THESE lines are being written while the Foreign Ministers' Conference is still in progress. But even though its precise outcome cannot be foretold, the general nature of the diplomacy of the next few months is apparent. The West has presented a "package" proposal linking German unification to European security. This link has been rejected. The Soviet Union has insisted that German reunification should be left to the two German states and that the conference should concentrate on the issues which the Soviet leaders have defined as "soluble." It is clear, then, that the Western powers are to be tested in their negotiation skill, their creativity and, most important, their convictions. Their response will influence importantly, perhaps crucially, the future of freedom in our time.

It is hoped that the Western performance in the months ahead will be more self-assured than that in the period just past. In an alliance, disagreements are unavoidable and different approaches may contribute to the vitality of a consensus finally achieved. Since in democracies policies are dependent on popular support, they are usually developed by a public debate which stresses conflicting approaches. Even bearing this in mind, we have reason for concern. The West's reaction to a clear Soviet menace to the very vitals of the Western alliance has been tentative and irresolute. More of the debate has dealt with what could be conceded than with the goals for which we should strive. The hesitation shown in developing the Western "package" does not augur well that it will be maintained with resolution. If the proposals presented at Geneva are valid today, one wonders why we lacked the imagination to present them before Soviet pressure made them appear as an improvisation to escape a difficult situation.

Nothing is more important for the West than to become clear about the causes of the present instability and to develop real conviction about the measures which it proposes for overcoming it. These measures may or may not prove negotiable. But it would be perilous to confuse the elements of stability with the terms on which the Soviet Union may be willing to settle. In our desire for agreement we must not lose sight of the issues at stake or of the goals for which to strive.

A lasting settlement is possible only if the Soviet leaders become convinced that they will not be able to use the West's desire for peace to demoralize it. If they are serious about their desire to avoid war, they must come to realize that negotiations can be used for purely tactical purposes only so often and that, measured against the dangers of such a course, the gains they may score are paltry. We in turn should strive to demonstrate to the Soviet leaders that they have a real policy decision to make which we will do everything possible to ease: They must face the fact that the policy of applying relentless pressures on the West creates untold perils for all the peoples of the world. On the other hand, they must be convinced that they can increase their security through negotiation, that we will be flexible and conciliatory in working out reassurances for them against attack.

How valid, then, is the West's advocacy of German unification? What is the relationship of unification to European security? What measures are available to meet legitimate Soviet concerns for security?


It is often maintained that one of the Soviet purposes in the present crisis is to win Western acceptance of the status quo in Eastern Europe, and we are urged to yield to facts that we are powerless to change. In passing, it may be doubted that the only reasonable response to facts is to adjust to them. But in the particular instance, it is important to distinguish the problem of Germany from that of the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. There the West has long since recognized the existing governments. Diplomatic relations have been established. Commercial agreements have been concluded. Even economic aid has been extended, as in the case of Poland. Hungary proved that the West is not prepared to support domestic upheavals with force. It is therefore difficult to assign any concrete meaning to the term "recognition of the status quo" or to imagine anything more the West could do to adjust to existing conditions. The danger to Soviet rule results from the inability of the Communist leaders to obtain domestic support in the countries concerned. The only additional concession conceivable would be to collaborate in the Soviet repression of freedom by renouncing the principle of self-determination.

The case is different in Germany, however. Here a Communist régime has been established in only a portion of the country, a portion that has no historical, ethnic or cultural tradition distinct from Germany as a whole. The problem in Eastern Germany is not only that a puppet government has been forced on a hostile population; a separate state there--even were it non-Communist--would run counter to the German desire for reunification. Even Khrushchev on his trip to Eastern Germany found it necessary constantly to reiterate that unification was the ultimate goal, though not until Western Germany was ready to accept the Soviet system. As long as Germany remains divided the position of the East German régime is perforce precarious.

For the East German régime is basically threatened not only by the hostility of its own population but through the existence of a free and prosperous West Germany. Any West German government must advocate reunification, however moderate it may be in the means it chooses to pursue this objective and however patient it may be in bringing it about. No West German government can accept as permanent the forcible partition of German territory without undermining its domestic support. An alliance which demanded such a price from the German people would lose its meaning in German eyes. And whatever the self-restraint of either the Federal Republic or the Western allies, the history of Europe in the nineteenth century and of the anti-colonial struggles of the twentieth demonstrates that the desire for national independence cannot be ignored by governments. Or are we to assume that the desire for self-determination and national dignity is less strong in Europe than in Asia or Africa?

The Federal Republic would suffer a perhaps irreparable blow if its allies accepted its present frontiers as final--even to the extent of not pressing for unification. The division of Germany may be unavoidable, but for the West a great deal depends on demonstrating what makes it so. An excess of "realism" about accepting the division of Germany will enable the Soviet Union to shift the responsibility for thwarting unification on us. This has already been foreshadowed by Khrushchev's statement to a group of West German editors that the West preferred a divided Germany for economic as well as military reasons,[i] and by the acts of the East German delegation at Geneva which has taken pains to project itself as the defender of German nationalism.[ii] If the Federal Republic is persuaded that it cannot achieve reunification through ties to the West, it is likely to seek its aims through separate dealings with the East. Unification could then be used by the Soviets as a lure to end, step by step, the achievements of European integration and to encourage a race for Moscow's favor. Alternatively, there may be a resurgence of virulent nationalism. Maintaining the Federal Republic as a willing partner of the Atlantic community is important not only for the future of Germany; it is even more vital for the peace of the world.

The present Soviet purpose goes far beyond perpetuating the status quo. The Soviet Union obviously sees in the consolidation of its East German satellite not only a means to destroy the cohesion of the West but also a first step in the Communization of all of Germany. "On what foundation should Germany be reunited?" Khrushchev said in Leipzig on March 7. "Can we agree when the capitalist world proposes to achieve the reunification of Germany at the expense of the German Democratic Republic and thus narrow down the front of socialism [italics supplied]? We have not been and we do not live to yield to capitalism. . . . The question can also be put thus: Why not reunite Germany by abolishing the capitalist system in West Germany and establishing there the power of the working class? But it would be unrealistic today [italics supplied]. . . . If you want your children and grandchildren to remember you with gratitude, you should fight for the conclusion of a German peace treaty which would be an important step towards the reunification of Germany. . . ."

The Soviet draft of a peace treaty is not the end but the beginning of a process; it is a measure to consolidate a tactical base. Almost every clause in the Soviet treaty draft defines an opportunity for constant intervention. The Confederation proposed by the Soviet Union will relax tensions only until the Soviets are ready to press for a reunification of Germany under Communist aegis and in the meantime it would be used to demoralize Western Germany and to separate it from its allies. The history of coalitions in Poland, Rumania, Hungary and even China indicates that as soon as the Communists feel strong enough they will withdraw their recognition of the Federal Republic and claim that their puppet régime represents all of Germany, much as was done with the Lublin Government in Poland. This has already been foreshadowed by the violent attack on the West German government at Geneva and by Khrushchev's Leipzig speech: "The German Democratic Republic is a republic of the working class. It is a republic of workers and peasants, the homeland of all German workers" [italics supplied].

In all its negotiations the West must demonstrate the cynicism of the Soviet phrase that unification should be worked out by the two Germanys. If it is to be worked out by the German people, free elections are the best method. Confederation, on the other hand, would give the East German satellite a voice in West German affairs. By adding its weight to the opposition of any existing government it could demoralize political life in the Federal Republic or at the least force it into a rigid mold dangerous to democracy. It could press for weakening West Germany's European ties by insisting that they conflicted with unification. If the Federal Republic refused to withdraw from those ties, Eastern Germany, having obtained recognition of its international status by the very fact of confederation, could leave the confederation as the advocate of German unity. If the Federal Republic accepted the Eastern overtures it would add fuel to Western suspicions of Germany and lead to even further estrangement.

It can be objected that the confederation principle works both ways. Would not the establishment of an all-German institution enable the Federal Republic to influence events in the East? This symmetry is more apparent than real. The apparatus of a police state makes the East German régime relatively immune to domestic pressure, especially if Soviet troops remain in Eastern Germany. But even in their absence little can be expected in the way of liberalization of the East German régime. The experience of Poland is a poor guide in this respect. Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Rumania have not been liberalized even though Soviet troops have been withdrawn; indeed in Czechoslovakia they were not even present when the Communist régime was established. In Poland there was a congruence of national and religious feeling supporting a liberal Communist régime to maintain national identity. In Eastern Germany these factors are not present; indeed the Communist régime is considered the chief obstacle to national aspirations.

Any negotiation on Germany thus faces two seemingly contradictory dangers: that we accept the division of Germany; or that in bargaining for unification we accept solutions which may lay the basis for the Soviet domination of all of Germany. Indeed the Western "package" plan has gone dangerously far in the latter direction. A commission of East and West German officials to expand contacts between the two parts of Germany has from the Soviet point of view many of the advantages of confederation. It is not surprising that Mr. Gromyko described this proposal as "constructive." And the proposed plebiscite on an issue as technical as an electoral law may become a device to legitimize the existing voting procedure in East Germany--all the more so as there is no provision for a prior period of free political activity.[iii]

It thus becomes important for the West not only to advocate unification but to take its stand on issues that do not lend themselves to obfuscation. While we can offer formulas designed to save Soviet face--such as an interim period before free elections--we cannot surrender the right of the German people to determine their own fate at some reasonable stage. Once we leave the firm ground of this principle, we are in the realm of technical expedients where the opportunities for Soviet intransigence and manipulation are considerable. No voting formula, however subtle, can replace Soviet willingness to permit free popular expression. The Soviet leaders will not give up Eastern Germany through an oversight and we render neither ourselves nor the cause of negotiations a service by pretending that German reunification can be achieved by subterfuge. We can concede a great deal regarding the mode and timing of elections, but to give the East German régime a veto of unification, directly or indirectly, is either to legitimize the continued division of Germany, with dire consequences for the political stability of Western Germany, or to prepare the way for a Soviet Germany.

It is said by some that nobody really wants German unification. But surely it is within our control to set our own goals. If the West understands its interests, it must advocate German unification despite the experiences of two world wars and despite the understandable fear of a revival of German truculence. The West may have to acquiesce in the division of Germany but it cannot condone it. Any other course will in the end bring on what we should fear most: a militant, dissatisfied power in the center of the Continent. To strive for German unification is not a bargaining device but the condition for European stability.

To be sure, the Soviet Union will oppose unification on any terms short of turning all of Germany into a Soviet state. But we cannot confine ourselves to proposals which the Soviet Union has said it will accept unless we are ready to settle all issues on Soviet terms. Flexibility cannot involve abandoning the principle of self-determination. Are our principles to cease having validity wherever the Soviet Union succeeds in creating a fait accompli? Are we to deny in Europe what we have defended in Asia and Africa? Adjustment to facts no doubt is often desirable, but if we elevate it into a universal principle we write a prescription for stagnation. During Suez we insisted that we would uphold our principles even against our allies. Are we to leave the impression now that we will uphold them only against our allies?

Our obligation is to make responsible proposals which are designed to take into account the legitimate security concerns of all parties. If the Soviet Union is sincerely concerned about the security of its territories, the West should be very generous in its response. What, then, of the proposals on European security?


It has been said that the phrase "protecting Soviet legitimate security concerns" is without concrete meaning. But the experience of World War II and of a decade of cold war should give us some guide to understanding the problem. An agreement that takes into account the "legitimate" security interests of both sides must protect the Soviet Union against the danger of a resurgent German militarism and against an attack from NATO territory. But it must also safeguard the West against the risks of Soviet pressure and encroachment. It is true that the Soviet Union's experiences in this century may make it unusually sensitive to German military strength. But it is also true that for over a century the Russian Empire in one form or another has been pressing on all peripheral areas, including Europe. The Soviet Union has a right to demand protection against military attack. Yet in a society of sovereign states, absolute security is obtainable only by reducing all other states to impotence. It is the road to Empire.

The stability of an international system depends on the degree to which it combines the need for security with the obligation of self-restraint. To rely entirely on the continued good will of another sovereign state is an abdication of statesmanship and self-respect. But to seek security entirely through physical domination is to menace all other countries. For absolute security for one country must mean absolute insecurity for all others. Where to strike this balance cannot be determined in the abstract; it is what makes diplomacy an art and not a science. But the balance must be established if the international order is to be stable.

In this sense the revolutionary quality of the Soviet Union has resided not in the fact that it has felt threatened--a measure of threat is inherent in the relations of sovereign states--but that nothing has been able to reassure it. Since the end of World War II, the Communist bloc has grown by the addition of Eastern Europe and Communist China; North Korea and northern Indochina have become Communist states; the Middle East has been penetrated; a nuclear arsenal has been created and with it the capability to menace the territorial United States; economically the U.S.S.R. is rapidly gaining ground. Yet the claim of being threatened has never abated. It is therefore futile to debate whether the Soviet Union is "really" interested in world domination. For the problem may be that the Soviet conception of security results in undermining all other states.

The prerequisite for an effective security system, then, is a Soviet policy decision to content itself with relative security and to forego the perilous quest of safety through Empire. At the same time, the West must overcome the confusions and evasions which have characterized its security effort. Since there is no agreement on the purpose or scale of the Western defense effort, it is not surprising that there has been lack of clarity about the elements of a European security system.

It has been argued, for example, that NATO has prevented a Soviet attack without ever meeting the force levels planned for it. Since Soviet ground strength has been preponderant throughout the existence of NATO, so the argument goes, peace has been maintained for one of two reasons or a combination of them: either the Soviet Union has never had any intention of making a military attack on Europe; or it was deterred from such an attack by the threat of a general war with the United States. A substantial capability for local defense, it is argued, could only weaken the deterrent by creating the illusion that an attack might evoke a less than all-out response. Advocates of this view hold that the importance of Europe is so great that any aggression against it must automatically trigger the American and British retaliatory forces into action.

The corollary of this line of reasoning has been that a limited war in Europe is "unthinkable." Consequently it is quite feasible to separate the opposing forces physically without thereby reducing the sanction available against a Soviet attack. To be sure, the Soviet Union might decide to reoccupy territories once vacated, but it could do so, in Mr. Kennan's words, "only once and only for the highest stakes: in the contingency, that is, of general war." Massive retaliation would furnish the deterrent against Soviet attack whether on the Elbe, the Oder or the Bug.

Arguments such as these have had the negative virtue of pressing home the inconsistencies of present NATO strategy: The alliance has placed primary reliance on a weapon that is under the exclusive control of the two extra-continental allies, the United States and Great Britain. This in turn has led to the demand by our European allies for a substantial commitment of United States and British troops on the Continent; their role was conceived almost as that of hostages--to insure that the Western retaliatory power would in fact be employed against a Soviet attack. Because of the reliance on an all-out strategy, our continental allies have been reluctant to make a defense contribution which would give the commitment of United States and British troops military value. They have resisted the effort to achieve an adequate local defense not only for economic reasons but because they believed that it might reduce the United States' and British willingness to resort to the all-out war which Western strategic doctrine has defined as the sole obstacle to Soviet aggression.

Thus American and British troops in the center of Europe perform not only a military but also a psychological function: they are a token of our commitment to our allies and a warning to potential aggressors. But it also explains why thoughtful people have seen the military establishment on the Continent as a bargaining counter: since it was not expected to play a significant military role, it could be reduced in order to achieve a political gain. And its symbolic function could be met by a more solemn promise by the United States to defend Europe.[iv]

However, it is dangerous to assume that because the contradictions in NATO strategic doctrine have not been exploited by the Soviet Union in the past decade this will be true when the Soviet nuclear arsenal is fully developed; indeed, the challenge in Berlin would indicate precisely the opposite. And it would be a grave mistake to seek to apply the experience of the first decade of NATO to a future in which a great deal will depend on a Western adjustment to a fundamental change in strategic relationships.

One of the difficulties of the nuclear age has been that no sooner has one technological revolution been assimilated in doctrine and policy than these have been made obsolete by new developments. There have been four phases: (1) the period when the United States possessed an atomic monopoly and a monopoly of the means of delivery; (2) the period when our monopoly of weapons was ended but when we still possessed an overwhelming advantage in the means of delivery; (3) the period when the Soviet Union began to develop a substantial delivery system but we still retained a decided advantage because of our superiority in numbers and in the strategic location of our base system; (4) the period when both in numbers of weapons and in the means of delivery the capabilities of the two sides began to approach each other.

During phases one and two--during the time, that is, of our atomic preponderance--our retaliatory force could be conceived of as a deterrent to any aggression we chose to resist. It was a positive deterrent in the sense that we did not have to make our response dependent on the magnitude of the threat. Rather our primary concern was to decide that some response was called for. A policy of massive retaliation could be reasonably effective because our invulnerability gave a certain credibility to the threat of all-out war. Even then, of course, our threat was incongruous in relation to most objectives likely to be in dispute, and it did not prevent the Berlin blockade and the Korean War.

But however useful massive retaliation may have been during the period of our atomic monopoly, the threshold of provocation which would unleash the United States and British retaliatory force has been rising with the growth of the Soviet nuclear and missile capability--or so an aggressor might calculate at least. In these circumstances, the threat of all-out war will deter an ever smaller range of possible challenges. Its credibility will constantly decline, and it will so increase the inhibitions of the side relying on it that it may well produce appeasement rather than deterrence. The Soviet advances in missiles have to a great extent neutralized our strategic striking power, and the vast Soviet ground strength has thus been freed for pressure or blackmail.

Reliance on all-out war not only reduces the credibility of our deterrent, it also dooms us to a fundamentally irrational diplomacy. The threat of it can be made plausible only if in a given crisis we act as if we were prepared to throw sober calculation to the wind--if, for example, we avoid asking the question whether Berlin is "worth" an all-out war. But such a policy in the long run cannot be maintained by status quo powers with democratic institutions.

As a result, it becomes futile to continue to rely on the strategy of the past decade. In the era of nuclear plenty, the defense of Europe can no longer rest on the threat of all-out war alone. When every increase in destructive ability also magnifies the inhibitions against resorting to it, we cannot go on proclaiming that local defense of Europe is impossible. It is not at all obvious why Western Europe and the United States, whose combined manpower and industrial potential far exceed those of the Soviet Union, should not be able to make a much more substantial and successful effort to improve the capability for local defense, particularly in the conventional field.

It is argued by many that since European bases are no longer required in an all-out war, the need for a substantial military establishment on the Continent has disappeared.[v] But it is surely inconsistent to maintain that the United States should be prepared to run greater risks than ever for an area which has become strategically less important. If Europe is indeed dispensable in an all-out war, a greater effort to create local defense becomes all the more necessary, lest the Soviet Union believe that the change in Europe's strategic importance will make us less ready to come to its defense.

Clearly, the Soviet effort to wreck NATO is directed against the capability for local defense. The Soviet Union must realize that a point will soon be reached where elimination of NATO would not decisively affect the over-all deterrent equation. NATO does represent an obstacle to the Soviet domination of Europe by means which will not seem "worth" an all-out war.

The line of demarcation between limited war and all-out war in Europe need not be determined in the abstract. The stronger the local forces of NATO, the less likely it will be that the Soviet Union will be tempted to adventure. The more effective the military establishment on the Continent, the larger must be the Soviet attack designed to overcome it. The more the required effort approaches the scale of all-out war, the clearer the challenge to our security and the more plausible our over-all deterrent. In short, as the horrors of all-out war multiply and cripple the will to resort to it, the minimum objective of the forces in Europe must be to raise the scale of the Soviet effort required to defeat them to a level that can leave no doubt about its ultimate objective. In the age of nuclear plenty a capability for local defense is required to give validity to the over-all deterrent.

The security problem of Europe may therefore be summed up as follows: (1) The Soviet Union can threaten all of Europe from its own territories. Consequently, alliances are not essential for its safety. (2) No European country is capable of withstanding Soviet pressure alone. Security for them is therefore inseparable from unity. (3) The threat of all-out war is losing its credibility and its strategic meaning. (4) The defense of Europe cannot be conducted solely from North America, because the aggressor can pose threats which will not seem to warrant total retaliation and because, however firm allied unity may be, a nation cannot be counted on to commit suicide in defense of a foreign territory.[vi]

As a result, the question in security negotiations becomes whether it is possible to conceive of two military establishments on the Continent capable of defensive action but deprived through appropriate control measures of offensive power. Such a control system must take care not to wreck NATO, for this would enable the Soviet Union to bring pressure on the European countries one by one. It must not eliminate the possibility of a local defense, for this would in time isolate us and demoralize our allies. It must seek to assure the Soviet Union against attack from NATO territory. It should make progress towards German unity because this would remove the chief cause of political tension in Europe and the one most likely to produce an explosion. Can these objectives be reconciled?

The argument has been made that the Soviet Union cannot permit German unification under present conditions because it would mean the advance of NATO to the Polish frontier. But to place the frontier of NATO on the Oder need not mean that NATO forces advance to the Polish frontier. The Western proposal at Geneva specifically excluded that possibility. It might have gone further and offered the complete demilitarization of East Germany after unification.

A preferable solution would be to establish a comprehensive European security system along the borders of a unified Germany. It could be proposed that non-German forces withdraw the same distance from the Oder as non-Polish forces and that the size of German forces on one side and Polish and Czech forces on the other be brought into some relationship with each other, both in numbers and in equipment. For example, United States, British and French forces could withdraw to the line of the Weser while Soviet forces could retire to the Vistula. The German forces between the Weser and the Oder would be restricted to defensive armaments, as would the Polish forces between the Oder and the Vistula. To decrease the danger of an attack from German territory NATO would agree not to station weapons of more than 700-mile range on German territory. An inspection system could be established. Obviously there are many variations of such a scheme, which could be the subject of negotiation both as to the width of the zone separating Western and Soviet forces and as to types of arms to be stationed in the area.

From a military point of view such a solution would make offensive operations difficult. The German and satellite forces would be approximately equal and they would separate the Soviet Union and the Western military establishment. At the same time, there would remain sufficient strength on the Continent and within Germany not to tempt aggression and to resist it should it take place. Continued membership in NATO would help protect Germany against Eastern pressure while the deployment of NATO forces would demonstrate their defensive purpose. Such a program would remove the chief source of political tension in Europe. It would provide protection to both the West and the Soviet Union against offensive operations. It would create a zone of arms control which, if successful, should bring about a climate of confidence leading to further measures.

But before the West can negotiate effectively on this it must admit to itself that the evasions and inconsistencies of NATO may cause the Soviets to believe that they would gain no additional security from any such control scheme. Thus effective negotiations may be inhibited not by the strength of the Western alliance but by its weakness and irresolution.


If, as seems quite probable, the Soviet Union rejects any reasonable program for German reunification, there is likely to be mounting pressure for various arms-control schemes along the present political division of Europe, such as a troop freeze or thinning out of forces. The difficulty with most of these proposals is that they do not in themselves come to grips with the real security problem. They do not reduce the likelihood of political upheaval in Germany--in fact they may increase it. They do not affect materially the capability of the United States or the Soviet Union to launch a sudden all-out attack. On the other hand, since present or planned NATO forces are already totally inadequate for offensive ground operations, most schemes for troop withdrawal would merely weaken the capability for local defense of the West without providing an additional reassurance to the Soviet Union. They would improve the offensive, but not the defensive, position of the U.S.S.R. Even a troop freeze has the result of keeping NATO from adapting itself to changed strategic relationships. Unless coupled with a reduction of Soviet forces, it would perpetuate an inequality which will represent a growing invitation to Soviet adventures as Soviet long-range missiles multiply.

The most frequent suggestion is that a zone free of nuclear weapons be established in the center of Europe. Given the range of modern weapons, a denuclearized zone in Central Europe would not of itself affect the military situation decisively, assuming nuclear weapons can be stationed in the Low Countries and France. It would create a psychological and political imbalance, for the aggressor would retain his full nuclear arsenal, while the area most menaced would be without the ability to retaliate. In these circumstances the Soviet Union may be encouraged to threaten Central Europe and to attempt to split the Western alliance by appealing to the countries controlling nuclear weapons that the issue was not "worth" a nuclear war. Moreover, once a denuclearized zone is established, it will be difficult to deal with Soviet pressures to expand it to include eventually the entire Continent.

As long as the West bases its defense so heavily on nuclear weapons, it will be difficult for us to convince our allies that their security will not be jeopardized if they must rely on foreign weapons, stationed on foreign territory and under foreign control. After all, the British deterrent has been justified explicitly as necessary for contingencies where the United States might be reluctant to engage itself. The different approaches to the current crisis within the Western alliance should cause us to have sympathy for the reluctance of countries even more immediately threatened than Great Britain to depend solely on weapons based far away and in the use of which they have no voice.

The question then becomes: Can one create such a sense of unity in the Western alliance that certain areas can be stripped of nuclear weapons without giving our allies a sense of impotence and without encouraging pressure by the Soviet Union? One scheme that deserves examination would be to create an E.D.C. for atomic weapons, with Germany a member. Each partner would have a voice in the use of these weapons wherever they might be stationed. Such a grouping might then negotiate about the location of its common arms in return for sharp reductions of Soviet power in Eastern Europe. The areas without nuclear weapons might feel protected by the voice they have in the control of common weapons.

Similar principles could be applied to other arms control schemes. For example, a ceiling could be placed on NATO forces between the Rhine and the Eastern frontiers of the Federal Republic and on Warsaw Pact forces in the East German satellite so that the two military establishments would be substantially equal in number. Or else NATO and Soviet forces could withdraw, say 100 miles, from the Elbe. A control system could be established between the Rhine and the Oder. But we must be frank enough with ourselves to admit that these schemes are in the realm of expedients and almost completely irrelevant to the real security problem in Europe. They will create a false impression of progress while leaving the basic situation unchanged. And any redeployment of NATO forces should be accompanied by a striving for greater unity expressed in concrete institutions. Verbal reassurances are not sufficient to remove the sense of insecurity of our European allies.

Would the withdrawal of foreign forces from Germany represent a means to achieve unification? It is thought by some that since the East German régime is maintained by Soviet troops, a mutual withdrawal would bring about the collapse or at least the liberalization of the East German satellite. The establishment of a zone of controlled armaments, followed by the withdrawal of American, British and Soviet forces, should be accompanied, it is said, by "some form of negotiation" between the Federal Republic and the East German satellite. This would, in an undefined manner, bring the two régimes closer together and lead to reunification on the basis of some kind of free elections at an unspecified future date.[vii]

It would seem incumbent on anyone advocating this to give some indication of the nature of the contact between the two parts of Germany and the manner in which it is supposed to reduce the gap between the two systems. As has been seen above, too much should not be made of the liberalization of Poland as a clue to development in East Germany. The East German Communists have at their disposal the apparatus of a police state. And the Kremlin has said repeatedly that it would intervene in case of an upheaval,[viii] in which case the involvement of the Federal Republic is extremely probable. At the very least, the two German governments, if left to their own devices, would find themselves under nearly irresistible pressure to subvert each other. In turn, the Soviet satellites would be tempted to exacerbate the rivalry, for to them a divided Germany will for a long time seem the best guarantee of safety. Thus many arms-control schemes that would work along the borders of a unified Germany would prove ineffective or dangerous in the center of a divided country.

If, then, reunification is of such central importance, can it be purchased at the price of the neutralization of Germany? Should the West give up its demand that a unified Germany be free to determine its own relationship to NATO and agree to the Soviet proposal that Germany be forbidden to enter military alliances?

Many in the West advocate neutralization because they believe that once Germany supplies the preponderance of the shield forces of NATO it will be strong enough to make its own arrangement with the Soviet Union. According to this line of reasoning, it would be wiser to anticipate this eventuality by offering a withdrawal which may soon be exacted from us. For if the Western alliance ever appears as the obstacle to German unification it will lose its attraction for Germany.[ix] Others argue that the Soviet Union will never tolerate the liberalization of satellite régimes as long as there is a danger that the new government may join NATO.

Of course, the fact that German troops will soon comprise the largest element of a force which is itself too small is not an argument for weakening it even further by the withdrawal of Western forces. And if the Soviet Union's intervention in Hungary was caused by the fear that the former satellite might join NATO, then let it be proposed that Hungary rather than Germany be neutralized.

Nevertheless, a proposal to neutralize Germany in return for unification has tempting aspects, since unification would undoubtedly contribute to political stability in Europe. Even if rejected, such an offer would demonstrate once and for all that German membership in NATO is a response to Soviet intransigence. The temptation is all the greater when it is considered that were Moscow ever itself to make such an offer it would be next to impossible for a German government to refuse.

It is important to be clear, however, as to what is meant by neutralization. It could mean that Germany would leave NATO and Western troops withdraw from the Federal Republic, while Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary would leave the Warsaw Pact and Soviet forces retire from these countries. Or it could mean the departure of Soviet troops into Poland only. It could involve a limitation of German forces so severe as to render Germany defenseless; it could apply to limitations only in certain categories of forces; or it could permit Germany to maintain its defense by whatever forces it considered necessary, provided it was not part of a military alliance.

If Soviet troops retire only to Poland and if German forces are limited along the lines of the Soviet proposals in the draft peace treaty, Russia would be able to exert an enormous pressure on an independent Germany. With self-defense against Soviet attack impossible, Soviet influence would be likely to grow relative to the West even if NATO could be satisfactorily based in the Low Countries and France--a possibility which, in the absence of careful study, cannot be taken for granted. On the other hand, Germany's capability to protect herself against a Soviet attack might increase European tensions. A militarily strong Germany without the restraints of NATO would surely disquiet the Soviet satellites and drive them closer to the Soviet Union, thereby increasing the cohesion of the Eastern bloc.

The most persuasive scheme has therefore coupled the neutralization of Germany with that of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary--the original Gaitskell plan. No doubt such a scheme involves a diminution of Western military security. At the same time, the end of the division of Germany would be an undoubted political gain. A great deal would depend on the ability of NATO to maintain a substantial military establishment in Western Europe to back up Germany. For in the absence of that establishment, the defense of the Continent would rest entirely on the American retaliatory power. And it simply does not make sense to assume that a deterrent which is losing its credibility under present circumstances would serve to protect areas never part of the Western defense system or from which U. S. troops have been withdrawn. Would we have resisted even in Korea if all-out war had been our only recourse?

At the same time, a neutral belt presents difficulties transcending the purely military. The notion that Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary would constitute a single bloc under the common guarantee of the Western powers and the Soviet Union hides great complexities. The memory of World War II and its aftermath would seem to insure that the territory to be neutralized would be unlikely to think of itself as a unit. The politics of Germany on the one hand and Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary on the other are more likely to be characterized by distrust if not animosity than by coöperation. In such a situation guarantee arrangements offer endless opportunities for interference. For a guarantee defines a right of intervention as well as a means to resist aggression--indeed Mr. Erler would grant a unilateral right in order to eliminate a Soviet veto.

Soviet pressure on Germany to "safeguard its neutrality" could be prevented only by a tacit understanding which placed Germany under the protection of NATO and the East European satellites under that of the Warsaw Pact. The practical result of the neutral belt then would be either Soviet domination of Central Europe or a situation envisaged in the scheme outlined earlier: the Oder as the dividing line between NATO and the Warsaw Pact with a zone of controlled armaments on both sides to reduce the danger of surprise attack. An explicit arrangement to that effect would accomplish all the security objectives of neutralization without the political dangers of legitimizing Soviet pressure on a reunited Germany.

Moreover, the West ought to be clear about the political hazards of a decision to negotiate about the military neutralization of Germany. It may create a precedent where, under the guise of expanding the neutral belt, the United States is gradually pushed out of Europe. It may lay the basis for destroying all the achievements of European integration. The Soviet Union with its belief in the predominance of "objective" social forces is unlikely to be content with military neutralization. The Kremlin, which attacked both the Marshall Plan and the Common Market as "aggressive imperialism," has in its draft peace treaty already proposed that Germany should not be permitted to be part of any arrangement not also signed by the U.S.S.R.--a clause which spells the doom of European integration. Another danger to guard against is that the Soviet Union, having accepted the "principle" of neutrality, might gain the benefits of neutralization without paying the price of unification, simply by stalling interminably during the technical negotiations.

Finally, it is important to remember that Germany is the last country which should be encouraged to be "flexible." Germany's attempt to pursue an isolated policy in the center of the Continent has brought disaster to Europe twice in a generation. If it is once more placed in the position to make arrangements with both sides--the political expression of neutrality--it will also be capable of menacing both sides, if only by the threat of a change of front. Such a Germany would hardly be conducive to peace and stability in Europe. Western policy must seek to retain Germany as a willing member of European political and economic institutions, whatever the ultimate security arrangements.[x]

A neutral belt, then, is an extremely risky course. It is conceivable only in these circumstances: (1) If it is made part of a satisfactory plan for German unification on the basis of free elections. (2) If a careful study shows that substantial United States and British forces can be stationed in the Low Countries and France; for otherwise the "neutral belt" would within a measurable time become a political appendage of the Soviet Union. (3) If a time limit is placed on the negotiations; for otherwise the Soviet Union will be able to achieve the paralysis of NATO and the end of European integration merely by engaging in endless negotiations. (4) If there is firm agreement among the Western allies that neutralization applies only to military relationships and that German economic and political ties to the other European countries cannot be sacrificed and may be extended; for if German unity is purchased at the price of European integration, the West would have cast away the fruits of the most helpful and constructive policy it has conducted since World War II. (5) If the remaining countries of NATO are confident that they can resist Soviet and domestic pressures against expanding the neutral zone to include all of Europe. (6) If Germany accepts such an arrangement and does not consider it desertion by its allies.

To state these conditions is to recognize the extremely hazardous nature of the proposals for a neutral belt. Such a course might be adopted by a cohesive, self-confident alliance, but not by one divided by doubts and lack of purpose. If it is nevertheless embarked upon, it should be without illusions and without begging all the principal questions. If, on the other hand, the goal is genuine stability, then we should strive for a demarcation line on the Oder, with Warsaw Pact and NATO forces withdrawn an equal distance, leaving a buffer zone manned by balanced German and Polish-Czechoslovak defensive forces under a system of inspection.


Yet we face the problem that the Soviet Union is likely to reject any proposal compatible with our values and interests. In that case it is essential that we be prepared to admit failure and make neither agreement nor negotiation an end in itself. The reaction should be a closing of ranks and not a repetition of the recriminations of the past six months. The West must understand that its lack of cohesion is the deepest cause for the absence of flexibility; that the refusal to face strategic facts has created the weakness which has invited Soviet pressures; that we have relatively little control over Soviet purposes but a duty to articulate our own.

The West should not permit itself to be hypnotized by the Soviet challenge. There is much scope for creativity in the West and in areas where the sole requirements are not Soviet coöperation but our own imagination and dynamism, such as strengthening the West's internal relationships and those with the emergent nations. In particular, it seems time to examine carefully the possibility of creating some federal institutions embracing the entire North Atlantic community, however attenuated these may be at first. For the West, which first developed the nation state, is also the area where its limitations are most dramatically apparent. No country of the North Atlantic Community can solve its problems or realize its opportunities in isolation. The Western effort in the newly independent states will be haphazard if each member of the Community develops its own program in the absence of any over-all conception. The security problem is insoluble on a basis of individual national sovereignties. For it will create constant temptations to purchase immunity by neutrality, or at least by shifting the major effort and risk to some other member of the alliance. Europe must find in the North Atlantic Community an outlet for the energy and vision that in previous centuries projected it into ventures overseas. And it can find security only if the Community thinks of itself increasingly as a unit.

As long as the West lacks direction and cohesion, the Soviet Union will be able to shift all disputes to our side of the line. The West will continue to be asked to "solve" problems which the Soviet Union creates and to applaud as a compromise a willingness on the part of the Russians to settle for something less than originally demanded. Indeed our eagerness to justify negotiations often leads us to see concessions in purely formal Soviet moves or a mere Soviet restraint from abusive language. Thus when President Eisenhower indicated his willingness to attend a summit conference, he explained that the Soviet note of March 2 had been "more reasonable," even though the note reiterated all the demands which had produced the crisis. Its only "concession" was to drop the demand for an immediate summit conference. Similarly, Gromyko's failure to insist on his proposal to seat the East Germans at the conference table at Geneva was greeted in the Western press as a "victory." In fact, the Soviets achieved their basic purpose: when East and West German delegations joined the foreign minister's conference as advisors an important step was taken towards giving the East German satellite the same international status as the Federal Republic and to lend color to the claim that unification should be settled by the two German régimes directly. In this manner, the Soviet leaders can draw a double advantage from intransigence: they can increase the uneasiness of the West by an extreme statement and then gain a reputation for being conciliatory by retreating to a position still considerably in advance of their starting point.

The confusion of negotiating technique with purpose causes the diplomatic debate to be confined to issues of maximum embarrassment to the West--issues, that is, which the Soviet Union has raised and on which the West feels obliged to negotiate because, as the saying goes, no avenue of settlement must be neglected and because the mere readiness of the Soviet to talk about anything is considered "encouraging." Conversely, the West is deterred from raising issues of possible embarrassment to the Soviet Union because, it is said, such a course would destroy the climate of confidence. Diplomacy thereby becomes a form of Soviet political warfare. For if we can negotiate only on issues that the Soviet leaders have declared as soluble, it is not surprising that the attention of the world is focussed on the symptoms rather than the causes of the difficulties: on NATO, but not the Soviet hostility which produced it; on the all-too-inadequate Western defense effort, but not on the preponderant Soviet strength which called it forth; on the dangers to peace in case of another satellite upheaval, but not on the Soviet repression without which the danger of upheaval would not exist. The illusion is created that the cold war can be ended by proclamation.

The formalism of the Western approach to negotiations raises the question whether the real difficulty of the West is not the absence of moral assurance. Too often the laudable tendency to see the other point of view is carried to the point of refusing to make any moral distinctions. This leads to the preposterous argument that the brutalities of Stalin were due to the refusal to admit Russia into the League of Nations in 1923 and the current hostility of Khrushchev to the failure to accept the Soviet disarmament package of May 10, 1955.[xi] NATO is equated with the Warsaw Pact; the British landing in Egypt with the Soviet repression of Hungary; our overseas bases with the satellite orbit. And in some pronouncements Chancellor Adenauer is dealt with more harshly than Mr. Khrushchev and accused of wanting German unification only as an issue but not in reality.[xii]

Some of these reactions express the understandable fear that to admit claims to superior moral values would lead to the demand for a crusade and thus to nuclear war--an attitude not dissimilar to that of many serious people towards Hitler in the 1930s. "I also agree in welcoming so far as Europe is concerned the attempt of the Government to establish contact with the rulers of Germany," a British Labor leader said in 1937. "Any attempt to separate the sheep from the goats and to have the world divided in two or more camps based upon ideological grounds would be absolutely fatal to the future welfare of mankind."[xiii]

Others are reacting against the popular tendency to see complicated political problems in absolute terms of black or white and to identify policy with the amassing of military force. But in attacking such over-simplification, many critics run the risk of reducing all issues to a single shade of grey. Surely we can avoid self-righteousness without falling into a fastidiousness which comes close to spiritual pride. And opposition to viewing all issues as military need not go so far as to deny in effect that a serious security problem exists. The tendency to equate our moral shortcomings with those of the Soviet bloc deprives the West of the inward assurance required to negotiate effectively. It leads to a policy of the guilty conscience.

So long as it is lacking in strong convictions, the West finds it increasingly difficult to deal with the problem of conjecture in foreign policy. Policy must always be based on an assessment of the future course of events or the intentions of other countries or even merely the limits of the possible. Since inaction may bring catastrophe, it sometimes happens that some measure must be taken even though it is based on evaluations about which we cannot be certain. And by the same token, difficult decisions can always be avoided by making the most favorable assessment of the relevant situation. Had the West stood up to Hitler in 1936, there would probably still be dispute as to whether he was a misunderstood nationalist or in fact represented a danger to world peace. "Herr Hitler's statement [offering to negotiate]," said Arthur Henderson after German troops reoccupied the Rhineland, "ought to be taken at face value. Herr Hitler made a statement sinning with one hand but holding out the olive branch with the other which ought to be taken at face value. These may prove to be the most important gestures yet made. . . . It is idle to say these statements were insincere. . . . The dominant problem is peace and not defence."[xiv]

In the months ahead the argument will be made that since both we and the Soviets have put forward unacceptable proposals the correct solution is a compromise somewhere in the middle--even though this merely evades responsibility for judging the substance of various proposals and further encourages the Soviets to make extreme offers for purposes of compromise. It will also be urged that the West has an obligation to break a deadlock by bringing forward new proposals--even though such a principle encourages Soviet intransigence by giving rise to the belief that if Soviet negotiators hold out long enough they will elicit ever more favorable offers.

Negotiations are essential. But it is important to conduct them without illusions. We do not need to believe in a basic Soviet transformation in order to believe in the possibility of a settlement. Nor is it a prerequisite to successful negotiation to pretend that a relaxation of tensions is entirely within Western control. If the Soviet Union obtains only half of its demands on Berlin, this is not a compromise but a fundamental and perhaps fatal weakening of the Western position. The West must have a much more serious goal than to divine the Soviet intent. We do ourselves an injustice if we make an issue of the desirability of relaxing tensions or of ending the cold war. We have no time to argue about the obvious. The task before the West is not to prove the desirability of peace--which should be taken for granted--but to determine what are the possibilities of a settlement which does not hazard our security and is consistent with our values.

[i]The New York Times, May 16, 1959.

[ii] For example, their proposal that German become an official conference language.

[iii]The New York Times, May 15, 1959.

[iv] See speech by Adlai Stevenson, The New York Times, March 6, 1959.

[v] See speech by the Italian Ambassador to Germany, Signor Quaroni, at the University of Frankfurt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 1, 1959.

[vi] See the author's "Missiles and the Western Alliance," Foreign Affairs, April 1958.

[vii] See Denis Healy, "Disengagement and German Reunification," The New Leader, March 20, 1959.

[viii] To be sure, Khrushchev has qualified this by saying that Soviet troops would intervene only if called by socialist leaders or if the upheavals were inspired from the outside. Some Communist functionary can be certain to ask for assistance on the model of Kadar; and as Hungary and Tibet have proved, uprisings against Communist rule are considered by definition to be inspired from the outside.

[ix] See, for example, Fritz Erler, "The Reunification of Germany and Security for Europe," World Politics, April 1958.

[x] Against this background the rigidity for which Chancellor Adenauer has recently been criticized may have been his greatest contribution to European stability and at worst may have reflected the defects of his virtues: his refusal to take advantage of the possibility of a policy of petty manœuvre inherent in Germany's history and geographic situation; and his insistence on gaining Germany a reputation for reliability.

[xi] See broadcast by Philip Noel-Baker, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company, reprinted by the New England Regional Offices, American Friends Service Committee.

[xii] See for example an appeal by Norman Thomas signed by a number of eminent Americans, The New York Times, May 8, 1959, p. 15.

[xiii]Hansard 330, December 21, 1937, col. 1841.

[xiv]Hansard 309, March 10, 1936, col. 1976-77.

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  • HENRY A. KISSINGER, Associate Director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs; author of "Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy"
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