Courtesy Reuters

The differences that arise more or less regularly between the nations bordering the two sides of the North Atlantic are customarily laid to "misunderstandings." But the fact that these differences multiplied all through 1980 indicates that there exists between the United States and two of its principal European partners something of a crisis of confidence.

It was, to be sure, not the first time this has happened: remember the Suez episode, or the U-2 incident, or, especially, the Vietnam War, when President Lyndon Johnson fumed at not receiving the slightest support from his North Atlantic allies. Then there was the Arab-Israeli conflict of October 1973, which witnessed an explosion of ill humor among the allies when they discovered the extent of their dependence on Middle Eastern oil and, at the same time, the indifference of a protector who had completely forgotten to consult them. What is new is that Europeans generally doubt the reliability of the United States, just when that country is deploring its partners' failure to maintain the solidarity of the free world.

This doubt has almost always existed in France. When President Charles de Gaulle came to power in 1958 and decided to develop France's own nuclear deterrent force, it

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  • André Fontaine is editor-in-chief of the Paris newspaper Le Monde and author of History of the Cold War.
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