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 the final dismantling of the Atlantic Alliance, which ought to be the cornerstone of American policy in the present period.

In the background of the effort to reconcile these conflicting positions are shadowy uncertainties about recent political developments in Europe. Almost everyone agrees that something new has been happening in European political life, but it has not yet been possible to define what that "something" is, or how deeply it changes the nature of the political alignments in Europe. In the West, does the "European" drive still fundamentally conform to the Monnet vision, only temporarily interrupted by General de Gaulle? Or has the momentum in this direction now passed, and been replaced by a European idea which is essentially that of a loose relationship among nation-states desiring a role in international politics more independent of the United States? In Eastern Europe, has the fragmentation of Soviet control reached the point at which inter-bloc arrangements across Europe can supersede the further development of West European integration? The answers involve assessments of profound social transformations whose outlines may not become clear to us for some time; and they will have an obvious bearing on the kind of relationship to be sought across the Atlantic-whether an institutionalized integration or a gradual and pragmatic extension of certain economic functions during a period in which military and political integration may be less feasible. But whatever form or degree of Atlantic integration may be possible, the more immediate question remains whether we are compelled to choose between strengthening the alliance and achieving a détente with the Soviet Union.

One factor that has contributed to making these seem conflicting alternatives is that in practice the United States has adduced the Soviet military threat as the principal motivation for the Western Alliance. Other and more positive motivations are mentioned, but from the earliest days of NATO and particularly since 1950, American estimates of the military requirements have run substantially higher than those of our European allies, and our analysis of Soviet intentions and capabilities has furnished our main arguments in behalf of the alliance.

On both sides of the Atlantic there are wide differences in present estimates of the Soviet military threat, but it seems fair to say that the prevailing West European estimate has been diminishing relative to our own official estimate, and that this has been a major factor in the weakening of the alliance. At the same time, the volatile nature of American responses to a potential détente with the Soviet Union has created uncertainty in Europe about the seriousness and steadiness of our own view of the Soviet problem. The net effect has been to counterpose the détente and the alliance as alternative policies. Can we clarify our understanding of the present character and extent of the dangers represented by Soviet policies, and work with our allies toward common language on the kind of a response now required for the West? Can we clarify our understanding of the kind of détente with the Soviet Union that may be possible in the present period, as distinguished from the longer-range settlements toward which we would like to work? The implication in the way these questions are posed is that a two-stage approach to the détente question may help to reduce some of the confusion regarding different time-scales and functions which lies at the root of this apparent contradiction.


The reasons why the Soviet military threat is now perceived by some in this country and many in Europe as substantially lower than before have to do more with impressions of Soviet intentions than with estimates of Soviet military strength. These estimates have been increasing of late, both absolutely and in some respects relative to our own, although our lead in strategic capabilities seems assured at least for several years to come. Among the factors generally cited are the following:

1. The fragmentation of the communist bloc is widely regarded as having eliminated or reduced the effectiveness of any serious challenge from the communist nations. "The communist bloc is no longer monolithic." The Chinese defiance of the Soviet leadership, the increased autonomy in foreign-policy matters asserted by some East European states and the lack of coördination of the foreign communist parties are cited as reasons for believing that the "containment" of communist expansionism is no longer necessary and that the possibilities for settlements with the Soviet Union are now greater.

2. The changes which have been taking place inside the Soviet Union are regarded by many as having transformed the Soviet system to the point that its foreign policies are expected to be essentially conservative and non- ideological, rather than dynamic and disruptive.

3. In recent years, Soviet policies have tended, with some exceptions, to emphasize indirect and longer-term modes of advancing Soviet interests, rather than direct and militant challenges. This has lessened the incidence of dramatic confrontations which formerly stimulated cohesion and mobilization in the West. It is generally accepted that this evolution of Soviet policy is largely due to the success of the Western Alliance. The differences are in the interpretation of the ambiguities of "peaceful coexistence" in Soviet strategy.

4. In recent months the discussion of increased intercontinental missile production and anti-ballistic missile deployment in the Soviet Union has raised questions about whether we may be approaching the end of a stabilized plateau in the strategic arms race. Nevertheless it is widely assumed that the Soviet leadership has accepted, or must in logic accept, a common or parallel interest with the United States in restraining the arms race, at least at the strategic level.

Each of these factors has considerable force, but there is a tendency in public discussions to draw immoderate conclusions from them. Understandably, many in this country and in Europe react against the oversimplifications of the past by regarding the "communist menace" as having been a myth from the start, or as having become so negligible that little or no defense against it is now required. As a result, the discussion has become so polarized between assertions of "threat" and "no threat" that it has become difficult to get public attention to focus upon processes of change in international politics which are in fact complex and ambiguous. The net effect of these processes, I would argue, has not been to eliminate the conflict relationship with the Soviet Union but to change its character; and the starting point for any Western policy must be to find more appropriate terms for describing the nature of the political contest in which we are now engaged. What the Western Alliance faces in the present period is not, I suggest, the spectre of world communist revolution, nor of a Soviet effort to communize Western Europe, nor of Soviet forces preparing for the military conquest of Europe, but the problem of how to take the measure of a Soviet effort to use political, economic and military means to strengthen its influence on the European continent.

In evaluating the effects of the undeniable fragmentation of the communist bloc, it would be as mistaken to conclude that this process eliminates any serious challenge from the Soviet Union as it would be to say that the disarray in the Western Alliance disposes, for the Russians, of the challenge of American power. What this process of fragmentation does dispose of is the bogey of a unified, articulated threat, which was probably never as monolithic as we once saw it. It is useful to be reminded that local manifestations of communism have to be considered in their local contexts, and that differentiated responses are required in each case; but it does not follow that either local communist movements or Soviet or Chinese power are no longer matters of concern. It may even be that if Soviet policy can demonstrate the necessary resilience, the Soviet Union may turn to advantage the possibility of drawing upon increasingly nationalist sources of support for the separate elements of the communist movement.

It is clear that the recent developments in China have been a source of distraction, uncertainty and anxiety to the Soviet leadership. It is not yet possible to gauge the full effects of these developments upon Soviet policy, but predictions of a Soviet alliance with the West against China appear to be at the extreme edge of optimism, considering the residual suspicions in the Soviet-Western relationship. Clearly the Sino-Soviet dispute, together with the climate of reduced tension in Europe, has intensified nationalist trends in Eastern Europe, and has encouraged a greater degree of independence in the foreign policies of some East European countries. These countries have resisted the Soviet effort to isolate the United States in European politics, largely because they fear this would reduce their own freedom of man?uvre. All this does certainly limit the Russians' freedom of action and requires them to exercise much more persuasion in intra-bloc relations than formerly. The opening up of Eastern Europe to Western influences and the development of trade and cultural ties across the European continent introduce ambiguity and movement in European politics which may have important long-run effects even in the Soviet Union itself. However, for the immediately foreseeable future the process has certain limits which are imposed by Soviet security conceptions and by the groups which exercise political control in these countries. Of course, the arrows point in both directions: Soviet diplomacy will seek to exploit the opportunities offered by the new fluidity in Europe to influence the political alignments in the West.

Regarding the assumption that domestic social transformations have begun to have a conservative effect on Soviet foreign policy-a large subject about which much has been written-perhaps it would be fair to say, by way of a summary contention, that this involves at least two uncertainties: one, the time-span required for qualitative changes to make themselves felt, and the other, the direction in which these changes are in fact moving. While the party and police bureaucracies are intact and in unchallenged political control, it does seem premature, at least, to argue as the Chinese and some Westerners do that the Soviet Union has already become something of a bourgeois state.

It is true that pockets of autonomy have developed here and there in Soviet society, and that the process of decision-making has grown more complex and bureaucratized in response to the requirements of advancing industrialization. But there is a distinction to be made between administrative decision-making and the exercise of political power, the devolution of which may take a very long time-if indeed the Soviet political structure is moving in that direction. It is also true that Soviet policy is and always has been fairly conservative in the sense that it has been cautious about risk-taking. The fundamental dynamism of Soviet policy, which arises partly out of national growth and partly out of ideology, may be diminished by domestic economic problems and by the reduction of external opportunities, but there is no evidence that it has yet been diminished by transformations within the Soviet system.

Soviet policies toward Western Europe increasingly reflect traditional methods of seeking national advantage, but this is not to say that the ideological factor in Soviet policy has become negligible. Here it is important to distinguish between the ideologically expressed goal of world revolution, which has gradually receded to a point at which it may have little operational significance, and other aspects of the ideology which have changed more slowly and which cannot be said to have lost their operational effect upon Soviet policy. The Marxist-Leninist framework of analysis of historical trends, although it has been evolving, remains an important factor in the Soviet view of Western systems as obsolescent and inherently a source of conflict. It is still an obstacle to genuinely coöperative relations with the West and particularly with the United States; it does not prevent limited coöperation in certain areas, but its assumption of fundamental incompatibility does set limits on the degree of coöperation possible in the present period. This framework of perception is more strongly represented in certain age groups and in certain parts of the bureaucracy than in others, and it may therefore have a diminished effect in the future. In the meantime it forms one of the demarcations between present and future phases of East-West relations.

Turning now to an evaluation of "peaceful coexistence" in Soviet policy, the most striking paradox is how much Western policy has been the victim of its own success. The evolution of Soviet policy toward a more indirect and long-term mode of advancing its interests is a logical response to the facts of life which the Western Alliance helped to create: the West's strategic superiority, its high growth rates and its firmness in resisting direct militant pressures. Now, while the Western Alliance is trying to adapt to the removal of those overt pressures which formerly held the alliance together, the Soviet Union is groping for realistic ways of increasing its influence.

In practice, peaceful coexistence has meant an increasingly active diplomatic effort in the theater most likely to be decisive for the balance of power-Europe. The revival of Western Europe's economic power reduced the Soviet hope of revolutionary social transformations, but it opened up possibilities for political man?uvre amidst the tensions that accompanied the growing European desire for a role in international affairs more independent of the United States. Viet Nam introduced a qualitative leap forward for the Soviet Union in Western Europe, partly because of the unpopularity of the American position in Viet Nam, but even more because the war occupied so much of our attention and energy. Exploiting the advantages offered by the decline of American influence in Europe, the Soviets have intensified their efforts to weave a network of technological, trade, cultural and political relationships with the major countries of Western Europe, as well as with Canada and Japan.

How better to dramatize this campaign than to have the Soviet President visit the Pope! How better to symbolize the Soviet effort to reach across the political spectrum-the Russian revolutionary fist now unclenched into an outstretched hand! It has been an active year for Soviet diplomacy in Europe: de Gaulle to Moscow, Kosygin to Paris; Wilson to Moscow (twice), Kosygin to London; Gromyko and then Podgorny to Rome; Demichev and then Podgorny to Vienna-talking trade, cultural exchanges and technological coöperation. . . . Soviet-European coöperation to overcome the technological gap with the United States. . . . Europe for the Europeans-a low-keyed reiteration of the theme of the Bucharest communiqué of the Warsaw Pact powers last July, calling for a European conference to reach a settlement of European problems, liquidating NATO and the Warsaw Pact, merging the Common Market into an all-European arrangement, legitimizing the sovereign rights of the German Democratic Republic.

But here is the most difficult problem for Soviet diplomacy-what to do about Germany? The leverage offered by General de Gaulle is obviously useful in weakening the Western Alliance and reducing the American presence in Europe, but in their second thoughts the Soviets have wondered whether the "objective consequence" of this line of action might not be to leave the Federal Republic as the strongest power in Western Europe. No clear answer to this dilemma has appeared, but the tentative strategy has been to isolate the Federal Republic with the intensified themes of "revanchism" and "militarism," while implying that advantages might accrue from the recognition of the German Democratic Republic. The price held out to the Germans of détente with the Soviet Union is the continued division of Germany and detachment from the United States.

What is the purpose of this effort? The answer begins with the recognition that, in the absence of general war or the active threat of war, the decisive issue is the place of industrial Europe in the world power balance. The Soviet hope is that, as a result of the present fluidity in European political life and our diminished influence in Europe, it can increase its influence to the point where it can bring the individual European nation-states into some form of closer and perhaps subordinate relationship, thereby enhancing its power position relative to the United States. It should be stressed that this is mainly a political and economic effort over a period of time during which Soviet leaders hope they will have strengthened their economic base of power; it is not primarily a military threat, although Soviet military capabilities will of course lend support to Soviet diplomacy.

Whether this is a realistic expectation depends upon a number of imponderables. What is involved is an historic gamble. From the viewpoint of Western Europe, increased contacts in a climate of reduced tension offer an opportunity to soften the ideological barriers, to wean away the East European states, and to prepare the ground for a European settlement. From the Soviet point of view, the expectation is that these increased contacts will provide leverage to prod the West European states toward a loose coalition against the United States. What is in question is not whether there should be increased contacts between Eastern and Western Europe-for these are irresistible in the present tide of politics-but whether there can be enough coördination and political consciousness in the management of these contacts so that the effect will be a strengthening of European independence rather than fragmentation and subordination. Call it morbid optimism, perhaps, but such are the complexity and intractability of these matters that one is tempted to guess that whichever side gains the advantage, it is likely to be because the ineptitude of the adversary exceeded its own.

It was suggested at the start that a certain commonality of interest exists between the Soviet Union and the United States in reducing the hazard of general war. How far is the assumption warranted, and to the extent that it is, how far does it serve to limit the political rivalry just described?

There can be no doubt that if logic and rationality prevail, the two great powers must recognize the mutuality of their interest in preventing the outbreak of general nuclear war. Indeed, they have done so, within limits. The arms race has not as yet gone through the roof: tacit restraints have been accepted in practice, as each side has learned through experience the interacting effects of measures to improve its situation, and budgetary pressures have provided some constraints as well. There are some buts, however. It has proved impossible so far to translate this common interest into agreed limitations on armaments, for reasons which are all too familiar. The use of military chips to support a diplomatic hand carries the constant risk that events may carry a crisis situation beyond rational control. The natural professional zeal of military interests on both sides to achieve a security based upon superiority provides a continuing dynamic to the arms race, as we see currently illustrated in the pressures for anti- ballistic missiles. The Viet Nam conflict, and the prospect of many other local conflict situations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, have weakened the emerging confidence that there was a low probability of general war. And the growth of Chinese military power has added a complicating factor which, for the present at least, makes the prospect for any arms-reduction agreements an academic question, as people are unfortunately fond of saying, by which they usually mean that it is without practical significance.

The important point to observe, however, is that even if we act on the assumption-as I believe we should-that with time the Soviet Union and the United States can and will find ways to stabilize and ease their military confrontation, this does not necessarily mean any easing of their political rivalry. There is not an inevitable continuum between arms control and a political truce. It has been an error, I believe, to argue in favor of particular arms-control measures as though they could remove tensions which arise from basic political conflicts of interest. Of course, the prevailing level of tension is not irrelevant to the arms race; however, symbolic measures designed to reduce tensions, but having nothing to do with the substance of our conflicting concerns, may prove to be worse than useless, for they lead to self-deception and miscalculation. Therefore, in striving to find practical ways of exploiting the common interest in preventing general war, it is essential to recognize that the mutuality of aims is limited, that rivalry on many fronts may continue, and that arms-control measures are not necessarily linked to a political rapprochement.


This brings us to the question of détente. What kind of a détente with the Soviet Union is possible in the present period? To begin with, the term itself is imprecise and often misleading. Although in its strict sense détente suggests only some reduction of tension, it is generally used to connote a political rapprochement. In retrospect, we see that even in the periods when "détente" was on everyone's lips, as in 1959 and again in 1963- 64, the word had at best a qualified application, since the reduction of tension was accompanied by strenuous Soviet efforts to gain political and military advantages. It seems probable, for example, that the Soviet decision to increase production of intercontinental missiles was made during the post-Cuban "détente" of 1963-64.

In the present period, although a reduction of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States is obviously desirable, and would now be welcomed by our European allies, there are a number of factors which may set limits on the extent to which it is practicable, even if the Viet Nam issue were resolved or surmounted.

To begin with, the present fluidity in European politics tends to encourage an active rivalry for political advantage-in contrast to the provisional stabilization which sustained earlier periods of reduced tension. The previous Soviet emphasis on the status quo (meaning American acceptance of the Soviet position in Eastern Europe) as a condition for peaceful coexistence has, except in the case of East Germany, given way to a more open game of political man?uvre across the entire continent. It is even more true in a period of movement than it was when lines seemed frozen that so long as the issue of a divided Germany remains, it sets effective limits on how much easing of tension can be expected.

Perhaps Viet Nam will prove to be a transitory factor, but the present diplomatic isolation of the United States on this issue encourages the Soviet Union to press for relative gains by further isolating the United States (détente toward Europe, but not toward the United States) rather than helping to relieve the estrangement by accepting bilateral forms of coöperation. Further limits are set by the Soviet view that American policy is increasingly militant and uncompromising-a view not relieved by recent speeches of the President. This is reinforced by the Soviet expectation that political turbulence throughout the underdeveloped world may lead to other conflict situations, and that a militant American response to these is likely. As for the present upheavals in China, whatever their outcome, it is evident that new lines of power and influence will be drawn in Asia, causing instability for some time to come. In this connection, the Chinese charges of Soviet collusion with "American imperialism" and of loss of revolutionary zeal in leading the international communist movement still evoke a defensive response in the Soviet Union, and for the present at least, inhibit Soviet contacts with the United States which could be used by the Chinese to lend credence to the charge.

However, let us assume optimistically that rising Soviet apprehensions about the conflict with China and concern about the mounting costs of the arms race may be gaining increasing weight in Soviet calculations, and may lead toward acceptance of some reduction of tension with the United States in the foreseeable future. How then should we respond? Above all, we should keep clearly in mind the distinction between the limited détente that may be possible in the present period and symbolic acts which seem to suggest a rapprochement but do not in fact moderate any fundamental causes of conflict. For these can only encourage our allies to trample each other on the road to Moscow.

The main function of a limited détente between the Soviet Union and the United States is to reduce the hazard of general nuclear war. It is unlikely that much more than this can be done at present. The possibility of common action arises not only out of a common appreciation of the destructiveness of general nuclear war and a mutual (although perhaps uneven) appreciation of the costs of the arms race, but also conceivably out of different estimates of the political effects of various arms-control measures. For example, joint action on a nonproliferation treaty may be possible because each side expects the political side-effects to advance its own interests more than those of its antagonist. Similarly, modest programs of trade and cultural relations may be possible and useful, not because of common interests, but because of different evaluations of the effects of such programs.

In time we may get to the point at which agreements to reduce arms may become feasible, but for the present perhaps the most effective measures open to us may be in the realm of tacit restraints and a restoration of channels of communication offering maximum privacy and confidence. The process of diffusion by which interested people in both countries are learning something about the interactions of politics, science and military technology has already demonstrated its long-term utility. Possibly the model of the Tashkent agreement can be encouraged in peripheral conflicts where the interests of the two powers are not arrayed against each other.

But it is unlikely that a settlement of European problems can be a feature of any détente in the immediate period ahead. The Soviet Union shows as little sign of being willing to relinquish its economic and military position in East Germany as the United States is willing to abandon the Federal Republic. This point is not always clearly understood. What the United States seeks is not to challenge the Soviet Union for the control of Germany, but to work toward a solution of the German problem under conditions which permit the continued development of democratic political institutions within Germany. This is a vital interest, for if discriminatory treatment breeds a revival of irrational nationalism in Germany, Europe's future stability will be again in jeopardy. A European settlement is impossible without a resolution of the German problem, and it is only in the framework of a European settlement that the problem of Germany can be resolved. Clearly, it will take time for this problem to become soluble; it cannot be encompassed by a limited détente now, but must await a more fundamental settlement in the future.


The essential conception sketched above is that our present limited- adversary relationship with the Soviet Union is not inconsistent with the varied coöperative functions possible between the United States and Western Europe. The apparent contradiction between the two relationships becomes more manageable if the Soviet military threat is not made the major motivation for the Western Alliance. The Soviet problem is now neither the main reason for the Western Alliance nor a matter of unconcern to it. We must make an effort to discard the oversimplifications to which we have become accustomed in our public discourse and to find with our allies a common language for describing and understanding the more complex forms which the Soviet challenge takes in the present period. This approach implies that the political problems presented by Soviet policies should be given relatively more attention than the purely military threat, and, as a corollary, that the political vitality of the alliance may be more crucial than the level of its military readiness. There is much to build on in terms of shared values and common aspirations. More than this, we must together provide the nucleus for some kind of international system. We are bound together not by anti-communism but by common concern about the potential destructiveness of war, virulent nationalism and international anarchy. In this perspective, present Soviet policies may be seen as an obstacle to the degree of international coöperation required to deal with these problems, and we should make it a central objective of our association with Western Europe over the longer term to widen the area of coöperative relations with the Soviet Union.

To develop a conception of a second stage of détente is necessary for several reasons. First, the more clear we are as to what we can expect in the way of improved relations with the Soviet Union in the present period, the less we shall fluctuate between euphoria and disappointment, with confusing results for public opinion at home and our allies abroad. Second, by keeping steadily in mind the direction in which we would like to see the situation evolve, we shall avoid present actions which handicap the achievement of our long-term purposes.

What is now required of us is to prepare the ground for the next stage-to work at the outlines of a European settlement which can be realized in a series of phases over the next several decades. We know some of the conditions for that settlement: the reunification of Germany, the establishment of a framework of security guarantees, the broadening of economic interdependence across a continent not subject to the hegemony of any nation. In time, the Soviet Union will surely come to see its legitimate self-interest fulfilled in such a settlement; as it begins to accept this view, we shall find it possible to work together in reducing armaments and in building international stability and order.

Is two decades a reasonable guess for so profound a change in fundamental outlook? It is hard to say, even for ourselves. We are an impatient people, but we must learn to accept a longer-term perspective toward these problems.

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