Courtesy Reuters

The European Dimension

From one year to the next, it is difficult to find original words to describe the state of transatlantic relations. Indeed, they are bound to continue to constitute a "troubled partnership," and 1985 was no exception.

To a large extent, it was the year of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). On the surface, even though most European strategists are more than skeptical about the concept, SDI has not created major tensions among the Western allies. The British and the German governments supported President Reagan’s initiative. Italy showed some interest; France, Norway, Greece and Denmark rejected any governmental role, but avoided any confrontation. Overall, Washington may be pleased.

The year brought further displays of the American mood of unilateralism. This is true, for example, in Soviet-American relations, culminating in the November summit meeting in Geneva; the initiatives in this evolving relationship are not primarily the consequence of West European persuasion. Similarly with economic issues. Washington’s change of attitude through this year on exchange rates and the value of the dollar has been quite remarkable. As a result, the meeting in New York of the five biggest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries on September 22 could produce a joint approach on how to drive the dollar value down. The American position on indebted Third World countries has also evolved.

Altogether, American and European positions on world macroeconomic management have come closer together—although the Europeans still consider that American authorities have not yet taken the relevant measures to significantly reduce the U.S. budget deficit, which they continue to regard as a major source of global imbalance. The point here is that the change of attitudes vis-à-vis economic problems, just like East-West relations, have only modestly been influenced by the Europeans. It was rather the product of an internal American debate.

American unilateralism in 1985 was also well illustrated by the Achille Lauro hijacking ordeal in October. The U.S. government issued an infuriated declaration criticizing the Italian government’s

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