Courtesy Reuters

The U.S. and Western Europe: Wait and Worry

Nineteen eighty-four has been a quiet year in U.S.-West European relations—a year during which these Western countries had the luxury of organizing a large number of conferences for intellectuals and public figures to ask themselves whether George Orwell’s bleak warnings had actually been prophetic (if they had been, these colloquia could not have been held) and whether Soviet reality resembled Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism. What actually happened in the relations among these nations was less interesting than what did not happen.

The end of 1983 had been marked by the crisis over the deployments of American intermediate-range missiles in several West European countries. The first deployments proceeded on schedule in November and December 1983, despite the hostility of a sizable part of the publics in Britain, West Germany and Italy, and despite massive but, on the whole, not violent demonstrations. The immediate effects were the collapse of the arms control negotiations between Washington and Moscow over intermediate-range nuclear weapons and then the interruption of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks.

French President François Mitterrand, in November 1983, had compared the situation to the Berlin and Cuban missile crises of the early 1960s. Even in West European political circles favoring the NATO deployments, there was apprehension about the consequences that the breakdown of the only important set of negotiations between the superpowers would have on relations between West European and Warsaw Pact countries.

This atmosphere of malaise and anxiety was the product of other worries as well. Many influential Americans, civilian and military, were questioning the validity and credibility of NATO’s doctrine of flexible response. The West German body politic (especially after the repudiation by the Social Democrats of the positions of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt) seemed to be evolving toward pacifism and neutralism. The European Economic Community (EEC) was in a quasi-paralyzed state where discord centered on the issues of the British financial contribution and of the Common Agricultural Policy. Finally, there was concern over the future of

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