In Praise of Lesser Evils
Can Realism Repair Foreign Policy?
DÉTENTE THROUGH FIRMNESS
SOME 15 years ago the editor of this journal wrote that "the present risk of war seems to me to come chiefly from allowing the world to continue in a twilight zone where one side assumes that collective security exists and the other counts on taking advantage of the fact that it does not."[i] At that time, the United Nations had disappointed many people in their belief that the provisions of the Charter, and in particular the powers attributed to the Security Council, would not only be a means of bringing the world powers together around the conference table but would also help to create the collective instrument of a U.N. Force which would be able to bring to bear the wish of all mankind for peace.
At that time-some 15 years ago and three years after the establishment of the United Nations-the possible failure of such effort was already the subject of discussion. The essential element of the measures envisaged to ensure peace, the establishment of an effective system of collective security capable of taking rapid and unanimous action, has remained a field without crop. Since this fact was generally recognized, nations reverted to the means of individual self-defense with no collective concept. The abuse of the right of veto by the Soviet Union within the Security Council gave rise to those considerations which eventually resulted in regional military alliances. Under these alliances, NATO has since outgrown the framework of a purely military assistance pact and has given birth to a political community. It has succeeded in eliminating the twilight with regard to the problem of security, has maintained peace in Europe and established close links across the Atlantic.
Nevertheless, an uneasiness similar to that of 15 years ago can now be observed among the public. Questions are being asked as to whether we may continue to rely on the idea of an Atlantic Defense Community for the next 15 years. People no longer seem to listen to President John F. Kennedy's words: "Our commitment to Europe is indispensable-in our interest as well as yours." They are questioning the value of further defense efforts, now that the door seems to be open for a policy of détente over years to come. All warnings against illusions concerning the importance of the first steps made in the direction of a détente would appear to be thrown to the wind- steps which on the way to assured peace without armament may in fact be compared to the depth of a furrow in relation to the distance to the center of the earth. There is a risk that the withdrawal of one single American soldier from NATO's front in Central Europe may be judged equal in importance to the withdrawal of a full battalion. The possibility of flying a full division with all its personnel in five days from Texas to Heidelberg is considered merely as a preliminary to redeploying five divisions back from Heidelberg to Texas.
It stands to reason that mankind's ardent desire for peace by détente and its fear of war caused by weakness raise questions of security and freedom at a time when it is neither possible as yet to satisfy that desire nor to remove the fear. The governments will have to ensure that the instrument of collective security forged by the free world is not only keen-edged but also recognized as such by the enemy. No doubt whatsoever must remain as to our determination to defend ourselves.
The German Federal Government's position with regard to the problems of détente and security was outlined once more, last October, in a programmatic statement by the new Federal Chancellor, Ludwig Erhard, and his government. It can be summarized in three theses, as follows:
1. For the foreseeable future, and as long as controlled general disarmament is mere wishful thinking, the NATO Alliance will remain the basis of all efforts to maintain freedom and territorial integrity. The geographical situation of the Federal Republic of Germany and her outpost, Berlin, in the heart of Europe precludes any policy of isolation. In view of the magnitude of the threat, this is especially true in the field of defense, but it also applies to political, cultural and economic life as a whole. The high density of population and the economic structure of the Federal Republic necessitate a close and firm association with her neighbors and her participation in world trade, in order to ensure prosperity and set free the resources required for the execution of important tasks such as development aid.
2. The promotion of solidarity of the free peoples is of vital importance to the Federal Republic. Germany's partial renunciation of sovereignty in the establishment of a European Market or in the integration of all her operational military formations under NATO command are in keeping with the mandate of the German Constitution and are based on the conviction that policy should proceed ahead of human emotions wherever science and the evolution of technology have already marked a wider sphere for coöperation among peoples. Consequently, the Federal Government considers it to be its mission to promote close links between North America and Europe, between Great Britain and the European continent and-as a basis for the political integration of Europe-close friendship between France and Germany.
3. All efforts to improve the political structure of the world and to strengthen security in Europe must proceed from the recognition of the fact that the division of Germany is one of the most serious causes of tension and insecurity. If a détente in the relations between East and West is to be more than a mere pause in the cold war, that particular cause of tension must be removed.
On the occasion of the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, President Kennedy said: "It will not resolve all conflicts or cause the Communists to forget their ambitions or eliminate the dangers of war. It will not reduce our need for arms or allies, our programs of assistance to others." The Test Ban Treaty may prove to be a step-an initial step-toward world-wide peace. But experience gained to date in dealings with the Soviets shows that they have held out a gleam of hope for a world of peace without armament only when the West appeared resolved to make sacrifices in order to safeguard its future and not to rely on promises. During the past 11 years, we have seen that whenever free Europe was about to take decisive steps in the interest of its integration and defense, a note from the Soviets was received by which the Kremlin attempted to dissuade free Europe from this course of action, one which, apparently, was disagreeable to the Soviets. This may be illustrated by two examples.
First: On February 8, 1952, the German Bundestag had approved, in principle, a German defense contribution within the framework of a European Community in order to enhance decisively the European defense capability. Only four weeks later, on March 10, 1952, the Soviet Union offered negotiations on a German peace treaty. This offer, the first since the end of the war, was designed to dissuade us from joining a European Community and, indeed, to prevent the creation of a European Defense Community as such. As soon as the E.D.C. Treaty had been turned down by the French Parliament at the end of August 1954, Moscow saw no reason to dispatch any further notes dealing with the fate of Europe. From their point of view, the danger was over.
Second: On June 6, 1956, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. dispatched messages on the disarmament problem to the Western governments, informing them of the Soviet decision to reduce the personnel strength of their forces by 1.2 million. This happened precisely at the moment when a law introducing compulsory military service in the Federal Republic of Germany, intended to serve as a basis for a German defense contribution, was the subject of heated discussions among the German political parties. In spite of the Soviet overtures, this law was passed by the Bundestag on July 7, 1956.
Soviet policy was never designed to promote peace in Europe by reconciliation and agreement. The thesis that an adversary's weakness calls for a policy of strength is not typically a Soviet concept; on the other hand, there is no reason to assume that Moscow is in the habit of acting on the opposite principle and that, according to normal human experience, it must be possible for the West to obtain Soviet concessions by submitting a series of offers of appeasement. Whoever attempts to eliminate or at least restrict the trouble spots throughout the world must be vigilant and able to reject decisively any abuse of good will. This is especially true as far as we are concerned. In a time of peace and with bureaucratic arbitrariness or cold deliberation, the Soviets obstruct the free movement of Allied troops to West Berlin; within their sphere of influence, they tolerate a régime which prevents people from traveling from one part of Germany to the other and which erects a wall through the midst of a city. The Soviets demonstrate in Germany that they attach greater importance to the expansion of the Communist system than to the establishment of normal conditions under which a people would be free to choose its own political and social structure. As long as this attitude remains unchanged, we cannot relax our vigilance.
In the past 15 years, the most important change in the balance among the world powers has been brought about by the development of nuclear weapons. Today security and stability throughout the world depend primarily on the extent and characteristics of both the American and the Soviet nuclear capabilities. The Test Ban Treaty may well slow down the race for new and still newer rockets and warheads. However, it will not reverse an evolution by which the fate of the world has been placed in the hands of those powers who are in possession of nuclear weapons.
Thus the security of the partners to the Atlantic Alliance is inseparably linked to the security of the Great Nuclear Power on the North American Continent. Defense in Western Europe will only be credible, today and in future, if it is supported by the strength of the United States. On the other hand, the national defense of the United States will fulfill its mission, today and in the future, only if it can rely on the determined will of its partners for defense. Europe cannot accept the loss of America any more than America will be able to survive, uninjured, a conflict with the Communist world should Europe be abandoned.
The rational realization that war should no longer be a means of policy must not obscure recognition of the fact that the balance of horror, with its deterrence from military risks and adventures, has hitherto assured peace and will probably have to assure peace in the future as well. It was a wise decision on the part of the United States to propose to its European Allies the establishment of a nuclear force on a truly multilateral basis as regards the possession and control of nuclear weapons. This proposal has repeatedly been interpreted as an attempt to meet the German wish for participation in consultations and decisions on the use of nuclear weapons, but to refuse Germany the right of actually using such weapons under her own national responsibility. These comments are well known in Germany, but they reflect a very narrow outlook. The decisive aspect of the project for a Multilateral Force is the chance it offers to make the use of nuclear weapons a common Allied responsibility. This objective may be remote at present. But the negotiations indicate wider possibilities of political and military coöperation within the Alliance.
Of course, the Multilateral Force concept does not solve all the problems encountered as regards the solidarity of the Alliance and the defense of Europe and North America, but it was never intended to do so. NATO, for instance, has not yet found an answer to the question how the increasing threat to Europe posed by Soviet M.R.B.M.s can be countered. Although the Multilateral Force alone could not cope with this military problem, it could well satisfy part of the military requirements for M.R.B.M.s. The Multilateral Force as a whole would constitute a substantial military capacity. Its major importance, however, would be its political aspect. It would provide an additional political link between the European and American partners to the Alliance. Its close interlacing with the nuclear potential of the United States would result in strengthening the deterrent on the one hand, and establishing strong ties between Europe and America on the other. This is its definite advantage as compared to other concepts which envisage a European nuclear force. In my opinion, the establishment of a European nuclear force of this kind would be more likely to slacken than to strengthen the ties between Europe and the United States. It has become apparent, with greater clarity than a few years ago, that Western Europe cannot assume a truly European responsibility for the use of nuclear weapons before it has become a political entity; in other words, it can assume this responsibility only after unification, i.e. after the careful and gradual integration of national sovereignty in a political community. Today there is no alternative to the American proposal of a multilateral force which would take into account the present possibilities of nuclear partnership while leaving the door open to political development into a partnership on a more comprehensive basis.
The existence of nuclear weapons has confronted the Alliance with a political task. It is true the Soviet protests against even mere negotiations on the Multilateral Force are not sufficient evidence, in themselves, that the Multilateral Force constitutes an appropriate solution. One thing, however, is quite clear: the policy of establishing even closer links between the interests of the nuclear powers and those of the other partners to the Alliance will strengthen the Alliance as a whole. Although nuclear weapons, due to their very nature, make it rather difficult to overcome the disparity of interests, the solidarity of the Alliance and its firmly integrated defense system leave the Soviet Union no room for a policy of divide et impera. This solidarity forms the basis of military stability in Central Europe. The ability to deter an enemy from making an attack must not be reduced by the creation of a twilight zone in which he might doubt whether the collective security system would actually operate.
It must remain the aim of any type of defense policy to maintain deterrence from military aggression of any kind whatsoever. This should be borne in mind whenever the West considers the problem of how its future burden of defense could be borne efficiently, shared justly and nevertheless kept to a minimum. Deterrence requires not only determination to meet any type of aggression-small-scale or full-scale, limited or general-with the appropriate means; it requires not only that suitable military means be available; it also requires a flexibility which prevents the enemy from calculating our reaction in advance. NATO must be capable of employing nuclear weapons under conditions where their use is not a sign of despair, but is governed by military and political considerations. This does not mean to say that the employment of nuclear weapons should be the rule. But any evident lack of resolution on the part of the West might prove disastrous and signify complete failure of the deterrent.
On the other hand, flexibility presupposes the capability of settling minor local conflicts without recourse to nuclear weapons, and of reacting adequately even in those stages of a conflict where the aggressor's ultimate aims cannot as yet be clearly recognized. According to the opinion apparently prevailing today, a comprehensive Soviet attack against North America and Europe may be considered rather unlikely in present conditions, since NATO's nuclear retaliation would constitute too great a risk for the aggressor. Hence, correspondingly greater importance attaches to the problem of ensuring the deterrence against other types of aggression, such as regional aggression.
Deterrence must be credible against any kind and type of attack. The enemy must be fully aware that he cannot escape from the deterrent effect of large nuclear weapons by employing limited means to achieve limited objectives, and that any attempt to do so is just as certain to fail as a full-scale attack. The scale of deterrence will be complete only if the enemy knows that he has no chance of success at any level of combat, that is to say, regardless of whether his attack is on an infantry battalion on the Elbe or against the full nuclear capacity of the United States. He must know that he-and not the West-is the one who has to fear the scale of deterrence.
The theoretic concept of the "trip-wire strategy" is certainly a method of illustrating the coöperation and interdependence of the conventional and nuclear components of the Allied armed forces. It indicates that strategic nuclear weapons are either sufficient to deter an enemy from any kind of aggression whatsoever or, at least, to put an end to a conflict where the deterrent effect fails due to lack of credibility that heavy weapons will be employed in a minor conflict. However, the assumptions on which this theory is based are not in keeping with the actual situation in Europe, which demonstrates with particular clarity that territorial integrity is of vital importance to every member of the Alliance. The philosophy of defense, therefore, must not be based on the mobilization or moving forward of troops over large distances during the initial stages of an armed conflict, but must provide a means of countering any type of aggression immediately. Our combat area is too limited in depth to permit the strategic deployment of land and air forces over large areas, whereas the enemy's position in Europe in this respect is unfortunately far superior to ours. The only means of effectively compensating for this shortcoming consists in the presence of sufficiently strong military forces, if the necessary flexibility of decision in the fields of politics and defense is to be ensured.
Operations such as the air transport man?uvre "Big Lift" have, of course, given rise to speculation as to whether modern means of transport would make it possible to react so quickly in the event of tension or aggression that the permanent stationing of substantial United States forces on the European continent might become superfluous. Nevertheless-however impressive this increase in mobility of the U.S. forces, however important this augmentation of over-all defense readiness may be-solutions of this kind will never be able to overcome some of their inherent weaknesses. Air transport, too, requires time. This time factor will grow in proportion to the distance to be bridged and the number of units and equipment to be transported. Today, one hour may have the same importance for the outcome of an armed conflict as a full day had in former times, since the progress of technology will support not only the defender but the aggressor as well. The air transport capacity will depend both on the availability of suitable airfields and on weather conditions. Air transport, therefore, is less mobile and flexible than might be suggested by the sight of a transport squadron taking to the air. The practical value of air transport is, unfortunately, further reduced by its vulnerability not only to adverse weather conditions but also to enemy activities. All in all, air transport is a very suitable complement to the instruments of politics and strategy in times of tension, but it is unable to replace operational formations, ready for action. The enemy's plans might be designed to start an attack at the very moment when air transport encounters the greatest difficulties and when the weather, although favorable to the enemy, is adverse to the reinforcement by air of the NATO forces in Europe.
The strategic consequences resulting from the actual situation in Europe have led to the development of the so-called "Forward Strategy," designed to cover the entire spectrum of possible enemy aggressions. It calls for highly mobile forces which will conduct the defense as near as possible to the Iron Curtain, with means commensurate to the attack and able to smash very limited enemy actions in the area without resort to nuclear weapons. This concept is conclusive evidence of the fact that the defense capability in Europe has been strengthened. Even in cases where genuine integration was not possible, permanent coöperation in the military field has been beneficial to the Alliance. Due to the increasing defense contribution of the Federal Republic of Germany, the concept of forward defense can now be realized. For the Federal Republic, this means that 50 percent more of its population and 60 percent more of its territory will be directly protected by NATO. The plans for the establishment of a German Territorial Reserve are also incorporated in the over-all concept of forward strategy.
In this context, due account is taken of the fundamental fact that reserves in the European theater can be of value in the decisive initial phase of a conflict only if they can be rapidly brought to maximum readiness in advance during periods of tension. Within the framework of territorial defense, the Territorial Reserve is designed to relieve the NATO-assigned forces of combat missions in the rear area. The reserve units will consist of fully trained soldiers assigned as reservists-in the manner of a militia- to the Territorial Reserve for a period of three years. The tasks devolving upon these units will be contingent upon the operations of the NATO forces. No operations will, therefore, be conducted on a national basis, independent of NATO.
During the past 15 years, the problem of collective security has become more and more complicated and has called for ever-increasing personal and financial sacrifices. However, the outlook on future problems and burdens should not prevent us from recognizing that collective security within NATO has become more credible. We have every reason to recall the achievements of the past, especially the immense common efforts which have been successful in maintaining peace in Europe; and there is no indication whatsoever that the best means of securing peace for the future would be to give up the concept of military vigilance and replace it by an easygoing political attitude. One of the main difficulties in discussing publicly the ways and means to secure a better future is the fact that the terms "détente" and "relaxation of the political atmosphere" are not clear and lack substance. Each side can attribute a different meaning to the terms.
A détente is not of value per se; it will be of value only if it helps facilitate the solution of political problems which have cropped up in a network of jealousy, suspicion and conflicting interests. Only if we succeed in disentangling this intricate complex of factors can the détente be ensured. In other words, a large number of agreements signed by an even larger number of leading political personalities is, in itself, no guarantee for the stabilization and maintenance of peace. Anyone attempting to formulate already existing commitments-e.g. that of nonaggression-into new agreements or declarations will not prepare the ground for a substantial strengthening of security. The mere attempt to formulate offers which may satisfy the other side will never open the door for peace.
Projects for a nonaggression pact between NATO and the member states of the Warsaw Pact or for the exchange of nonaggression declarations are of questionable practical value. They cannot promote a genuine détente. NATO is a defensive alliance; and it would be paradox if the value of NATO's basic defensive concept, which has been incorporated in the respective agreements and put into practice in the organization of the armed forces, were diminished by the conclusion of special arrangements on nonaggression. Arrangements of that kind would introduce altogether new aspects. The very idea of connecting the two terms "NATO" and "Warsaw Pact" implies a distortion of perspective. The North Atlantic Alliance was the answer to a Soviet policy of aggression in the years following the war. An instrument of collective security had to be created because the hopes for peace had been frustrated when Soviet policy had recourse to violence to extend the Communist sphere of influence. The reasons underlying the creation of the Warsaw Pact were entirely different. It was concluded on May 14, 1955, one day before Austria was given the treaty terminating Soviet military occupation. The underlying purpose was to establish a new legal basis for the stationing of Soviet forces in Eastern Europe, since the old legal basis no longer existed once the Austrian Treaty became effective.
It is easy to understand why the Soviets foster the project of a nonaggression pact as a political argument. They hope that there might be potent powers in the West which would consider a nonaggression pact sufficient evidence that the danger of a military conflict was thereby banished. This could confer the impression that the aims of Soviet policy had changed and that, therefore, a reduction of defense efforts was justifiable.
Any attempt to arrive at a détente by concluding a nonaggression pact would probably only result in Moscow winning the next round in world politics. The Soviets have recognized that they will not achieve a permanent expansion of the Communist system and eventually world domination by a policy of brandishing shoes, threatening Berlin and using Cuba to provoke a crisis. In fact, all they achieved with their "policy of strength" was to increase the efforts of the West; the defense capacity of the U.S. forces in Germany and of the German armed forces was doubled during the last three years. This is probably the reason why Moscow is now advocating a détente, friendly relations, exchanges of notes and conferences. The West is to be persuaded to feel secure on the assumption that the world is free of threats. That is one side of world politics of today. The other side, however, consists of insults and threats against those who are willing to make sacrifices for their freedom and incomprehensible incidents provoked by stopping convoys on the Autobahn. This second aspect is the one we are faced with in everyday life.
If a détente is to pave the way for peace, it must be more than a mere pause in the clash of interests. For more than ten years, Soviet policy has relentlessly insisted on its postulate to recognize the status quo of a Europe under Communist auspices: two German states, an Iron Curtain through the middle of Europe and permanent disharmony in Western Europe. None of these objectives has been abandoned. A détente can be achieved once the reasons for tension have been eliminated. As far as Europe is concerned, these reasons are the division of Berlin, the division of Germany and the division of Europe as a whole.
[i] "Coalition for Peace," by Hamilton Fish Armstrong. Foreign Affairs, October 1948, p. 13.