Courtesy Reuters

Europe versus "Détente"?


IT would be an exaggeration to describe the current discussion of our relations with the Soviet Union and with Western Europe as another Great Debate. Perhaps in the language of the times it might be called a Mini- Debate, distracted as it is and emotionally charged by events elsewhere which, however, may prove to be less fateful in the long run.

Implicit in almost every aspect of the discussion is one central issue: whether efforts to salvage or improve our relations with our West European allies work against our attempts to achieve some sort of a détente with the Soviet Union, and if so, which consideration ought to receive the higher priority in our policies.

The question is raised in many forms. In the debates as to whether the United States should proceed with the treaties regarding consular arrangements, the proliferation of nuclear weapons or the prohibition of certain military activities in space, the arguments tend to be less concerned with the specific merits of the treaties themselves than with the symbolic significance of such arrangements as part of a rapprochement between the United States and the Soviet Union. The advocates assert that only old habits of thought about the cold war persist in keeping alive the "communist menace," that the new fluidity of European political life-East and West-has created a new situation ripe for a Soviet-American settlement, made more feasible by the mutuality of their concerns about China. It is often further implied that a lesser American involvement in European affairs and a contraction of our commitments elsewhere would be a desirable concomitant of such a rapprochement.

The main line of argument against this position has been that Soviet behavior does not yet evidence the good faith which would make such a settlement possible (witness the Soviet supply of war matériel to North Viet Nam and the National Liberation Front), and that the pursuit of an illusory rapprochement with the Soviet Union would hasten

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