Russia’s Missing Peacemakers
Why the Country’s Elites Are Struggling to Break With Putin
A New and contentious concept has seeped into the transatlantic dialogue in recent times. It has been suggested that the United States may "decouple" itself from its strategic commitment to Western Europe in the future, or perhaps is in the process of doing so now. The codification of mutual deterrence in the SALT agreements of a year ago, combined with the earlier loss of U.S. nuclear superiority, is seen as having considerably eroded the remaining credibility of the American nuclear guarantee to Europe. Some go further to find in the agreements an implicit understanding between the two superpowers that neither will henceforth initiate the use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances short of the direct defense of its own territory. Arid even thoughtful Europeans who still observe the litany of faith in the nuclear guarantee do so with diminished conviction and look for opportunities through coöperative European actions to compensate for a substantial degree of American disengagement.[i]
The issue is, of course, further complicated by growing transatlantic dissonance on trade and monetary issues, which threatens to poison the political-security relationship. Increasingly, the economic interests of the European Economic Community (EEC) and the United States are seen as pointing more to rivalry than partnership in the future. The emphasis of American leaders on bilateral relations with the Soviet Union and China confirms for many Europeans the loosening of the alignments associated with the postwar balance between East and West. And even the general reassurance in Henry Kissinger's recent epistle to the Europeans calling for a new Atlantic Charter included a reference to "radically different strategic conditions," the full implications of which "have yet to be faced."
That the security relationship between the United States and Europe is in a process of change has long been clear. This is well understood by the Western governments involved in the talks on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions (MBFR) and at the preparatory phase of the Conference on Security and Coöperation in Europe (CSCE) even though these negotiations are directed toward the East. For some time, only the myopic or the obstinate have expected the number of American troops in Europe to remain at the present level, barring an unfavorable change in Soviet behavior, throughout this decade. As a result of nuclear parity a subtle psychological change may now be occurring in fundamental strategic perceptions. What is significant in the notion of decoupling is that it questions the validity of the American nuclear posture as it relates to the defense of Western Europe-and thereby implicitly casts doubts on whether and how the United States will over the long run remain centrally involved in the security of the continent.
When the SALT negotiations began in the fall of 1969 there were many observers who feared that the arms-limitation talks, both in substance and in process, would have serious divisive consequences within the Alliance. The precedents of the handling of the multilateral nuclear force (MLF) and the negotiation of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) were hardly favorable. At SALT the two superpowers were agreeing upon a strategic nuclear balance around which the structure of much of today's international relations has been built. Europe's security at the western end of the large Eurasian landmass had long been perceived as dependent upon the ability and willingness of the United States to initiate the use of nuclear weapons for the defense of Western Europe if ultimately necessary. Now negotiations on this bedrock of security were in progress and, it was anxiously noted, for the first time the NATO allies were excluded from a major arms-control undertaking. There was no assurance, moreover, that the United States and the Soviet Union would not let their bilateral talks spill over into the political realm and discuss European questions without the direct participation of Europeans. As the late Leonard Beaton wrote, the danger was of a drift toward a condominium or "two-power standard" in which European interests would be given short shrift and relegated to second- order priority.
Given these dire portents the West European response to the first stage of SALT has been surprisingly calm and favorable. The allied governments had been carefully informed of the progress of the negotiations before and after each round in Helsinki and Vienna, and were satisfied on that score. There was far less public debate on SALT than there had been on the MLF or the NPT, in part because there was no direct European involvement in the negotiations, but also because the attention of those concerned with foreign affairs was distracted by the debates over Ostpolitik and Vietnam. Many politically informed Europeans concentrated their attention on CSCE, MBFR and the EEC where they could have a more direct influence, letting SALT be taken care of by the Americans.
Moreover, the SALT I agreements as a whole were well received because of the belief that they would add stability to the Soviet-American relationship. The ABM Treaty did this by ratifying the concept of mutual deterrence. In addition it assured the West Europeans that the superpowers would not move on to a higher technological plateau in which they were defended themselves but Europe was left nuclear-naked. A welcome bonus of the ABM Treaty for the British and French was that it lengthened the lifespan and viability of their nuclear forces. These independent European forces will now continue to be able to strike at a significant number of Soviet industrial and population targets. In time, the possibility of penetrating a missile defense of Moscow may diminish. Although some Whitehall and Quai d'Orsay officials attach importance to the ability to threaten the Soviet capital, it is a questionable necessity for purposes of deterrence since almost everything else in the Soviet Union will remain vulnerable.
In addition, the concern regarding the numerical imbalance in strategic offensive missiles, which fed the debate on the Jackson Amendment in the Congress, found little parallel in Europe. American strategic strength is seen by Europeans as assured through her technological superiority, particularly in warheads. Since the U.S. technological lead could in time be eroded, the European satisfaction with SALT I does not necessarily extend, it should be noted, beyond the five-year term of the present Interim Agreement governing offensive capabilities.
This outwardly tranquil state of affairs may be misleading, however, in that it fails to take into account several important issues which must be resolved, as well as some broad political and psychological considerations. The SALT agreements represent more than a pragmatic accord of limited scope between the two superpowers. Through the Standing Consultative Commission which was established, as well as the intention to continue SALT, the two nations made clear their commitment to maintain this special relationship. Moreover, the other agreements reached in Moscow last May in such fields as environment, health, science and technology, when added to the 1971 accords on reducing the risk of nuclear war and preventing incidents at sea, and to the trade agreement of October 1972, suggest that Soviet-American relations- as well as the Moscow-Washington-Peking triangular relationship-have now been placed on a new plane.
European anxieties about "excessive bilateralism" have therefore almost inevitably been increased; and with them the fear that Washington and Moscow will discuss and agree upon the critical issues affecting European security and only thereafter inform their respective allies. With the full CSCE and MBFR due to begin this year, along with the resumed SALT, the dangers of increasing friction within the Alliance are obvious.
The complexities of these multi-nation negotiations, compounded by the varying national interests and motivations, will inevitably lead to differences of views between the United States and its allies, as has already occurred to some extent in MBFR. The ongoing American relations with the Soviet Union, reinforced by the Brezhnev visit to Washington this June, have increased the European concern that the stage has now been set for a growing U.S. practice of pragmatically working out bilateral accommodations. These are often strongly influenced by domestic politics in Washington and Moscow and tend to preëmpt what will take place in the multilateral forum. The largely cursory consultations with NATO that apparently preceded the declaration of basic principles signed in Moscow last May are seen as a striking example of what may come about.
So much for the general European concern. Whether it is valid or not, whether it will be augmented or diminished, will depend considerably on the results of Nixon's "Year of Europe" and the summit diplomacy which lies ahead. Meanwhile, the Alliance faces three specific military problems, each of which in its own way raises the question of American decoupling. These are the handling of the so-called "forward-based systems" (FBS) in SALT, the American response to Soviet demands in the same negotiations for a prohibition on the transfer of nuclear technology to her allies, and finally the perennially sensitive problem of the reduction of U.S. forces in Europe.
During SALT I, the issue of the forward-based systems was temporarily set aside because of the great difficulties it created. Early in the discussions the Soviet Union indicated that the negotiations must deal with all strategic nuclear forces, which it defined as those stationed so as to be capable of reaching the homeland of the other. According to this definition the FBS, primarily U.S. nuclear-strike aircraft and land-based missiles in Western Europe able to reach the Soviet Union, would have to be included. (There are no fully comparable Soviet FBS capable of reaching the United States.) Because of the complexities raised by this question and the sensitivity of the Western European countries, on whose soil most of these systems are based, an impasse was quickly reached. In May 1971 the two parties agreed to bypass the FBS issue in order to make progress in other areas of SALT, Now discussions in Geneva earlier this year have already made it clear that this will be a key problem in the continuing SALT negotiations.
Let us look at the specific elements of the FBS issue. The United States has approximately 420 F-4 Phantom II and 70 F-III fighter-bombers stationed in Europe that are "dual-capable"-aircraft built to carry both nuclear and conventional loads-plus about another 75 A-6 and A-7 strike planes on two aircraft carriers with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. These figures exclude non-nuclear U.S. tactical aircraft deployed in Western Europe, four NATO-committed F-4 squadrons on call in the United States, and the "dual- capable" aircraft of our allies. The forward-based systems relevant to the present phase of SALT consist of this group of American aircraft based so as to be capable of reaching the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons, even though not all are intended to be used for such a purpose. One of the many complicating factors is that some U.S. aircraft deployed in South Korea and with the Seventh Fleet in the Far East are able to reach Soviet territory and could also be classified as FBS.[ii] Moreover, there are Pershing missiles in West Germany with a 450-mile range which could strike into the Ukraine if they were positioned closer to the border.
From the perspective of the Soviet Union it should be quite clear why the forward-based systems are seen as a military threat. A nuclear warhead placed on a Soviet city by an F-III can be just as lethal as one delivered from a Polaris submarine in the Mediterranean or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in North Dakota. It has been estimated that up to 20 percent of the industrial capacity and population of the Soviet Union could be destroyed by FBS alone. In SALT the Soviet Union has stated that these are "strategic" systems which must be included in a permanent treaty on overall offensive forces, whereas the United States has viewed FBS as "non-central," local theater forces, deployed for European defense and not to be equated with the intercontinental strategic forces.
The Soviet position has an undeniable logic and rationality. It has not always been clear, however, whether the FBS issue was being pressed because of the military question at hand, because of its bargaining value in negotiations or because of its potential to create problems between the United States and its NATO allies. The traditional Soviet fear of encirclement could well be an important psychological and political factor; the reported Soviet demand in SALT I for a dismantling of American bases on foreign soil reflects this fear. But the value of the FBS issue as a means of forcing American concessions in SALT and as a bargaining tactic in the wider negotiations is equally evident.
For the West Europeans the FBS have a particularly significant political role. They are perceived by many political, military and bureaucratic observers as a symbol of the American commitment to defend Europe as well as being part of the military strategy for that purpose. The FBS are seen by European governments as part of the "community property" of NATO. Their presence is taken as ensuring American involvement in a war in Europe and as a show of intent to the Soviet Union that such a war could easily escalate to a major nuclear confrontation. The Europeans have traditionally been more interested in deterrence than in defense. They give a higher priority to avoiding the outbreak of hostilities than to fighting a war on their soil once it has started. Accordingly the West Europeans see the FBS, like American ground forces in Germany, as part of the mechanism "coupling" the United States with the defense of Europe. A withdrawal or reduction of FBS could provoke serious political anxieties unless it were done in close consultation with the Allies.
The relative importance of the FBS issue in the total context of SALT is still difficult to determine. If the Soviet Union insists upon dealing with FBS as a strategic weapons system roughly comparable to ICBMs or missile- firing submarines, then the achievement of a treaty or permanent agreement on offensive forces beyond the present Interim Agreement could be blocked until some resolution of the FBS question is achieved. At the other extreme, the FBS issue could be set aside by the negotiators much as it was midway through SALT I. A number of possible solutions to the impasse deserve examination:
(1) A trade-off of FBS for Soviet Intermediate/Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (I/MRBMs). On initial examination a rough equivalency appears to exist between Soviet I/ MRBMs and American FBS in that they are both medium range and located in Europe, broadly defined. The West Europeans would undoubtedly like to see the I/MRBMs targeted upon their cities dismantled. A trade-off with FBS for this purpose might not, however, appreciably reduce the threat to them, for the Soviets still would have medium range bombers and they could also target some of their ICBMs or missile sub marines on Western Europe. In some way the Soviet Union will surely maintain an "assured destruction" capability against Western Europe, particularly as long as the British and French maintain strategic nuclear forces targeted upon Russia. (A trade-off between the European nuclear forces and the I/MRBMs at a further stage of SALT might therefore seem logical, but it is extremely improbable. The British and French will want to maintain an independent means of deterrence and the size of their nuclear submarine fleets are the minimum necessary to constitute what they perceive to be an adequate deterrent.) The I/MRBMs are a vastly greater threat to Europe than the FBS to the Soviet Union. Even a substantial reduction in the number of Soviet missiles would only partially reduce their capacity against Western Europe.
(2) Compensation for FBS in an agreement on aggregate offensive forces. A more permanent agreement on strategic offensive capabilities will presumably have a more equal numerical balance than presently exists in the Interim Agreement. The Soviet Union might be compensated for what it perceives to be "strategic" FBS with an advantage in numbers of ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), or long-range bombers. Conceivably the FBS could be counted in some proportional ratio with strategic long-range bombers in an agreement covering total limits of Soviet and American bombers capable of reaching each other's territory. Alternatively it would be necessary to devise a system for computing compensation between FBS and ICBMs or SLBMs. Although this seems extremely difficult given the different characteristics of these systems, a precedent for permitting national decisions on how to mix forces was established in SALT I.
(3) A "freeze" on existing "non-central" systems or a numerical limitation. The Soviet Union and the United States could negotiate a permanent offensive force limitation agreement with a corollary provision that the level and deployment of present "non-central" systems be frozen. This could be in the form of an accord not to circumvent an agreement on central forces by raising the level of systems not expressly limited. Alternatively, the number of FBS could be limited. Whether this could be achieved in parallel to an agreement providing for equality in strategic offensive forces is uncertain, particularly since the United States justified the numerical imbalance in the SALT I agreements by its lead in other systems such as FBS and long-range bombers. Moreover, the Soviets presumably include the American FBS and the West European forces in their calculations of the threat to them. We are, accordingly, led back to the question of compensation and how to make an appropriate computation of it. Any agreement that can be reached "freezing" or limiting FBS would also need some provision permitting modernization of the forces.
(4) Replacement of FBS aircraft and their redeployment to the United States. Much of the FBS problem could be eliminated with the introduction of shorter-range, tactical air craft not capable of reaching Soviet territory. It is often for gotten that the long-range F-IIIS were not placed in Europe until two years ago. Over a period of several years, these planes might be removed and the present carrier-based air craft and F-4 fighter-bombers replaced by planned shorter-range tactical aircraft, such as the A-10 and F-15. Indeed these have the added advantage of having been designed for an essentially non-nuclear role. An understanding might then be reached in SALT that no aircraft of certain ranges and capabilities should be permanently based within a set distance of the borders of the Soviet Union and the United States.
Looking at these various approaches, it seems to me that the first two are so difficult as to be impractical, although the third has some possibilities. On the whole, however, it may be best to approach the problem through a mix of unilateral action and tacit understanding in accordance with the fourth approach.
The fact is that the military significance of the American FBS in U.S. strategy and in the overall Soviet-American strategic nuclear balance is not very great. Targets in the Soviet Union can, one would think, be more than adequately covered by Minuteman ICBMs and Polaris/Poseidon SLBMs, especially as the number of multiple independently-targeted reëntry vehicles (MIRVs) is increased. American defense planners have always viewed the FBS more as theater nuclear forces to support NATO strategy for European defense than as strategic systems targeted upon the Soviet Union.
The primary role of the American FBS has all along been to provide air superiority, close air support for ground forces in Western Europe and an interdiction capability in Eastern Europe. It is likely that NATO strategy will in any case become more defensively oriented, relying less on offensive capabilities in coming years because of reductions in manpower levels and conventional forces. In such circumstances, the present primarily tactical missions of the FBS may become more important than ever. On the other hand, the "strategic" role of deep penetration into the Soviet Union may become less necessary-not of such value that it should be permitted to block a SALT agreement on strategic offensive forces which might otherwise be reached.
Accordingly, it should be possible for the United States to come to a common understanding with its NATO allies that the gradual replacement of present FBS aircraft, particularly a return of the F-III to the United States, would not necessarily be damaging to the defense of Europe. Indeed, the possibility might remain that the F-IIIS could be returned to Europe for short periods in any time of crisis, although while stationed across the Atlantic they would not be considered as strategic systems.
Because of insufficient public knowledge in Europe, the American FBS have taken on a political and symbolic role out of all proportion to their true military importance. Accordingly they are seen by many Europeans concerned with these matters as part of the coupling that assures that the United States would go to strategic nuclear war on behalf of Western Europe. The FBS are viewed as part of the escalatory mechanism that makes the American security commitment credible to a potential opponent. Eliminate the FBS, some would argue, and European defense has been decoupled.
Of the 7,000 U.S.-controlled tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe only a fraction, however, are related to American forward-based systems. Even if they were withdrawn there would still be a high level of tactical nuclear weapons sufficient, in all probability, to deter the Soviet Union. The Allies themselves possess a large number of nuclear-capable aircraft in Europe. The concept of "sufficiency," as it has been applied to strategic nuclear forces since 1969, might also be applied to the probably excessive level of tactical nuclear forces now in the European theater. In sum, there is more flexibility in how to handle FBS in SALT than is generally appreciated.
The question remains whether it is best to deal with the forward-based systems in the SALT context or as part of mutual and balanced force reductions. Inclusion in MBFR would permit the NATO allies to participate directly. There is much to be said for the MBFR forum, in that the Soviet tactical aircraft in Eastern Europe, and possibly the I/MRBMs and Soviet medium range bombers, would then be thrown into the negotiations. On the other hand, the NATO countries with their own "dual-capable" aircraft (the F-104 Starfighters, British Vulcan B-2s and the French Mirage III-E) would probably also have to be included, as well as the next generation of European aircraft such as the Anglo-French Jaguar and the British-West German-Italian MRCA. Moreover, the MBFR negotiations will be slow and complex; they may not get to trade-offs on nuclear weapons for some years hence. A widening of the geographical area to be covered by MBFR beyond Central Europe to include the Mediterranean, and a broader definition of what weapons systems are to be covered, including various types of "mixed packages" such as bartering a reduction in Western strike aircraft for Soviet tanks, would make agreement in MBFR even more difficult and elusive.
Another apparent aim of the Soviet Union in SALT I was to have a ban on transfer of nuclear technology to allies which are already nuclear powers (permitted under the NPT) and possibly also on the transfer of nuclear- capable systems such as tactical aircraft to allies. Such a non-transfer provision was in fact written into the ABM Treaty, which prohibits the transfer to other states of ABM systems or their components. In order that it be clear that this provision did not create a precedent, the U.S. delegation on April 18, 1972 made the following unilateral statement:
The U.S. side wishes to make clear that the provisions of this article do not set a precedent for whatever provision may be considered for a treaty on limiting strategic offensive arms. The question of transfer of strategic offensive arms is a far more complex issue, which may require a different solution.
The non-transfer issue is likely to come up again, however, because of several Soviet aims. Above all, Moscow will do everything possible to block the construction of a full-fledged and independent European nuclear deterrent. It is watching the evolution of the European Community with some foreboding and is apprehensive about the eventual development of joint European defense and foreign-policy institutions. Closely related to this concern is the dread of West German acquisition of control over nuclear weapons. The latter fear has deep historical and psychological roots which transcend any real likelihood of West Germany becoming a nuclear power. Finally, the non-transfer issue could embarrass the United States in its relations with the United Kingdom-and eventually France-and constrain the development of European defense coöperation.
A true European nuclear deterrent, which would permit decoupling by giving Western Europe full independence from the United States in terms of security, is highly implausible for this decade and probably far beyond. The military requirements for such a deterrent are roughly equal to the panoply of nuclear forces of the superpowers; the political requisites are even more daunting. The control arrangement for such a force would require a political authority capable of deciding on its use on behalf of Europe. For this, the necessary psychological cohesion, political unity and institutional loyalty are lacking. Only a President of Europe with full authority in a nuclear crisis could endow a European deterrent with credibility.
What is possible, however, by the late 1970s is the coördination of the British and French nuclear forces and some arrangements for joint operation and production of strategic systems. This might become more desirable if the West Europeans perceive the United States to be reducing its engagement in Europe and if such an Anglo-French pooling is underpinned with a wider European base, such as a European Nuclear Committee roughly comparable in task and methods to NATO's present Nuclear Planning Group. In such circumstances the United States might wish to assist an Anglo-French nuclear force with nuclear technology, somewhat as it has been assisting the British alone to this point. The issue could also come up in the form of direct aid to France. With respect to this contingency the recent dropping of Michel Debré as French defense minister, the swing to the center-left in the March election to the Assemblée Nationale, and the strong Pompidou support for U.S. troops in Europe are all noteworthy. Gaullist orthodoxy is slowly fading, and one can see the possibility of a French return to NATO within this decade.
Of more immediate consequence, however, is the future of U.S. nuclear assistance to Britain. The Whitehall attitude of recent years has been to wait and see what would come out of SALT I. With the results now known, the British are beginning to give considerable thought to the evolution of their nuclear force. Prime Minister Heath, on his visit to Washington last March, is reported to have inquired about the availability of future assistance for the modernization of the U.K. Polaris fleet. This question was due to come up in any case since the Anglo-American nuclear exchange accords, first begun in the 1950s, are subject to termination at the end of 1974. The provisions for exchange of weapons-grade fissile materials will end unless extended, while the exchange of information on nuclear weapons will be automatically extended for another five years unless notice of intent to terminate is given by December 1973.
A number of long-term options are open to Britain for the continuation of her nuclear force, ranging from further assistance from the United States or coöperation with France to a more autonomous national nuclear program. Because there remain political impediments to Anglo-French coöperation, London at this time will probably give priority to seeking new technological assistance from the United States. This could be in the form of MIRV technology for the British Polaris fleet, the Poseidon missile with MIRVs, or an agreement to sell the Trident submarine and its long-range missiles when they become available.
The United States should give careful thought to a British request and do this within the broadest foreign policy context. It should not succumb to the natural bureaucratic inclination to approve a British request for assistance in a routine manner. Remember Nassau! A new Anglo-American deal which excluded France could have important repercussions in U.S.-French relations and significant implications for the possible evolution of a European defense identity. The favorable discriminatory treatment given to Britain for the past two decades has long been deeply resented in Paris. For some French officials this issue is the acid test of London's true political loyalties, and it is also often used as an excuse for not adopting a more coöperative attitude toward the United States and NATO. With Britain in Europe, the special Anglo-American nuclear relationship has become in some ways an anachronism.
Future decisions on U.S. nuclear-sharing policy with Britain should therefore be taken in the wider context of our European policy as a whole. This means paying attention to West German and Soviet concerns as well as our desire to have the West Europeans take on a greater share of their own defense. Such decisions should also be considered in the context of non- proliferation policy and U.S. security policy beyond Europe.
In my view the United States should adopt a policy of nuclear equality in dealing with Britain and France. The latter is now a full nuclear power and Britain is her partner in the European Community. The United States might announce that it is prepared to offer assistance to the two countries on an equal basis and that it hopes for equity in reciprocity. The nuclear forces of both countries would remain fully independent-nationally owned and controlled-but their targeting plans would be coördinated with those of the United States. If this is not acceptable to France, however, we should not take action against Britain by bringing a halt to the present sharing arrangements.
Accordingly, we should also firmly resist a Soviet proposal in SALT for an agreement on non-transfer of nuclear technology. This is not really directly related to SALT and its concern for the Soviet-American arms race. As signatories of the NPT both countries are pledged not to help create additional nuclear powers or to pass on nuclear warheads-this is the nub of the proliferation problem. A non-transfer agreement in SALT II, particularly if it did not exclude present nuclear arrangements with Britain and possible new ones with France, would strengthen the notion of decoupling, add to Europe's sense of vulnerability, and could have unfavorable consequences for European-American relations.
Alongside the nuclear guarantee, American ground forces in Western Europe remain a principal element coupling the defense of the Continent with the United States. These forces are in theory designed to deter and resist Soviet aggression, should it start, and by their presence to enhance the political confidence and sense of security of the Allies. To the West Europeans, however, these forces are above all hostages which guarantee the immediate involvement of the United States in a war in Europe; the U.S. Seventh Army is seen as the main link in the escalatory chain which can eventually trigger the U.S. strategic retaliatory forces. For this reason American efforts in the Kennedy-McNamara years to increase European conventional-force levels and delay the use of nuclear weapons received less than total support from European governments.
Pressures to reduce U.S. force levels in Europe are once again in resurgence. With the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam complete, Senator Mansfield and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have suggested heavy cuts in all overseas forces. It is not yet clear that the all-volunteer armed forces will in fact induce sufficient volunteers to fill the presently planned thirteen-division, 800,000-man army. The balance- of-payments situation remains unsatisfactory in spite of the successive devaluations of the dollar. As the U.S. defense budget rises, due to the greatly increased costs of manpower and new weapons systems, the temptation within the defense establishment will be to look to Europe for any reductions which are unavoidable.
Since Brezhnev's welcome Tiflis speech of May 1971 the Nixon administration has used the imminence of East-West negotiations on force reductions to argue against and forestall pressures for unilateral reductions. Has it unwittingly entered a culde-sac?
The complexities of MBFR-geographical asymmetries, manpower and weapons asymmetries, varied political and security interests-are such that an agreement of important military proportions is hard to envisage for at least several years. We do not know very much about the intentions of the Warsaw Pact countries or the extent to which they are serious about negotiated force reductions. Nor have the Western countries agreed on a negotiating package eventually permitting significant American force reductions in Europe. At best one can see the possibility within a year or two of a first-stage MBFR agreement which circumvents many of the complexities by simply providing for a reduction of 10 to 15 percent in Soviet and American forces in Central Europe, plus some collateral measures.
Welcome as such an agreement would be, it is doubtful that a reduction of American forces from 315,000 to 270,000 by 1975 would be adequate to forestall congressional and public pressures for unilateral reductions if the climate of international relations and domestic politics continues in its present trend. Unilateral force reductions would then seriously threaten to undercut MBFR.
This suggests that the NATO countries should now engage in a broad political and military review for the purpose of designing a military strategy which would be sustainable for the next decade. The assumption would be that American force levels would not be withdrawn but substantially and gradually reduced to perhaps 200,000; in return the United States would make a long-term commitment to maintain its forces in Europe. Although there are constitutional difficulties involved in making such a long-term commitment binding, bipartisan support for such an arrangement through an overwhelmingly supported congressional resolution would add to its sticking power and might well be available if sought. If carefully managed a West-West review within NATO need not undercut efforts in MBFR, so that the two could go on simultaneously. A modification in NATO's military strategy toward a more defensive emphasis is in any case unavoidable if more than token cuts are to be made in the coming years. Such a broad and deep West-West review would have as its primary purpose the avoidance of the unraveling of the Alliance during a period of diminishing threat perceptions, reduced defense budgets, the elimination of conscription in most of Western Europe and the United States, and the continuation of détente.
In the last analysis, the security of Western Europe simply cannot be decoupled from America, because of the fact that there is no European replacement available for the U.S. nuclear guarantee. Progress in the Eurogroup toward European defense coöperation has been encouraging, but these efforts will necessarily remain limited. In time, with the transformation of relations with the East, the need for such a guarantee may disappear, or a politically and militarily independent Western Europe may be constructed. Neither of these prospects is now within sight
The era of negotiations, which in 1973 has truly arrived in Europe, will be more taxing upon our political wisdom than the earlier, simpler period. Anxiety in Europe about superpower bilateralism could impose a great strain upon European-American relations. The East-West negotiations now commencing will thus require a higher degree of consultation and consensus-building than has been necessary in the past. This, in turn, will call for some new institutional approaches.
The past practice in SALT I of informing the NATO allies before and after each negotiating round is unlikely to be adequate in the next stages of SALT. The forward-based systems are likely to become one of the most critical issues in the Soviet-American negotiations. Yet there are very different perspectives on the FBS on the two sides of the Atlantic. For many Europeans they have acquired an overblown political symbolism that is not justified by their true military importance. Accordingly, it will be necessary to reach a common European-American evaluation of the utility of the FBS and how to deal with them in SALT. This may require that the views of the principally concerned allies be brought into the internal policy- making process in Washington before U.S. negotiating positions are fixed. Some new institutional mechanism, such as the Berlin ambassadorial group of 1961-62, might be formed in Washington for real policy coördination rather than the past practice of consultations.
In time it may prove necessary to widen the arms negotiations by creating a Four Power SALT for Europe. The Soviet Union brought the question of the British and French nuclear forces into SALT I in the closing days of the talks. The leader of the Soviet delegation, Minister Vladimir Semenov, issued a unilateral statement on May 17, 1972 indicating that the then- existing and planned European ballistic missile submarines were considered by the Soviet Union to be part of the total Western count under the Interim Agreement on offensive forces. Any increase in the European forces, it was claimed, would give the Soviet Union the right to a corresponding increase in the number of its own submarines. Semenov suggested that this be a matter of further negotiations, as it undoubtedly will be. Discussions in SALT concerning anti-submarine warfare would also be a matter of concern to the Europeans.
The multilateralization of SALT, however, may not come soon if for no other reason than that the Europeans have little interest in limiting their relatively small nuclear forces. Nor would they want to discuss their own tactical aircraft, some of which could be classified as forward-based systems. It would, of course, also raise the question of China's participation. Meanwhile, in conducting the current bilateral SALT discussions, the United States, as already noted, should resist the Soviet proposal for a prohibition on transfer of nuclear technology to allies already having a nuclear capability.
As to how best to handle MBFR, it would have been preferable to have reached an agreement within NATO on a defense strategy for the 1970s, including the necessary level of forces, prior to the opening of the talks with the East. Such a review, along the lines suggested, is now a matter of urgency, apart from the immediate task of working out the best possible first-stage MBFR agreement. The half-life of present American troop levels in Europe has created an uncertainty which makes for instability in the Alliance relationship.
To a perhaps surprising extent, the future strategic connection of the United States with Europe will also depend on our own domestic debate and the quality of American diplomacy. If we become anxious over the nuclear balance with the Soviet Union, the Europeans will get frightened. If we have confidence in our strategic posture, our Allies will feel secure. The perception of the security guarantee held by the Europeans will be influenced not only by what happens in SALT, but by the way we handle other problems such as trade, troops, monetary policy and the whole tone of the transatlantic political dialogue, We should therefore resist the temptation to link pending economic, political and security issues so as to try to trade a concession here against an advantage there. We should remember that the web of contemporary international politics is such that the more we negotiate with the East, the better we must structure our relations within the West.
[i] E.g. Lord Gladwyn, "The Defense of Western Europe," Foreign Affairs, April 1973.
[ii] The unstated assumption of defense planners is that all missions would be two-way, capable of returning to friendly soil. This excludes a large number of shorter-range aircraft plus the Soviet medium-range bombers which might reach the United States if their return were abandoned. But is such exclusion a valid assumption for all conceivable crises?