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Nuclear Weapons in the 1980s: NATO and Nuclear Weapons: Reasons and Unreason

Courtesy Reuters

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.

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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

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