation of weapons can only lead to war, and of wanting the superpowers to deal with their differences in other ways, less dangerous to mankind. Hence the emphasis-by the governments themselves-on negotiations with the East, and the temptation-of the public-by various forms of escapism, from denuclearized zones to neutrality. The dramas of the 1970s have affected Americans and Europeans differently. Americans seem to want to "stop being pushed around" in the world and to turn to fundamentalist means for economic recovery: private enterprise and a reduced role for the state. West Europeans concentrate on their domestic troubles and, whatever their government's political orientation, rely on state initiatives and a mixed economy.

In recent years Americans and West Europeans, even at the official level, have diverged on three essential issues. Americans, in their relations with Moscow, have reverted to a view and to a policy in which hostility predominates; West Europeans have benefited from, and want to preserve, a mixed relationship. Americans, seeing a worldwide Soviet challenge, have nudged their allies toward a global alliance; the West Europeans have insisted on the geographical limitations of the Atlantic Alliance and resented Washington's attempts to present El Salvador as a test of Alliance solidarity, or to look at North-South issues from a cold war angle, or to give, in the Middle East, precedence to weaponry over diplomacy. Americans are convinced that the central problem of the age is the containment of Soviet imperialism, and that the military dangers posed by the U.S.S.R. are in many ways compounded by the huge weaknesses of the Soviet polity; West Europeans see these dangers, but think they are reduced, offset, or neutralized by those weaknesses, and by Soviet entanglements in Afghanistan and Poland.1


Against this background it is not hard to see why the controversy has come to focus on the issue of long-range theater nuclear forces. The NATO decisions of December 1979 were "rolling" decisions, calling for future deployments and arms control negotiations. Although the intergovernmental consultations that led to the decision were careful and prolonged, the public in the key West European countries was never truly engaged. There was no great debate in advance, and, in the atmosphere described above, it can now be seen as almost inevitable that controversy would come to focus on this issue. For there was a long history of interallied disagreements on strategy, especially with respect to nuclear weapons in NATO.2

There was, in the first place, never any agreement on the military function of theater nuclear forces in NATO's strategy. Throughout the 1960s, the Americans wanted NATO to increase its conventional forces as the best way of deterring a Soviet attack, or rather as the best way of giving plausibility to the strategic nuclear guarantee of the United States. They argued for a firebreak between a conventional and a theater nuclear conflict, and looked at NATO's theater nuclear weapons mainly as a deterrent against a Soviet use of theater nuclear forces, plus as a last resort should conventional defense falter. But the Europeans would have preferred the threat of an early first use of NATO's theater nuclear forces, in order to make it impossible for the Soviets ever to believe that they could start and fight a purely conventional war in Europe. The "flexible response" strategy formally adopted in 1967 was a compromise that resolved nothing.

It followed, secondly, that there was never any agreement on the kinds and amounts of theater nuclear forces required. If their function is primarily to demonstrate America's commitment and to contribute to the deterrence of Soviet aggression, there is no need to match the Soviet capabilities in kind. Indeed, Soviet theater capabilities-the new SS-20 medium-range missile and the Backfire bomber-can be offset by U.S. strategic forces. The West Europeans have always tended to believe that "escalation matching"-the ability to confront the Soviets at every level with weapons as capable as their own, so as to deter them from escalating to a level at which they have an advantage-deters less than strategies that threaten the early initiation and uncontrollable escalation of nuclear war.

Third, the NATO decision of December 1979-calling for new medium-range missile deployments inferior in numbers to those of the Soviets-seemed to lack any operational rationale. Was it, as some American officials have imprudently suggested, aimed at replying to (although not matching) the SS-20, and at saving the United States from having to resort to its central strategic forces in case of a Soviet use of the SS-20? This is a view heatedly rejected by West European supporters of the December 1979 decision, both because it feeds the protesters' suspicions about America's willingness to risk its own territory on behalf of Europe and because they fear that any attempt to establish a kind of tit-for-tat balance on the Continent would indeed have the effect of "decoupling" U.S. strategic forces from the European theater. Is, then, the rationale the reestablishment of the link between European security and the central systems, a link weakened by recent Soviet deployments? But if this is the purpose-a restoration of deterrence-are vulnerable Pershing II missiles and less vulnerable but difficult to disperse ground-launched cruise missiles the best instruments? Or is the rationale primarily to provide NATO with a bargaining chip for negotiations?

Finally, there is no agreement among the allies on the arms control aspects of the decision. While the decision does not subordinate the deployments to a failure of the negotiations, one must expect resistance to the deployments to increase if there appears to be some hope left for a deal that would allow for more limited deployments, or even for none at all, on the Western side.

Unlike the Multilateral Force (MLF) project, which attempted in the early 1960s to create a nuclear force manned on an integrated basis by several NATO nations, the December 1979 decision was not an attempt to give a military answer to a political problem; it tried to give a military and a political answer to a military problem. But given the uncertainties of nuclear strategy and the various theologies about it, there was no agreement either on the true significance and dimension of the problem created by the Soviets, or on the right answer. Given the sensitive nature of the issue, it was absurd to believe that the decision would put an end to anguish.

Clearly, the present debate is but the latest manifestation of the permanent West European fear of becoming a war zone. If the United States, by refusing to risk its homeland in the event of a Soviet attack on Western Europe, "decouples" because of its loss of nuclear superiority or for any other reason, such as NATO's present inability to strike the western part of the Soviet Union, Western Europe could be left to the mercy of the Soviets, or destroyed in a conventional or limited nuclear war. Yet if the United States takes measures which are seen to be recoupling, and assumes, for instance, that the Soviets would not distinguish between an American missile striking them from Western Europe and an American missile hitting them from the high seas or from U.S. territory, Western Europe still cannot be sure that Washington will actually use its nuclear weapons, since Americans retain final control over their use. Moreover, if the superpowers are heading toward a global war, would recoupling make much difference anyway?

It is awareness-dim or blinding-of these points which explains the psychological contradictions and contortions of the European protest movement. People who are in an impossible position, or in a position in which the only good outcome-peace-seems increasingly unlikely, tend to react with a mix of illusions, resentments, and inconsistencies, because the grammar of emotions has nothing to do with the logic of the mind. Remember the ways in which Frenchmen, eager for peace and convinced that another war would destroy their country, reacted to the Nazi threat in the 1930s (a comparison made here because of the psychological, not political, parallels). There are Europeans who refuse to believe that the SS-20 is more than just a modernized version of older Soviet missiles, or to accept the notion of possible Soviet military superiority, or to admit that the Soviets could militarily exploit any superiority they have, yet who are quite willing to believe that the United States can no longer deter a Soviet attack because it has lost its superiority. We Americans have done too good a job, in recent years, of stressing our relative decline, and-as Henry Kissinger did in Brussels in 1979-our inability to provide extended deterrence any longer. In the United States, the perception of decline has led to a renewed and often indiscriminate will to arm, but in Europe it has encouraged doubts about America and wishful thinking about the potential Soviet threat.

One finds also, among the protesters, a desire for plausible deterrence (since only successful deterrence makes any sense), yet simultaneously the fear that no form of deterrence is fully plausible anymore. One finds suspicion of American strategic moves and a new determination to resist them, insofar as they seem to indicate a shift from a deterrence to a war-fighting strategy. The protesters see an alarming pattern in President Carter's Presidential Directive 59, with its emphasis on targeting Soviet offensive forces, and President Reagan's decisions to proceed with production of the neutron bomb and to deploy the new MX intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and the Pershing II medium-range missile, both of which are formidable first-strike weapons and, given their vulnerability, an invitation to Soviet preemptive attack.

Yet one also finds the conviction that the defense of Europe and the neutralization of any Soviet threat against it will always remain an essential American interest, whatever the allies might do and however hard they may kick their protector. One finds a conviction that even if the Soviets are stronger in some areas, they cannot transform military superiority into political advantages (Tito's Yugoslavia, Ceausescu's Romania, a free Finland, and now a reborn Poland have survived), but little understanding of why. In fact, the reason for the limits on Soviet influence has been West European-American solidarity, and a break between the two sides of the Atlantic would leave the West Europeans dangerously exposed. One finds, most dangerously, a tendency to blame the protector as the real source of trouble (conversely, in the summer of 1938, many Frenchmen blamed their protégé, Beneš' Czechoslovakia, for creating difficulties with Hitler) and to seek an escape hatch by putting excessive hopes in arms control or even in unilateral restraint. Just because peace is the only sane and sensible goal, must a form of pacifism be the only reaction of young Europeans to the shifts in the nuclear balance and in the international political climate?


We have seen, in the history of the Alliance, several examples of crises created by Europe's defense problems. In two cases, the United States retreated: Lyndon Johnson over the MLF, Jimmy Carter over the neutron bomb. In another case, the pursuit of an increasingly hopeless course led to a crash, fortunately followed by a rescue operation: the collapse of the European Defense Community in 1954 followed by the decision to rearm West Germany within NATO. These are not happy precedents.

There can be, in the near future, no retreat from NATO's decision. Unlike earlier procurement decisions, as Christoph Bertram shows elsewhere in this issue, this one was collective, and even if the Belgian and Dutch governments find themselves unwilling or unable to enforce it, Britain (except in the improbable case of a return of the Labour Party to power), Italy and West Germany will try to stick to it. Although the present West German government risks collapse should the Social Democratic Party (SPD) repudiate its ministers, or should domestic issues become divisive, a successor government formed by the Christian Democrats would be even more committed to the NATO decision. Also, any retreat now would pull the rug from under the arms control negotiations.

The real threat, then, lies below the official level, in the relations between governments and their publics. Governments may find themselves unable to confirm a tentative commitment (as in the cases of Belgium and Holland), or to carry out the very commitments they maintain (in West Germany's case). For the gap between the governments and the protesters to be closed, one would have to imagine several events occurring, none of which is likely. One is a successful arms control negotiation. Even if one believes that the bargaining should be limited to theater nuclear forces in Europe (and thus leave out Soviet ICBMs aimed at Western Europe, or Poseidon and Trident submarines assigned to NATO, or the new submarine-launched cruise missile [SLCM] which will be built by the United States and could serve as a coupling link between the central systems and Europe), there are formidable technical and political obstacles.

On the technical side, which weapons are to be included? What is it that should be counted (missiles, launchers, warheads)? What level of limitation would make sense-and is there any level that would "save" the Europeans from new deployments, unless one believes, to quote a recent NATO communiqué, in the "ideal circumstances" of a zero option whereby Russia dismantles her SS-20s and America need not deploy her own theater nuclear weapons? Is not the absence of a clear military rationale on the Western side likely to make an agreement-even, first, among the allies-more difficult? What price, if any, will the Soviets require in order to consent to a dismantling, and not a mere displacement, of the SS-20? How would this be verifiable?3

On the political side, whereas NATO's December 1979 decision was aimed at providing Western negotiators with the added bargaining power which flows from firm deployment commitments, what was intended to be a decisive chip has turned out to be a source of division and weakness. The Soviets have little incentive to conclude an agreement rapidly. All they have to do-all they keep doing-is to make reasonable-sounding proposals, wait for the fallout from public opinion in the West European countries, and sharpen the conflict between "negative" Western governments and eager protesters.

Another event capable of closing the gap would be some Soviet move that would convince the protesters that the Soviets are indeed still a formidable threat. A Soviet invasion of Poland-shown all over Western Europe's TV screens-might demoralize the peace movement. But it would at the same time doom the chances for arms control, thus largely offsetting whatever boost it might have given to Western cohesiveness. In any case, one should neither always count on being rescued by the Soviets nor hope for such a tragedy.

What if, by the time the deployments are supposed to begin, there has been no breakthrough on arms control, and the super-powers' contest remains what it is today? Skillful maneuvering within the German SPD might postpone a showdown from its April 1982 Congress until 1983, so as to give to the arms control side of the December 1979 decision a chance to progress before going ahead with actual deployment of the weapons involved. But can a settlement of accounts be delayed forever? A showdown in 1983 could lead to a rift that might doom the SPD-liberal coalition, and bring a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and liberals to power even before the election of 1984. Alternatively, it could set the stage for a compromise aimed at saving the government through a request that NATO postpone the deployments (scheduled to begin at the end of 1983)-especially if there is still a breath of hope in arms control. A return to power of the CDU, after or before the 1984 elections, could theoretically put an end to this crisis. But there is a major difference between the period when Chancellor Konrad Adenauer succeeded, through perseverance, in converting the SPD to his foreign policy priorities-integration into Western Europe and NATO-and the present period, in which the CDU itself is not entirely immune to the anti-nuclear epidemic and shows itself eager to reassure the public about its commitment to negotiations as well as to strength.

It certainly is not in America's interest to have the NATO decision, and by implication the strategy and policy of the United States, be either the decisive issue in a battle for control with the SPD or the central issue in German politics-something that would happen should the ruling coalition fall over it and the SPD be captured by its left wing. The Federal Republic, for all its economic strength and political stability, remains a fragile plant.

The solidity of the Alliance in Western Europe has always rested on the existence of a broad foreign policy consensus among non-Communist parties. It might therefore be wise for the United States to start thinking about an alternative, should the December 1979 decision become politically unenforceable. The worst that could happen would be an American insistence that enforcement is the test of loyalty to NATO, coupled with mutterings about "Finlandization" and threats of American troop withdrawals. It is not in our interest to hold European governments hostage and to force them to choose between NATO and their domestic support. After all, the NATO decision to counter Soviet deployments with land-based missiles in Western Europe was aimed at reassuring the West Europeans. There are other ways, militarily, of coping with the threat; it is in our interest to find one that satisfies the governments and the publics, and to avoid the perils of polarization. To be sure, with time the protesters might lose heart, grow tired, give up. But the opposite might happen, and it is not in our interest to risk the further growth of the mix of dark fears and rosy fantasies that marks the current movement.

This is where the lesson of the ill-fated European Defense Community and 1954-55 should be remembered. As long as there was a chance to get the EDC through the French Parliament, the U.S. government probably had to insist that there was no good alternative. But it was foolish for Washington to threaten an "agonizing reappraisal" and not to prepare for an alternative; moreover, it was lucky that British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and French Premier Pierre Mendès-France came up with one. This time, it makes sense to think of one immediately. The aim would be to reach the sensible objectives set by NATO in December 1979, but in ways that would be politically less costly. Insofar as we are dealing at least as much with the psychology of perceptions as with military certainties (which do not exist in the absence of any experience of nuclear war, as the cacophony of the experts confirms), we should not be tied to a single approach.

An alternative should be based on the following considerations. One, the reason for the December 1979 decision remains valid-preventing the Soviets from believing that their new theater arsenal could allow them to strike without risking American retaliation on their own territory. Two, such a strengthening of deterrence is more plausible if it does not rely exclusively on the central systems: the "certainty of uncertainty" about an American reply, which is, as McGeorge Bundy puts it, what deters a major Soviet attack, is greater if the United States is not faced with a choice between limited, tactical nuclear retaliation and a strategic first strike against the Soviet Union. Three, the credibility of the deterrent, and the defensive, second-strike character of the weapon systems are reinforced by their invulnerability.

While the concerns of coupling and invulnerability are partly at odds, there are ways of reconciling them: one would be to preserve a limited land-based capability in the form of a small number of cruise missiles (which are preferable to the Pershing II because they are less vulnerable and thus less of an incentive to a Soviet preemptive attack), and to complement it with off-shore, sea-based cruise missiles such as those whose construction was recently approved by President Reagan. A sea-based cruise missile force was rejected by NATO in 1979 because the key concern was visible coupling, which only land-based systems provide. But if a sea-based force might be deemed a less effective deterrent because of its migratory nature, one could also argue that it would be a more effective deterrent due to its reduced vulnerability. In any case, a deterrent whose domestic acceptability is low is less effective than one which does not raise such divisive controversy or drive people into absolutist and absurd positions.

One could conceive of an arms control agreement limited to long-range theater forces, in which the Soviets would agree to end their deployments and even to cut them down, in exchange for Western consent to limit NATO deployments to the new kind proposed here.

On the other hand, a failure to reach agreement on theater arms control on the basis of the December 1979 decision might serve as the occasion for replacing that decision with a new one. The alternative could include the deployment of a mix of long-range theater forces which is more acceptable to the public, and a reduction of NATO's stockpile of short-range nuclear weapons, which is currently too large for deterrence, too vulnerable to a preemptive strike, too close to the battlefield for crisis stability, and which, if used for fighting purposes, would destroy Europe without at all guaranteeing a successful defense.

One last option, of course, would be the abandonment of any long-run theater nuclear reinforcement. Two plans of this sort have been suggested; both are undesirable. One is the reliance on U.S.-based air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM), on the basis of that theory of deterrence which counts on the "certainty of uncertainty" rather than on exact matching or on a "seamless web" of deterrence.4 While it is true that our deterrent posture should be based on our own assessment of NATO needs, not on an obsession with matching every Soviet capability, one of the needs is to provide the plausibility of coupling. The problem is not that U.S. strategic forces cannot adequately deter the new Soviet forces, but that their location matters from the Europeans' viewpoint; the solution, less difficult than squaring the circle, is to make the location more reassuring than threatening to them.

The other plan would put all of NATO's efforts into conventional reinforcement. An improvement of the conventional balance is indispensable, but it is not a panacea. Politically, it would be very difficult to get our allies to agree on a policy that puts the bulk of the financial burden on them (unlike the December 1979 decision); moreover, it would be resisted as decoupling, as has always been the case in the past. And militarily, it may not be a valid option at all-unless all nuclear weapons were removed from Western Europe (something which many of the same protesters who today call for denuclearization would brand as proof of abandonment by the United States).


From the story of the December 1979 decision, there are three main lessons to be learned (in addition to all the other lessons enumerated by Christoph Bertram).

One concerns NATO's major military decisions. They tend to be shaped too much by the circumstances that prevail at the time-and by short-term considerations-and to be too dependent on the political climate of the moment. Once again, the parallel with the EDC is worth stressing. West German rearmament was a long-term necessity; but the haste and manner in which it was undertaken could only be explained by the shock of the Korean War. And a treaty drafted in the somber period of late Stalinism looked quite different after the tyrant's death, in what seemed a possible prelude to a thaw.

In the current instance there was, again, a legitimate long-term concern, resulting from the Soviet build-up in Europe. But the way in which the decision was taken reflected two short-term considerations. One was to reassure the West Europeans that SALT II would not create, or rather leave, a "Eurostrategic imbalance"-even though it was already clear in the late 1970s that the evolution of American nuclear programs, and particularly the development of cruise missiles, was likely to transform the balance of nuclear forces to America's advantage by the late 1980s, as well as to blur the distinction between central and regional systems. The other consideration was to show firm U.S. leadership so as to avoid repeating the neutron bomb fiasco, in which the Carter Administration reversed its decision to produce and deploy enhanced radiation weapons, embarrassing European governments which were going to endorse the plan.

Above all, the context of the decision evaporated almost as soon as the decision was reached. Insofar as it was an instrument for a post-SALT negotiation, it assumed both the ratification of SALT II and a continuation of what was left of the Soviet-American détente (which was the exploration of arms control areas). But when the German Chancellor came to the United States in June 1979 in order to help get SALT II ratified, he may well have sensed here the mounting hostility to the treaty, and his enthusiasm for the emerging NATO decision may have cooled a bit. The train was, however, on its tracks and became an infernal machine. Paradoxically, a resolution aimed at countering Soviet moves became less rather than more acceptable to much of the public after the aggression in Afghanistan; a military program aimed at redressing the balance in a climate of détente appeared as one more step toward Armageddon in a climate of renewed cold war.

The second lesson concerns the United States. America's style, her tone, matter as much as her actual policy; we may not like the mood abroad, but we can't afford to tune out. Our leaders must learn the difference between restoring America's strength and appearing bellicose; between extending their protection to our friends and taking over; between shedding illusions about arms control and seemingly shedding arms control altogether; between helping allied governments to overcome domestic opposition by avoiding anything that would feed the suspicions and prejudices of the demonstrators, and exacerbating U.S.-European strains by sternly repeating ad infinitum the rationale of the 1979 decision, and directly denouncing the protesters (something that should be left to their own governments).

Two things are particularly needed in this regard. One is greater sensitivity to Europe's fear of war. It is not, and should not be equated with, sympathy for Moscow: among the protesters, Moscow's admirers are a minority. But an America that sees the world in terms of the bipolar contest finds it hard to understand that, paradoxically, the disenchantment of Europe's young people and intellectuals with Moscow makes them more, not less, exacting toward the United States. (They feel neither responsible for, nor surprised by, the attack on Afghanistan, but as allies of the United States they felt implicated in the fate of Vietnam and were both revolted and self-righteous.)

Similarly, the European fear of war is not, and should not be equated with, a desire for appeasement and a cowardly rejection of defense. It expresses a perfectly understandable determination to stay on the only sensible side of the great, perhaps fading divide that separates deterrence from war: the side of deterrence and arms control. It is of course true that in history some things have been worse than war. But the United States was not any more immune to appeasement in the 1930s than Britain or France; and it is easier to remind others of the merits of war, or to spin scenarios of nuclear war with cool pseudo-rationality, when one has never been occupied or devastated, or when one has a good conscience about never having inflicted wanton destruction on others in an evil cause, as many West Germans feel Germany did in the not-so-distant past.

There is, on this side of the ocean, a frequent lack of imagination and empathy. The subtle, subterranean solidarity in war-related traumas which links the West Europeans, the East Europeans and the Soviets is a fact that the Soviets exploit with skill. We must be aware of it, and walk softly. In this country, a flowing rhetoric may be the only way to make new policies possible, and the gap is often wide between the verbiage (invented anew by each Administration) and the realities (where continuity prevails). But others tend to judge us on our verbiage, and to interpret harmless deeds or ambiguous statements in light of our rhetorical designs. To many in Europe, the President's decision to produce the neutron bomb and his off-the-cuff remark on the possibility of limiting a nuclear exchange to Europe appear as parts of a pattern. When many of those who once trumpeted the news of America's vulnerability and weakness start flexing muscles and anticipating high noon, a West European public that needs both reliable American protection and a promise of peace inevitably gets confused and anxious.

What is also needed is a long-term policy toward the U.S.S.R. Even those Europeans who were most impatient with the Carter Administration's inability to define a coherent strategy toward Moscow, and who approve of the new Administration's decision to strengthen America's defenses, worry about new inconsistencies and questionable new trends. They see an American government that presses them to take risks and disapproves of their hesitations as well as of their economic deals with Moscow, yet rejects the draft, lifts the grain embargo, and finds it politically expedient to put the MX into existing silos, however vulnerable.

Europeans often sympathize with Washington's determination to raise the costs of Soviet, or Soviet-supported, meddling in the internal affairs of countries in Latin America or Africa, and to protect the oil fields of the Middle East. But they worry about the U.S. tendency to give everywhere priority to the Soviet threat and to want others to give it the same priority, even over pressing local threats or internal concerns. They worry about the Administration's apparent belief that no dialogue with Moscow is possible unless the Soviets accept American notions of restraint or (in strategic matters) of deep reductions. They worry about what they see as an American nostalgia for the 1950s, for the era of American nuclear superiority, a relatively quiescent Third World, and unquestioned American leadership of an Alliance of unequals. West European leaders need to provide their people with a perspective brighter than unlimited containment and recurrent clashes. They fear that the combination of a deep distrust of Soviet actions and intentions, the expectation of trouble, and the lack of any policy beyond the realm of the military may bring prophecies of confrontation to perilous self-fulfillment.

The third lesson concerns Western Europe. The reactions of the protesters reflect more than a legitimate fear of war, more than an idealistic demand for a future that leaves room for hope and progress. They also incorporate the heavy price of 35 years of dependence. Western Europe is a frying pan on a stove whose controls are in the hands of others. Irresponsibility and resentment are the inevitable outcomes. Nations which must rely on others for their defense, and consequently for much of their foreign policy, often tend to turn inward, leaving to those others the responsibility-and the blame-for difficult decisions. For many years now the architects of the European Community, trying to make a virtue of necessity, have argued that their new entity would be "civilian" in nature, repudiating power politics and behaving as a model for others. Defense matters have been left to NATO, where key decisions are made unilaterally by the United States, or collectively at American initiative. As a result, Western Europe has had the worst of both worlds-the trials of a collective new political entity, without control over the one issue that stands at the heart of sovereignty and authority.

It is not by coincidence that the only country in which the protest movement is marginal is France, where most of the opponents of civilian nuclear power, for instance, do not seem to object to the French nuclear strike force, and where since de Gaulle the government has been responsible for France's defense, nuclear weapons included. In France, over the past 20 years, optimists and Utopians-for instance in the Socialist Party-have moved from opposition to French defense policy to acceptance and responsibility. France is not a model for other NATO countries; either they are too weak or-in the case of West Germany-the political costs of a quest for autonomy are too high, both at home and abroad. But their lack of national autonomy encourages a drift toward wishful thinking and romantic resistance.

For too many years, West European abdication has fed American tendencies to unilateral action, and the latter has engendered West European anger. Already, many Americans have accused their allies of trying to force them into a hopeless arms control charade; some angry but not unrepresentative American voices draw parallels between the spirit of Munich and the new protests, or the failure of several governments to support the original decision, and threaten to leave Western Europe to its own resources. And angry but not unrepresentative European voices, such as those of pastor Heinrich Albertz in Berlin and of SPD leader Erhard Eppler, call for an end to a situation that leaves Germany as target practice for the superpowers, and makes the West Europeans the pawns on the superpowers' chessboard.

The dependence of America's NATO allies is not only bad for American-European relations, it is a further factor of intra-European division. Yesterday, the Federal Republic resented Gaullist France's decision to leave NATO and to pursue a strategy that treated West Germany mainly as a glacis for French protection on which French nuclear artillery would fall, but not as a partner in forward defense. Today, it is the turn of the French, not only to describe with some condescension the protests in Germany as the direct effect of dependence, but also to suspect once again that the protesters might be moved by a desire for reunification in neutrality which would play into Soviet hands and undermine the Alliance-a suspicion French President Georges Pompidou seems to have had already about the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt.

To be sure, dependence on the presence of American conventional forces and on the American nuclear guarantee is a permanent fact of West European life: the U.S. troops make the guarantee plausible, and the guarantee is the ultimate deterrent. Yet ways must be found to minimize the political effects of the West's inevitable geographical and military inferiority-a weakness which the present structure of the Alliance exaggerates. This means, on the one hand, three policy shifts within NATO itself.

First, despite the West Europeans' own reluctance, it is necessary that they share more fully and far more equally the important military decisions-decisions not only on deployments, but on doctrine and on the actual use of nuclear weapons. The December 1979 decision, it has been said, shows America's willingness to share the risks incurred by her allies. But as long as the ultimate decision to use or not to use the systems is America's alone, the allies will suspect that at the moment of truth the risk may be left to them alone. Second, even the most central military decisions are only part of an overall policy toward the Soviet Union: the Alliance's defense posture serves as a platform on which a broader policy can stand, and military doctrine aims at coping with worst-case hypotheses. The overall policy, which must aim at making the worst case unlikely by political as well as by military means, can no longer be decided in Washington alone. The very divergence in conceptions mentioned above makes an attempt at reconciliation the only sane alternative to either a widening gap or a series of ad hoc fixes and compromises that leave the misunderstandings intact. Third, as Christoph Bertram points out elsewhere in this issue, arms control negotiations dealing with the European theater should, like talks on mutual and balanced force reductions, be conducted on the Western side not by the United States alone, but by the United States and its military partners.

On the other hand, since within NATO the preponderant weight of the United States is likely to remain a source of tension, it is time for the West Europeans to examine whether there is not room at last for the gradual development of a European defense organization. Such an organization would include the French and, in a first phase, would improve cooperation on upgrading conventional defense, as well as foster Franco-British nuclear coordination. The prospects of an increasing diversion of American resources from Western Europe to other parts of the world-which the Europeans do not consider NATO's responsibility-as well as of American impatience with the allies' apparent foot-dragging within NATO, and the need to buttress European political cooperation with cooperation on defense, suffice to justify the enterprise. If it should develop and grow and lead to a satisfactory process of collective decisionmaking, one could even envisage a joint effort, by all or by certain of the participants, to build European theater nuclear weapons (the French are already planning middle-range systems and have the means to produce neutron bombs) and a possible joint acquisition of American theater nuclear forces, to be transferred from American or NATO control to a European command. This would, of course, require the establishment of a European defense directorate, functioning in such a way that West Germany alone could neither initiate a resort to nuclear weapons nor produce and own such weapons, but could participate in decisions on the use of nuclear weapons and in the joint production and ownership of European theater nuclear forces.

Obviously, we are very far from such a prospect. Until now, the West Europeans have preferred to leave the biggest decisions to the United States, and to criticize the United States for its errors or confusion. A specific West European defense effort also raises three formidable issues which have been insurmountable in the past-the risk of providing Washington with a pretext for reducing the American commitment to Western Europe (for instance, by withdrawing troops), the problems of West German participation in a European nuclear force, and the disjunction between a common defense and the very loose integration of foreign and domestic policies within the European Community.

The first issue may look very different in the future-mutual exasperation within the present NATO framework may itself pose the greatest peril for a continuing American commitment. But the other two problems remain. The German question ought to be faced squarely: Is not a Federal Republic with increased military responsibilities, exercised and contained within a European organization, preferable to a Federal Republic tempted by neutralism and nationalism? Would such a development, in the last part of this century, really be considered by the Soviet Union as a genuine threat, given the absence of any West German revanchism and the restrictions that would continue to limit Bonn's military sovereignty? As for the discrepancy between functions, must all sectors progress with the same rhythm?

The reasons for moving in this new direction are compelling, given the alternatives. And yet, it is not very likely that it will be chosen-partly because of each European country's preoccupation with domestic economic and social problems, partly because of the absence of any great European ambition, combined with the persistence of separate external interests and national perspectives, partly because of the formidable weight of existing patterns and habits-both within NATO's military organization and within France, which is complacently used to the benefits derived from a combination of autonomy and cooperation with NATO. Simple, untroubled dependency is no longer a possibility (was it ever untroubled, anyway?). Turbulent dependency with a growing appeal of some mix of neutralism and pacifism-unless the United States shows far more finesse than it has in recent years-is the most probable outcome. But it is not a happy one.

Clearly, these considerations far exceed the theater nuclear forces tangle. But the reactions in Western Europe to this issue, and the failure, so far, to understand them on this side of the Atlantic, show that a resolution of the issue itself will either depend on progress in the areas just discussed or (should, miraculously, the December 1979 decision be enforced in a way that pleases all the allies) leave the more fundamental problems unaddressed, and therefore bound to provoke new crises later.

2 The analysis of noncentral nuclear forces that follows is largely drawn from a forthcoming study on U.S. security and the future of arms control by the Carnegie Endowment.

3 On these points, see William Hyland, "Soviet Theatre Forces and Arms Control Policy," Survival, September-October 1981, 194-99.

4 McGeorge Bundy, "Instead of Missiles," The New York Times, May 21, 1981.



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  • Stanley Hoffmann is Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and Chairman of the Center for European Studies, Harvard University. He is the author of Primacy or World Order: American Foreign Policy since the Cold War, among many other works.
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