The marriage of convenience that is the Atlantic alliance has been subject to much of the strain and discord common to unions where romance takes a back seat to logic. But after thirteen and a half years, the novelty has begun to wear off, revealing bare spots in the structure, and a growing tendency to disagree over fundamentals. These strains have become most obvious in the current relations between France and America, where President Kennedy’s vision of Atlantic “interdependence” has run head on against de Gaulle’s dream of a new “Europe of nations” united under French leadership. The impact of these two plans has placed the whole foundation of the Atlantic alliance in question. Not since NATO was created in 1949 has there been such an open disagreement on its purpose and its structure. The problem is not, as an administration spokesman implied, a temporary aberration arising from illusions of grandeur on the part of the French President. Quite the contrary: de Gaulle’s ambitions are a challenge to the American dominance of the alliance and represent a widespread discontent among our European allies over the present structure of Western defense. The debate over France’s nuclear weapons program has tended to obscure rather than clarify this challenge. The real question is not whether France shall have nuclear weapons—she will obtain them by her own efforts despite any American discouragement—but rather how her possession of such weapons will affect the political balance of forces within the Atlantic alliance.
The dispute between Washington and Paris over nuclear policy during the past few months has been argued too simply in military terms. The administration, with hurt pride and a touch of moral outrage, has lectured the French on the dangers of owning nuclear weapons, as though this would impel them to scuttle a project they have been working on for nearly a decade. The dialogue between the two capitals has taken on all the quality of a family squabble—complete with polemics, recriminations, and charges of disloyalty. High administration officials have described de Gaulle’s nuclear ambitions as foolish, or diabolical—or both. The Secretary of Defense, having unwrapped a new version of the old “counterforce” theory for “winning” nuclear wars, has told the French that there must be “centralized control” of atomic weapons—a doctrine which they rightly interpret as insuring an American monopoly of the West’s nuclear defense.
The arguments from Washington, repeated with awesome regularity, have been grounded in the administration’s military strategy. Unfortunately, the logic of this strategy, however compelling it may seem in the Pentagon, is largely irrelevant to the deeper political dilemma which has brought on the nuclear dispute. Yet it is the political problem, with the implied challenge it holds to American leadership, which has been scrupulously avoided. Instead, the administration has concentrated on the military equation, and has presented at least four arguments against a French nuclear deterrent. First, it is said, such a force is unnecessary, since the American nuclear umbrella covers all the European allies. Second, it is dangerous, since it could lead to a proliferation of nuclear powers—that is, to demands by other allies, especially Germany, for nuclear status. Third, it is wasteful, since under Pentagon strategy the Europeans, and especially the French with their huge army now largely returned from Algeria, should be increasing their conventional contributions to NATO rather than spending money for nuclear weapons. And finally, under Secretary McNamara’s new strategy for conducting rather than simply deterring nuclear warfare, a French force is destabilizing since it would establish a separate center of nuclear power within the alliance. The American position, whatever formulas may be devised to make it palatable, is that the United States must have absolute control over Western nuclear strategy.
These military arguments, within their limits, are quite persuasive, and have been accepted by not only a good many American strategists, but by a number of Europeans as well. The French, however, have some very compelling responses to them. In the first place, they question whether American nuclear protection really does continue to cover Europe. As President de Gaulle has often pointed out, the achievement of nuclear parity between the United States and the Soviet Union has greatly modified the conditions of the American nuclear guarantee. When NATO was formed the Americans had a virtual monopoly of atomic weapons, capable of responding to any Soviet incursion into Western Europe by an overwhelming nuclear attack on Russia itself from American bases in Europe and North Africa. The Russians, however, could not imperil the continental United States, and thus the American guarantee to Europe was both militarily and psychologically convincing. But today these conditions no longer exist. The missile age now allows America and Russia to obliterate one another within a matter of hours—without relying on foreign bases. For Europe this means that a completely new element—the vulnerability of the United States—has become the crucial factor of the American guarantee.
As de Gaulle observed in his May 1962 press conference, since the creation of NATO “new elements of an extraordinary dimension have emerged. . . . Soviet Russia now, too, has an enormous nuclear arsenal which is increasing every day, just as that of the United States is doing. . . . No one today can know when, nor how, nor why one or the other of these great atomic powers may employ its nuclear arsenal.” Would an American President respond to a Russian probe into Western Europe with the full force of atomic weapons—knowing that this would involve the destruction of the United States itself? And even if he would today, would he in five, or ten, or fifteen years when the world political situation might be very different? Detroit for Oslo, Los Angeles for Stuttgart? Maybe, but who can be sure? What nation can be expected to engage in nuclear war in the defense of another?
Believing that nuclear parity has made the American guarantee no longer convincing, de Gaulle is determined to create a finite nuclear force capable of deterring an attack upon France. Within the next few years, as technical developments impel America to withdraw its bomber and missile forces from Europe in favor of an American-based defense, the nuclear guarantee to Europe will seem even less credible. Missile technology, by making the United States no longer dependent on European bases, can only undermine the theory of the nuclear umbrella.
The second American argument, that a French nuclear capacity will lead to a proliferation of nuclear forces, is one which France’s nuclear allies are in an uncomfortable position to apply against her. The dangers of nuclear possession have not prevented the United States from acquiring and expanding a nuclear arsenal, and the perils of proliferation did not deter the British from building a nuclear force which they are determined to maintain even at considerable economic sacrifice. This despite the fact that the British force, as Secretary McNamara conceded to the delight of the Macmillan government’s Labor critics, is scarcely even independent, since it is largely integrated into the American strategic command. Why, then, did the British develop an atomic arsenal in the first place, why did they later go on to build thermonuclear weapons, and why do they insist on maintaining a nationally controlled nuclear force? One would search in vain for a compelling military argument. The reason is almost entirely political (which makes it no less important) and was summed up by Prime Minister Macmillan when he defended the British decision to build the H-bomb before Commons in 1958: “The independent contribution gives us a better position in the world, it gives us a better position with respect to the United States. It puts us where we ought to be, in the position of a great power. The fact that we have it makes the United States pay a greater regard to our point of view, and that is of great importance.” The British government, for very obvious reasons, has had the good grace not to chastise the French for following the same road they themselves long ago embarked upon.
The French, for their part, fail to appreciate American criticism of their nuclear efforts, especially in view of consistent American atomic assistance to Britain. As Foreign Minister Couve de Murville observed in an American television interview last spring: “I have never heard anyone say that Great Britain’s possession of nuclear weapons constituted a danger for the United States. Why should it in the case of another ally such as ourselves?” While it may be argued that the British are more willing than the French to accept American direction of their nuclear forces, this is not the kind of argument which cements alliances. Our refusal to aid the French, now that they have already achieved an atomic capacity by their own efforts, has only led them to doubt our motives and our loyalties. When de Gaulle’s nuclear policy was debated in the National Assembly during the summer, the government was the target of considerable criticism (much of it based on domestic grievances), but opponents were unable to give any convincing retort to Premier Pompidou’s reply to the charge that a French nuclear force might be dangerous. “In what way,” he asked, “would the danger be greater if France had its own nuclear arms than if it had nuclear arms of an allied power on its national soil? Are they aiming to bring us to a sort of neutralization of Europe which would leave our continent disarmed and at the mercy of attacks of one side or dependent on the good will of the other?” It was not only the government’s supporters who wondered whether America’s much advertised fears of a proliferation of nuclear forces might be largely motivated by a desire to retain its own atomic dominance. The recall of General Norstad from NATO has only reinforced de Gaulle’s conviction that the Americans are opposed to any nuclear deterrent force in European hands, and that only a European atomic force under French leadership can assure the defense of Europe.
The third American contention, that the Europeans should be beefing up their conventional forces instead of trying to build small nuclear arsenals, is basically irrelevant. In the first place, it suggests that Europeans are to be relegated to the role of cannon fodder in the event that hostilities actually break out. A division of forces within an alliance which prescribes that Europe should furnish the troops and America the atomic bombs is not a balance which strongly recommends itself to Europeans. Not only does it demand enormous personal sacrifices which no European government desiring to remain in office dares call upon its people to make, but it gives Europeans the feeling that they are little more than an instrument of American strategy. This is a sacrifice which poor and military-dominated nations such as Turkey and Pakistan may be willing to accept in return for American aid, but it is not one which the prosperous nations of Western Europe can be expected to support. To be sure, it is in the interest of European states to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war on their territory and to restrict any potential conflict to conventional weapons. But this rests on the assumption that the Russians would choose to launch a conventional rather than a nuclear attack. And the foundation behind this is that there must be a convincing nuclear force which would deter the Russians from using their nuclear weapons—if, indeed, that is their intention. Since de Gaulle believes that the Americans can no longer provide such deterrence, Europe’s primary military need must logically be a convincing nuclear force rather than larger land armies. The new American doctrine of a conventional “pause” before nuclear weapons are called into use thus comes several years too late. It could only be a compelling reason for Europe to rely on the American deterrent while American nuclear superiority was unchallenged. And that situation no longer exists.
The Germans, in their geographically exposed position, are especially reluctant to accept the conventional “pause” theory. For them it seems to offer only the likelihood of their being occupied by Soviet troops and then devastated by American nuclear weapons. They insist, with good reason, that the West’s nuclear strength be used to deter any attack—conventional or nuclear—in Europe, not to fight it once it has occurred. While the Kennedy administration may think of the defense of the West as indivisible, any German government must first think of Germany—and a war fought on German soil is contrary to any conception of German interests, however integral a part it may be of the wider global strategies evolved in Washington. The Federal Republic may be willing to sacrifice the Eastern zone to its alliance with NATO, but it will never accept a defense theory which implies the possibility of its occupation. By thinking so globally that it fails to recognize that American interests (which are usually defined in Washington as NATO or even Western interests) are not always identical with those of our allies, the administration may end up by forcing the Germans into nuclear reliance upon France as the only way of gaining a defense they believe vital to their own interests.
The administration’s final argument against a French nuclear force centers on the revival by the Secretary of Defense of the “counterforce” strategy for conducting nuclear warfare. This strategy, which seeks to combine deterrence and defense, holds that “centralized control” (that is, centralized in American hands) is essential if “counterforce”—Pentagon jargon for the destruction of an opponent’s military forces, by first strike if necessary—is to work. Counterforce, Mr. McNamara explained at Ann Arbor last June, could “preserve the fabric of our societies” by laying down Queensberry rules under which the United States and Russia would agree to spare one another’s cities in case of nuclear war and concentrate on military targets. This assumes, of course, that nobody loses his head, that military and civilian targets can be separated, and that American and Russian strategists show a solicitous regard for one another’s welfare in time of war that they were unable to evidence before hostilities. The drawbacks of counterforce, like the theory itself, have been often elaborated. Not only does it involve the intensification of the arms race as both sides jockey for the nuclear superiority which would make the implied first strike credible, but it actually increases the dangers of nuclear war by making them concentrate on fighting rather than deterring it. Seemingly given a quiet burial only a year ago by the administration, counter-force, by the most remarkable of coincidences, was revived this past spring at the Athens NATO meeting as an argument against an independent European nuclear deterrent.
From a European point of view, the position as elaborated by Secretary McNamara is not very compelling. “If what the United States is promising in her new strategy,” Hedley Bull has observed, “is that an attack on Soviet nuclear forces will actually eliminate them, and so render Europe secure, then she is promising what cannot be done.” And if counterforce cannot guarantee this, then the problem of European defense remains unchanged. The Europeans are being asked, in the name of a defense theory of dubious logic, to forgo any attempts to create an independent nuclear status. And yet it is the creation of this status which offers them the only psychologically convincing instrument of their own defense. To argue, as Walter Lippmann has done, that the United States will not accept the enormous burden of collective security if it loses the initiative in the Atlantic alliance and the responsibility of making the final decision between war and peace, is simply to reinforce the gravest European fears. The decision between war and peace, after all, affects Europe as well as it does America, for it involves the very survival of human societies. The Europeans will relinquish the power of this decision to the Americans only if they are convinced that it is the most responsive instrument of their needs and the most effective guarantee of their defense. A policy which denies them nuclear equality will hardly convince them of this, and will only add to the belief that they have become an instrument of American strategy.
The American monopoly might appear more natural if the Western nuclear force were jointly directed; that is, if the Europeans were able to share control of the American nuclear deterrent. But, understandably enough, Congress would never permit this since there is no political community to which both America and Europe belong. NATO, whatever loyalties it may have engendered, is not such a community. It is a fact of the nuclear age that alliances have simply ceased to be convincing as instruments of nuclear deterrence since they lack psychological credibility. Only a federation of nations can give the assurance that an attack upon one is an attack upon all. The “Atlantic Community,” however laudable or noble a goal, is still little more than rhetoric, and NATO appears increasingly unlikely to ever lead to federation between America and Europe. All the declarations of “interdependence” are not going to breathe life into the alliance, so long as the United States continues to insist on a nuclear monopoly. And the refusal to share control of the American nuclear deterrent, coupled with the attacks upon the creation of a European nuclear force, are nothing more than a call for the continuation of American control. Small wonder that “many European nations,” as Hanson Baldwin has commented, “feel the United States wants to have its cake and eat it too—to control, without any European veto, its own nuclear delivery capability everywhere in the world, but to retain a veto power over any European capacity.”
What European critics want is not to replace the American alliance, but to transform it into a partnership of equals, each playing a complementary but relatively independent role. Their goal is to make Europe a great political power in its own right, and they believe that it can only be done if Europe is able to provide at least the minimal needs of its own defense. Under the McNamara thesis this is ipso facto impossible, and if Europeans accept it they can only resign themselves to the position of permanent inferiority in the Atlantic alliance. But is counterforce really the only reasonable theory of Western defense? It was, after all, virtually scrapped by the administration which has now revived it, and it has always been questioned by strategists outside the Air Force. The alternative to counterforce is a strategy based on finite deterrence, one which posits that a nuclear power can be dissuaded from attack if it knows that it will suffer retaliation against its own territory. This strategy requires only a relatively small number of nuclear weapons, so long as they are protected from a premeditated first strike. So long as manned bombers were the only means of delivering nuclear bombs, such protection was not really feasible since airfields could theoretically be wiped out in a first strike. But the advent of missiles, which can be concealed underground or underwater, has made it possible to protect the deterrent, and thereby assure retaliation. Thus a relatively small but protected missile force can deter a virtually unlimited force; while a Russian attack may obliterate France, French missiles will still be able to destroy Russia’s half-dozen largest cities. Surely this knowledge would be the major factor in any conceivable Russian action against France. To be sure, there is no guarantee that this strategy can forever prevent war. Logic breaks down, accidents occur, leaders are seized by madness, and nations find themselves impelled into actions even against their will. But it has two compelling virtues: it is psychologically convincing—considerably more so than an American pledge to commit suicide on behalf of its allies—and it is within the means of Europe. Solid-fuel missiles, having made the United States vulnerable to Soviet nuclear power, have also provided the Europeans with the means of mounting their own nuclear deterrent. And this deterrent will reflect European interests by being responsive to European direction.
At the present time the character of the European deterrent is very much in flux. The European integrationists, who have forged the Common Market as the first step toward a politically federated Europe, envisage a European defense force jointly controlled by all the member states of the new Europe. For them a European defense, like a European diplomacy, must logically follow from the economic union which has been created. The French interpretation, as expressed by de Gaulle, is different more in emphasis than in theory. The General envisages a federated rather than a united Europe, in which France would play a leading role based, to a considerable degree, on her possession of a nuclear deterrent which would be exercised in the name of the European community. These two views are not as contradictory as they may seem. The question of European diplomacy will ultimately be decided by compromise—just as the political-economic decisions of the Common Market have been evolved. The essential point is that this will be decided by Europeans acting in a European context. For both de Gaulle and the European integrationists the Europeans must now move on to forge a great united power which will be independent of the United States. This, however unpalatable it may be in Washington, is the political goal of which the French nuclear force is only an instrument.
The problem of Europe’s political future is the central point of de Gaulle’s diplomacy. He seeks an independent Europe not only as a balance to the United States within the Atlantic alliance, but as the means by which all of Europe, East and West, may yet be united. It is his belief that one day the internal evolution of the Soviet system, as well as the inevitable conflict of wills between Russia and China, will end the menace which has made necessary the European alliance with America. At that point a diplomatically and militarily independent Western Europe will be able to negotiate directly with the Russians for the return of the satellites to the wider European community. Then Europe, stretching, as de Gaulle has said, “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” will become a powerful third force in the world, pursuing the historic destiny that was tragically interrupted by the civil wars of the 20th century. It is an imposing vision, but not one wholly without credibility. Russia is, in a very real sense, a European civilization, and her disputes with China are making her increasingly aware of it. Alliances change, today’s opponent usually becomes tomorrow’s ally, and as de Gaulle has said, looking back on the long sweep of European history: “No quarrel between peoples is permanent.”
Ultimately Europe, if it is to have any meaning, must be restored to unity. It cannot forever remain split in half, each part under the influence of conflicting nuclear giants. But how shall this unity be achieved? It has long been obvious that such unity can never be brought into being by a policy of force—periodic lip-service to “liberation” notwithstanding—and the Russians know very well from the case of Hungary that the West will not risk nuclear war for the Soviet satellites. If force, which is simply another word for nuclear conflict, is to be ruled out, is there any other hope for restoring the satellites to independence? Perhaps it could be done through direct American-Soviet negotiation, but that would involve the creation of a neutral zone in central Europe and the nuclear disarmament of Germany—a policy as antipathetic to the Kennedy administration as to its predecessors. Not only would it mean the recognition of the present borders in Europe, thereby shattering the West German myth that the Eastern zone shall be miraculously restored to it without the slightest concession on its part, but also a readjustment of Germany’s role within NATO. Such a policy of disengagement appears to be anathema in Washington, confirming the rueful comment made several years ago by George Kennan, that the object of our policy seems less to get Soviet troops out of eastern Europe than to create a German army for the purpose of confronting them while they are there.
American policy, then, by seeking to link Western Europe to the United States in an ambitious but still undefined “Atlantic Union” has for all practical purposes taken the division of Europe for granted. But for de Gaulle, and those Europeans who agree with him that Europe must have an identity of its own that is not submerged by the alliance with a powerful America, this is a betrayal of all that the European ideal stands for. His ambition is to use the new economic, political, and eventual military independence of Western Europe to achieve what an American-based diplomacy has never been able to do: the restoration of the satellites. European solidarity, he explained in May, “can create in Western Europe a construction, an organization that will be so firm, so prosperous, and so magnetic that it will open up the possibilities of a European equilibrium with the states of the East and re-open the perspective of a uniquely European cooperation.” In other words, the West Europeans are expected to use their coming maneuverability to negotiate with the Russians over the future of the Europe to which they both belong. Why should the Russians be more willing to negotiate with the French or a West European team than they have with the Americans? In the first place, we cannot be sure that they are adverse to negotiations with us since they have never been seriously attempted on a basis of mutual concessions. But beyond that, the Europeans can offer the Russians something that no American government is able to do: the assurance that the satellites would never be drawn into an American-dominated, anti-Soviet alliance—into NATO, in short. To do this, of course, the Europeans would have to be masters of both their defense and their diplomacy; and this is exactly the object of de Gaulle’s nuclear ambitions.
The achievement of de Gaulle’s policies, therefore, depends largely upon his ability to forge a powerful military force. Defense is the fulcrum on which an independent diplomacy must rest, and it is this independence, not the satisfaction of French “grandeur,” which lies at the base of Gaullist ambitions. In the early stages, the French nuclear force must remain a national one, if for no other reason than that France is the only continental nation which is willing to build it, and to defy the Kennedy administration by doing so. But ultimately, as Premier Pompidou hinted in July before the National Assembly, the French force will become part of a larger European deterrent. Both the enormous cost of a nuclear delivery system and the indivisibility of European defense make this essential. The foundation for such a force already exists in the separate French and British nuclear weapons systems. Logically, they should be brought together, for the existence of two national nuclear forces within Europe is hardly reasonable. The objections to this, which come, curiously enough, more from the British Labor party than from the government, are that Britain must never give up her “special relationship” with the United States by pooling her atomic weapons with France, that Britain would be unable to follow an independent foreign policy, and that this would be the final act of her submergence into Catholic Europe. These arguments, however, hold little water. Whatever “special relationship” Britain has had with the United States has rested largely on her ability to speak for Europe. This she has virtually ceased to do, and the gap between Britain and Europe is growing wider the longer she delays entering the Common Market. To argue that Britain can follow an independent foreign policy is to ignore the lessons of history since the end of the Second World War. Suez and Cuba reveal how independent British foreign policy can be in an age of super-powers. And, finally, if Britain is really worried that the Common Market is being dominated by Christian Democracy, then the only logical reaction is to join it and redress the balance.
Nations do not always do what their best interests impel them to, but assuming that Britain finally recognizes she is a part of Europe and enters the Common Market, it must follow that she joins Europe not only economically, but militarily as well. While there is no question of Britain’s “buying” her way into Europe with a nuclear dowry, it would be completely inimical to the political conception on which the Common Market is based for her to try to retain a purely national defense force.1 More than Commonwealth sentimentality is going to have to be given up when Britain finally takes the plunge. But the British really have little choice, for unless they enter the Common Market and join in the creation of a European diplomacy, they must watch their value to the United States decline as Europe constitutes itself without her. Nor can they have it both ways, for de Gaulle will never allow Britain to put an economic toe into Europe and retain a nuclear defense integrated with America. The Kennedy administration’s prodding of British entry into the Common Market seems to be based on the belief that Britain’s presence in Europe can protect America’s interests. While this may be true, it is also suspected, as Raymond Aron has observed, as an attempt to prevent the emergence of an independent Europe foreign policy. The decision is not an easy one, but sooner or later the British will have to realize that their real choice is not between Europe and the Commonwealth, but between Europe and America. And as the Manchester Guardian, a long-time foe of the British atomic weapons program, commented: “European public opinion will never accept that the nuclear defense of the West be left exclusively in American hands under the exclusive control of the President of the United States.”
Assuming that Britain ultimately does enter Europe, the way will be paved for de Gaulle’s grand design for the reunification of the Continent. For only a militarily strong and diplomatically united Europe will have the bargaining power to obtain the release of the satellites from the Soviet Union. Of course de Gaulle realizes that the Russians are not going to cooperate out of affection for a European mystique. But he believes that as they are faced with increasing challenges from China, as well as the continuation of the atomic rivalry with America, they will find it to their interests to reach a general European settlement. While this may seem like waiting for shrimps to whistle, de Gaulle actually has a trump card up his sleeve—one which holds the key to his puzzling intransigence over the Berlin negotiations. He knows that the Russians are truly frightened lest the West Germans should acquire atomic weapons. For them this evokes a nightmare of the Germans engaging the United States in a war with the Soviet Union for the Eastern zone and even for the lost territories in Poland and Russia itself. Khrushchev cannot prevent the atomic armament of Germany if her allies are determined to permit it—but he can attempt to gain official recognition of the territorial changes that resulted from the Second World War before the Germans obtain nuclear arms. The vulnerability of Berlin is his only means of pressuring the West to stabilize east Europe’s frontiers in a peace treaty before it is too late.
De Gaulle, it should be emphasized, is no more eager than Khrushchev to see the West Germans sitting on an atomic arsenal—homages to Adenauer notwithstanding. Like the Chancellor himself, he fears that German democracy is still too fragile to be thrown into the international power arena on its own resources. But he also believes that the Russian fear of German nuclear armament may be turned to the West’s advantage by using it as a bargaining point. In return for recognition of the present frontiers and a pledge against German atomic armament, the Russians might find it to their advantage to release their iron control on the satellites and permit their restoration to Europe. But—and this is the essential point which separates Gaullist from American policy—they will only negotiate with a truly independent Western Europe, since they could never permit the satellites to be swept into an American-dominated NATO. Despite his antipathy toward Communism, de Gaulle has kept the door open to possible future negotiations with Moscow by acknowledging Russian security interests in eastern Europe. And only he among the Western leaders has publicly recognized the Oder-Neisse line as Germany’s permanent eastern frontier.
The achievement of de Gaulle’s diplomacy depends on cementing the ties of the Franco-German alliance. Germany must be so tightly drawn into the West European community that she will interpret European interests as being virtually identical with German interests. Only then will she be able to make the sacrifice upon which European unity and the freedom of the satellites depends—the renunciation of nuclear weapons. This is why de Gaulle has refused to participate in the Berlin talks—believing that they may imperil Western rights without gaining Russian concessions for a meaningful European settlement. Instead, he has preferred to ignore these discussions and thereby strengthen his ties with Adenauer. The Chancellor’s royal tour of France in July and de Gaulle’s reciprocal visit to Germany in September were merely the more dramatic displays of their consistent efforts to bury past enmity and build a solid alliance between the two nations. The so-called Paris-Bonn axis, which some critics assume to be the prelude to a Franco-German nuclear force, is really the foundation for Germany’s abandonment of nuclear ambitions. Only if the Germans come to recognize that their future lies in Europe, de Gaulle believes, will they be able to resist atomic armament by the Americans—which would dash all hopes for bringing down the Iron Curtain and compromise the peace of Europe. When asked at his press conference about plans to give atomic weapons to the Bundeswehr, de Gaulle replied that since France had none to give, that question could perhaps be better asked of the White House. Possibly he had in mind large-scale German purchases in America of vehicles for the delivery of nuclear warheads—purchases which President Kennedy has praised as helping to “balance off” the cost of stationing American troops in Germany.
The disagreements in the Atlantic alliance run very deep and to speak of a “nuclear debate” is to magnify the possibility of choice, for in truth there is no debate. The French are determined to achieve nuclear status—indeed, de Gaulle’s entire diplomatic policy in Europe depends upon it—and there is nothing the administration can do to prevent it, short of admitting the French to a Western nuclear tri-directorate. Within a few years the French force will be capable of providing a finite nuclear deterrent upon which an independent European foreign policy hinges. Such a policy may parallel American interests or it may not: the answer depends on how we are able to adapt our diplomacy to the recognition of European equality, as well as how we deal with the changing nature of the Soviet society and the shifting balance of forces within the unstable Communist orbit.
What we cannot do, and what we should not seek to do, is to prevent our European allies from achieving the self-respect and the independence upon which any enduring alliance must ultimately rest. Charles de Gaulle is not alone in seeking a restored Europe, capable of defending its interests as Europeans themselves interpret them. He is probably mistaken in believing that France can forge a European diplomacy by virtue of its atomic force, for a united Europe will increasingly evolve a diplomacy that resists national leadership and parochial interests. But he is altogether right in believing that European independence is inconceivable without a European military force capable of providing the minimum needs of its own defense. And it is his leadership which has impelled the Europeans to face the hard questions raised by the impact of defense upon diplomacy. The new European prosperity, which we have so applauded, now has its corollary in the demand for a Europe that will be an equal of the United States. Nothing less will satisfy the Europeans, and nothing less is tenable if the Atlantic alliance is to endure. Speaking for a good many Europeans, André Fontaine wrote in Le Monde: “It is inconceivable, unless we are resigned to an interminable cold war, that Europe forever relies on America for its security and for the orientation of its diplomacy.”
The new European diplomacy emerging may serve as a stimulus to an American political leadership which has tended to take too many of the stale arguments of the cold war for granted. And no matter how sure it may be of the wisdom of its diplomacy, the administration surely need not be reminded that partners make more lasting allies than do clients. If the “interdependence” between Europe and America which President Kennedy has so warmly espoused is to mean anything, it can only be based on the independence that is the precondition for any community of allies.
1 The New York Times London correspondent reported in November that the Macmillan government now favors the creation of an independent European nuclear deterrent in cooperation with France. It is perhaps more than coincidence that this announcement followed in the wake of the unilateral American action in the Cuban crisis.