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 willingness to let an alleged leader of the hijacking leave Italy. Prime Minister Bettino Craxi then denounced American interference. The Italian coalition broke apart, but it turned out that Italian public opinion was behind the Socialist leader; their national pride had been hurt by the American conduct. Yet the hard feelings were quickly soothed in a public show of American-Italian reconciliation. Italy was certainly a faithful member of the alliance. Had it not immediately accepted the cruise missile deployment? Was Mr. Craxi himself not considered a genuine friend of the United States? Mr. Craxi returned to power, even stronger now than after his June victory in a referendum on income policies.

All in all, it remains that the United States demonstrated little respect for Italian sovereignty, and for Egyptian sovereignty in the same case. To a large extent, the capture of the Egyptian plane and the Israeli air strike near Tunis were applauded by "Western" public opinion because of the current acceptance of a sort of "Rambo syndrome." It remains nonetheless true that all these incidents illustrate America’s benign neglect for others’ sovereignty, and now generally for international law; a benign neglect also illustrated by the State Department’s October 7 decision to abide no longer by the decisions of the International Court of Justice. Potentially, all this could generate transatlantic difficulties if, for example, certain European countries were at some point to accuse the United States of practicing "state terrorism," to use the Soviet phrase.

On a minor level, two other examples of American unilateralism may be mentioned. One is the awkwardness of the March 26 letter from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger to his European counterparts about SDI, in which he requested an answer to his vague offer of participation in the SDI research program "within 60 days." The other example is the way President Reagan called a NATO summit meeting in New York on October 24 for consultations before the Geneva summit meeting: French President François Mitterrand learned of the invitation from the press before he received the formal note.


On the whole, however, 1985 has been a relatively good year for transatlantic political relations. On March 20, the Belgian Parliament finally approved the deployment of 16 American cruise missiles, with the proviso that if by the end of 1987 Soviet-American negotiations were still going on, there would be a new delay for the deployment of the remaining 32 missiles; whereas if the negotiations were interrupted, the deployment would be automatic. Prime Minister Wilfried Martens’ government was embroiled in domestic difficulties, but he won the October 13 elections, which reinforced the pro-NATO Belgian posture.

Following this example, the Netherlands government approved, on November 1, the deployment of the planned 48 cruise missiles, in spite of last-minute Soviet maneuvers to block the decision. Altogether, The Hague had hesitated for six years. The moves of Belgium and Holland, together with the setback for the peace movements all over Europe, suggest that the Euromissile crisis is now behind us, even if the debate over coupling versus decoupling Europe and the United States is far from being over.

The gloomy predictions about a return to an era of political glaciation in Europe did not materialize. In fact, intra-German relations were basically unaffected by the deployment debate. Trade and credits developed between the two Germanys; a cultural agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic is ready to be signed. The two German governments have to a large extent succeeded in protecting their relationship from East-West confrontation, and in maintaining their dialogue in spite of the NATO Euromissiles and the Soviet SS-21 and SS-22. East German leader Erich Honecker’s visit to West Germany, twice canceled in 1984, will probably be rescheduled soon.

Mikhail Gorbachev visited London in December 1984, and his first visit to the West as the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party was to France in October 1985. The new Soviet leader has been multiplying interviews and smiles with Western politicians and personalities in an unprecedented public relations effort which it would be oversimplistic to describe as mere propaganda. The success—in political terms—of the Geneva summit had a positive effect on European-American relations. Of course, this holds true for the short term, not necessarily for the long term.

Mr. Gorbachev is sowing potentially explosive seeds. Thus, his proposal in Paris to conduct bilateral talks with the French and the British on their independent nuclear arsenals obviously aims at driving a wedge into European and NATO relations. It is an initiative along the lines of the 1982 Andropov proposal to lower the number of Soviet SS-20s to 162 missile launchers, then estimated by the Soviets to be what the U.S.S.R. needed to offset the French and British nuclear arsenals. With such moves, the Soviets hope to arouse anti-French and anti-British feelings in the West, particularly in Germany, and at a deeper level, to stand in the way of any attempt to develop a closer security relationship between France and the Federal Republic. For the time being, however, these seeds are only potentially troublesome. Mr. Reagan is as popular in Europe as he is in America. The French and British nuclear questions are not yet high on the agenda, and Mr. Gorbachev is still in the preliminary phases of the setting of his strategy.

In 1985 there were no major transatlantic frictions over regional issues, such as the Middle East, South Africa or Latin America. The American policy in Nicaragua, however—particularly the trade embargo imposed by Washington—has been a major point of friction between the United States and Spain, an important point in view of Spain’s forthcoming referendum on NATO.

Within NATO, significant steps forward have also been made to reinforce the conventional side of the flexible response strategy. In May 1985, the NATO defense ministers (the Defense Planning Committee) approved measures to improve conventional defense. They discussed the "Conceptual Military Framework," developed mainly by Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), which aims at identifying existing deficiencies in order to prepare long-term planning. For that purpose NATO members have been working in a constructive way to maintain the flexible response strategy in an environment characterized by a number of demographic, technological and operational changes, including new Soviet conventional capabilities.

In October, an agreement was reached in COCOM, the allied coordinating commission for "sensitive" trade with the East, to constitute a group of experts to provide independent advice on the possible military use by the Soviet Union of high-technology exports. Although the recommendations of the group will not be legally binding, they will hardly be ignored, and the initiative may be considered as a significant step forward in a highly delicate and controversial area. Of course, mental reservations remain.

The Europeans continue to have more intensive trade relations with the East than does the United States. European exports to Eastern countries amounted to $28 billion (mostly manufactured products) in 1984, against $5 billion for the United States (mostly grains). Many Europeans, particularly in the Federal Republic and France, still regard COCOM as a device allowing the United States to control East-West trade to its advantage. Above all, the scars of the 1982 pipeline crisis have not yet healed. For the time being, however, there is greater-than-usual acceptance in Europe that it is necessary to exert strict controls on technology transfers to the East. But it is likely that the issue will remain a potentially divisive one.

President Reagan may be satisfied about U.S. relations with the European Economic Community. To be sure, his visit to Madrid on May 7 was marked with massive anti-NATO demonstrations; on November 10, millions of people were mobilized in the Spanish capital’s streets against NATO. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Felipe González Márquez is now fully committed to keeping Spain in the Atlantic alliance. A clear sign of this resolve was the replacement, in July, of Foreign Minister Fernando Morán López by Francisco Fernández Ordóñez, and the subsequent decision of the Spanish government to join COCOM. The final decision on NATO would, of course, be facilitated if an agreement on the reduction of American bases in Spain could be reached before the plebiscite on NATO planned in March 1986, but in any case Mr. González has made it clear that he would not feel entirely bound by the results of this plebiscite, unless there were an overwhelming rejection. In fact, the most likely outcome is that Spain will remain a member of NATO, but with a special status—comparable, for example, to the French position. With Portugal, the Reagan visit to Lisbon on May 8 was a clear success, and it is reasonable to expect that Portugal will further strengthen its European and Atlantic commitments.

The United States still has a problem with Andreas Papandreou’s Greece. The Greek prime minister still maintains that the agreement on American bases will not be renewed after 1988. But immediately after his reelection in June, he expressed determination to improve the relationship with Washington, although he mentioned the two problems of Cyprus and of the "Turkish threat" in the Aegean Sea—problems encouraged, in his view, by NATO policies. Greece is experiencing a severe economic crisis and badly needs dollars. On October 11, in a major economic policy shift, Mr. Papandreou imposed a series of austerity measures, together with a 15-percent devaluation of the drachma. Greece also needs Europe’s assistance; hence the confirmation of its EEC commitment. The United States, for its part, has renewed the military aid program to Greece and Turkey for 1986, according to the ten-to-seven ratio agreed on in Athens.


On the trade front, 1985 was a rather stormy year. The American offensive against EEC agricultural and steel exports gathered steam. In May the U.S. government launched a special aid program of $2 billion to subsidize farm exports. As a result, the traditional European markets in the Mediterranean, such as Egypt and Algeria, were threatened by American competition. The EEC retaliated by raising its subsidies for Mediterranean exports. In November, the "pasta war" developed: the United States raised duties on EEC pasta, and the EEC retaliated by raising duties on American walnuts and lemons. On steel, two agreements were signed in January and May, but they may amount to nothing more than a truce. Today, 80 percent of steel imported to the United States is covered by protectionist mechanisms. These agricultural and steel disputes are unlikely to be resolved easily, as they involve very significant political interests on both sides of the Atlantic.

In September Mr. Reagan announced plans to move against alleged "unfair trade practices," referring mainly to Japan, South Korea, Brazil and the EEC. He decided to set up a fund to protect American products threatened by those practices and to pressure foreign governments into dropping unfair trade barriers. At the same time he declared himself opposed to protectionist measures. Following on this September program, a massive protectionist attack against Europe was launched in November, covering such sectors as aviation (the Airbus contract with Pan American might be affected). The EEC was accused of restricting its imports of American heavy electrical equipment, and Mr. Reagan announced sanctions within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) rules.

All in all, some of the 300 pieces of protectionist legislation now being discussed by Congress might be passed. Of course, Japan is still more a target for American wrath than the EEC. The overall situation is dangerous, however, as the experience of the "beggar thy neighbor" policies prevailing during the period between the two world wars reminds us. OECD statistics indicate that, as a percentage of imports of manufactured products, six percent of U.S. trade was subject to restrictions in 1980 versus 11 percent for the EEC, whereas the similar figures for 1983 were 13 percent and 15 percent respectively. This gives vivid measure of the rise of protectionism.

The American proposal to initiate a new set of multilateral trade negotiations, covering agriculture, services and new technologies, was launched partly to offset protectionist forces within Congress. It was not immediately well received in Europe, because in practice only the European Common Agricultural Policy would have been on the spot. At the Bonn summit meeting in May, President Mitterrand refused to agree on a definitive timetable, insisting that the agenda had first to be clarified. Thus, he wanted to avoid excessive concentration on agriculture, but more generally his concern was that the agenda should reflect a balance of interests between Europe and the United States; it should also take account of the interests of the less-developed countries (LDCs). Last, but not least, Mr. Mitterrand reiterated the traditional French position that there should be parallel discussions about the international monetary system. Indeed, one of the main causes for the American trade deficit is the massive overvaluation of the dollar. The whole story has a familiar tone: already in 1973, before the beginning of the Tokyo Round of trade negotiations, France had taken the position that there is a natural relationship between trade and monetary matters.

By the second half of 1985, the EEC had reached a unified position on trade negotiations; The Community decided to favor the liberalization of trade in services, to promote a more efficient multilateral monitoring system within GATT, to encourage a treatment of "systemic problems" (agriculture, safeguards, mechanisms, etc.), to consolidate the results of the Tokyo Round, and to take into account the interests of the LDCs. The EEC also stressed the necessity of launching negotiations on monetary matters, toward the end of a more stable exchange rate system.

The main debate then shifted from Europe to the Third World, led in this matter by India and Brazil. These countries are worried about an excessive focus on trade in services, and want to make sure that obstacles to their own exports will be removed. The European Commission acted as a mediator between the United States and the Third World leaders, and an agreement was reached at the end of November for separate negotiations on services, and on tariff and non-tariff barriers. Thus, the way was opened for new trade talks to begin in the fall of 1986.

This can be seen as an auspicious development, together with the partial adjustment of the dollar in 1985 and with the fact that Mr. Reagan remains opposed to protectionism despite all the congressional pressure. However, it may take up to 18 months for a fall of the dollar to translate into a balance-of-payments improvement, a long time in politics; congressmen and senators are pressured by lobbies and are generally more concerned with their reelection than with historical perspectives. For example, Congress voted a bill limiting textile imports at the beginning of November, in spite of Reagan’s plan and the fall of the dollar. Europeans and Japanese remained firm in their view that the U.S. trade deficit is to a large extent due to imbalances between investments and savings in the United States—itself related to the budget deficit, an unsolved problem to date.

All these economic issues are extremely tricky. By the end of 1985, it seemed that the transatlantic climate had somewhat improved in this respect. It is indeed vital for the United States as well as for the EEC to continue in this direction, as in the long run the Atlantic alliance would not survive a collapse of the international economic order.


Above all, 1985 was the year of SDI. Although President Reagan made his "Star Wars" speech on March 23, 1983, it was not until one year later that the Strategic Defense Initiative as such was formulated and came to the forefront of international politics. On January 13, 1985, a few days after his meeting with Secretary of State George P. Shultz in Geneva, then Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko made it clear that, in the Soviet view, the outcome of arms talks would depend on the limitation of SDI. In other words, he excluded the idea of separate agreements on strategic and medium-range systems. On February 11, President Reagan declared that SDI would continue regardless of the outcome of the Geneva arms talks.

Since then, the Soviet and U.S. positions have remained essentially unchanged. Mr. Reagan repeatedly ruled out any possibility of a deal with the U.S.S.R. to limit development and testing of the proposed U.S. space-based missile defense system in exchange for deep cuts in the Soviet nuclear arsenals. At the November summit meeting Mr. Gorbachev proposed to decouple the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) negotiations, but continued to tie together reductions on intercontinental weapons and a ban on SDI. This is not necessarily good news for the Europeans, as it will increase Soviet leverage, particularly to drive a wedge between France, and possibly Britain, and their allies.

The Reagan vision is that strategic stability would be enhanced by the combination of antiballistic defenses and a significant reduction of offensive weapons. In particular, it is hoped that this would reduce the prospect for a limited nuclear exchange between the two superpowers. Globally, perhaps this would work, but not in Europe. The Soviets consider SDI to be a new and major step in the arms race, to which they would have to respond by increases of their strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and by their own deployment of antiballistic missile (ABM) and antisatellite weapons (ASAT) systems. They stress that the strategic equilibrium would become less, rather than more, stable; in the transition, the temptation to strike first would be very strong and the probability of war would dramatically increase. In addition to this conceptual debate, there is the more familiar question of the precise definition of "strategic weapons."

The whole SDI framework is ambiguous, and the European position is uncomfortable. Sometimes the Europeans hear American voices which emphasize that the United States could share their SDI technologies, not only with their allies, but even with the Soviet Union. (This reminiscence of the 1945 Baruch Plan is, incidentally, hardly consistent with the COCOM philosophy. Indeed, how could the United States authorize SDI technological transfers to the Soviet Union and continue to restrict transfers of other sensitive materials?) More often, Europeans are told that American technological superiority is so overwhelming that the United States will gain a decisive strategic advantage by deploying SDI, which should reassure the Europeans and strengthen NATO.

Unfortunately, Americans have often tended to underestimate Soviet space technologies. The Europeans also observe that the basic concepts underlying SDI remain highly controversial even within the United States. Very few scientists believe that anything like a leakproof ABM system is feasible. The opportunity cost over the next two or three decades of developing SDI, for the American economy as a whole and for the American defense budget, is also a matter of debate. In the short run, Europeans know that the American high budget deficit is not sustainable, and that the SDI funds themselves are being revised downwards. Europeans must ask whether, if SDI is given priority, it will not be at the expense of the American contribution to the defense of Europe. To what extent can the SDI concept apply to the defense of Europe? Even if an anti-tactical ballistic missile system (ATBM) to protect against Soviet shorter-range tactical missiles could easily be derived from intercontinental ABM systems—which is far from obvious—European territory is threatened by a much wider spectrum of weapons systems than is American territory. Anyhow, where would the funds for a European Defense Initiative—stressing land-based ATBMs—come from? Money today is scarce even for building up a satisfactory counter-air capability. Would the deployment of SDI not wipe out the credibility of the flexible response strategy? Would there be enough resources left to develop a credible conventional deterrent in Europe? In the final analysis, would SDI not decouple, rather than recouple, Europe and the United States?

Such are some of the questions that the Europeans have been raising, more or less openly. In addition, the French—and to some extent the British—are concerned about the consequences of SDI on their own nuclear forces. Many Europeans are therefore receptive to the Soviet argument that SDI will be destabilizing. They worry about the fate of the ABM treaty, even though the Administration has consistently repeated that in the research phase the treaty would not be violated (this is, of course, a matter of interpretation). The Europeans know, however, that the worst plan would be to let the Soviets develop their own ABM and ASAT capabilities while the United States remained passive. They are sensitive to the American allegations of Soviet violations of existing arms agreements, and to the argument that SDI is a "strategic defense reaction." They know that there is no way to resist technological progress, and are anyway familiar enough with American unilateralism to understand that the future course of American policy on SDI will only be marginally affected by the Europeans, and rather more by U.S. national factors—both domestic and political—and by the bilateral dialogue with the Soviets.

Europeans hope that, at some point, Washington will make concessions, trading a cutback in SDI for deep reductions in offensive weapons. But they cannot say this openly or they risk jeopardizing arms negotiations. Like the Soviets, they speculate about the attitude of the next American president in 1988. Even in 1985 they observe that the U.S. Administration has signaled a cautiousness, for example in the restricted interpretation of the ABM treaty. Moreover, President Reagan declared on June 10 that the United States will continue to abide by the terms of the unratified 1979 second Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT II) agreement, and would dismantle older Poseidon submarines in order to avoid violating the treaty. In September the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment released a report concluding that the development of a space-based nuclear missile defense might make a U.S.-Soviet conflict more likely, because of doubts about the feasibility of providing a leakproof nuclear umbrella. The Pentagon immediately disputed the report, but said that the United States would not deploy such defenses unless they were proven to contribute to military stability.

This is the uncertain context within which the European-American dialogue on SDI developed in 1985. The first European reactions were essentially political. Thus, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher praised President Reagan when she visited Washington in February, and strongly endorsed SDI, partly to offset the bad impression left after her meeting with Gorbachev in December. At the Bonn summit meeting in May, both she and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl expressed their support for SDI, though President Mitterrand blocked a summit endorsement.

Behind this facade of near unity, the real positions of the three main European leaders were in fact more qualified. In December 1984, Mrs. Thatcher told Mr. Gorbachev that "research is within existing agreements" but "if the result of research is such that it is decided to go ahead with production and deployment, that has to be a matter for negotiations before those deployments could take place," a position that the United States endorsed. Very indicative of British second thoughts was Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe’s speech of March 15 to the Royal United Services Institute:

There would be no advantage in creating a new Maginot line of the 21st century, liable to be outflanked by relatively simpler and demonstrably cheaper countermeasures. . . . We must make sure we are not developing what might prove to be a limited defense against weapons of devastating destructive force. . . . The allies must ask whether the enormous funds to be devoted to such systems might be better employed on other forms of deterrence.

Mr. Kohl endorsed SDI very early, particularly in a speech to the Wehrkunde conference on February 9. He declared in his Bundestag speech of April 18 that "the American research program is in our view justified, politically necessary, and in the security interests of the West as a whole." Again in May, the chancellor gave a spectacular statement of support to SDI—which was then interpreted as a gesture in return for Mr. Reagan’s visit to Bitburg. All this reflects the traditional German concerns for its security ties with the United States. The Federal Republic is not in a position to oppose Washington on SDI, but Bonn hopes to have some influence on Washington on that matter.

Mr. Kohl, however, has reasons to be seriously embarrassed. The Social Democrats are definitely opposed to SDI, which they see as an obstacle to an agreement on intermediate nuclear weapons. They also worry about the future of Ostpolitik. Indeed, through various channels the Soviet Union has multiplied warnings about German participation in SDI. Just before the resumption of the Geneva negotiations in March, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher rushed to Moscow. The chancellor was also in trouble with several of his ministers; Defense Minister Manfred Wörner and Research Minister Heinz Riesenhuber are less than enthusiastic about the American initiative; Martin Bangemann, the minister of economy, is skeptical about the technological fallout of SDI.

Be that as it may, both the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic tried to obtain specific U.S. commitments to get a sizable share of the SDI cake. Mrs. Thatcher requested in vain that $1.5 billion be made available over five years to the British firms cooperating with SDI. Her then defense secretary, Michael Heseltine, was unable to get precise answers to a series of question such as: how much of the technology resulting from British scientists’ research will be available for use in Britain for its own civil service and military development program? Will other sensitive technologies be available to British scientists? How much will be assigned to Europe once the relatively inexpensive research contracts turn into bigger hardware projects? On December 6, a "Memorandum of Understanding" was signed between Britain and the United States, but left the answers rather vague.

On the West German side, two missions were sent to Washington. The second, in September, was led by Horst Teltschik, an adviser to the chancellor and a great supporter of SDI. It seems that the United States reconfirmed that SDI research will stay within the ABM treaty framework; that there will be no decision on SDI deployment without prior consultations with America’s allies and the U.S.S.R.; and that no system would be deployed if the U.S.S.R. were in a position to neutralize it at low cost by merely increasing its offensive potential. At year’s end, no answers were clear to other German questions on such sensitive matters as technology transfer.

As for France, its official reaction to SDI has been more than reserved. As early as June 1984, France proposed a five-year renewable moratorium on testing and deployment of ABM systems and a strict limitation of ASAT systems able to reach high-orbit satellites. For the French, SDI could erode the very foundations of nuclear deterrence; it seems likely to affect strategic stability and to pave the way for a new arms race in all fields. Mr. Mitterrand refused to approve SDI, though when Mr. Gorbachev visited Paris the French president carefully avoided associating himself with the Soviet condemnation of the American program and thus did not allow the Soviet Union to drive a wedge into the alliance. His foreign minister, Roland Dumas, recognized during a visit to the United States that SDI has some advantages.

Although some leaders of the French opposition, such as Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Jacques Chirac, expressed a more positive attitude with respect to the Reagan initiative, it does not necessarily mean that they do not share the general European concerns on the subject. The heart of the matter is the fate of the French nuclear forces and, more generally, the evolution of the whole French strategic concept in the next 20 years: what kind of space policy should France set up, with or without its European allies and with or without the United States? In theory, the French and the British are in the same boat, but the British strategy is less focused on nuclear deterrence. In addition, Britain is increasingly dependent on the United States for its nuclear arsenal, since its maintenance relies on tight cooperation with America. The Polaris missiles which equip the British submarines, for example, are American.


The practical European-American negotiations on SDI in 1985 were clearly centered on economic and technological interests. It is doubtful in current circumstances that Europe will get a significant share of SDI contracts. The big American firms—Boeing, Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, LTV, Teledyne, Rockwell, TRW, Hughes, AVCO and Litton—are eager to share the cake among themselves. The more time elapses, the more difficult it will be for European firms to participate significantly in projects whose architecture is being framed around American giants. At the end of the year the initial European fears, that they will be left only with scraps and the possibility of a brain drain, have not vanished. The legal problems of SDI transatlantic cooperation are still unclarified.

Beside the strategic aspect of the SDI debate, there is clearly a major concern for the fate of European high-technology industries, and the question of the technological gap between Europe and the United States. This is not a new question. The theme of Eurosclerosis, or the decline of Europe, has been fashionable in the last two years; but it was already discussed in the 1950s, and again in the mid-1960s. In a speech delivered in The Hague in February 1984, President Mitterrand suggested that Europe should develop a military space program, a pledge that he renewed in his November 21 press conference. However, when France spelled out the program on April 17, calling it the European Research Coordinating Program (Eurêka), it was clearly presented as a program to enhance European technology in general.

French Foreign Minister Dumas wrote his European colleagues on June 14 that the Eurêka project "must result in the launching of finalized programs, defined in close consultation with industry and mobilizing European research workers and companies around specific objectives likely to result in commercial applications in the long run." Mr. Mitterrand later explained that Eurêka is a matter of "ensuring the technological independence of Europe in the vital fields of the future, and encouraging wherever possible cooperation between companies and European researchers, to mobilize the corresponding financial means and support the effort of firms by creating the necessary environment and by promoting the unification of our domestic market." Thus, Eurêka is clearly not a space program (it emphasizes, for instance, biotechnologies), even less a military one. From the outset, it was said unambiguously that Eurêka was not a response to SDI.

It is not yet easy to assess the real scope of Eurêka. It is hard to know how much fresh money will be allocated to the ten identified projects; for instance, in West Germany as well as France, much of the funding will actually come from reallocation of existing budgets. In addition, a country such as Britain, which remains extremely reserved about public funding, considers that what is really important is to liberalize the European high-technology market, in order to give European firms a better chance to be successful. In the same vein, the Federal Republic has reservations about the idea that there could be European preferences in the Eurêka framework.

The French concept of "technological independence" is obviously not shared by many of its partners. This, too, is not a new story. The Eurêka structure will remain the rather heavy one of ministerial conferences (the next one will take place in London in May 1986), assisted by a light secretariat. If Eurêka and the EEC are disconnected, this raises many questions: for instance, how to discriminate between countries, in particular East European countries, which express an interest in joining?

As Eurêka was announced not to be a European response to SDI, it is politically easy for the United States to wish the program well. This allowed Mr. Kohl and Mrs. Thatcher to participate (though obviously without enthusiasm) in the Eurêka game without running the risk of clashing with the United States. Whatever the fate of Eurêka, it should have some positive effects, even if modest in comparison to its political noise, for the technological cooperation of European firms.

The question of a "European Defense Initiative" remains entirely open. West German Defense Minister Wörner suggests that the European allies should undertake joint research into a land-based antimissile system to counter Soviet short-range ballistic missiles. If nothing is done, Mr. Wörner thinks that the Soviets could develop a first-strike nuclear or conventional option to wipe out NATO command and control centers, airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, ammunition stores and such. Many in Europe share this view. Whether an EDI is politically, economically and technically feasible is a highly controversial question. But it is worth being debated, even if—contrary to the intent of Eurêka—it could generate major transatlantic frictions, a perspective which would be sufficient to paralyze any move forward.

The record for French-German cooperation on armaments and space projects in 1985 does not leave room for optimism. The French-German tank will not be realized. France’s participation in the European fighter plane project will probably be limited. The Germans rejected the Hermès project (a European space shuttle), and refused to participate in the funding of a European observation satellite. Many difficulties still exist over the French-German antitank helicopter. The rhetoric about the erection of a European security pillar, resting on a French-German basis, cannot conceal the fact that France and the Federal Republic still have fundamentally different visions of their security problems. NATO and French strategies, such as they now stand, remain antinomic.


Altogether, 1985 has not been a bad year for European-American relations, for all the worrisome possibilities. SDI is an extremely sensitive issue on both sides of the Atlantic. If the Soviet-American dialogue drags on without significant agreement, the Soviets might have an opportunity to manipulate European public opinion, and perhaps more successfully than during the Euromissile crisis. If, on the contrary, the dialogue works well, there is the risk of "condominium"—to recall Michel Jobert’s warning of 1973. The superpowers may be tempted to impose their own solutions in regional conflicts, ignoring third parties’ interests. And clashes on economic questions remain a permanent danger.

In 1985 the European constellation of stars was still favorable to the United States. But most of the European governments are weak: how long will Bettino Craxi, Helmut Kohl, Ruud Lubbers, Wilfried Martens, François Mitterrand and Margaret Thatcher remain in power? What will be the outcome of the French legislative elections in 1986, and of the German and British elections in 1987? Will the popularity which the United States enjoys today in Europe survive Reagan? In transatlantic relations, a good climate can never be taken for granted.

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  • Thierry de Montbrial was head of the Policy Planning Staff of the French Foreign Ministry from 1973 to 1979, when he became Director of the Institut Français des Relations Internationales. He is also Professor of Economics and Chairman of the department at the École Polytechnique.
  • More By Thierry de Montbrial