Europe has been largely at peace for 40 years. But that peace has been achieved only at tremendous cost: the political division of the Continent. MAY 8, 1945: the end of the Second World War in Europe and the finish to the Nazi dream to unite Europe by force of arms and usher in a false millennium — a "Thousand Year Reich."
Looking back to that fateful day, it is extremely doubtful whether any leader of the victorious Allied powers would have foreseen events 40 years later.
Who would have dared speculate that 300,000 American troops would still be stationed on the Continent, facing east. That elements of the British and French forces would still be camped in parts of Germany. And that the Soviet army, facing west, would still be forward — based throughout nearly all the once proud and independent nations of Eastern Europe.
After four decades, one of history's most heavily defended borders continues to cleave the German nation. The world's largest arsenal of short — and medium — range nuclear weapons extends this border through the heart of Europe.
Will the nations of Europe remain disunited, locked into mutually hostile spheres of interest 40 years from now, in 2025?
A growing number of Europeans question as never before the very foundation of postwar European society and strive for a way out of the division dilemma.
Peace-at a Price The growing dissatisfaction with the status quo, however, cannot hide the fact that, for 40 years, Europe has presented almost a solitary island of peace in a world wracked with more than 100 local wars.
World Wars I and II, it must be remembered, both arose out of conflicts within the European state system. Ever since May 8, 1945, two superpowers, one non-European, the other part Asian, have served as the main weights in the European balance-of-power structure. Western Europe has been under the influence and military protection of the United States, while the nations of the East have languished under the preponderant weight of the Soviet Union, forming part of the latter's "security buffer."
Money-minded Americans are tiring of the continued presence of their military forces in a prosperous, long — since economically recovered Western Europe. The new generation, however, overlooks what a leading West German journalist, Josef Joffe, calls "the central role America has played in pacifying a state system that almost consumed itself in two world wars."
Mr. Joffe, now a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., adds that the postwar West European order has "endured beyond expectations because it succeeded in solving two existential problems at once. It managed to envelop the potential of Germany, Europe's past claimant to hegemony; and it managed to contain the might of the new contender, the Soviet Union. Both achievements were made possible by the permanent entanglement of the United States."
But 40 years of division is long enough, Europeans increasingly insist.
Breaking the Deadlock Europe's present state of affairs was more or less fixed at the Allied big-power meeting held at Yalta in the Soviet Crimea, February 4 to 11, 1945.
Over the years, in the Western world at least, the word Yalta has almost become synonymous with betrayal. At this conference more than at any other (such as the Teheran conference in 1943, or the Potsdam summit in 1945), the nations of Eastern Europe were in fact conceded to the Soviet Union.
But conditions change in 40 years.
"Slowly and tentatively," wrote Jonathan Steele in the February 28, 1985, issue of the Daily Telegraph (London), "a few Europeans (and some Americans) are beginning to think of an alternative future." One of these is Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, formerly National Security Adviser to U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Brzezinski argues in the December 27, 1984, New York Times. as well as in a major article in the Winter 1984-85 issue of Foreign Affairs. that Yalta has come to "symbolize the unfinished struggle for Europe's future."
This division, perpetuated by the direct presence of both superpowers, will not be overcome, Mr. Brzezinski maintained, without "the emergence of a politically more vital Europe less dependent militarily on America... leading eventually to a fundamentally altered relationship with Eastern Europe and Russia."
To nudge the Europeans in the direction of unity, the former Carter administrative official urged Washington to undertake "a ten-year program of annual cuts of the U.S. ground forces in Europe."
The hope would be to loosen, at least partially, the Soviet military grip on the Eastern satellite nations, producing "a Europe that would be less at conflict with the Soviet Union than a Europe hosting a large American army."
Economics, too, would play a major role in this blueprint for gradual "emancipation" of Eastern Europe. Both the United States and Japan are racing into the high-tech world of the future. The fragmented economies of Western Europe are becoming less competitive by comparison.
This creates opportunities, according to Mr. Brzezinski, for the nations of Western Europe to offer the type of economic aid the nations of Eastern Europe need. "The fear that America may be turning from the Atlantic to the Pacific... justifies a wider economic, and potentially even a political accommodation between an industrially obsolescent Western Europe and the even more backward Soviet bloc, a logical customer for what Western Europe can produce."
Even the Soviets, Mr. Brzezinski claims, might be tempted with a greater economic cooperation especially if American military forces are drawn back from Western Europe. Mr. Brzezinski asked:
"Why then should not the next generation of Soviet leaders be pressed also to come to terms with the fact that the interests of the Soviet people would be better served by a less frustrated and oppressed east-central Europe, partaking more directly of the benefits of all — European cooperation?"
Significantly, the first sign of the "next generation of Soviet leaders" has already appeared with the selection, in March, of 54-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev as the Communist Party's General Secretary.
Mr. Gorbachev is known to favor sizeable reforms of the stagnant Soviet economy. The personable new leader is highly regarded by Western officials.
U.S.-Europe Rift World events are inexorably moving in the direction of European reunification — and possibly a lot swifter than the gradual approach Mr. Brzezinski outlined. At issue is the future of the relationship between the United States and its European allies.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is now entering its 37th year. That is an unprecedented duration for an alliance, especially a peacetime one.
There are now serious strains in NATO, more than ever. Two growing disputes in particular have the potential to rip the alliance asunder.
President Ronald Reagan's energetic push for a space-based antiballistic missile system has caused consternation throughout Western Europe. Officially, most allied governments approve research on the Strategic Defense Initiative — the so-called Star Wars plan. But doubts persist as to its impact, if deployed, on the defense of Europe. Many fear that a Star Wars shield would decouple Europe from U.S. defense strategy.
The French, in addition, are concerned that their own independent nuclear strike force could be rendered irrelevant. France, says the spokesman for a Paris-based research institute, sees its "huge investment in both nuclear and conventional weapons threatened."
The French may push even harder than ever for the creation of a separate European defense force. Mr. Brzezinski, as if anticipating this development, urged that "America should particularly encourage efforts at increased French-German military cooperation and eventual integration."
Split Over Central America Even more serious a threat to the future of the alliance is the developing crisis confronting the United States in Central America, especially with the regard to the government of Nicaragua.
The Reagan administration appears determined to root out the Marxist revolutionary leadership in Managua. The United States genuinely believes that the toehold of communism in the region must be eliminated lest the contagion spread right up to America's southern border.
Many in Europe view this analysis with alarm, believing that the United States is becoming paranoid over the existence of a relatively small "socialist" state.
These opposing viewpoints could dash the Western alliance to the ground. In the March 1985 issue of Encounter, a British current affairs publication, U.S. foreign affairs analyst Irving Kristol wrote:
"America's European allies are fast approaching a moment of decision. The United States is not going to remain committed to the defence of Western Europe, at the risk of nuclear annihilation, if Western Europe is not equally committed to the defence of America's interests. In the debate over Central America, the very existence of NATO itself is at stake....
"A major clash between the United States and Europe over Central America could soon lead to overwhelming pressures in the United States for a redefinition of its role in NATO — even to the point of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the European continent. This prospect is something Europeans should ponder most seriously."
In the summer of 1984, the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated the so-called Nunn Amendment that called for a rapid reduction of up to one third of U.S. forces in Europe. The amendment was offered as a result of alleged foot-dragging on the part of the European allies as to their defense spending plans. A U.S. — Europe rift over Central America would certainly result in far greater Senate action on reduction of U.S. forces in Europe.
End of Postwar Harmony We have reached the end of 40 years of relative harmony in the Western world. The worldwide postwar policy of communist "containment" erected by the United States is breaking down all around.
In the South Pacific, the ANZUS alliance has been shaken by New Zealand's concern over extending port privileges to nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered U.S. warships. Small nations throughout the Pacific, which have viewed the smooth operations of ANZUS as a force for stability, are deeply concerned.
And in Europe itself, the NATO alliance will be faced over the next two to three years with its greatest crisis ever, not along the "front line" in Europe, but over differences concerning the escalation of warfare in the Western Hemisphere.
Moscow, it should be noted, will have every incentive to keep the pressure on in Central American order to obtain one of its key objectives: the removal of U.S. forces from Europe.
Only when that occurs would the Kremlin consider loosening its grip over Eastern Europe, perhaps restructuring the region into what Jonathan Steele calls a form of "Yugoslavianization." He asks: "Could neutrality emerge in such a way that the regimes maintained an essentially Communist system with a leading party and tight control of the media?"
A united — or perhaps better expressed, confederated — Europe is coming, with greater cooperation between East and West. Bible prophecy reveals that an end-time revival of the ancient Roman Empire will once again arise in the heart of Europe. It will be composed of 10 nations, with perhaps five from Western Europe, and five from East-Central Europe. This system is depicted in the second chapter of the book of Daniel as a human image standing on two legs — indicating perhaps the incomplete fusion of East and West.
Religion will play a major role in Providing the imperfect adhesion of the two halves of the coming Europe. Mr. Brzezinski also draws attention to the special appeal of Pope John Paul II "whose vision of Europe's spiritual unity," he says, "has obvious political implications."
It appears increasingly that only when America's direct presence from Europe is removed and the Soviets relax their grip on the East will this new Europe arise in the partial political vacuum created.
A new, more united Europe, observed Hedley Bull, writing in the Spring 1983 issue of Atlantic Quarterly, "is likely to disappoint some of the expectations that Americans commonly have about it. It would be less willing to follow the American lead, more capable of working against American policies should it wish to do so, and more of a risk as an ally of the United States than one America is able to control."
The new Europe, moreover, may come a lot sooner than experts predict. Europe will not witness another 40 years of division.