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The surface was all smiles and harmony. After years of transatlantic distress, the major nations of the democratic West assembled in May in the splendor of Colonial Williamsburg to manifest their unity and their confidence. There were two new faces among the seven heads of state and government, both symbols of a significant political change in their respective countries: West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had replaced Helmut Schmidt in October 1982 and whose party, the Christian Democrats, had just been confirmed by a massive popular vote on March 6, and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, the leader of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party and government who, in striking contrast to his predecessors, articulated a newly confident, internationally minded Japan.
Yet, like all family gatherings, the Williamsburg meeting hid more than it revealed. Understandably, none of the participants wanted to spoil the party, and controversy was voiced moderately, if at all. Moreover, Williamsburg celebrated the newly won Western consensus over the controversies of the past: the relief in Europe that a more pragmatic note had emerged in the foreign policies of the Reagan Administration, particularly in its statements on arms control, economic sanctions and East-West relations, and relief in the United States that the allies gave priority to mending relationships within the Alliance instead of repairing those with the Soviet Union.
In this respect as in the political philosophies of its participants, it was a conservative gathering; even the only Socialist in the group, France's François Mitterrand, had been staunchly pro-Western in his foreign policy, and in March had imposed a new program of financial austerity on his country which bade farewell to earlier Socialist experiments and brought his country into line with the prevailing views of his partners.
And yet, as the year was to show, the harmony of Williamsburg was deceptive. Underneath the manifestations of consensus lurked deeper cleavages between the United States and its major European allies, less over specific policies than over the future structure of transatlantic cooperation: the nature of the common defense, the role of Western Europe, and the political impact of the economy. This will require more radical, often painful change than the bland harmony of Williamsburg suggested, changes, moreover, to which not only governments but also their publics will have to adjust.
On the surface, elections during the year confirmed the old rule that American fashions reach the European shore with an average delay of three years. All over Western Europe, from the North to the South, conservative policies, if not always conservative parties, were on the rise.
In Norway, the conservative minority government of Prime Minister Kaare Willoch succeeded in strengthening its parliamentary base. In Denmark, the Conservative Party had taken over the government from the long-ruling Social Democrats in 1982 and presided over a coalition so shaky that new elections became inevitable in January 1984; in the event the results tended to strengthen the position of Prime Minister Poul Schluter. In Britain, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party won its biggest victory since 1945. In Italy, the Christian Democrats suffered losses in the June elections but remained the most powerful group in a new ruling coalition under Socialist Premier Bettino Craxi which, in the foreign and economic arena, continued to pursue policies which confirmed, not negated, the general European trend.
The most significant confirmation of this trend took place in West Germany. Here, a change of government had already occurred in the autumn of 1982 when the coalition of Social Democrats and Free Democrats under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt which had ruled the country since 1969 broke apart and the Free Democrats entered into a new coalition with the Christian Democrats under Helmut Kohl. But it was initially a renversement des alliances without electoral blessing. When this came, in the March 6 elections, it was of an unexpected magnitude. Contrary to earlier predictions, the CDU managed to obtain 49 percent of the vote, the Social Democrats, under their new leader, former Justice Minister Hans-Jochen Vogel, suffered their worst defeat since 1961, and even the Free Democrats managed easily to jump the five-percent hurdle that blocks entry into parliament for small political groups. There was also a newcomer: the Green Party of pacifists and ecologists gained 5.7 percent of the vote and 27 seats in the Bundestag, thus bringing into the parliamentary spectrum a grouping that articulated many of the grievances of the young and potentially disaffected.
But the message of the electorate was a clear mandate for the conservatives. In addition to a general wish for change and a reaction to the long-standing quarrels within the Social Democratic Party, the decisive motive was the concern over the economy. Here the CDU under Helmut Kohl was regarded as clearly more competent and more promising than the SPD without Helmut Schmidt.
Yet while the state and future of the economy was the central motive and will be the decisive long-term test for the Europe-wide strength of the conservative trend, the immediate test lay in the military field: the NATO program of deploying a total of 572 Pershing II and cruise missiles (in Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain, Italy and West Germany) unless the Soviet-American negotiations on INF (intermediate nuclear forces) achieved an arms control agreement which would limit deployment or even render it unnecessary.
It was this issue that dominated the debate in West Germany, the country which had in 1977 taken the initiative for the NATO "double-track decision" and whose readiness to deploy had now become the cornerstone of the whole program. While the issue played a role in the domestic debate of other West European countries, particularly in the Low Countries, in Scandinavia and in Britain, there was never any question that the outcome would remain marginal to the foreign policy orientation of these countries. In West Germany, however, the question whether or not to deploy the new U.S. missiles became the catalyst for a more profound uneasiness over the future of a divided nation and its role in the international framework which had determined its policies since the end of the Second World War.
It is likely that this uneasiness would have made itself felt with or without the missile decision. After all, West Germany had been going through the decade of the 1970s with a growing sense that the old framework was no longer adequate. The European Community to which Germans had turned in the 1950s with great hopes and expectations had revealed itself increasingly as a combination of agricultural subsidies with a free-trade area, and enlargement by Britain, Denmark, Ireland and Greece had tended further to block the already cumbersome machinery of the Brussels institution. The link with the United States, so central to West Germany's security, had shown marked strains over differences on détente with the East during the second half of the Carter Administration and, in particular, the first two years of the Reagan Administration. Moreover, a growing sense of economic recession and technological lag had undermined German confidence in the recipes of the past decades.
It was not least to allay the doubts in the reliability of the transatlantic partnership that NATO's double-track decision-to prepare deployment and negotiate arms restrictions at the same time-had originally been conceived. But instead of promoting new trust and confidence, both the nature of the program and the political climate within which its implementation was pursued operated against the original intentions. Rather, they produced a major and painful controversy in West Germany which was by no means laid to rest when the Bundestag, in November 1983, after the failure to reach agreement at the Geneva negotiating table, decided to go ahead with the initial deployment of nine Pershing II missiles on U.S. bases in southern Germany.
In retrospect, the double-track decision suffered from two profound political misunderstandings. The first was the belief, shared on both sides of the Atlantic, that nuclear weapons could cure the political crisis of confidence that had resulted from the emergence of nuclear strategic parity between the superpowers and the erratic performance of U.S. foreign policy under the Carter Administration. The opposite is true: nuclear weapons require trust in the security partnership if they are to be politically acceptable; if that trust is absent, they will be seen as disturbing rather than reassuring.
The second, more subtle misunderstanding was the belief that nuclear programs become more acceptable to European public opinion if they are placed in an arms control context. This is partly correct: one of the costly political mistakes of the early Reagan Administration was precisely to express misgivings about the arms control process and to contend that only a strengthened West could induce the Soviet Union to accommodate Western security interests. Deterrence by nuclear weapons will generally only be tolerated by public opinion if it is accompanied by the search for common constraints with the Soviet side. It was precisely to make politically more palatable what was militarily required that the NATO countries in 1979 had made deployment conditional on the outcome of arms control.
And yet, it was the particular way in which one was linked to the other which added fuel to the controversy. Since governments in Europe could always point to the possibility of a deal at the negotiating table, they omitted to make a powerful military and political case for the program, thus creating additional doubts in the public debate over the need to go ahead with the announced measures. And since the negotiations were by definition bilateral, i.e., between the United States and the Soviet Union, the readiness of the major powers to compromise, rather than the state and dynamics of the military balance, became the yardstick for assessing the issue. Instead of making the full program dependent on the outcome of arms control negotiations, the Alliance in 1979 would, therefore, have been better advised to go ahead with minimum deployment while leaving it to negotiations to define the upper limits of the program.
The Soviet Union proved that it was well aware of these political openings and set about to exploit them to the full, particularly after the death of President Leonid Brezhnev in November 1982. Moscow made German public opinion, and the German will to implement the program, the focus both of its public pronouncements and of its negotiating tactics. In the early fall of 1982 the Soviet leadership-with or without the full participation of the ailing Brezhnev-had rejected the compromise sketched out in July by the U.S. negotiator Paul Nitze and his Soviet counterpart Yuli Kvitsinsky on a celebrated "walk in the woods" in the Jura mountains near Geneva-an event which came to public light only after the January 1983 departure of Eugene Rostow as head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The formula envisaged that both sides would limit their medium-range missiles in Europe to essentially equal ceilings; there would be 75 cruise-missile launcher units with four missiles each based on West European territory, a total of 300 warheads, and Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets in Western Europe would be limited to a total of 75, each with three warheads. The West would forgo the deployment of Pershing II missiles altogether, and there would be ceilings also on nuclear-capable aircraft and on Soviet missile deployments in the Asian part of the U.S.S.R.
While the "walk in the woods" formula met with opposition in Washington as well as in Moscow, it soon became clear that the Soviets were going all out for a total ban on all Western medium-range systems. But this was done in a way that tended to reinforce the view held by the growing number of opponents to the Western program in Germany, and which was clearly aimed at them: the Soviet Union, so repeated initiatives by its new leader Yuri Andropov and its Geneva negotiators insisted, sought no more than a balance to the nuclear forces of the two European nuclear powers, France and Britain. Once that principle was accepted, so the Soviet position ran throughout the year, the West could expect considerable Soviet concessions: the modern SS-20 missile force, now numbering around 250 against targets in Western Europe, would be cut to 162 launchers (the number of French and British nuclear missiles, both ground- and sea-based), or even to less if account would be taken of the fewer number of warheads on these systems (calculated at 420 by the Soviets on the assumption that British and French forces were converted in part, as currently planned, to multiple warheads). The excess SS-20 missiles would be destroyed, so the Soviets promised, and not redeployed to Asian sites.
Yet what was made to appear as flexibility, and readiness to compromise, represented essentially a hardening of the Soviet position. Whatever the military logic of the Soviet argument, there can never have been any doubt in the minds of the Soviet leaders that their proposal was entirely unacceptable. Neither for the United States, whose nuclear options in Europe would be severely curtailed, nor for France and Britain (who were adamantly opposed to having their strategic forces limited implicitly by a superpower agreement), nor even for West Germany, which continues to depend on the American nuclear umbrella, was there ever any question that the Soviet plan would be approved if governments alone had the say. The only way for the Soviets to reach their objective was to rely on, and assist, the mounting domestic opposition within West Germany that sought to prevent the deployment.
However, it was already clear on the eve of the March 6 elections that this expectation was becoming increasingly illusory, and the course of the summer and the autumn bore out what was, after all, to be expected. The protesters remained a minority, and while well over 50 percent of the West German population were opposed to the missile deployment, the majority in parliament remained firmly in favor of the program.
Why then did the Soviet leadership, which has never had a tradition of relying for its policy on popular movements alone, fail to adjust its negotiating position to these new circumstances? The answer must, of course, be conjecture. But two explanations are possible. The first is that the Soviets never wanted an agreement in Geneva anyway but instead intended to use the issue to exploit to the full the strains visible in the Western Alliance, both between Europeans and Americans and between West Germany and its major allies. But to deduce motive only from effect has never been entirely plausible in East-West politics. Moreover, if the Soviets never wanted an agreement, why did the experienced Soviet diplomat Mr. Kvitsinsky agree to sketch out a conceivable compromise with Mr. Nitze during their "walk in the woods" in the summer of 1982?
The other explanation is that the Soviets wavered-in 1982 during the last months of the Brezhnev reign, and in the summer of 1983 during the last healthy months of President Yuri Andropov-but that those who favored a more flexible position in Geneva were unable to overcome the opposition of the military and the foreign ministry in Moscow. Indeed, there were signs in mid-1983 that some general progress in East-West relations might be imminent, with both Washington and Moscow toning down their rhetoric; talks between the foreign ministers of both countries were scheduled, a summit meeting between the two Presidents seemed within reach, and both in Moscow and in Western Europe, particularly in the Bonn government of Helmut Kohl, there was reference to the old "walk in the woods" compromise.
But then, on September 1, the Soviet Far Eastern Air Defense Forces shot down a South Korean airliner with 269 people on board. The Western reaction was one of understandable outrage but also of prudence: President Reagan maintained that the East-West dialogue should go, on, and even expressed himself in favor of a summit meeting if this should serve Western security interests. Yet the outrage had the effect of closing ranks in Moscow behind the military. Conceivably, a greater readiness on the Western side to attribute the slaughter in the air to military incompetence (which it was) rather than to cold-blooded murder (which it was not) might just have limited the damage to East-West relations-although this would have been a very fine line to tread in the emotional days of early September. Conceivably, too, a healthier Andropov (he disappeared from public view on August 18 and was not seen again in 1983) might have prevented the hardening of views in Moscow and abroad by an early admission of Soviet responsibility-but to retain authority within his own system as well as credibility abroad at a time when Russians saw themselves exposed to severe international criticism would have been a feat of political skill that could have surpassed the ability of even a healthier man than Andropov. At any rate, whatever wavering there may have been in Moscow, it was neither thorough nor durable enough to produce a new flexibility in the Geneva INF negotiations.
It was this which, in the end, led to deadlock at the table and to deployment of the first missiles. It is true that, for most of the two years of the negotiations, the United States, too, had not displayed a high degree of flexibility. Not until late March 1983, a few weeks after the West German elections, did President Reagan agree to move away from the offer he had first made in November 1981: that all Soviet medium-range ballistic weapons-including those in Asia-should be dismantled in exchange for a Western renunciation of the 1979 NATO program. This "zero-zero" proposal had never been either realistic or indeed desirable, since it would tend to foreclose the long-needed nuclear modernization in Europe and instead nail the Alliance to its existing nuclear arsenal, much of it militarily obsolete and conceptually highly doubtful. But Reagan's November 1981 proposal was probably intended less for negotiability than for public opinion in Western Europe, and here it served its purpose for a surprisingly long time. Only in late 1982 was this effect running out, and there was growing pressure from Western Europe, not least from Germany's new Chancellor Kohl, for a more flexible Western position.
The March proposal retained one important principle of the "zero-zero" approach: that warhead levels on both sides should be equal. But it envisaged, for the first time, that a reciprocal ceiling might be found somewhere between zero and 572-the total number of U.S. medium-range missiles in the NATO program. However, it still did not go far enough for many impatient West Europeans, and again it was the Kohl government in Bonn which urged additional American concessions-less perhaps for the purpose of moving the Russians than for that of isolating the domestic opposition that was preparing for a "hot autumn" against the deployment of the first Pershings.
Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Chancellor Kohl raised eyebrows in Washington by their suggestions, during the summer months, that progress might be made in Geneva if the "walk in the woods" formula were revived, and if diplomatic efforts were made behind the scenes in Washington to remove some of the obstacles that were blocking agreement. But the Pentagon remained adamant that there could be no renunciation of the Pershing II, the militarily more questionable weapon in the NATO package. Instead, the President announced a new set of concessions in his speech at the United Nations in late September. The most important of these was a rather ambiguous offer: if the Soviet Union were to agree to limitations on a global basis, the United States "will not offset the entire Soviet global missile deployment through U.S. deployments in Europe. We would, of course, retain the right to deploy missiles elsewhere."
What made this offer so interesting was its potential for allowing the Soviets to hold a certain number of SS-20 missiles in their Asian territory which would not effectively be balanced by U.S. intermediate nuclear forces (which was the primary intention)-but also for providing a formula that might take into account third-party nuclear forces, such as the French and British arsenals. Yet the Soviet Union did not rise to the bait. The negotiations remained deadlocked, and even a late sounding by Ambassador Nitze on whether the Soviets would reconsider the "walk in the woods" compromise fell on deaf ears.
It was clear by the end of November that no degree of American negotiating flexibility short of a total capitulation to the Soviet demand could have led to a success in Geneva during 1983. And so events took the course which many, not only on the streets of Europe, had sought to prevent for the past four years: the parliaments of Britain and Germany approved the deployment, the first Pershing II arrived in West Germany, and the first cruise missiles arrived in Britain and Italy. The Soviet delegation walked out of the Geneva INF talks and refused to set a resumption date for the START negotiations, and even that long-lasting feature of unsuccessful East-West arms control negotiations, the Vienna talks on conventional force reductions in Europe, adjourned without setting a date for the next round.
While it was likely that some of the arms control talks would resume at some stage, it was clear that the painful and bitter debate over the missile issue had left not only deep scars in Western societies and between Western nations which will take long to heal, but also that it had generated a political dynamic, particularly in Germany, which could profoundly affect both West-West and East-West relations in the future. For it raised again, albeit in a confused and amorphous way, a question that, for all practical purposes, had long been assumed to be closed: the future of Germany.
The dynamics became visible on three levels: on the German domestic scene, in European East-West relations, and in West-West relations, particularly the Franco-German relationship.
The German domestic scene was, on the surface, marked by a good deal of continuity. Not least in order to isolate the opposition to the missile program, the Kohl government had firmly adopted the framework of the Ostpolitik developed by its predecessor and, at the time, heavily criticized by the now governing Christian Democrats. The new Chancellor lost little time in indicating to the Soviet Union that the Federal Republic remained committed to regular contacts, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko visited Bonn in January, and Kohl went to Moscow in June to meet Andropov. Contacts were extended also with East Germany. The Bavarian leader of the conservatives, Franz-Josef Strauss, far from obstructing these efforts, seemed intent on accelerating them by visiting both Poland and East Germany in the summer and promoting new credit facilities for the hard-pressed East German economy.
Yet this unexpectedly enthusiastic endorsement of the Ostpolitik did not stop the decay of what had been, since the early 1960s, the German consensus on defense and security matters. This was due primarily to the shift in the position of the Social Democrats on the NATO missile program. If the party of Chancellor Schmidt had never been enthusiastic on the issue during his reign, once forced into opposition it rapidly sought to dissociate itself from the positions of the past. Ostensibly for health reasons but more because of a premonition of things to come, Schmidt declined to serve again as the party's candidate for the chancellorship in the March elections. His successor, Hans-Jochen Vogel, a serious, dedicated yet lackluster man, increasingly gave way to overwhelming pressure from the rank and file and, with Willy Brandt, finally put himself at the head of those who opposed the missile program altogether. Schmidt fought a lonely fight in a party in which he was increasingly isolated: at the Party Congress in November, only 14 out of 400 delegates supported him in his endorsement of the NATO decision.
But what made the shift of the Social Democratic Party significant was less its opposition to the missiles than the motives and expectations that sustained it. Essentially, Helmut Schmidt was defeated because a majority no longer regarded the political cohesion of the Western Alliance as a sufficient reason for supporting a military program about which they were doubtful. For the first time since the early 1960s, the Alliance argument had failed to carry the majority of the party.
It would be unjustified to claim, as critics of the SPD were quick to do, that this was a radical departure into German neutralism or Finlandization. The party leadership insisted on continuing NATO membership and support for Western defense. However, as the turnaround of the SPD signaled, an important strand in the trans-atlantic rope had broken. A large section of West German public opinion would no longer toe the line of Alliance policies without misgivings and without questions.
Though most manifest in the case of West Germany's largest opposition party, the new mood was not limited to the Social Democrats. Rather, they epitomized a more general trend in German politics-toward a more Germano-centric, more nationalistic perspective. Even Chancellor Kohl's policies reflected this trend. Although he moved quickly and successfully to allay the frictions caused by his predecessor's style and self-assurance vis-à-vis the American partner, he nevertheless made clear that he could not be counted upon, any more than Helmut Schmidt, as an automatic, uncritical executor of American orders. In his June visit to Moscow, Kohl not only emphasized that West Germany remained a firm partner of the West but also that the division of Germany was an unnatural, unendurable state of affairs. And it was his government which made strenuous efforts to avoid letting the deployment of the new missiles close the door for détente with Eastern Europe, particularly with East Germany. The French newspaper Le Monde caught some of the new spirit in a telling cartoon: across a wall reinforced by missiles on both sides, two Germans get out a bottle and glasses to cheer each other as if nothing had happened.
This was, of course, an optimistic version. At the end of the year it was by no means certain that the "little détente" between West Germany and her Eastern neighbors would survive the frost in the superpower relationship. Yet there were unusual signs that, even in the Soviet-controlled eastern part of Europe, the regimes were somewhat reluctant to fall into line with the armament policies of their big ally. The emotions generated by the missile issue had not stopped at the European divide; a modest peace movement found means of expression in East Germany, and the governments of Prague and East Berlin did not entirely hide their lack of enthusiasm for the Soviet plans to respond to the Western program by deploying new short-range and medium-range missiles on their territory. Yet, in the end this was likely to remain no more than a flicker of insubordination, reflecting more vague hopes than the hard realities of the Soviet-backed regimes in Eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, these developments tended to reinforce a trend in European, particularly German, thinking for which Willy Brandt, now the undisputed leader of the Social Democratic Party, coined the term "the Europeanization of Europe." The old notion of "Mitteleuropa," a zone of political and cultural identity, emerged from the mothballed drawers of history, if not as a concept for today, then as a vague hope for tomorrow.
This was a far cry either from a search for national reunification or from Finlandization. Rather it was a bundle of amorphous frustrations and aspirations expressing more sense of uneasiness with the present than an objective for the future. Yet it sufficed to raise profound concern in some quarters, particularly in France, Germany's closest neighbor. The neo-Gaullism of the German debate, the mass demonstrations against the missiles, the apocalyptic outburst of emotions all brought, to the full, increasing signs of uneasiness from the land of de Gaulle himself.
The French had long assumed that, sooner or later, the issue of German reunification would surface again, and they thus tended to interpret the rumblings in the German security consensus as a sure sign that their latent suspicions were finally being justified. But the very exaggeration of the French media, which eagerly turned the missile debate into a referendum on German neutralism, underlined the security concerns of a country which, for almost 40 years, had taken its neighbor to the east for granted as a docile, quiescent glacis.
The new concern in Paris brought forth new French initiatives: since the Germans needed reassurance, so the argument went, France had to try and provide it. The intergovernmental talks on security and defense matters, which had started under Chancellor Schmidt and President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, were intensified under their successors in Bonn and Paris. François Mitterrand provided strong verbal support for the NATO missile program in an unprecedented speech to the German Bundestag in January, even at the risk of appearing to weaken France's autonomous position in the NATO Alliance and in nuclear deterrence. And opposition leader Jacques Chirac, during a visit in October, hinted that there might be ways to associate West Germany more closely with the nuclear aspects of European defense.
However healthy these French movements toward a higher degree of security interaction with West Germany, they were nevertheless subject both to clear limits and to erroneous assumptions. The limits were imposed by the French insistence on autonomy in the defense field. The assumptions were erroneous because they exaggerated the trend in Germany. West Germany emerged from the painful missile debate bruised but by no means intent on changing its allegiances. While the antimissile movement had acquired an unprecedented depth and articulation, it nevertheless remained the manifestation of a minority. The efforts within the SPD to prevent the party from drifting into opposition to the Atlantic Alliance reflected this. These were motivated not only by the conviction of the leadership that there was no alternative to NATO, but also by the realization that no party opposed to the security link with the United States would stand a chance with the conservative, security-minded German electorate. Indeed, the governing coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats was firmly in the saddle at the end of the year and likely to remain so for a considerable time to come.
And yet, as the German debate and its repercussions indicated, the Alliance was rapidly entering into a period in which the old questions-about the future of East-West relations, the cohesion and strategy of the Alliance, and the role of Europe-would have to be answered afresh. Far from settling these matters, the deployment of the U.S. missiles had posed them anew.
East-West relations: The events of the year had confirmed not merely the sad state of the relationship but also the European suspicion that the Reagan Administration lacked a political concept for dealing with the Soviet Union-apart from relying on the persuasion of its own military buildup. For Washington, progress in East-West relations depended essentially on good Soviet behavior, and cooperation with the other superpower was seen as a reward for such behavior. The European approach was fundamentally different: East-West cooperation was regarded as an inevitable byproduct of the nuclear age, not a favor to be granted but a duty to be pursued. The repeated European references to the Harmel Report of 1967, when the Alliance had formulated its twin concept of détente and deterrence, served to make this point, as did the demonstrations in the streets of Germany; after all, it was to Mr. Reagan's old-time anti-Sovietism that the peace movement owed much of its support.
Washington seemed to have learned from the mistakes of the past to some extent. There was an effort to tone down official rhetoric and to affect a stance more in line with European sensitivities. The most obvious case in point was the lifting of economic sanctions that had been imposed against the Soviet Union. But these U.S. efforts seemed to be dictated less by a concept of Soviet-American relations than by American concern over the deterioration of European-American relations. Unless the Alliance undertakes a major effort to develop a common strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union that incorporates the substance of European views, East-West relations will remain one of the divisive issues of the European-American Alliance, aggravated by Soviet attempts to exploit the rift.
The Military Alliance: The missile debate again brought to the fore inconsistencies and differences over the role of nuclear weapons in Alliance strategy.
In the past, Europeans had tended to view nuclear weapons both as a means of last resort and as an alternative to expensive conventional defense. The United States, on the other hand, had increasingly come to regard nuclear weapons as an integral part of the military effort, designed to provide a spectrum of deterrence across the range of conceivable military contingencies. Both of these approaches were challenged by the missile controversy, and their contradictions revealed: in Europe, the unreasonably high dependence on nuclear weapons for defense; in the United States, the impermissible slide from deterring to contemplating fighting a nuclear war.
Two developments were pressing for a review of NATO's nuclear doctrine. The first was growing skepticism toward nuclear weapons per se in the public debate. Deterrence is only credible if it frightens the adversary more than it does one's own population. There clearly will have to be a reduction in the degree to which West European defense relies on the early use of nuclear weapons if public support for deterrence by nuclear threat is to be maintained. Bowing to these pressures, NATO's Nuclear Planning Group decided in November to reduce the arsenal of battlefield nuclear weapons by 1,400 over the next five years, thus bringing the total down to 4,600-still an unnecessarily high level and no more than a modest step in the right direction.
The pressure for rethinking nuclear doctrine also followed from another aspect of the missile debate in Europe: bruised by the controversy over the Pershing II and the cruise missiles, no European government was likely to approve another nuclear modernization program in the near future.
Such a review would be painful, and likely to introduce new strains into the transatlantic relationship, particularly since the contradictions in nuclear doctrine will never be entirely removed. For one, no doctrine can overcome the basic contradiction of extended deterrence-that the United States should be prepared, for the sake of deterring an attack on Europe, to risk its own survival. Whatever the European abhorrence over limited nuclear war, no American president would be willing to find himself in a position in which his only option in case of an aggression in Europe would be an all-out nuclear response.
For another, there were resource limits to a strategy that would rely measurably more on conventional forces for deterrence. In all West European countries, defense budgets were being trimmed to accommodate public expenditure cuts; the rule of increasing expenditure by three percent per annum in real terms, which had been established in 1978, had long fallen into disrespect. Thus, while the argument for strengthening the conventional defense effort-advanced, for instance, by the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe, General Bernard Rogers, as well as by a series of studies from independent working groups-remained irrefutable, the political will was slow to materialize. Yet, in the absence of such an effort, the Alliance could well find itself, within a few years time, in an unenviable position: its nuclear deterrence eroded by public doubt, nuclear modernization arrested by European objections, and its conventional forces eroded by the lack of funds and personnel.
The most important challenge, however, lay not in these specific military questions but in the task of protecting the European-American alliance against the dangers of drifting apart, dangers which had become more real during the year.
This process was visible on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, the new mood of self-confidence and self-reliance which Mr. Reagan exemplified was likely to reduce patience with the difficult European tribes, particularly once it had been realized that the newly found transatlantic harmony of Williamsburg existed on the surface only.
In European public opinion, dismay over Mr. Reagan's political style had already caused concern over the dependence on American power, and a fashionable dissociation from American policies which was likely to become even more pronounced in case of a renewal of his mandate in November 1984. Economic issues tended to aggravate the trend on both sides of the Atlantic: high U.S. interest rates were blamed in Europe for the slowness of economic recovery, and high European subsidies for foodstuffs were blamed in the United States for obstructing the sale of American agricultural products. Inclination and interest, on both sides of the Atlantic, were combining to widen the rift. Moreover, it was likely that the Soviet Union would seek to exploit the situation by appeals to the emerging Europeanism in Western Europe (particularly in West Germany).
The answer to Mr. Reagan's challenge remained a traditional one: greater political cooperation and integration in Western Europe would be needed to assure Europe of a more weighty role in the formulation of Alliance policies. Only this was likely, in the long run, to retain American respect for the partners overseas, European respect for an alliance with the United States, and German reassurance within the collective framework of the West.
Yet the prospects for stronger West European cooperation remained clouded. The European Community, now counting ten members-four more than the original six-displayed its internal weaknesses at the summit meetings of Stuttgart in June and Athens in December, with heads of state and government incapable of cutting a perspective of common interest through the jungle of financial obligations and agricultural subsidies. The European Council, originally invented to provide a framework for policy coordination, had visibly degenerated into a bargaining parlor, as had all the other institutions of the Community. Europe, to judge by the results of 1983, was still a slogan in search of a policy.
But what had been, in earlier years, a disappointment primarily for committed Europeanists, was now becoming a strategic liability for the future of the transatlantic relationship as well as the cohesion of Western Europe. For in the absence of a credible effort at West European unity, the problems of the Alliance that had surfaced during the year seemed destined to fester on, a constant source of irritation and frustration, encouraging rather than halting the centrifugal trends.
As so often in the postwar years, therefore, the future of Western security was challenged less by threats from the East than by political erosion in the West. West Europeans, as usual, would blame the United States if the challenge were not met. In reality, they would primarily have themselves to blame.