Courtesy Reuters

Nuclear Balance in Europe

Throughout its existence, the Atlantic Alliance has reflected a complex and dynamic process-a "transatlantic bargain." The former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Harlan Cleveland, has described this "bargain" as partly an understanding among the European members of the Alliance, but mostly a deal between them and the United States. NATO, he contends, is an arena of organized controversy. "Each year the mix of NATO defense forces and the character of allied political collaboration change, adjusting to the shifting technology of war and to ... the tides of domestic politics in each of the fifteen NATO countries. But while the bargain changes, the constant is a consensus among the allies that there has to be a bargain."

This notion helps explain how NATO has survived over the years of crises, both external and internal, that, measured by the historical yardstick of alliances, might long ago have ripped apart a less cohesive pact. Yet the optimism can be overdrawn. Beneath the periodically rough, periodically serene surface of the Alliance an undertow has steadily gained strength. The "transatlantic bargain" is strained by "transatlantic drift"-a growing divergence between the security interests and perceptions of the United States and those of its West European partners. Unless the Alliance soon addresses, and takes steps to redress, the basic causes of this drift, all of the temporary accommodations among the Alliance partners may finally fail to prevent an ultimate crisis of mutual confidence.

The fact of transatlantic drift has long been recognized. Indeed, the massive literature on the Atlantic Alliance yields by now almost a standard lexicon of perceived causes. Thus, it is alleged, the "cement of fear" which bound NATO in its formative years has crumbled with greater stability and détente. As the once devastated and helpless European members of the Alliance have regained their economic muscles and political self- confidence, they have progressively chafed under and rebelled against American domination. Their resentments have been fueled by economic rivalry and fiscal quarrels with the United States.

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