No better image has ever been found for the Atlantic Alliance than the arch supported by two pillars, one planted in North America, the other in Western Europe. The arch is a noble, gravity-defying structure, whose discovery was one of the great landmarks of civilization. It works only because of its design and absolute solidity: every stone in its place, each one supporting the other, with the stress properly distributed overall. As a model for NATO, it symbolizes the West's political strength. Contrast it with the structure of the Warsaw Pact, which often seems more like one of those huge monolithic hero-statues so favored in the East, weighed down by its abnormal musculature, and built on a foundation of broken rubble.

Even so, an arch so large that it spans the ocean between two continents cannot escape occasional stresses and strains. There has hardly been a year since its inception when the Atlantic Alliance has not had to deal with some internal difference or make some painful sacrifice for a common goal. So far we have coped remarkably well. The successful start to the deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe last year was a prime example. But the question is bound to arise: are we not handicapping ourselves unnecessarily by organizing our defenses in this way? Is it not contrary to nature to link together a group of states separated by 3,000 miles of ocean, with different histories and fundamentally different geostrategic positions? Is not the arch bound to be dangerously lopsided when one pillar includes a superpower with global responsibilities and the other a plurality of states which, even collectively, do not aspire to "super" status; and when that superpower, geographically the farthest from the greatest military threat, contributes as much as 60 percent of the Alliance's total defense spending and 40 percent of its military personnel? Why, 40 years after the last war, are there still 350,000 American troops on the continent of Europe? Why, indeed, are there 66,000 British servicemen still in Germany? In short, if the arch was not there, would we need and want to invent it?

My answer to that last question is a resounding yes. I am profoundly convinced that Europe needs America and America needs Europe, for safety and prosperity, and the security and peace of the world as a whole. I shall have a good deal to say to justify that judgment. But I also want to look at the tasks that arise from our mutual need: how, in short, to ensure that the arch stays as strong and effective as it has been up to now. That involves looking at what the Europeans do already; how they can (and are planning to) maximize their efforts in future; and what common goals the whole Atlantic community should be setting itself. In all this I am mindful of the broader community of interest that exists beyond NATO with all states who value political and economic freedom, in the Far East and Southeast Asia, but by no means only there. One of my main concerns is that the Atlantic arch should be compatible with, and firmly built into, a broader worldwide framework of democratic security and that both "pillars" should take their fair share in making it so.

One area which I deliberately exclude from my questioning is that of general Alliance strategy. The more I hear and read of the debate over flexible response, forward defense and the two-track approach of deterrence and dialogue, the more I am convinced that no plausible alternative to these basic strategies has been found or can be found for NATO in the foreseeable future. As for their credibility with the man (or woman) in the street, it is a striking fact that the more governments have done to explain them-in face of the public debates of the pre-INF deployment period-the more public concern has settled down, and the more firmly the quiet majority in favor of Atlantic defense has reasserted itself. One of the great virtues of these strategies, however, is that they are not static ones. Their practical consequences are constantly changing as the threat changes and as new technical possibilities present themselves for countering it. This process of practical adjustment, and how it affects the "European pillar," will be very much a part of my theme.


I return to my first premise: that the mutual dependence of America and Europe still justifies, among other things, the continuing presence of large U.S. forces on our continent. It may be worth thinking this through from first principles. It is common ground that the Soviet Union and its allies pose the major threat, both in Europe and worldwide, to the free democratic nations of the West. The great bulk of Soviet and Warsaw Pact military resources-four million out of 5.7 million personnel, 173 out of 244 active divisions, 42,500 out of 60,000 main battle tanks and 7,240 out of 12,000 combat aircraft-is deployed in or immediately facing the European theater. Some two-thirds of the new Soviet SS-20 missile force are also aimed at Europe. The case for Western, including U.S., defense efforts also to concentrate on Europe is therefore clear. And since reinforcements located in the west of the Soviet Union are 650 kilometers from the East-West dividing line, while forces stationed in the United States are 6,000 kilometers away, Europe-and indeed the Alliance as a whole-needs more than just the promise of U.S. assistance in times of crisis. A substantial American presence, conventional and nuclear, is needed in Europe itself to keep in-place forces at the level required for immediate deterrence, and-in face of the East's marked conventional superiority-to signify the allies' readiness, if the need should ever arise, for a graduated nuclear response. If we failed to equalize the pressure by maintaining all-round deterrence in this way, not only would we increase the temptation for the Soviet Union to exploit its superiority by direct military action, but we would expose the West European nations even in peacetime-if you could call it that-to the full onslaught of political blackmail and intimidation.

To Americans-to the rest of the Western world-that might not seem a matter of immediate concern. But Western Europe houses a unique concentration of prosperous and vigorous democratic nations. Of 27 countries in the World Bank's top GNP-per-capita bracket, 15-more than half-are in Europe. The ten members of the European Community account for 31.9 percent of the world's total trade. They provide some 17 percent of U.S. import requirements including over 20 percent of miscellaneous manufactures and 12 percent of U.S. imports of mineral fuel. By anyone's standards, this is too great an asset to be allowed to fall into Soviet hands or even come under Soviet political domination.

But one might say that this argument can and should be turned on its head. A Europe that has attained such economic strength should today take a greater share of the responsibility and cost of its own defense. Henry Kissinger has suggested, for example, that NATO should have a European as Supreme Allied Commander, that Europe should negotiate directly with the Russians on shorter-range nuclear missiles, and that there should be only a token U.S. troop presence on the Continent.

I do not deny, indeed I endorse, the notion that the Europeans can and should do more to defend themselves. But Henry Kissinger's prescription is not right. There is no native nuclear superpower in Western Europe. France's and Britain's strategic nuclear forces together make up less than three percent of the superpower arsenal. But all Soviet nuclear systems, not just short-range ones, can be used to threaten Europe, and the risk of their being so used would be far greater if the American nuclear commitment to Europe at all levels were not made credible by the deployment of substantial U.S. conventional as well as nuclear forces. We could perhaps reduce that risk by bringing the two sides' conventional forces in Europe more into balance. But building Europe's forces up to the Soviet level is hardly practical, even if it were desirable. And our leverage for bringing their level down to ours would hardly be strengthened by a signal of waning American interest in Western Europe such as a unilateral troop cut would convey.

For frankness' sake I have to add that the most likely result of withdrawing the American "prop" might well not be to spur the Europeans to stand on their own two feet and multiply their own defense efforts. It could be more likely to make them question whether their own commitments to each other were still worth the sacrifices involved. It would certainly strengthen the platform of those (happily a small minority at present) who have always argued for European neutrality and/or accommodation with the East.

Besides, one of the main premises of some variants of the burden-sharing argument-that Europe's economic strength is now equal or close to America's-needs to be handled with some caution. The European Community has gone a long way toward integration but it is still not a federal structure, let alone a single political and economic entity. Separate states cannot make the internal transfers of resources that are possible within a single powerful nation-state like the United States, and find it difficult (though we do try) to achieve economies of scale greater than the national market will bear. The average defense spending of individual European allies can, in fact, be shown to be fully in proportion to their relative prosperity compared with the United States. The European share of total allied defense spending has risen sharply to its present 40 percent from only 23 percent in 1969. During the period 1971-82 European defense spending grew by 25 percent in real terms overall, while U.S. defense spending showed a net decrease in real terms of 0.2 percent and ended up barely higher than its level prior to the Vietnam War. Today, of the Alliance's ready forces in Europe and the surrounding seas, the European allies provide 70 percent of the fighting ships, 80 percent of the combat aircraft, 85 percent of the tanks, 95 percent of the artillery and 95 percent of the divisions. Nor is this the end of the story.

The contributions of NATO partners are in part material and quantifiable, as in the direct allocation of human and budgetary resources to the common defense; but they are also often intangible or political, as when governments persevere in policies serving overall security interests in the face of competing domestic and international pressures. Allied governments have remained steadfast behind both tracks of NATO's INF modernization/arms control decision of 1979. This action has represented, especially for the basing countries, a profound commitment to the unity and credibility of the Alliance. Besides, many allies make additional hidden economic contributions to the common defense that are not reflected in their official defense expenditures. Overall, the non-U.S. NATO allies do appear to be shouldering roughly their fair share. (This paragraph will not, I hope, be taken as European special pleading. Every sentence in it is taken from Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger's report to Congress of March 1984 about the balance of allied contributions.)

My contention, therefore, is that there is nothing too badly out of proportion in the share of defense burdens borne by the European pillar of the arch. But the loads it has to bear are constantly changing, and neither pillar is exempt from the effects.

There is no standstill even in the traditional arena of confrontation. Warsaw Pact forces continue to grow quantitatively, to improve qualitatively and to exploit technical advances. NATO itself has new technological and tactical options, not least in the field of conventional warfare. Making the right choices while preserving the sophisticated balance of our existing strategy, while respecting existing defense planning commitments, and while grappling with manifold constraints on resources, will be no easy task. It demands from us all a clear sense of perspective and priorities, an eye for what has not changed as well as what is changing, and a determination to give even the least glamorous topics-stocks, reserves, infrastructure-their due.

Outside Europe and the North Atlantic, the worldwide threat posed by the Soviet Union, its allies and clients has become clearer than ever. So has the complexity of the sources of instability, the variety of local factors involved and the difficulty of calculating the best Western response in each instance. All civilized nations are having to contend with renewed threats to their security, both internal and external: notably the worldwide phenomenon of terrorism, which-especially when governments are implicated-faces us with a number of policy challenges as well as ethical and legal conundrums. The principles for states' behavior embodied in international law have become more important, but their enforcement more complex and difficult, than ever before. It is a truism, but true, to say that our world has become multipolar. Japan has become a force to reckon with outside purely economic fields and is developing a distinctive voice on political and security matters. Increasingly, the big issues-democratic values, the security balance, global economic management-need to be examined and tackled in a three-way North American/European/Japanese context: the Atlantic is not the free world's only ocean.


How can the European pillar be made to bear its full weight in coping with these newer, as well as the older but still important, challenges? It is a subject always near to our hearts in Britain. We cannot claim to have found the philosopher's stone. But history and geography have left us uniquely placed to see Europe's problems from the inside, without forgetting how Europe looks from the outside as well. We stand at the heart of the Alliance in Europe, with 66,000 soldiers and airmen permanently in the front line. We have a double commitment both through the Western European Union and NATO to use them-and indeed all our forces, including nuclear-in the defense of any of our allies when attacked. We have one of the strongest and most distinctive voices in the European Community. And with all this, we have not lost our keen understanding of the global nature of security.

In 1945 we ruled an empire two-thirds larger in size than the Soviet Union is today. We have now divested ourselves of virtually all of it, but that process has taught us some useful lessons too. Today we still retain responsibility for territories in some key strategic positions; and we not only maintain but have frequently made use of a flexible capacity for military intervention outside the NATO area. British servicemen and women are sent on loan to provide military training, advice and assistance in some 30 countries ranging as widely as Zimbabwe, Kuwait and Brunei, and we give ad hoc military assistance to many more.


I hope, therefore, there will be no risk of my being charged with special pleading as a "little Englander" or "little European" if I offer two home truths about the United States' own contribution to the way ahead. The first concerns the economic dimension of security.

My American friends are, rightly, always among the first to draw attention to the link between military potential and the economic base when it comes to our trade with the Eastern bloc, and to controlling the sale or transfer of defense-related products and technologies. One less often hears it pointed out in the United States that economic resources and the free flow of trade are directly relevant to defense performance on the Western side as well. A defense effort so badly planned and overfinanced that it resulted in economic bankruptcy would be self-defeating. Equally, each time the Western allies take steps which hinder rather than foster each other's economic development, they are making the common security endeavor more difficult.

There is a global aspect to this too. Much of the West's attraction as a model for developing countries rests on its economic principles and economic success. The attraction will quickly wane if we are not prepared to share our success-or if we pursue it by means that do unwarranted damage to others. The less-developed countries already have to grapple with fundamental economic problems of poverty and fast population growth. Their political structures are often imperfect and under strain. It will hardly help if we face them with a series of extra economic hurdles, each one higher than the last, created by our own pattern of interest rates and major currency movements. And it will hardly improve the chances of their staying firm-in the face of all other threats and blandishments-in their political allegiance to the free Western world.

A blueprint for meeting the economic challenge is not far to seek. At the Williamsburg and London Economic Summits, Western leaders committed themselves to policies which should not only consolidate recovery in the leading industrialized countries but also help to spread its benefits more widely. The task now is to stick to that course. The American economy has shown extraordinary dynamism in recent years. In the last ten years, 17 million jobs have been created in a workforce that is mobile and highly motivated and trained. Europe has done comparatively badly here. Where we have led the field is in taking the tough decisions needed to reduce the volume of resources consumed by the state, curb deficit financing and thereby create the conditions for successful enterprise.

The wider lessons of our experience cannot just be ignored. I give full credit for the flexibility of the U.S. internal market and the realism and courage that the U.S. labor force has shown in pursuing new opportunities, even at the cost of foregoing real wage increases. I also give credit for the way the buoyancy of U.S. domestic demand has helped all America's trade partners, whether developing or developed. But a good deal has been mortgaged for these immediate rewards. The high interest rates that go with high budget and trade deficits are taking their toll here and now, not least in the friendly Third World countries that I mentioned above. And the scale of the economic mismatch involved in such deficits threatens us all, sooner or later, with a delayed adjustment that could be painful and disruptive in the extreme.

There is no excuse for delay. If we are serious about sustaining economic recovery, increasing its pace and spreading the benefits beyond the industrialized world, we must make a reality out of our joint declarations. We must all work together-America, Europe and Japan-to "build down" interest rates, subsidies, and tariff and non-tariff barriers on all sides. Let us not waste time deciding who throws the first stone.

Agricultural protectionism, for instance, is a vice that flourishes on both sides of the Atlantic. It is high time we all exposed our farmers to a more genuinely open environment, to guide them toward production patterns that are more in line with both domestic and worldwide demand. Let us not forget either that protectionist pressures are not a kind of natural force divorced from our own actions. We run the risk of strengthening them by policies that effectively slant the rules of competition in our favor, such as the overvaluing of national currencies. And, finally, let us recognize once and for all that free trade is not part of the problem. It is-and always has been-part of the solution.


My next home truth concerns the American attitude toward closer integration and further cooperation in Europe. The United States wants and needs a strong Europe, and one whose strength is manifested in fields beyond the merely regional and the merely economic. That can only mean an increasingly united Europe. Successive administrations have been steadfast and generous in supporting the cause of European integration. More recently there has been a tendency among some North American commentators to write off the European Community-and Europe as a whole-as a weak-willed, declining backwater. Even if not self-fulfilling, such assessments are neither helpful nor accurate at a moment when Europeans themselves are rapidly shaking off-if they ever shared-the frame of mind known as "Euro-pessimism." The European Community, having worked out solutions at last to its domestic housekeeping problems, has recognized and grasped the opportunity to make a new start. And on the defense front there is a flood of new thinking and activity at national, bilateral and multilateral levels.

In short, the Europeans want to do more and are preparing to do just that. They are getting their act together, which means both a better joint analysis of problems and more pooling of effort to find solutions. If our American friends support the ends they must logically support the means. They must be confident and show themselves confident that a more united European front does not mean united against the United States. A European position can be different from an American position without implying treachery or hostility. It is reasonable for the United States to ask that in seeking integration the Europeans should not become exclusive and inward-looking, waste time on rhetoric, or dwell on the most divisive issues. It is equally reasonable for the Europeans to ask Americans to appreciate that there are distinctively European interests and policy requirements involved in the business of "doing more," and that changes in roles and burdens imply changes in policymaking machinery as well as in policy itself.


The tasks facing the ten Community members, soon to be 12, and the 14 European members of NATO are as much external as internal. But in both groups, internal coherence is the precondition of external effectiveness. In the Community, for example, Britain regards it as a key objective to make the Common Market genuinely common by bringing down the obstacles to free trade in services and the remaining barriers to free trade in goods. Joint research and the identification of key areas for industrial and technological collaboration is another high priority. This does not mean we envisage a fortress Europe, building up its technological base behind locked doors to compete with the United States and Japan. Of course we want to compete, but we also want to cooperate: the challenges of the new technologies are too great to be met by any state or group of states alone. We need to find a framework, not just for European but for global collaboration between the technically advanced nations. Are the conditions and mechanisms as good as they might be? How do we ensure that barriers to transatlantic and transpacific cooperation are lowered? How do we guard against new ones being created? How do we grapple with the real problems underlying our immediate difficulties with extraterritoriality-problems which the Community has gone a long way toward resolving in Europe, and which stand out all the more clearly for that when they occur across the Atlantic? We need, at the least, an opportunity to talk through these subjects outside as well as inside Europe.

On global economic and political issues, similarly, a more united European voice is needed to ensure that European interests are properly represented and European skills not underemployed in the management of major international problems. Foreign policy cooperation among the ten Community members already has a good track record in this area. It needs to and can develop further, and as it does, the United States will increasingly be able to rely on the presence of another, weighty Western foreign policy actor whose philosophy and aims are complementary to her own. This developing political personality is a crucial prerequisite for any joint European contribution to the defense of Western interests beyond the NATO area. Some European states already have the capacity-and will-for rapid military intervention, whether as a component of international peacekeeping or in response to more specific needs and requests. I can cite as examples the European contingents in UNFICYP in Cyprus, French and British action in Vanuatu, Britain's role in monitoring the Zimbabwe elections, our garrison in Belize, the mine-clearing operation in the Red Sea, the Sinai MFO and the Lebanon MNF. Other European states contribute to the objectives of security and stability in key regions through diplomacy and economic assistance. So the potential is there for a coordinated, substantial and constructive European role in "out of area" problems.


On defense, I have already mentioned the challenges facing the Alliance as a whole. I hope that I have also shown that the Europeans, in seeking to improve their contribution, are doing so from a very high starting base. It follows that we must focus on extracting every possible ounce of value from what we have. In Britain, for example, we have been able in recent years to increase significantly the proportion of our budget which goes to defense equipment rather than manpower and operating expenses. Further energies can be released, and economies identified, through bilateral cooperation-a process in which Britain and other European allies are actively engaged. Then there are multinational equipment projects, with varying membership, which not only promote economies of scale but also advance the cause of interoperability. They do much to make the European industries involved stronger competitors and partners for their counterparts in the States.

There are, however, aspects of today's defense challenges which affect all European members of NATO and which all need to discuss together. The Eurogroup and the Independent European Program Group (IEPG) within NATO provide well-established fora, which can and should be developed further, for discussing policy, information and equipment issues. But other bodies have legitimate parts to play. The ten members of the EC, as I have implied above, cannot overlook in their political deliberations the security component of regional problems, or the economic aspects of security.

Last but not least, the Western European Union (WEU) established by the Modified Brussels Treaty-which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year-brings together seven European nations with a strong political and material stake in the solidity of the "European front." Britain's commitment to station large ground and air forces in the Federal Republic of Germany goes back in the first instance to this Treaty and gives us a particularly strong stake in WEU as well as in European defense as a whole. With our six fellow members, we resolved at a ministerial meeting this October to give new weight and new directions to our joint activities in WEU, above all at the level of political deliberation on shared threats, problems, objectives and tasks. WEU is not a rival to or a substitute for NATO, with which it has strong constitutional links. And it is not a center of dissent within the Alliance. We see it rather as a means of securing a more distinctive and more effective European input. Above all, it can bolster its members' will to enhance their defense contribution and to accept whatever sacrifices that may involve-though the actual process of enhancement may best be pursued through other channels. The point of using WEU is that the conclusions will have been arrived at by Europeans themselves and on the basis of their own analysis of Europe's best interests. The effect will be to demonstrate more clearly, for our own publics as well, that the Atlantic arch truly does have two pillars and that one of these is truly European.

The aims of European cooperation are constant throughout all these fields of action. The mechanics and procedures are highly diverse. In the field of security alone, bilateral talks, multinational projects, WEU, the Ten, Eurogroup and IEPG all have parts to play. The key issues for Europe at the moment are how far to allow this diversity to develop, and how to ensure that overall coherence is maintained. My own view is that flexibility and coherence are both essential, and should indeed complement each other. It is common sense to accept that not all nations can be or will want to be equally involved in all areas of European collaboration. Specialization and division of labor is a sensible answer. What is vital is that the system should remain genuinely flexible. Any rigid "class structure" among the Europeans would be wrong and unnecessary. Also, governments should maintain an overview, individually and when they come together, to avoid duplication and to spot gaps.

All this European activity is not self-serving and self-sufficient. It is a contribution to the goals of the Atlantic community and the community of democratic nations worldwide. If the Europeans ever let it appear otherwise, they will have failed in their dearest aim. Furthermore, we must make sure that the channels and mechanisms are there to allow the European contribution to be properly harmonized and integrated with that of the United States and Japan. Within NATO, the machinery for this already exists in abundance. The role of the NATO foreign and defense ministers and occasional NATO summits is particularly important. The occasions when all 16 ministers get together are too valuable to be used for exchanging set statements or rubber-stamping reports. We must be frank in discussion, flexible in procedure, and ensure that we focus on the genuinely most important issues.

Where the Western policy consensus extends beyond the 16 members of NATO-as it increasingly and gratifyingly does these days-the task is not so much to revitalize existing organizations as to develop new ones. Fora for economic consultation are relatively plentiful: IMF, IBRD, OECD, the "G-5" of finance ministers. The seven-power Economic Summit grouping (Canada, France, the F.R.G., Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) is particularly valuable not just for the authoritative contribution it makes on its primary, economic subject matter, but also because of the informal discussion it allows on political issues of urgent common concern. The Williamsburg Summit declaration of 1983 and this year's declaration on democratic values, with the other statements issued at the London Summit on terrorism, East-West affairs and the Gulf, have illustrated once again the common ground that exists between all summit participants on key political and security topics.


This leads me to my final point. What are the key issues on the common Western agenda for the next few years, to which the Europeans should direct their contribution? I shall recapitulate them briefly, not in any particular order or priority since I hold them all equally important. On none of them does the need for extra effort apply to Europe alone, and none of them can afford to be viewed in isolation. They are all linked: free trade and protectionism, U.S. economic policies and European defense policies, regional security and Third World debt.

The tasks as I see them are, then:

-to get our own economic policies right. The aim must be to secure sustainable noninflationary growth, which means sticking to all-not just some-of the principles of the Williamsburg and London Summits;

-to develop a realistic approach to the economic problems of the less-developed countries, eschewing the North-South rhetoric which bears no practical relation to today's needs. We must pursue our general aim of extending global recovery by tackling, in the right fora, such specific issues as the longer-term handling of debt, structural adjustment, barriers to trade, the fostering of greater private investment and stable long-term finance, the aid needs of the poorer countries, and effective aid delivery;

-to develop an overall approach to global security problems, recognizing both the worldwide nature of issues like the fight against terrorism and the special difficulties of small states, as well as the existence of local peculiarities that will influence in each case the way our policies are implemented.

-to pursue NATO's dual policy of deterrence and defense and of dialogue and arms control with both conviction and hardheadedness. As NATO's Washington declaration of May 1984 so well expressed it, the two aims are fully complementary: "Dialogue can only be fruitful if each party is confident of its security and is prepared to respect the legitimate interests of others; military strength alone cannot guarantee a peaceful future." And here above all, the possibility of separate but coordinated and complementary actions by Europeans and North Americans is an integral part of the Alliance's strength.

Expressed in generalities, such a shopping list may look pretty short and uncontroversial. But as we all know, its practical ramifications and the demands it will create on all of us, in America, Europe and farther afield, are tremendous. I am confident that the Europeans will find the right way-or rather, variety of ways-to take their fair share of the burden. And I am confident that all this can happen without revolutionary change in Western policymaking, or structures and procedures. This assertion does not just reflect the ingrained British preference for conserving what is best, for respecting the wisdom of our forebears and for refusing to let familiarity breed contempt. Rather, I am convinced that the basic structure and balance of the Atlantic Alliance remains right for today's needs, and that if we tamper with it in any significant way we stand to lose a lot more than we gain.

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  • The Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey Howe, Q.C., M.P., is Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the British government.
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