The Global Zeitenwende
How to Avoid a New Cold War in a Multipolar Era
Transatlantic disaffections, sturdy perennials since the turn of the decade, continued to sprout luxuriantly throughout 1982. They were nourished by two as yet inchoate forces which, if unchecked, will logically lead to the end of alliance: the trends toward neutralism in Europe and toward unilateralism in America.
Both sentiments spring, paradoxically, from the same source. If the message of neutralism is "Leave us alone," the motto of global unilateralism is "We will go it alone." It does not matter that the neutralist impulse seeks safety in the escape from power while unilateralism glories in its reassertion. Nor does it matter that the one may be driven by fear whereas the other is fueled by a heady sense of newfound determination. For in both cases, the leitmotiv is retraction and insulation-from the grating demands of dependence, from the troubles of a strained partnership, from commitment to uncertain allies who exact loyalty with a vengeance but yield little of their jealously guarded freedom of action.
The Alliance has of course suffered from bouts of European neutralism before. Indeed, the "Yankee go home" and ohne mich revulsions of the 1950s make today's anti-American sentiments appear as rather pale copies of the real thing. Similarly, the Kampf dem Atomtod ("fight nuclear death") campaign in Germany of circa 1958 was a real movement rather than a mood restricted to a strident minority. (A quarter-century ago, not only were there hundreds of thousands taking to the streets and squares of West Germany; there was a clear anti-nuclear majority in public opinion and, more important, there was also a leadership and a structure provided by the Social Democratic Party and the Trade Union Federation.)
On the American side, the fitful rush toward global unilateralism is almost as old as the Alliance itself: intervention in Korea in 1950 (with the help of some token allied contingents but where the United States fought essentially alone), the abandonment of Britain and France during the Suez War of 1956, the shift from the multilateral NATO deterrent force (MLF) to limited Big-Twoism in 1965 (as symbolized by the Nonproliferation Treaty), escalation in Vietnam under President Johnson, the "Nixon Shock" of 1971. Still, Europe and the United States have never turned from one another at the same time. As in a stable marriage, one was always there to tend house when the other went off in pursuit of extra-curricular temptations.
The early 1980s offer a strikingly different texture because divergence is suddenly à deux. Nothing could exemplify this "creeping divorce" (as French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson put it) better than the protracted shouting match over the Euro-Siberian gas pipeline. The quarrel began in earnest at the turn of 1981-82 when martial law was imposed on Poland, and it was barely contained by the end of the year. Whereas the Europeans denounced the Polish putsch rhetorically, they continued to extend large-scale credits to the U.S.S.R. for the construction of the gas duct. The United States, however, portrayed the coup as further proof of the need to inflict economic sanctions on the Soviet Union. These conflicts escalated misunderstandings between Europe and the United States to a high point of resentment, recrimination and retaliation just after the Versailles Summit of the industrialized nations in June. It took the rest of the year-and the appointment of a new U.S. Secretary of State-before the discord was at least muted, if not resolved.
The arguments over the Yamal pipeline which were batted back and forth across the Atlantic for most of the year are by now as familiar as they are inconclusive. Is a five to six percent dependence on Soviet energy exports (i.e., gas, oil and uranium) the prelude to subservience? If that aggregate figure seems less than awesome, what about a 30-plus percent dependence on Soviet natural gas?
Europeans have argued that their expanded energy relationship with the Soviet Union will be neither harmful nor unequal. They have pointed to the diversification of their gas supplies and to the "bi-valence" of their utilities and industries (allowing them to switch to substitute fuels). They have recalled the sterling, business-like behavior of the Soviets in the past.1 And they have also stressed that ties tend to fetter both sides. Europe's presumed gas addiction will thus be matched by a similar habit on the part of the Soviets worth about $10 billion in cold cash per annum which, once acquired, is not easily broken.
It may well be true that the Soviets will never turn off the tap. On the other hand, they may not have to do so in order to encourage the right behavior. The sheer possibility of an interruption during a new energy scare (as in 1979) might create the kind of psychological setting where arm-twisting becomes superfluous. Power is when you don't have to threaten.
American counterarguments suffered from the perilous syndrome of "more is less." Their proliferation did not necessarily add to their combined weight. Initially, the American case stressed mounting energy dependence on a powerful opponent. After the imposition of martial law in Poland in December 1981, the first wave of American sanctions (the December 30 embargo on U.S.-made parts for the pipeline) was justified in terms of political morality. Accordingly, the Europeans' failure to cancel the deal implied tacit consent with the heinous suppression of Solidarity.
The focus of the third argument-an updated version of Lenin's famous rope quip-was on the Soviet Union itself, as undeserving beneficiary of Western technology, subsidized credit and gargantuan hard-currency infusions which would merely end up as a boon to the Soviet war machine.
The Europeans were quick to rub in the inconsistency between those three objections. Did the explicit link between American sanctions and the Polish putsch mean that the end of martial law would somehow also dispatch the twin issues of European vulnerability and Soviet (military) capability? Moreover, the Allies took endless pleasure in poking holes in the Administration's defense of its grain sales to the Soviet Union. How could trade be cynical business-as-usual when countenanced by France, Germany or Italy, while its American counterpart was touted as a strategic advance for the West? Why was deference to the ailing steel industry in Europe more sinful than President Reagan's appeasement of Midwestern farmers beset by overproduction and falling prices-and in an election year to boot?
It was indeed ironic that, on October 15, the U.S. Customs Service seized $3 million worth of pipeline equipment bound for the Soviet Union while, on the same day, the President announced his readiness to sell 23 million tons of grain to the Soviet Union. That quantity represented a threefold increase over existing contractual obligations. Nor was the Administration's case strengthened when a respectable Washington-based research institution exploded a fourth argument which was as self-serving as anything the Europeans had concocted: according to the "grain drain theory," European gas purchases would contribute vital resources to the tottering Soviet economy while American grain sales would sap it even more by extracting billions in scarce cash.
The economic facts and the time-honored principles of "comparative economic advantage" said otherwise. The Soviet Union, the world's most lackluster grain grower, is far better off buying grain abroad and devoting the saved resources to energy production instead. By a rough estimate:
imports of an extra 1 million metric tons of grain in 1982 by the Soviet Union could save resources sufficient to produce about 2.8 million metric tons of oil, which would be valued at $700 million on the world market. In comparison, 1 million metric tons of wheat has a current world market value of about $160 million. If a similar comparison is made for grain and natural gas, the potential saving of resources by the Soviet Union is about three times greater.2
Yet the Europeans were hardly less disingenuous. Although they delighted in "unmasking" American self-interest, they clearly rejected any trade-off by which a renewed American grain embargo would lead to the cancellation of the pipeline-to-be. Which leads to the crux of the matter-one that rests as heavily on American as on European shoulders.
While squabbling over the presumed impact of energy dependence, an assumption that remains unproved, or the efficacy of economic sanctions (historically a rather dubious proposition), both Americans and Europeans failed to grapple with the real issue of the 1980s: the relentless expansion of Soviet military capabilities throughout the previous decade. And there it is clear that mega-deals like pipelines and grain bonanzas do contribute massively to the resource base of the Soviet economy.
Indeed, according to the Wharton analysis, grain and gas make a perfect pair, opening up an "angelic cycle" for the Soviet Union. With resources saved through the import of grain, the Soviet Union can develop those high-value energy supplies which are sold to Europe. And the profits from these sales are plowed back into the purchase of American grain. It is hard to think of a more benign trading constellation than such unwitting collaboration between Europe and the United States for the greater good of the Soviet Union.
Did it make sense to deplore the erosion of the global and regional balance while sparing the Soviet Union the necessity of choice through the lavish infusion of Western resources-be it in cash or in kind? Throughout 1982, both Americans and Europeans pretended to solve that dilemma by ritual exercises in rhetorical legerdemain. The Reagan Administration resorted to the Orwellian proposition that strengthening the Soviet economy would actually weaken it. And the European governments sought refuge in the comforting belief that trade was either good or indifferent. If trade, by extending the blessings of interdependence, did not in fact help stability, at least it would do nothing to harm it. At a minimum, the pipeline would optimize resource allocation and maximize joint welfare in classic textbook fashion.
Such benign calculus, however, glossed over a crucial variable: if the pipeline was somehow a profitable proposition in its own right, why did it have to be subsidized through credits below market rates? In the most extreme case the spread between contract and market rates extended to a hefty eight percent.
Thanks to the extravagant rhetoric of the Reagan Administration, which kept dramatizing the link between the pipeline and martial law in Poland, many observers overlooked a crucial distinction between American propaganda and policy. Indeed, during the first half of 1982, American diplomacy was perhaps more subtle than its verbal volleys suggested. Hidden behind the wafts of declaratory smoke there was the outline of a deal. Washington would drop its opposition to the pipeline in exchange for a threefold European commitment: no more cheap credit for the Soviets; hence no more mega-projects like the gas link (which does depend on lavish credits at below-market rates); finally a watertight agreement on the transfer of sensitive technology.
Viewed in this light, the first wave of American sanctions on December 30, 1981, signaled a mere warning shot. They pointedly barred only American companies from the construction of the pipeline, leaving their European subsidiaries and licensees free to contribute vital parts like turbines and rotor blades. That gambit came to nought by February when the French went ahead to conclude in January their own part of the agreement while extending a cheap $140-million loan to the Soviets. Still undaunted, the Administration dispatched Under Secretary of State James Buckley to Europe. His brief was again rather modest and limited essentially to the central issue of credit premiums for the Soviet Union.
Mr. Buckley received what Alliance sources in Brussels described as a "sympathetic but reserved response." Between March and June, Europeans and Americans proceeded to conceal their conflict by dint of an elaborate conjuring act which, appropriately enough, culminated in the legendary Hall of Mirrors in Versailles on June 6. During their economic summit in the palace of the Sun King, the leaders of the seven Western industrialized powers agreed on the need for "commercial prudence" in their affairs with the Soviet Union, which should also be constrained by obeisance to their common "politics and security interests." For its part, the United States promised to be more forthcoming in the control of exchange-rate fluctuations.
It was no surprise that the convoluted communiqué of Versailles solved precisely nothing. The Europeans thought that they had bought off Washington with a declaration of good intentions. And President Reagan thought that he had extracted a commitment against further credit subsidies for the Soviets. When French President Mitterrand lost no time in pointing out that no such vow had been delivered, President Reagan felt duped.
Revenge came swift and hard. On June 18, President Reagan escalated the embargo so as to encompass not only American pipeline suppliers but also their subsidiaries and license holders in France, Germany, England and Italy. Unlike the warning shot of December 30, the broadside of June 18 ran a real chance of damaging the Euro-Siberian gas duct. For the extension of the embargo threatened to close off the last conduit for those crucial components that embodied an American monopoly of turbine technology.
Escalation did not bring victory but counterescalation. In July and August, the governments of three of those four European countries instructed suppliers under their jurisdiction to defy the American ban. In September, the Administration retaliated by imposing an export embargo on these companies. And Moscow was treated to a bizarre spectacle of internecine warfare-where the Europeans fought valiantly on behalf of their Soviet adversary while the United States inflicted brutal blows on friends rather than foes.
In the end, it was the United States that "blinked." In exchange for a European commitment to "review" all those issues which had come together in an economic casus belli, President Reagan, on November 13, lifted all restraints on American companies, their subsidiaries abroad and European licensees engaged in the building of the trans-Continental gas link. He declared his move a "victory for the allies." But in the meantime, as Le Monde (November 16) put it, the "embargo . . . had in fact done more damage to what he wanted to strengthen-the cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance-than to the Soviet Union which he wanted to punish." Dispensing with such ponderous language, the left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (November 18) simply called the American sanctions offensive "the flop of the year."
The President's plunge into unilateralism was indeed a blunder of almost historic proportions. At stake was not so much the merit of the Administration's arguments as the wisdom of its policy. The battle against the pipeline had at least "focused the debate on the right issue," as The Wall Street Journal (November 16) put it. It forced East-West trade out of the nebulous realm of "economic détente" and/or domestic industrial policy into the arena of strategy where it properly belongs: how far should the Alliance go in strengthening the economy of its most powerful opponent?
Yet the means employed by the Reagan Administration clearly subverted the end, and, as a result, the price inflicted on the Alliance by far transcended any possible gain of the exercise. The pipeline had been in the making since 1976-77. By the time President Reagan escalated American sanctions on June 18, the various national contracts with the Soviet Union had long been signed and sealed. A sober look at the stakes and faits accomplis might have told the President that he was about to embark on a high-cost, low-payoff policy. To undo the gas link at that point would have required crushing the allies into submission, but such extravagant expenditure of power would have changed the nature of the war, turning its fury against the allies rather than against the adversary.
It was not the first time that the United States had to relearn a prime lesson of superpower politics: a great power can force its will on lesser allies only by means which would also fundamentally weaken them-and thus undermine the very raison d'être of alliance, which is the aggregation of collective strength. Damage was therefore, in the end, limited by American self-restraint, but, even so, the main effect was to place the Europeans "objectively" on the side of the Kremlin. Such an outcome is without example in the many tests of strength that have pitted ally against ally in the postwar era, and, for once, it made the most improbable dreams of Soviet Westpolitik come true. Which raises the most painful question of them all: Was the Reagan Administration, by now in the second year of its term, equipped to conduct a foreign policy commensurate with America's power and purpose in the world?
"We've heard a lot of protests from our European allies," said Vice President Bush when questioned about the transatlantic revolt. "I'm sorry. The U.S. is the leader of the free world, and under this Administration we are beginning once again to act like it."3
Yet that particular instance of leadership inflicted unprecedented damage on the very framework within which American authority must unfold. It was as if American power had been unleashed against itself-and then without any payoffs save a vague European commitment to "study" all the major issues and to go slow on new mega-projects in the meantime. Even worse, there remained the nagging suspicion that the escalation of June 18 was not wholly triggered by considerations of grand strategy. Instead, the second wave of sanctions may have been the ad hoc product of presidential pique and intra-bureaucratic powerplays. In the aftermath of the Versailles Summit, there was an angry President who felt betrayed by his allies. And then there were some key players in the Administration who seized on the President's ire to turn it into a hatchet against a detested Secretary of State. Alexander Haig had made the supreme mistake of counseling benevolence toward the allies, and in the process may have grievously misled them about his hold on the Administration's policy. The first victim of June 18 was thus neither Europe nor the Soviet Union but Alexander Haig. He resigned on June 25, appropriately enough over another alliance issue: Israel's siege of Beirut, which also played into the hands of Haig's rivals in the White House and the Pentagon.
The accession of George Shultz brought almost immediate relief to the fever-ridden Atlantic partnership. Unlike Alexander Haig, the new Secretary of State could negotiate successfully not only with the allies but also with his cohorts in Washington. In a fragmented, competitive policymaking system such as the Reagan Administration, that skill promised more than just atmospheric improvement-perhaps the beginning of a more cohesive, and hence more predictable, approach to friends and foes alike.
If the pipeline war of 1982 raised some vexing questions about the style of American leadership (Who speaks for whom? Are the ends worth the means?), it also exposed an almost philosophical failure on the part of the Europeans. Cleansed of their extravagant verbiage, the American demands were hardly excessive: if trade you must, do not subsidize our common opponent. Yet by going to the brink, the Europeans seemed to signal that they valued their ailing steel industries and their ambiguous relationship with the East more highly than the purposes of alliance. The Alliance will surely founder if such ordering of priorities transcends the episodic and turns into a matter of principle.
Throughout 1982, Europeans were rattled by successive fits of American leadership which, to them, were often indistinguishable from sheer pugnacity. American resentments toward their allies, on the other hand, were summed up in the following count of indictments:
What can America do to satisfy those who want equidistance from the two superpowers, who want defense (but not too much of it), who are more afraid of American sanctions than of events in Poland, more apprehensive about American than Soviet missiles, who want to be allies and mediators at the same time?4
Exaggerated or not, these charges rang true for many Americans who listened in disbelief to the sounds of silence emanating from Europe in the aftermath of the Polish putsch, the mass arrests and the undoing of Solidarity. Looking in particular toward West Germany, they contrasted the 300,000 who in October 1981 had turned out to protest NATO's plan to install American Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe with the paltry demonstrations against martial law in Poland. West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who was visiting East German Party Chief Erich Honecker when Polish troops moved to occupy their own country, denied for several weeks that the Soviets shared any responsibility for the coup. His predecessor Willy Brandt, speaking for the Socialist International, thought that "unsolicited opinion or remarks formulated in a hard way" would do nothing to "aid the people of Poland"-a declaration that was harshly rejected by the Socialist Parties of Italy and France.5 Most stunning, perhaps, was the reaction of key sectors of the West German media-such as Der Stern and Der Spiegel which muster a combined readership of up to 10 million. Their "contemptible" editorials on Poland, as one European observer put it, "managed to convey both anti-American and anti-Polish feelings while avoiding any attacks on the Soviet Union."6
It did not matter that the Bundestag was the first Western parliament to condemn the Jaruzelski coup. Nor did it matter, given the realities of bipolarity in Europe, that the West as a whole had neither the means nor the mettle to reverse the facts established by Jaruzelski's battalions and, long before them, by Stalin's armies. And certainly, the issue was not one of "dying for Danzig"-not even the Poles were suggesting violence in defense of Solidarity's historical victory at Gdansk on August 31, 1980.
The real issue was a moral one, one that transcended the indispensable appeals for sober realism as well as the millions of food parcels dispatched to Poland from West Germany. Moral-political values such as those which underlie the common defense of the West do not lose their just claim because the realities of power forbid a crusade on their behalf. What nations say as distinct from what they do may well be the compliment that raison d'état pays to virtue.7 But for all the dangers of hypocrisy, it is also a yardstick by which nations measure their purpose, commitment and self-respect and without which Realpolitik would degenerate into bottomless pragmatism. Perhaps moral indignation does come cheap, but in contrast to most of Western Europe (including Sweden and the Communist Parties of Italy and Spain), indignation seemed to be a rather dear commodity in West Germany when judged by its limited availability there in the aftermath of December 13, 1981.
Which raised the age-old question of "Whither Germany?" in a new guise. Traditionally, that question has always been posed in terms of Germany's presumed geographical destiny and/or dubious historical analogies such as Rapallo. In 1982, doubts focused on a novel combination of domestic disaffection (dramatized by the rise of pacifist nationalism)8 and unregenerate détente-mindedness (exemplified by Bonn's fastidious refusal to confront the Soviet Union over Poland). Would the two trends converge in a program of Ostpolitik über alles and crack that iron-cast set of diplomatic priorities which had turned the Federal Republic into the pillar of the Atlantic order?
Theoretically, the suppression of Solidarity should have occasioned an agonizing reappraisal of détente's most cherished assumptions. West Germany's vision of détente was always far more ambitious than the expectations of its American and European allies. The stabilization of the military milieu through arms control and the ratification of the territorial status quo through the Eastern treaties was in fact to produce a status quo-plus. Secure in its possessions and lured by the steady promise of economic subsidies, the Soviet Union would loosen its heavy grip on its hapless vassals, opening the way toward the progressive reassociation of the two Germanies and peaceful change in Eastern Europe.
As the events in Poland showed, the dialectic of détente tends to operate in opposite, and perverse, fashion. Instead of encouraging stable devolution, détente triggered the kind of change which ended in renewed repression. Moreover, the forcible recentralization of Poland by proxy yielded yet another bonus for the Soviet Union: instead of reexamining their hopes and strategies, many West Europeans insisted that nothing had really changed. Indeed, like the horse in Orwell's Animal Farm ("I shall work harder"), the West Germans were spurred into the redoubling of their détente efforts so as to protect their relationship with the German Democratic Republic and Eastern Europe at all costs against the intrusion of the world at large.
This was not neutralism. Indeed, if the polls are a guide, the West Germans remain consistently and strongly pro-American and pro-NATO.9 So far at least, the populace at large has proven remarkably immune to the strident demands of the peace movement. From an American perspective, however, the problem is that the West Germans (and for that matter, the West Europeans) want the best of all possible worlds: American protection and American troops, yet freedom of action with respect to their national and regional concerns plus a veto power over American policy in the superpower arena, including strategic arms and arms control.
This combination of insulation cum interference is a tall order in the best of times; by 1982, it became a psychological as well as political impossibility. For the West Germans (and the Europeans) insisted on a more generous measure of insulation from the vagaries of American policy precisely at a time when their patron power had launched its fitful attempt toward reversing the long decline from power that was one of the legacies of Vietnam. In the process, the United States has asked more, not less, of its allies. "Yet in their reluctance to afford such support," argues Robert W. Tucker in a perceptive essay, "they are increasingly found an impediment to the restoration of America's power and position, whether in Europe or in the world beyond."10
Herein lies the root of all Euro-American troubles since Afghanistan and the advent of the Reagan Administration. And, given their peculiar geographical handicaps and historical aspirations, the West Germans were destined to play the leading role in that drama-both as protagonists and prime victims. In the face of America's turn toward militant neocontainment, the Germans were condemned to defend their hefty stake in détente more vigorously than any other European power. Yet, in spite of their impressive strength, the Germans were least equipped to sustain that struggle unscathed.
Too vulnerable to really defy their American protectors, they were also too weak to shield the European center against the pulls and pushes of renewed confrontation between the two superpowers. That task became even more improbable once France, the Federal Republic's closest ally in Europe, recognized that Gaullism without Germany, i.e., without an intact glacis to the East, would be reduced to mere posturing. Even with a Socialist government in power, it was only logical that France would link hands with the United States by taking up the cause of NATO missile modernization while reminding the ruling Social Democrats in Bonn of their responsibilities for the restoration of the nuclear balance in Europe. It was thus François Mitterrand who, with a worried eye on his ideological confrères across the Rhine, publicly supported NATO's December 1979 "two-track" decision on the deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles if arms control talks with the Soviets led nowhere.
And it was no less ironic that, by 1982, Helmut Schmidt-the prime mover behind the Brussels decision-had come to deny paternity for an idea which he himself had spawned in his legendary speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies five years earlier. In London he had warned about the growing nuclear disparities on the Continent which would be "magnified" by parity codified on the SALT level. Hence he urged theater-level talks "parallel to the SALT negotiations" to deal with the mounting menace of Soviet SS-20s. Yet in the absence of negotiated constraints, "the Alliance [had to] be ready to make available the means to support the present strategy."11
Five years later, Helmut Schmidt must have rued the day when he had unwittingly helped to launch an avalanche of protest which would eventually drive hundreds of thousands into the streets and squares of Western Europe's capitals-protests which were fueled by statements from members of the Reagan Administration on the feasibility of fighting a limited nuclear war in Europe. In the spring of 1982, the Chancellor was barely in control of his own Social Democratic Party. That the "two-track" approach was not unhinged in favor of a single (unconditional negotiation) track during the SPD's April 1982 congress in Munich was perhaps due only to a parliamentary maneuver. The Executive outflanked an incipient revolt of the rank-and-file by asking for the postponement of the missile debate until the fall of 1983. The SPD leadership may also have drawn some succor from the fact that negotiations on INF (intermediate-range nuclear forces) had at last been inaugurated in Geneva. And those talks at least held out the theoretical prospect of a zero solution as defined by President Reagan on November 18, 1981: zero Western deployment if the Soviets scrapped some 600 SS-4, SS-5 and SS-20 missiles.
There were some paradoxes here to be pondered by future historians of Western society. Cruise and Pershing II missiles were not being foisted onto the Europeans by the United States (if anything, the reverse had been true since 1977), yet the protesters chose to denounce the buttressing of extended deterrence as an American conspiracy against Europe. The Soviets were adding to their SS-20 arsenal at the rate of one per week, yet the more threatening that potential, the more strident grew the protests against Western counterdeployment. Angst became the badge of a superior moral sensibility, and the popular imagination yielded willingly to the new poetry of mega-death (in Germany, Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth became an instant bestseller), as if the mere contemplation of the nuclear inferno would miraculously transport the world into a permanent, unarmed peace.
Perhaps it was the personal tragedy of Helmut Schmidt that he could not achieve against his own party what his finely honed instincts for the requisites of military stability had taught him, that he desperately clung to an equipoise between Germany's Western necessities and its Eastern mission when the times imposed a choice between priorities. The Federal Republic was simply too frail to act as a bridge and a brace.
After he had outlasted three American and two French presidents in office, Helmut Schmidt was ousted from the chancellorship on October 1. He was abandoned by his Liberal (FDP) coalition partner on the issue of fiscal restraint, but in a more profound sense the passage of power to Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) may have marked the end of an era in West German politics. After 13 years of Social Democratic rule, both the party and its policies appeared exhausted: economic crisis had blocked the relentless expansion of the welfare state, and the Alliance crisis had dramatized the limits of the "Germanization" of West German foreign policy.
Domestic change in Germany-if ratified in the elections set for March 1983-suggested that the Atlantic crisis (which is the German-American crisis writ large) may have leveled off.12 Unlike the Social Democrats who were drifting toward the derailment of NATO's "two-track" decision on missile modernization, Kohl's Conservatives have claimed to have no trouble with the installation of INF once the magic threshold year of 1983 passes without a tangible agreement on arms control. The new Chancellor has repeatedly vowed that he will move toward deployment in that case.13 And if the West Germans deploy, there is a realistic chance that most of the others will follow. On the other hand, Kohl will also have to deal with popular protest, and therefore he will continue to push hard for successful arms control negotiations in Geneva.
Secondly, even if national interests do not change as rapidly as regimes, the Kohl Government will calculate the costs and benefits of Ostpolitik more closely than its predecessors. For domestic reasons, the Social Democrats were doubly chained to Ostpolitik. Having used it as a violently contested vehicle toward tenure 13 years ago, they could hardly repudiate Ostpolitik without courting political suicide. Hence, they were condemned to demonstrate its success in perpetuity. Moreover, as the party of détente, the SPD understood correctly that it could only flourish in a European setting where the Soviet threat looms low and the spirit of arms control and cooperation legitimizes the Left. By contrast, the Conservatives have always profited from an anti-communist consensus; they will thus hardly fight tooth and nail for a détente that benefits their domestic rivals.
The coming to power of the Christian Democrats in Germany was part of a more general swing to the Right in Western Europe which suggested that the continental drift between Europe and the United States might have exhausted itself in 1982. In the Netherlands and Denmark, left-of-center governments were replaced by right-of-center coalitions in September; in Norway the Conservatives had captured power in 1981. In France, the Socialist government of François Mitterrand swung sharply right in its economic policy after the second devaluation of the franc: away from lavish deficit spending (resulting in inflation and capital flight) and toward a policy of fiscal and monetary restraint that was much closer to Thatcher and Reagan than to Keynes. In the transatlantic arena, Paris presented itself as a model ally in parts: strident in his opposition to American demands on the pipeline and Eastern trade, Mitterrand demonstrated a rare spirit of communion on matters of nuclear strategy (especially with regard to INF deployment) and the military balance.
The Center-Right trend was only broken on the periphery where, as in Greece (1981) and in Spain (1982), the electoral verdict brought left-wing governments into power. Still, the Socialist government of Felipe González represented a centrist orientation (that did not seriously challenge Spain's NATO membership). And in 1982, the Papandreou government in Greece acted far more soberly than its florid rhetoric had suggested: it did not move to detach itself from the Alliance, nor did it close American bases in Greece.
In Britain, ideological polarization continued apace-with the Labour Party, comfortably free from the responsibilities of rule, drifting ever closer toward unilateral nuclear disarmament. Yet in spite of mounting unemployment (over three million in 1982), Margaret Thatcher's electoral fortunes soared miraculously-thanks to Argentina's General Galtieri. Argentina's occupation of the Falkland Islands in April transformed England almost overnight. Labour leader Michael Foot's speech in the House of Commons on April 3 was almost indistinguishable from Churchill's finest at the outbreak of World War II, though by the middle of May his party was less than stalwart. A society notorious for its attachment to tea breaks and strikes dispensed with both in order to equip a requisitioned merchant fleet for South Atlantic duty in less than two weeks. An ex-imperial power that had been edging toward a civilian and European identity for 20 years showed that it was still capable of a global vocation-even in the face of (initial) impartiality on the part of the United States and mounting opposition from the European Community once the fighting had started in earnest.
Britain's determination should have given some succor to the Reagan Administration, but in fact it produced ambivalence, confusion-and something of an object lesson in legitimate national differences. It is one thing to proclaim universal vigilance in defense of Western interests; it is quite another when global principles clash with regional imperatives-as in the case of the United States when it had to balance its hemispheric ties against loyalties toward its second oldest ally. In the end, Washington threw its weight behind Britain, but only after some noisy disputes between the Administration's "Latins" and "Europeans." There was a moral here for both Europeans and Americans. When the chips were down, the United States did choose its European ally. On the other hand, Washington was also confronted with the salutary need to adjust conflicting interests-something it has not viewed with avid sympathy whenever the Europeans faced their own (East European) backyard.
If in Europe the political center of gravity shifted rightward (presumably everywhere in response to the end of public affluence), the United States shifted away from the Right, suggesting a greater convergence of transatlantic moods than at any time since 1979-80. By autumn, the Administration had trimmed its ideological sails while pretending to "stay the course." Responding reluctantly to the world at large and the gathering peace movement at home, Washington began to act as if arms control (both strategic and European) was no longer an insult to the doctrinal dignity of Reaganism.14 The message of the midterm elections was essentially ambiguous-a warning rather than a repudiation, as manifested by the net loss of 26 Republican House seats. Yet the various congressional votes against the MX strategic missile in December suggested that the nation was losing patience with an arms procurement policy that equated a lavish spending spree with the restoration of usable military strength. Perhaps the MX message was even more profound, betraying an incipient revolt against a strategic posture which combined highly vulnerable basing modes with first-strike capabilities. This looked like an unacceptable departure from the time-honored principles of crisis-resistant deterrence, which rests on both sides' ability to strike back if one strikes first.
Events in the arms control arena at the end of 1982 also suggested that, after many months of maneuvering for political advantage, the United States and the Soviet Union had begun to focus on the substance of INF negotiations. In December, the Administration went public with an informal offer on the part of the Soviet Union-the gist of which was confirmed in a speech by Soviet party chief Yuri Andropov on December 21. The offer was summarily rejected by the Administration as an attempt to maintain Soviet superiority. The Soviet Union was apparently ready to reduce its 600-odd Euromissiles to 262 by 1990, to "earmark" 100 of these for the Far East, to include 162 French and British missiles, and thus to arrive at a "balance" which would exclude the deployment of American Pershing II and cruise missiles.
Whether reduction meant "withdrawal" or "dismantling" was left purposely vague. Indeed, subsequent non-official "clarifications" only referred to the relocation of SS-20s behind the Urals. Even the physical destruction of SS-20s would still leave the Soviet Union with an overwhelming edge in warheads because of the multiple warheads of the SS-20s (buttressed additionally by its superiority in shorter-range rocketry and frontal aviation). Yet the Andropov offer at least indicated how far the Soviet Union had moved in response to NATO's December 1979 decision to deploy INF unless balance was achieved through negotiated reductions. In October of that year, the Soviet Union had threatened to refuse even negotiations in retaliation against NATO's upcoming Brussels decision.
Movement on arms control at least made life easier for those European governments beset by peace frondes who had successfully depicted the Administration as a coterie of warmongers bent on driving the Soviets to their knees. Also in 1982, both sides of the Atlantic inched closer on the issue of the Soviet Union which had made tempers flare and fray since the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Perhaps it was sheer exhaustion which inspired accommodation; certainly there was hope which sprang anew in the face of the new Andropov leadership.
And then there was General Jaruzelski. Having undone Solidarity with an astounding economy of force (which does not augur well for fashionable theories about the imminent collapse of the Soviet empire), he presented the West with welcome relief from its Polish travails by declaring the "suspension" of martial law at year's end (while maintaining tight controls on the population). Relegating their barely contained war over the pipeline and East-West trade to a series of review studies, the allies, meeting in Brussels in December, proclaimed that they stood ready to "improve relations with the member states of the Warsaw Pact" and to rebuild "international trust."
The final sign of improvement came from the monetary arena. Throughout 1982, the Europeans had never ceased to attack exorbitant American interest rates and the overvalued American dollar as prime threats to global recovery (as they had attacked America's freewheeling monetary policy and an undervalued dollar in the years before). During the last third of 1982, at least the Federal Reserve Board came to the rescue of the Europeans (and the domestic economy, where unemployment had topped ten percent) by drastically easing credit and interest.
Given the United States' overwhelming position in the international monetary system, the Federal Reserve's moves lightened the task of European governments struggling to reduce domestic interest rates in the face of massive capital outflows attracted by higher returns on the other side of the Atlantic. And by December, even faithful Reaganites like Treasury Secretary Donald Regan proved ready to temper laissez-faire with a judicious admixture of intervention in the world's monetary system. During their secret emergency meeting at Kronberg (near Frankfurt), the governments and central bank chiefs of the United States, France, Germany, Britain and Japan agreed to ease strains on the international banking system by increasing the lending power of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Before the Kronberg meeting, the United States had been alone in resisting such quota enlargement. At Kronberg, the United States also hinted that it might henceforth be ready to control wildly fluctuating exchange rates in cooperation with its allies.
Conceivably, future historians may look back at 1982 as the year when the transatlantic crisis began to de-escalate-at least in tone, if not in substance. Yet as the West settled down to live with its differences and compromises toward the end of 1982, while holding its breath over the approaching dénouement of the INF negotiations two new irritants began to loom over the horizon: protectionism and congressional pressure for the reduction of American troops in Europe.
Protectionism, as every first-semester student of the "dismal science" knows, does not increase a country's welfare. At best, it shifts employment to protected groups (e.g., carmakers) at the expense of non-protected groups (e.g., longshoremen who unload imported cars) while diminishing the welfare of the least organized sector of society (i.e., consumers of cars). And if there is an international chain reaction of retaliation, the entire country is worse off than before. Yet the recurrent attacks of protectionism pay eloquent homage to the permanent temptation of snake oil in political affairs-especially during a secular, world-wide recession.15
Fortunately, in the process of overall transatlantic fence-mending, and aided by a judicious admixture of mutual deterrent threats, Europe and America once more agreed to postpone their war over soybeans, butter and wheat. "First of all," proclaimed Secretary of Agriculture John Block after a high-level crisis meeting in Brussels in December, "there will not be an agricultural trade war."16 Negotiations continued into 1983-with French President Mitterrand calling upon Europe to "defend its internal market," with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl insisting that "Europe cannot shield itself" from outside goods, and with the United States intimating that it stood ready to "dump" agricultural surplus products in the world market.17 The ministerial meeting of the GATT in Geneva in late November had also sought to cope with the continuing threats of protectionism. Although no great progress was made in eliminating further trade barriers, there was an understanding "to resist" new pressures for protectionism.
The threat to cut the U.S. military presence in Europe was more subdued-and more serious-than the "Mansfieldism" of a decade ago. The annual Mansfield resolutions of the late 1960s and early 1970s had merely sought a "sense of the Senate" on the "substantial" reduction of U.S. troops on the Continent. In October 1982, however, a Senate appropriations subcommittee voted 12 to 1 to reduce U.S. troop strength by 23,000 men (although the final measure merely froze U.S. forces at current levels). That little-reported move, led by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska), "suggested that a large American ground commitment will come under public attack soon, and perhaps this time successfully."18
If so, America will end up punishing Europe by weakening herself. It is far cheaper to stay in Europe and to deter a third war for the Continent than to return there in order to fight it. It makes little sense to deplore the decline of American strength and then to cut it in America's most important glacis. Although understandable as an attempt to prod the Europeans toward greater conventional efforts on their own behalf, the Stevens initiative came at a particularly unfortunate moment.
A reduced level of American NATO contingents will inevitably suggest that the United States is preparing to lower the nuclear threshold-the point at which the Alliance must "go nuclear" to hold off invading Warsaw Pact armies. Increasing the dependence on the early use of nuclear weapons, such a move would yield additional ammunition for those European critics who are already denouncing INF deployment as a heinous American plot to keep any nuclear exchange restricted to the Continent. Surely, fewer American troops in Europe will not lighten NATO's task of postponing the "first use" of nuclear weapons in case of an attack.19
Also, in today's Atlantic climate, where mutual distrust has risen relentlessly, a move to undermine the American military commitment in Europe will surely be understood as a move to cut America's political commitment to Europe. And those who worry about Europe's imperfect allegiances might do well to remember that it was precisely "Mansfieldism" that acted as one of the driving engines of Ostpolitik from 1969 onward. It was the perception of America's weakening commitment to Europe which prompted then Chancellor Willy Brandt to seek a measure of reinsurance in Moscow.
As I have argued in these pages before: "Even if the Europeans were to contribute nothing to the common defense, it would still be in America's own deepest national interest to safeguard the independence of Europe."20 And it is not clear that the Europeans have in fact been so remiss in their Atlantic duties. As NATO commander General Bernard W. Rogers has pointed out, "in the 1970's European spending for defense increased at a rate of two percent per year while American spending decreased by nearly that figure." In war, "90 percent of ground forces and three-quarters of the air and maritime forces initially committed to it would be West European."21
Many thoughtful observers have proclaimed the passing of that halycon era in European-American relations (roughly a quarter-century from 1947 to 1972) when American protection was assured, when Europe was either too weak or too contented to challenge its transatlantic patron, and when both-as during the period of détente-at least managed to move in parallel if not always in tandem. Much has changed, to be sure, but not the basics.
Europe is still not ready to provide for its own defense against an overweening superpower on its Eastern edge. Nor is it clear whether the old Continent could uphold its internal order without the psychological and physical presence of the United States. That Western Europe has become a "security community" (in Karl W. Deutsch's sense of the term) is in large measure the doing of the United States. And bipolarity, regularly consigned to oblivion, has a way of reasserting itself-even against our own will-as the suppression of Poland has shown.
The United States, on the other hand, might well be able to dispense with Western Europe on pure security grounds because, as a nuclear superpower, it no longer needs allies to ensure its physical survival. Yet great powers have always defined their security in wider terms-in terms of a compatible international order beyond their own borders. Such larger vision does require allies and a commitment to their well-being.
If so, both sides of the Atlantic might well draw some lessons from the protracted crisis. Ideally, the Europeans might begin to accept that their maximum claims vis-à-vis the United States-insulation plus interference-add up to a psychological as well as political impossibility. Disintegration will surely continue in an Alliance where the smaller members maximize their own freedom while compressing their guarantor's margin of maneuver; where they insist on full protection but minimal risk; where they will the end, which is the credibility of American power, but not the means, which entail the reassertion of American power.
Ideally, the American public and the American Administration would begin to accept that America's is a unique task, that allies are no substitute for American power and purpose in the world. The counterpart of great strength is a unique responsibility for the global order, and that burden cannot be neatly parcelled out to lesser allies according to GNP ratios or population counts. Ideally Americans would also come to accept that differences in history and geography, in power and vulnerability, make for differences in interest which have a legitimacy of their own. That is true for all of Western Europe, but the heart of the matter has always been Germany-the prize, the pivot and the pillar of the European order. In isolation, the Federal Republic would be both too weak and too strong-too weak to resist the power of the East, too strong to submit to domination from the West.
Europe has not fared well when Germany was caught in the cross-fire between both, and neither has Germany. Thus the most important lesson of the early 1980s merely echoed some far older insights: constraint must be balanced by community, and that in turn requires a framework where the Federal Republic can pursue its national needs without imposing itself as the ultimate arbiter of East-West relations. In the end, the larger lesson for both Europe and the United States was as trite as it was profound: unless they restore a sense of balance and moderation to their mutual affairs, unless they resist the growing temptations of neutralism and unilateralism, the most benign alliance in history will continue to unravel.
1 While such reliability of supply holds true in the case of Western Europe, lesser nations outside the alliance system did suffer the knout of Soviet displeasure on occasion. Thus, the Soviets interrupted energy exports to Yugoslavia in 1948, Israel in 1956, Albania in 1961, and China in 1962. Cf. Angela Stent, "Soviet Energy and Western Europe," The Washington Papers, No. 90, New York: Praeger, 1982, p. 81.
2 Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates, "Comparative Advantage in Soviet Grain and Energy Trade," Washington, September 10, 1982.
3 As quoted in The Washington Post, August 27, 1982.
4 Walter Laqueur, "Poland and the Crisis of the Alliance," The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 1982.
5 As quoted by John Vinocur, "West Germany Uneasy Over Poland," International Herald Tribune, December 22, 1981.
6 Pierre Hassner, "The Shifting Foundation," Foreign Policy, Fall 1982, p. 13. In the United States, a similar case for acquiescing in the suppression of Poland was made by George F. Kennan on the op-ed page of The New York Times, January 5 and 6, 1982.
7 The gap between both was best exemplified by public and non-official reactions in France. On the one hand, there was a massive outcry against martial law in Poland, particularly on the part of the non-communist Left and organized labor. On the other hand, France signed her own pipeline contract with the Soviet Union only a few weeks after the coup, accompanied by a memorable justification from French Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy: "One must not add to the Polish drama the suffering of the gas consumers in France." As quoted by Leopold Unger, "Will the West Disgrace Itself in Poland's Next Crisis, Too?," The Washington Post, December 12, 1982.
8 For a thought-provoking critique of the German eco-peace movement from a leftist vantage point, see Wolfgang Pohrt, Endstation: Über die Wiedergeburt der Nation, Berlin: Rotbuch Verlag, 1982. In a series of brilliant essays, the author seeks to make the point that the movement is neither progressive nor internationalist but in fact a throwback to preindustrial, predemocratic-and hence anti-Western-modes of thinking and believing, with unwitting ideological affinities to prewar German fascism.
9 A poll by Gallup International in February 1982 revealed that 73 percent of West German respondents had a "favorable" opinion of the United States as opposed to only 46 percent in Britain and 55 percent in France. On a "better red than dead" scale, 74 percent of the West Germans thought that it was "better to fight than to accept Soviet domination." That figure was only topped by the British (75 percent) but remained higher than the French (57 percent) and the Italians (48 percent). "The U.S. and Europe: A Poll," Newsweek (European edition), March 15, 1982. (The American edition of Newsweek did not carry that poll.)
12 At the end of the year, the polls foresaw a 51 percent majority for the CDU/CSU but they also showed that the SPD had passed its electoral nadir. The March 1983 elections thus offered the remote chance of a stalemate-with the Conservatives just falling short of an absolute majority, the Liberals eliminated from the Bundestag, and SPD and Greens unable to form a coalition because of irreducible ideological differences. Given the West German Basic Law's bias against "unconstructive majorities," such an outcome would spell a CDU/CSU minority government ruling through the sufferance of the SPD and, presumably, the postponement of missile deployment in Germany sine die.
13 See his interviews with The New York Times, November 11, 1982, and with Time, November 15, 1982.
14 The President confirmed this in his press conference in early January when he declared that his chief negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks "believes that within a year we have the possibility of agreement." The New York Times, January 6, 1983.
15 Cf. Senator Jesse Helms, "The EEC Can't Plow Us Under," The New York Times, December 12, 1982.
16 As quoted by The New York Times, December 11, 1982.
17 As quoted in The New York Times, December 5, 1982, and December 11, 1982.
18 Eliot A. Cohen, "The Long-Term Crisis of the Alliance," Foreign Affairs, Winter 1982-83, p. 340. For a critique of the move, see Jeffrey Record, "Keeping Troops in Europe," The New York Times, December 13, 1982.
19 For an American critique of "first use," see McGeorge Bundy et al., "Nuclear Weapons and the Atlantic Alliance," Foreign Affairs, Spring 1982. For a German counter-critique, affirming the indispensability of the threat of "first use," see Karl Kaiser et al., "Nuclear Weapons and the Preservation of Peace," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1982, as well as Josef Joffe, "Retain First Use," The New York Times, June 16, 1982.
20 Josef Joffe, "The Enduring Crisis," Foreign Affairs, Spring 1981, p. 847.
21 Bernard W. Rogers, "The Atlantic Alliance: Prescription for a Difficult Decade," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1982, p. 1148.