The Americans and Europe: rhetoric and reality
The Honorable McGeorge Bundy, President of the Ford Foundation and Special Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs, 1961-1966
Let me start with an apology for my title. It is the product of the underlying conflict between well-organized affairs like the Ditchley Foundation Lecture and disorganized persons like this lecturer. The well-organized affair requires a title before the disorganized lecturer knows what he wants to say; the inevitable result is smooth, round, and empty - more rhetoric, indeed, than reality.
But as I began to contemplate this meeting in seriousness, a few weeks ago, I began to fear that matters might be still worse—that perhaps the very emptiness of my title was misleading. I had suggested it in a time when neither the government of France nor that of my own country had changed—a time when there seemed to be no prospect of early or substantial changes in the European policy of any country - and a time when any American rhetoric I might have criticized was not likely to be partisan in tone.
Schooled by the hard experience of eight years in which every thing changed but him, I was assuming the indefinite continuation of General de Gaulle—and at the same time I failed to foresee that by the middle of 1969 the most important immediate matter of American policy affecting Europe - the limitation of strategic weapons—would have reached a stage of division and debate in my own country that might make it hard to discuss abroad.
Yet these events, I believe, are too important to be left out of our thoughts on such a night as this. There is a new phase ahead in our relations—it may or may not be a better one, but it will be different. Prophecy is an art best avoided (except perhaps for the sense of artificial adventure it can impart to a ceremonial lecture), but it seems possible that historians may find some reason to see a turning- point for us all when they look back at 1969-70. If that is so—or has a chance of being so—then it is worth talking about, and no stale title should stop us.
In considering this possible turning-point it may help to take a running start. In the post-war life of the Americans and Europe there have been three great over-lapping phases so far. The first and most dramatic is the phase of reconstruction and of the forging of new institutions. It ran from about to about 1953; its greatest achievements were the recovery of Europe, the building of NATO, and the beginning of common economic institutions in Europe. The men of that period still walk with the pride of heroes who know they put their mark on history. If they also sometimes act as if that decade were the same as this one, at least they have won the right to make us ask if they may not be right. The Soviet leader of their time was Stalin.
The second phase is more confused and confusing. It runs from about 1954 to about 1964. It is a period of trial and error on all sides. Europe continues her economic progress. NATO is never what its planners want but never an insufficient shield in crisis. Different nations try different gambits, and some relations are seen to be more special than others. There are false starts with initials like EDC and MLF. Berlin is threatened again, and the Iron Curtain is thickened by the Wall. The moment of resolving danger comes not in Europe but in Cuba. As the period ends there is a Test-Ban Treaty; the door to Europe is shut on Britain by de Gaulle; and Khrushchev falls. The men of this decade learned many different lessons, and they do not all talk in one tongue.
The third phase—running from about 1964 to this year or next— we can call a time of waiting. There was some détente, but rather more attente. For Americans the most painful and dominant sets of events in this time were in their own cities and in Vietnam. In Russia a cautious collegium did not reopen the war of nerves with the West. The only serious confrontation in Berlin was between university students and authorities, and its major victim was the university itself. Europe still continued her economic progress. But the preoccupations of the external giants were matched by immobilism in Europe itself. If there were growing hopes for new relations across the Continent, there was also the bitter reminder, in Czechoslovakia, that some Soviet attitudes were persistent from 1948 to 1968. Only one man in power claimed a clear vision of what he wanted for Europe, but by his scorn for lesser men and other nations he was excluded from action. The most accomplished rhetorician on the Continent had only one word for the real work of Europe—’Non’; and in translation that could only mean ‘after me’.
But the importance of that personal negative, in and of itself, may be enough to justify the conclusion that the General’s retirement marks a turning-point.
So what can come next? Let us begin on that question by a look at what seems durable from the first three phases. What is most evident from this past is that two things did not happen. There was no war in Europe, and no settlement of her division. If we look at the whole period it becomes clear that both the danger of war and the hope for early settlement have tended to decrease over the decades. All of us know that the division of Germany and of Europe is unnatural and dangerous, but at the same time almost all of us believe that it cannot be ended soon. I think both parts of this conventional wisdom are right. Therefore a time-table which puts other matters first makes sense.
Another way of saying the same thing is to accept the frequent description of the present condition of Europe as one of de facto détente. That description is understandably unpalatable to some of our friends in Germany who have to listen to the recurrent outbursts of rhetorical violence from Moscow about a ‘German menace’ whose relation to the ugly reality of Czechoslovakia is as imaginary as the worst fantasies of Stalin’s time. Moreover, the chill that has spread over Eastern Europe does penetrate walls and curtains. It affects some Western concerns more than others, but it changes the temperature everywhere. Tension in Berlin, even if it seems almost surely temporary and tactical, can still stir the chancelleries over night to a familiar sense of danger, determination, and dreariness. Berlin is a poor subject for irresponsible games, but the games never quite stop.
Yet de facto détente there is, and on balance the sense of general safety is stronger now than it was ten years ago, as it was stronger then than in i It may be felt more deeply by people than by governments, and it can always be ended by decisions not under our control. But twenty years of slowly declining danger make a low level of tension—at least across the line of division—the reason able assumption for the next phase. It is an assumption that needs constant review, and its durability depends on us as well as on Moscow. But I think it is the right assumption for now.
Another durable element in all three phases is that the decisive military element in the safety of Western Europe has been the nuclear strength and commitment of the United States. There is a highly responsible thread of thought on both sides of the Atlantic which holds that the safety of the West has never been primarily a military matter at all—that in this sense NATO itself has been unnecessary. This line of analysis may not be wrong, and both the men who have pursued it and the notions they have advanced deserve respectful attention. But still it is a thread of thought too fragile to bear the weight of continents. It may be that Western Europe would still be free and peaceful if there were no American nuclear commitment in Europe. But we dare not take that chance, and still less does Europe.
This is a painful conclusion, because what it continues to mean, twenty-five years after D-Day and twenty-four after Hiroshima, is that the peace of Europe depends on the stable will of Washington, and that Washington in turn must depend upon a form of strength whose actual use—as President Kennedy once said—would be a confession of terrible failure. Much of the most troublesome internal history of our Alliance has turned around the unattractiveness of this inevitable dependence - a dependence quite as unnatural in its own way as the division of Germany itself.
Neither Europeans nor Americans have been successful so far in efforts to minimize the need for American nuclear strength. I hazard the guess that neither the British nor the French have fully satisfied themselves with their own reasons for national nuclear efforts - certainly they have not fully satisfied others. American efforts to surround a lonely nuclear responsibility with provisions for ‘sharing’ and ‘participation’ have not been much more successful. I had my share in the effort to construct and market the MLF, and all I can say in my defence is that in the end I also had my share in shelving it. It was an effort to square the nuclear circle, and it could not work. What has worked best, in the end, has been what is simplest: first, the fact of American men and weapons on the spot, and second, the growing fact of serious discussions of nuclear policy—both of them based on the reality of ultimate American responsibility.
What has to be asked in 1969 is whether this American commitment can still be trusted. There is a test of internal stability going on in my country, and it is more searching and more shaking than anything we have known since the Great Depression. I do not believe we are headed for a radical revolution, or that the tide of reaction, already visible in a number of states and cities, will sweep away the decencies which have made us a tolerable senior partner, in nuclear matters, for modern Europe. But I do believe we have our work at home cut out for us. The American centre is hard pressed today. If the centre does not hold—and even move forward — then there could come a day when the nuclear commitment of the United States would become doubtful, because of a new American radicalism, or undesirable, because of a new American reaction. This will certainly not happen in the present Administration, and my strong belief is that it will not happen any time in the coming fourth phase. But the question exists, and it would be folly to forget it. Its reality is one of the things that give present importance—for Americans I think pre-eminence—to the problem of limiting the strategic arms race. The American nuclear commitment is sober and reliable in 1969. It must be a first business of the United States to keep it that way in the future—not for ever, perhaps, but long enough to permit a political settlement that will allow the people of Europe to have confidence in their peace without it.
Along with the gradual emergence of détente and the continuous nuclear presence of the Americans we may set a third and fourth sets of phenomena which are persistent through the last twenty years. These are the gradual withdrawal of Europe from the major geopolitics of other continents, and the gradual inter-penetration of the economies of the Atlantic world. Both are familiar facts, but their range and meaning are not always well understood.
Nothing in my own failures of perception over the last twenty years is more striking, as I look back, than my inability to foresee the degree to which the role of Western Europe would be reduced in other continents. I am not talking about the end of Empire. That was relatively easy to foretell; it seemed beyond doubt that the Indians, the Indonesians, and the Indochinese too, would be independent. What was much less predictable, at least for me, was that the nations of Europe would also withdraw so considerably from even a non-imperial role beyond their own border. Who would have expected in 1946 that the place of partial peace between India and Pakistan, twenty years later, would be Tashkent? Who would have predicted the downward drift of European influence in the troubles of the Middle East from 1947 to 1956 to 1967? And who would have guessed that the whole of East Asia, with the remarkable exception of Hong Kong, would be so free from the policy of Europe in 1969 that Paris could be as ‘neutral’ a place for parley as Geneva? Who ever could and did make these guesses, I must say that I did not. Even today Americans are recurrently in danger of mistaking the knowledge and concern of Europeans for a readiness to act. This danger showed itself plainly in the weeks before the June war in the Middle East, and it is likely to recur if there are any international guarantees of eventual peace either in that area or in Vietnam.
I am far from saying that European knowledge and concern are unimportant merely because European readiness to act is low. It is a vulgar error to confuse power with wisdom, and not all influence is measured by a nation’s willingness to underwrite a peace, or maintain a presence, or intervene abroad by force. Paris is not Geneva in terms of what it means to Vietnamese of many opinions. Moreover, it is far from clear that Europe has been wrong in her renunciation of power abroad. All I am saying is that something important has happened here—that it has happened progressively and rapidly through the last decades—and that in the main it seems irreversible.
What I would emphasize is not the consequences of this withdrawal for the rest of the world—or for the United States, which has made no such choice—but rather the consequences for Europe. The future of European foreign policy is no longer outside Europe. Exceptions will abound, and in particular cases they may well be of great importance. Somewhere in the future, for example, there will be a change in the relations between Portugal and Africa. Important relations between the United Kingdom and Australia will survive the decision, either way, on forces east of Suez. In some places (I think the Middle East may be one) it may turn out that persistent economic interdependence will lead to a revival in quite new forms of a political relation unstrained by dominion. Finally, the difficult and dangerous relations between rich and poor nations certainly cannot exclude Europe. But these exceptions, numerous and varied though they are, do not alter the central fact that the serious political horizon of Europe—the horizon of her peace and her fear of war—is increasingly limited to Europe itself. The war ended the notion of distant power for Germany and for Italy. The peace has ended it for France and Britain.
Europe has only Europe left for its foreign policy, and even here the European range of choice has changed. We have already noted that the basic present requirement for Western European safety against the one serious external threat is a requirement upon the Americans. Let us then add the astonishing fact—so self-evident as to be easily forgotten - that the Western Europeans have ended their wars with one another. It follows that the real politics of Europe must be concerned somehow with a rather special set of issues—the set of issues which relates to the making of Europe itself. Europe can now have no decisive foreign policy except that of the future of Europe.
Now there is nothing in the laws of nature which says that a nation must have a foreign policy, at least in the special and essentially political sense in which I have used the words so far. It remains a real possibility that the major nations of Western Europe, or at least some of them, may prefer not to have a serious foreign policy any more. As one considers the trouble that foreign activity can bring and the bloody history of the West as a whole, one can respect the impulse, observable on both sides of the Atlantic, to let foreign matters slide. Except perhaps in Germany the elections of Western Europe do not seem to turn strongly on questions of foreign policy. If Europe is turning inward, may she not be turning inward one country at a time? Certainly there is plenty of distance between fighting a nation and joining it. Language alone sometimes threatens to split nations long united; we must not be surprised if it still helps enormously to keep separate nations apart. The nations of Western Europe can go nowhere in world politics except to and through each other. But need they go anywhere at all? This is a question Europeans themselves must answer. Too often in these last decades Americans have tried to offer the answer, and sometimes Europeans have allowed this American rhetoric to serve as a substitute for the reality of decisions by Europeans. So I shall leave the question of the political future of Europe to you. But before I do so let me turn briefly to the fourth and last of the persistent elements of our Atlantic history: our growing economic interdependence.
This interdependence—and especially its presently lop-sided shape_-has a lot to do with the choices we all have ahead of us. I am no economist, and in an audience which contains more than its share of business leaders and economic experts, I have no intention of expressing myself beyond what I can draw from others. What I have to suggest is drawn mostly from the writings of two reasonable Americans who have a claim to speak—Professors Francis Bator and Richard Cooper—one of them the foreign economic specialist of the Johnson White House and the other now playing a similar role with the new Administration. What their writings tell me, in combination, is that by any measures we take there has been a constantly increasing flow of money, goods, men, and ideas among the Atlantic nations throughout the period since the Second World War, and that this interdependence, as far as anyone can now predict, is as inevitable as any element anywhere in our international life. While its specific quality has been shaped very heavily by such interlocking phenomena as the rise of the largely American international corporation and the emergence of the Common Market as a governing influence on the direction of new investments, there are still deeper and stronger forces at work. Money is less national than ever. The strength and weakness of the dollar, at different times and in different ways, have come to have a steadily larger influence upon the world of money and payments. Neither Special Drawing Rights nor a double price for gold, though both are helpful financial steps, can disguise the fact that when there is a problem of the value of money anywhere among the major Atlantic nations, there is a problem for all of them. And in all these areas—as well as in the traditionally demanding field of trade and tariffs and quotas - there is an inescapable tension between the short-run special interest and the long-run common interest. There is a natural and inevitable tendency for those who feel threatened to invoke protection of one sort or another from the nearest effective political power.
The real general law of common advantage is clear: it is the open society that serves the highest interest of all. But as Professor Cooper in particular has emphasized, there is no assurance that the politics of the nations concerned will permit them to pursue that common advantage. Our economic interdependence is not yet matched by political institutions—either co-operative or supra national—which are adequate to the domain of action—’the “loads” are outrunning the “capabilities”. Professor Cooper wisely warns against any simple view that we can safely let the free play of these large new forces work upon us all at a constantly accelerating rate while we leave our political practices untouched. Any such heedless optimism would almost surely produce narrow and destructive reactions at moments of crisis. We must make haste more slowly. The limited strength of those who aim to serve the common interest must be reserved for the moments of greatest need and opportunity.
The converse of Professor Cooper’s warning, however, is that all the Atlantic nations do now require a foreign policy on the issue of their interdependence. Not to have a policy is merely to be sure of having a bad one. In this highly important respect the inevitable economic interdependence of the highly developed countries does foreclose the option of political disinterest in the world next door. The interdependent world is not always a pleasant one, especially when its large new forces deal harshly with quiet old interests. But it exists, and none of us is large enough or strong enough to neglect its imperatives.
One general worry Americans can perhaps soothe a little. This last year has been the season for fashionable concern with what is called ‘The American Challenge’—an assertion that American size and managerial skill and capital strength and entrepreneurial energy are such that the economic interchange is now flawed by the same kind of imbalance which is so troubling and so hard to reverse in the field of nuclear weapons. This worry is understand able, but it seems gravely overstated. It is true that in the early years of the Common Market some large American firms have had special advantages which they have used with energy. It is also true that modern management is a larger and stronger force in America than in Europe. Finally, it is true that American corporations do remain recognizably American even when they begin to talk and even think in ‘multinational’ terms. The truly supranational corporation is not with us yet, and some of the kindly words of American giants and their defenders are deservedly received with scepticism abroad.
But, when all this is acknowledged, the economic contest remains open, and the long-run prospects for European strength, skill, and success are excellent. The best demonstration of this point may be the simple fact of the over-all economic record of Western Europe since 1947, but there are good omens for the future too. The markets of Europe, after all, can remain under European control and that control, over time, can be used to provide a balancing force in the struggle for equality. The American capacity for management is something that most Americans are eager to share, in so far as they themselves understand it. There are very few intellectual isolationists in the modern American schools of business, and American management firms, as headlines in Britain have recently reminded us, are in the export business too. The dollar seems likely to remain a currency of special power and position, but anyone who believes it to be omnipotent has never been Secretary of the American Treasury. The gnomes of Zurich may be inadequate and somewhat dated forerunners of the monetary leadership which an emerging Europe will want, but they are not trivial, and we have seen in recent months that Washington is not the only capital where national decisions on money can be firm and even stubborn. Given the strength of such separate voices today, we can have little doubt of the influence that Europe will have on money whenever she may decide to speak as one.
In summary, then, the combination of rapid economic growth and increasing economic interdependence does not require American dominance. In relative terms, indeed, the economic balance is more nearly even today than it was twenty or even ten years ago. It is true that the Common Market must get either stronger or weaker, and it is true that those outside it must find a place to go. But these truisms, which a few months ago were only a reminder of frustration, are today a challenge to new effort.
I have remarked already that no American can plan the politics of Europe. What all American Presidents have said, Mr. Nixon has lately repeated, that while we have ‘indicated our support of the concept and ideal of European unity’, still ‘Americans cannot unify Europe. Europeans must do so’. That rule does not disappear because one important obstacle withdraws. Indeed it is precisely the prospect of new movement in Europe that makes American discretion important now. Moreover, we must remember that the building of Europe has never been easy even when no government has had a fixed position against it. The determination and skill of the French in defending their own political interests are not likely to disappear in a government as full of talent and energy as the one which has recently taken office in Paris, and in any case it has always been wrong to suppose that only the French have such interests to protect. Within limits, indeed, for Professor Cooper’s reasons, it is clearly good that there should be such vigilance in all interested countries.
So the possibility of progress does not decide the shape that such progress will take, and it is not at all certain that any traditional model of unification will serve Europe as well in 1969. The requirement for an opening to the East did not end, in the minds of many, with Czechoslovakia, and this fact itself must modify the simplistic view of the fifties that the unity of the West must precede progress in the East. Moreover, by a curious irony, General de Gaulle’s vision of a Europe with much room for patriotic nationhood may turn out to be more palatable and more productive now that the General himself is offstage, because it is a vision that will require both mutual respect and a taste for restraint among those who wish to make it real. Finally, in this catalogue of warnings, one must remark that the Common Market in 1969 has plenty of internal business of its own. We do not yet have the right to be sure that the politics of agriculture and the politics of Europe can be made to mesh at any level.
The mention of agriculture reminds us that in many of these economic fields the politics of Europe may place important strains upon the politics of the United States. It is no service to anyone for an American abroad to fail to signal the strong and legitimate interest of the American farmer in a market in which he can fairly sell cheap. Of course the adverb ‘fairly’ covers a thicket of hotly argued questions, but the strength of American sentiment here is a fact of life. The Americans cannot unify Europe, but neither can they be expected to sit still while all the special costs of unification are exported westward. At the best there will be some short-run costs for some American’s, and this reality will present complications to all the governments concerned. Already the necessary position of the American Administration toward Americans seeking import protection is defensive, and it is fortunate that the traditional protectiveness of some Republicans seems to be balanced, in the President himself, by a real commitment to the idea of Europe. One must hope that the necessities of hard bargaining among Europeans will not over-draw this reservoir of goodwill.
If the leading item on the European agenda for the fourth phase is Europe, the leading item for Americans is the control of the strategic nuclear arms race. The subject imposes diffidence on a private citizen abroad—but there are perhaps three things which can be said without either exporting an excited American debate or intruding on the delicate and difficult labour of an Administration which is just putting itself in a position to open the subject with the Russians.
First, I think one can say that the present American debate over deployment of a limited system of defensive anti-ballistic missiles does not go to the heart of the matter. It seems plain that some spokesmen on both sides have pushed their rhetoric beyond realities. The ABM, in and of itself, is neither the clearly indispensable instrument of survival that some voices in the Pentagon have suggested, nor is it the inevitably and finally destabilizing force— at least in the presently projected deployment - that some critics describe. It is true that the parallel development of the things called MIRVs makes matters more sensitive and early talks more urgent. We have it on the already knowledgeable authority of Gerard Smith, writing before his appointment as Mr. Nixon’s Administrator for Arms Control and Disarmament, that in the struggle for arms control ‘it may well be now or never in the case of anti-ballistic and multiple warhead missiles’—and if it should be never, then both uncertainties and costs are likely to multiply in ways that are hard to predict, but in no sense comfortable. But both ABMs and MIRVs are still—if only barely_—controllable, and that will be true even after the debate in the Senate is settled, whichever way it comes out. Moreover, it is not at all clear that there is much weight, on either side of the scale, in speculation about the effect of this programme upon the Russians. We may be sure that there will be great need for both firmness and forthcomingness before the strategic arms talks reach agreement; it takes more self-confidence than mine to be sure which of the two is more likely to help in the present case. It would be easier to have a view on this matter if so many of the opinions expressed with the most certainty were not also the most predictable. In dealing with the Russians some men always lead from hope and some always from fear. The complex history of arms control negotiation justifies neither habit.
But if the current debate is less decisive than it sometimes sounds, there is another sense in which it has a legitimate claim to be historic. For the first time since the Cold War began, a substantial number of elected political men have openly challenged a decision by the President in the field of strategic weapons. This phenomenon is both encouraging and disquieting. It is encouraging for what it tells us of strongly rising concern—at least in one sector of our public—over the growing cost and danger of strategic weapons. It is disquieting because it bears witness to a division among us which if it should ever become unbridgeable might carry the very danger I have already suggested: the danger of a contest between radicals and reactionaries across a broken centre. I do not say, because I do not believe, that this debate is wrong. Indeed I think it is doing more good than harm, if only because the weaker and less responsible arguments on both sides are losing credibility. But it is no unmixed blessing. In disarmament as well as defence there is no substitute for Presidential leadership, and the prospect of divisive debate on every step he takes can give any President pause. How ever the present debate comes out, it will be important for all who believe in the urgency of arms control to give the President encouragement in that effort. He will need support from somewhere if there is to be progress.
My second point is more difficult, and perhaps more immediately pertinent for a European audience. It is that those in Europe who rely on American nuclear strength have no need to fear an American sell-out in these coming talks. Nothing about the changing shape of the strategic arms race modifies the firmness of the American nuclear commitment to Europe, and nothing about that commitment requires any American posture toward strategic missiles which is the least bit different from what is required in the interest of the Americans themselves. It is quite true that the relative nuclear strength of the two greatest powers is tending toward parity. There is no secret about that fact, and no reason for surprise or shock over European reports that Mr. Nixon underlined its importance in his winter trip. It is in the nature of the strategic arms race that over time, if two runners are determined and willing to spend, their efforts will tend toward parity. Both the Americans and the Russians are determined and willing to spend. So in the long run a broad parity is inescapable, and the really serious questions are whether it will be stable or unstable in nature, moderate or gigantic in cost. These questions are important to Europeans as well as to Americans—but they do not array us on opposing sides.
Nor does parity threaten the credibility of the deterrent. It was never the American ‘superiority’ in nuclear weapons that was decisive in protecting Europe; it was simply the high probability that any large-scale use of force against a NATO country would set loose a chain of events that would lead to nuclear war. On any decent scale of values a war between serious nuclear powers would be as bad to ‘win’ as to ‘lose’, so that relative numbers of weapons have never been decisive in the credibility of the American deter rent in Europe. That deterrent has been made credible, ever since the first Soviet nuclear explosion, by two quite simple things: first, the American conviction, expressed again last winter by Mr. Nixon, that the safety of Europe runs with our own, and second, the confirmation of that conviction by the stationing of wholly persuasive numbers of American men and American nuclear weapons in Europe. Nothing in that conviction or its confirmation need be modified in the slightest by an agreement to keep the emerging balance of strategic power both stable in shape and limited in size.
There is one special element here which deserves a moment’s notice if only because it may have some relevance also in the question of what Europe itself may choose to become—this is the question of the future of nuclear weapons in European hands. Having been to Nassau and back, I find this a hard question, but I think that once again the right starting-point for an American is to recognize that it is, in the main, a question for Europeans. It is not for Americans to say whether Western Europe, where two states already have nuclear weapons, should decide in some way to assume the grave expense and the political hazards of a major new effort to build a truly effective nuclear force.
The one question which might be posed for us is whether some how a new discussion between Britain and France might lead to the suggestion of American technical help to some new form of joint effort. What should we do then? This is a most delicate question, and the answer would clearly depend on circumstances that would require most careful study by Washington. I undertake no answer myself, but I do invite your attention to the answer suggested last year by Professor Bator—who was then a private citizen. He asked himself on what basis we might help in such a venture. He admired the difficulty of the question. He then offered this answer:
“The right response, in my judgement, is a commitment to London and Paris, if they ask it, to provide assistance for any technically sound joint force which engages the Germans, Italians, and perhaps others, on terms consistent with the non-proliferation treaty; which has built into it the right kind of command and control; and which is seen as a good thing by a responsible German government, without any pushing and pulling by the United States, and despite the cross-cutting effects on its eastern policy and the general nervousness on both sides about any German role in nuclear defence. We should not try to dream up new solutions to the problem of nuclear management in the alliance; there is no good solution. The right policy for the United States is neither to propose that the Europeans get together, nor to resist if they, including the Germans, decide to do so. In the meanwhile, we should bend every effort to push forward with the Moscow negotiations on bilateral strategic arms limitations. The more progress we make, consistent with safety, the less painful and urgent will become the nuclear problem in Europe.”
This is a complex answer, and it is well to keep its complexity in mind. Moreover, Mr. Bator also noted that any new assistance would face Congressional review. My own guess is that there would be little public support in my country for any form of assistance that would provide more than marginal relief from the great financial costs of a serious nuclear effort. Considering all the questions involved, sensible men might well decide that this problem is too hard to tackle now. We have the MLF to remind us that there is little reward in complex and costly plans that do not win effective political and financial support. In European as in Atlantic nuclear relations it may well turn out that consultation and co-ordination based on existing realities are both cheaper and wiser than any effort to build something new.
I persist in my own belief that for the near future at least there is no need for European nuclear reinforcement merely because of the prospect of U.S.-Soviet parity. Against the nuclear overdevelopment of the superpowers any European nuclear forces in prospect are trivial, and their deterrent strength is very much less than that of the continuing confirmed commitment of the American forces in Germany.
No doubt there will be arguments on force levels in NATO, in the future as in the past, and no doubt if the sense of détente increases there will be pressure in all our countries for a reduction in those levels. A certain level of continued European effort will be necessary to ensure that Americans too remain engaged. But today, as at almost every stage in the history of our Alliance, the commitment of the Americans remains at least as firm as that of any other ally. I see no reason to doubt that American men and American nuclear weapons will remain in Europe until they are no longer needed, and that time will come not with strategic arms control but only with a European settlement.
The third and last point I would make about the strategic arms talks is simply that their success matters enormously to us all. The multiplication of nuclear warheads, along with the constantly accelerating technology of their delivery and their defence, offers a prospect of such danger and diversion of effort that it is way past time for sensible states to put a stop to it. In the desires of their ordinary citizens, as in the restraints so far imposed throughout the nuclear age at moments of high danger by their highest leaders, the United States and the Soviet Union can be said to be sensible states. In other parts of their performance— their ability to deal candidly with one another, for example - the record is less laudable, and questions can be asked in both countries about the effectiveness of political control over those whose careers are built on weapons systems. You will perhaps forgive me if I persist in the belief that our record is better than theirs—at least as long as I add that the record of no nuclear state is what it should be. I see no escape from the conclusion that the search for a grip on the race in nuclear arms is now an imperative which is very nearly absolute; if it gets away from us this time, when will we have a better chance? In that spirit I hope you will join me in wishing success to both sides—success to mankind—in the coming talks. They will not be easy or short, for the questions presented are much more difficult than those we have resolved in earlier nuclear agreements. Their outcome will be momentous.
And this leads me to one last comment on those talks. The fact that Americans must conduct them does not make European counsel irrelevant. Mr. Nixon has been right to seek thorough consultation, but this is not merely a matter of quieting a European fear of a deal at Europe’s expense. It is also a matter of hearing the European argument for arms control. The record of past relations among us is clear on the importance of such counsel, and here among British friends I should like for one moment to pay special honour to the work that was done by Prime Minister Macmillan and his Ambassador in Washington in the winter and spring that led to the Test-Ban Treaty. The cables are all locked up now, and my memory for details is bad in any case, but I am not likely to be wrong in recalling the persistence, the eloquence, and the persuasiveness of the Prime Minister’s sustained argument that we must always try once more. American Presidents need this kind of encouragement from those they have learned to trust, and the very loneliness of the final American responsibility increases the importance of such help.
At the risk of intrusion on a discussion that has had more English than American participants, let me further note my own belief that the weight of British influence on the test-ban and on other nuclear issues has never been significantly affected by the weight of British nuclear forces. Certainly British understanding of nuclear realities has been important, and there is every advantage in a continuing expansion of such knowledgeability throughout the Alliance. But this is not now—if it ever was—primarily a matter of sharing dangerous secrets. It is rather a matter of sharing in what responsible American civilians themselves have had to learn with out ever knowing much, if anything, that would surprise a Soviet spy. British influence—I repeat—has rested on persistence, eloquence, and persuasiveness, not on megatons. An opportunity for similar influence lies open today to any European voice that will take the trouble to study the open record on this perilous subject.
I am almost finished. I have only two points left. They seem opposite—but I think they are complementary. One is that all these things are terribly complex. The other is that they are very simple. They are complex far beyond the faint suggestions of difficulty that I have noted. Money alone is murderously hard to understand; so is trade and so are weapons. And I remind you that beyond all these things are the unsolved problems of a final settlement for Germany and Europe. Those are harder still. The politics of serious leader ship within any one of our countries can be so hard as to seem beyond solution; no leader anywhere today can do one-half of what he can see needs doing. Yet the issues we are discussing will not be handled without such leadership, by Europeans for the future of Europe, by Americans and Russians for the nuclear safety of all, and later by all parties for an end of the dangerous divisions between us. Yes, it is all very hard and very complicated.
But it is also simple. It is as simple as the fact that there really is a common interest among us and as simple as the fact that in the end we have no better choice. This rhetoric is reality, or can be if we make it so. This simplicity is what can sustain us in the under standing of what is complex and the resolution of what is hard. If we hold to this conviction, the fourth phase can be worthy of the best of the first three.
© The Ditchley Foundation, 1969. All rights reserved. Queries concerning permission to translate or reprint should be addressed to the Communications Officer, The Ditchley Foundation, Ditchley Park, Enstone, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7 4ER, England.