Washington accuses Europe's leaders of succumbing to "pacifism." Europeans in turn warn of grave dangers if detente is allowed to collapse. Where is this trans-Atlantic rift headed?
A DANGEROUS rift is opening up between the United States and the nations of Western Europe over how to deal with ever-growing Soviet military power. At stake is the continuing existence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — NATO — a unique alliance that has guaranteed the security of 15 nations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean for more than three decades. Without NATO, not only Western Europe, but the United States and Britain and Canada could be in grave peril. And Bible prophecy indicates just such a threat to the English-speaking world. The trans-Atlantic rift has widened since the Reagan administration assumed power in Washington. The new team is attempting to recover America's lost worldwide prestige. Specifically, this involves "standing up to the Russians" after years of acquiescence to growing Soviet military power at home and imperialistic expansion throughout the it Third World. But on this count Washington's renewed determination is running into resistance nearly everywhere in Western Europe, except for France and Italy. The United States, propelled by the urgings of President Ronald Reagan, is planning to spend heavily on defense to offset the startling Soviet/Warsaw Pact growth in weapons. It wants the West Europeans to get more excited about the issue as well, since the Soviets have swiftly built up a force of monstrous SS-20 tactical missiles, backed up by squadrons of advanced "Backfire" bombers — all targeted on Western Europe. The allies, however, are dragging their feet, partly because of a different perception of the Soviet threat and partly because of the difficulty of keeping up with soaring military costs in a time of economic recession, inflation, unemployment and rising imported-oil bills. European leaders complain that the Americans just don't appreciate them or their problems or their already solid commitment to NATO as it is. American officials, they say, are coming on too strong, too "hawkish." Europeans were particularly upset by the charge of President Reagan's National Security Adviser, Richard Allen, that "outright pacifist sentiments" were on the rise in Western Europe, causing the "contemptible 'better Red than dead' slogan of a generation ago" to once again be heard. U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger's appearance at NATO's Nuclear Planning Group in Bonn, West Germany, in early April accentuated the rift on defense issues. Mr. Weinberger added fuel to the building fire by dismissing 17 years of detente — which many Europeans thoroughly believe in — as a mere Kremlin fraud intended only to mask the ongoing Soviet arms buildup. He sidestepped European demands for an early discussion with the Soviet Union over limiting use in both Eastern and Western Europe of so-called Euro-missiles. Many European leaders warn Washington that they cannot convince their voting public to accept the new generation cruise missiles and long-range Pershing II nuclear missiles the United States wants to place in Western Europe starting in 1983, unless the United States agrees to the corresponding arms negotiation with the U.S.S.R.
How Serious the Atlantic Rift?
It's now obvious that the Atlantic rift is past the superficial stage and is into substance. The West German newspaper Bonner Rundschau, for example, reported that the conflict that arose in Bonn forebode "perhaps the beginning of a fatal split. "The influential national newspaper Die Welt, contended that "the Atlantic Alliance is in danger of falling out over basic questions of material interest." That the issues involved are deep was confirmed by West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt when he referred to "the dispute over fundamental issues of defense policies." Josef Joffe, a senior editor of the West German weekly Die Zeit, stresses that "an irreducible difference of interests lies at the root of all... disputes" between Americans and Europeans. The main difference lies in the perception of the value of detente with the Soviet Union. Detente, or "relaxation of tensions" between East and West began a decade ago. By pursuing this policy both the Europeans and Americans hoped to tame the Soviet Union's expansionary desires by casting a net of interdependence around her. The theory was to enmesh the Kremlin in a growing web of trade, credit lines, technology transfers and arms control negotiations. The theory didn't work. Soviet military power expanded unabated. The Kremlin did not give up supporting the "class struggles" around the world, even in areas of vital interest to the West, such as the Middle East and Africa. After the Soviets moved into Afghanistan in 1979, the United States — which had not gotten enmeshed too far to begin with — cut back its economic links and urged the Europeans to do ,likewise. The Europeans have balked ever since, because, it now turns out, they were the ones enmeshed in the detente web more than anyone else, including the Soviets. West Germany is particularly exposed. Detente enabled Bonn to pursue its Ostpolitik, or relations with communist Eastern Europe. Through Ostpolitik, relations between the two German states improved markedly. Thousands of ethnic Germans have been resettled from East Germany and other communist areas. Tensions over Berlin have been reduced since a breakthrough treaty in 1972. Bonn's trade with the East bloc has increased so significantly that it now accounts for one fourth of West Germany's foreign trade. This is obviously not something to place lightly in jeopardy.
Throughout Western Europe there is a split developing between the politicians — attempting to follow America's lead — and an increasingly reluctant public mood, described by some as "incipient neutralism," by others as sheer complacency. West Germans and other Western Europeans have become accustomed — too accustomed — to the peace and prosperity provided by the NATO shield since 1949. In his recent state of the nation address, Chancellor Schmidt told his countrymen that they had become spoiled. He said that they "must free themselves from the single-minded consumer demands that were brought about by society's economic growth." NATO Secretary-General Joseph Luns complains that " there is the impression among the Western European public that detente is an irreversible process." A West German diplomat adds that "people here do not believe, or do not want to believe, in the Soviet threat." There is a growing feeling that to accept the planned U.S. nuclear missiles would only upset Moscow further, leading to a stepped-up Soviet missile threat. Moscow, aware of the European mood, is doing its best to exploit it, to discourage the acceptance of the Euro-missile counterforce.
The opposition to the tougher U.S. stance is strong in the Netherlands and growing in West Germany. Church officials joined leftists and environmentalists in mounting a crusade to bar the cruise missiles slated for the Netherlands in 1983 as well as the removal of short-range nuclear weapons already there. Washington's speculation about reviving the neutron bomb issue has resulted in an emotional outburst in the Netherlands. In West Germany, there is a definite schism developing in the country's reaction to the new American posture. The "soft" approach is favored by the younger generation, untouched personally with the harsh realities of war. Radical elements among the young have led the recent upsurge in anti-American activities, including bombings of U.S. military installations. The strengthened left wing of the Social Democratic Party is giving Chancellor Schmidt a rough time. Some accuse Mr. Schmidt of being an "American lackey." The left-wing politicians speak of the "two superpowers" in the same frame of reference, as if Germany's fate were not attached to one of them. They ascribe sinister motives to the United States but give Moscow the benefit of every doubt. Even a Soviet occupation of Poland would not likely faze them. Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium, Holland and Denmark, for all practical purposes, can no longer be regarded as full-fledged members of the Alliance. Only France and Italy on the Continent, have remained largely unaffected by the neutralist drift. France is only a nominal member of NATO, retaining command over its own armed forces. Its independent nuclear deterrent — the force de frappe — is a pillar of national pride.
Rift to Widen
The conflict between the United States and the European members of NATO is certain to widen. The alliance is extremely long lived as alliances go. And if there no longer exists the same perception of the mutual threat that bound the members together in the first place, then the pact rests on extremely shaky ground. Worse yet, NATO's horizons are now too limited, most experts believe. The main thrust of the Soviet threat does not confront NATO states in Europe where there has existed a rough standoff for years — but in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. Despite prodding from Washington, European NATO members — excluding Britain and France — are extremely reluctant to play a role alongside the United States in, for example, the Persian Gulf. Yet Persian Gulf oil is even more critical to Europe than America. Moreover, there is growing fear in Europe that America's budding show of strength in the Gulf region could lead to a disaster. Allied foreign policy planners in Europe are said to take the view that the United States could be more of a threat to Western vital interests in the oil-rich region than the Soviet Union. They are especially wary of Washington's desire to deploy forces in or near the Gulf to insure uninterrupted oil supplies. The United States has obtained permission to use and to upgrade facilities in Somalia, Kenya and Oman. The largest regional base of all will be a bit further out in the Indian Ocean, on the British island of Diego Garcia. The growing fear in West Europe is that a more visible American presence could somehow "destabilize" the region. The London Sunday Telegraph's Peregrine Worsthorne notes that there is "sober doubt about American capacity to use conventional armed forces discriminately in an area about which they know little." Adding to doubt over U.S. wisdom is the cold fact of U.S. military defeats and blunders since the Korean War stalemate: the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961; the agonizing defeat in Vietnam; the failure of the rescue operation in Iran. These failures hardly inspire confidence. Adds journalist Worsthorne: "Precisely because the stakes are so momentous, mistakes have to be avoided at all costs.... The Persian Gulf is a vital West European interest, incomparably more so than Cuba, say, or Vietnam. A Bay of Pigs type blunder there really would be the end of us. Yet this is the kind of American blunder which the West Europeans have good reason to fear in the Persian Gulf." This "oil fear," notes Mr. Worsthorne, is adding to the "formidable neutralist virus" spreading throughout Europe. And because of these growing doubts, there is a growing mood in West Europe to "accommodate" the Soviet Union in any threat from the latter to the Middle East, rather than relying on U.S. power and its uncertain consequences. It's not exactly the old "better Red than dead" syndrome, Mr. Worsthorne observes, rather more one of "better Red than bankrupt."
European Third Force?
The pattern of unchecked growth in Soviet military might, drifting West European neutralism and distrust in America's protection, can only lead in one of two directions. Either Western Europe slides slowly into the Soviet orbit by default — or Europe awakes to the threat, and leaders rise to the fore demanding that free Europe become a "Third Force" to protect Western civilization. Bible prophecy predicts the latter — that there will be yet again, for the final time, a revival of the Roman Empire in what historians call "classic Europe" — Western and Central Europe. American troops can't be stationed forever in Europe. NATO can't be expected to last another 30 years. Writes David P. Calleo in the Spring, 1981, issue of Foreign Affairs: "Soviet-American nuclear parity logically calls for a stronger independent European deterrent. The issue will be forced upon us in any event." The formidable and growing French nuclear force could be the nucleus of such an independent European deterrent. Europe today is divided, confused as never before, as, to how to adjust to its new political realities. "Many politicians say Europe must speak with one voice," says W.F. van Eekelen, a Dutch defense official. "But if you ask what the voice should say, there is no answer." One voice has been speaking out, however — a voice above the plane of politics. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly called upon leaders on the continent to look to the past to rediscover Europe's destiny, in its essential "spiritual unity." Recently the Pope told an assembly of European journalists it was their responsibility to help mold public opinion in favor of a "united Europe."
Watch Poland, East Europe
The stage is being set for some dramatic realignments of power in Europe. The Soviet Union's military might is virtually unchallenged. Yet, its economy rests on feet of clay. Moscow just may not be able to prevent the unraveling of much of its Eastern European empire, beginning now in Poland. The Soviet Union, says author William Pfaff, is occasionally "capable of sudden acts of realism." As an example, the Soviets permitted the complete freedom of Austria in 1955 — providing that Austria become a permanently neutral state, not attached to NATO. Might Moscow some day decide to cut its losses in Eastern Europe also? The Kremlin would extract a price. Europe would have to cut its political and military ties to the U.S. If Poland or other satellites should leave the Soviet orbit, there is a possibility, notes The Christian Science Monitor's Joseph C. Harsch, of the reconstitution of what he calls "the whole of classic Europe." "Classic Europe" is nothing other than a new European alignment along the lines of the old Holy Roman Empire, under the Catholic aegis. Thus, the final resurrection of the Roman Empire may be closer than you think. This will not be good news for the United States — decoupled from Europe — or Britain either. As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher recently told President Reagan: "We in Britain stand with you." And a British Foreign Office source told the Associated Press: "She is convinced that Britain's lot lies with America." Read our free booklet The United States And Britain In Prophecy to discover what that lot is.