After Deployment: Assessing the Balance of Forces in Europe
THE DEPLOYMENT OF American Cruise and Pershing 2 missiles in Western Europe have began. In view of the Soviet Union's refusal both to reduce its SS-20 arsenal aimed at Western Europe or to allow deployment of one single American intermediate range missile in Western Europe in the Geneva negotiations, the restoration of this dimension of the balance of forces in Europe reinforces the West's military deterrent Failure to have done so would have been far graver for the prospects of peace and freedom in Europe. Now that it is being done, the question arises how the military balance relates to the balance of political, psychological and moral forces.
The Soviets have failed, at least in the short run, to break the unity of the Atlantic Alliance and prevent deployment. They appealed to the "the peoples" above or below the governments and attempted to turn the allied governments against one another by trying to get the U.S. and especially West Germany to include the strategic weapons of Britain and France in the negotiations on intermediate range missiles. In response the electorates of Western Europe have decisively rejected those political leaders who have turned against the NATO decision of 1979.
The deployments are also a setback for the "peace movements" in Western Europe which insisted that the Soviet Union's foreign policy was "essentially defensive." They have been at a loss to explain why the Russians deployed the SS-20s and did so in such great numbers. The Soviet build-up is more plausibly understood as a very as serve exercise in traditional power politics pursue through the expansion of military power. The Soviets optimal goal would be to split the Atlantic Alliance, drive the United States out of Western Europe, and thus by virtue of their power and the geographical facts become the dominant power on it continent. Short of that, the Soviets want to take the Western governments pay as high a political price as possible in internal dissension and conflict with one another in order to sustain a credible defense. Of particular importance in this effort is "the German card," that is, holding out the prospect of reunification of the two Germanies in exchange for a West German decision to leave NATO. As proposed in the 1950s in the Rapacki Plan, this and subsequent schemes for "nuclear free zones from Poland to Portugal" have foundered on the obvious fact that nuclear free schemes will not prevent the Soviet neighbor from both possessing and threatening to use its nuclear weapons.
These have been the permanent goals of Soviet strategy in Europe for thirty years. The SS-20s are only the latest, and most ominous, means to reaching these goals. The "peace movements" in Western Europe, while certainly not primarily the product of a Soviet peace offensive, have, as a good Marxist would put it, "objectively" served the foreign policy goals of the Soviet Union. They have tried and failed to convince a majority of the West European electorate that the Cruise and Pershing 2 missiles are part of an American effort either to launch a first strike against the Soviet Union and or to limit a nuclear war to Europe the peace movement's vision of "Euroshima" flies in the face of the logic of the NATO decision: to visibly and tangibly reinforce "extended deterrence," that is, the coupling of the defense of Western Europe to the American nuclear arsenal in the face of a growing military threat which does not directly affect the territory of the United States.
While there is cause for satisfaction that the Western European governments and electorates have held firm, there is also cause for great concern, especially concerning the West German Social Democrats, who have voiced a resounding no to the NATO deployments. Although the SPD has voiced its approval of continued West German membership in NATO, left-wing nationalism and neutralism is very fashionable in the now dominant wing of the party led by former Chancellor Willy Brandt and the SPD can indulge in irresponsibility while in opposition, but economic recovery may not come soon to West Germany, thus opening the way for a return to power, if Helmut Kohl's center right coalition cannot persist. While the socialists of Italy and France repeat the lessons of deterrence, the social Democrats of northern and Protestant Europe will be entranced with nuclear free schemes, "dissolving the blocs," and moving away from that "primitive anticommunist" of the bellicose Americans.
It is not American missiles--which the West Europeans first urged us to bring--strategic musings about nuclear war fighting, the casual remark about nuclear war of the first year or so of the Reagan administration, or the Reagan military build-up which created the neutralist climate in West Germany. The deepest crisis, especially among the young, the leftish intellectuals, and the Protestant Churches, is a moral one. The peace movement is part of a larger romantic, anti-modernist impulse which in turn draws its inspiration and main themes from two sources first, the effect of a political and cultural assault on liberal democracy and capitalism beginning in the new left in the 1960s; and second, the consequences of a simplistic understanding of Detente according to which the age of ideological confrontation with the Soviet Union had given way to a more "sophisticated" and political effort to coexist with the Soviet Union as a security partner."
All over the West, but nowhere more than in West Germany, the pragmatic realization of the need for coexistence with one's opponent in the nuclear age, was unfortunately extended into the wholly illusory and dangerous idea that peace required an end to ideological and moral confrontation between free and totalitarian societies, that as Peter Bender, an intellectual close to the SPD puts it, the "ideological era has come to an end." It was this decade long process of unilateral moral and political disarmament which contributed a great deal to the utopian confusions that have surfaced in Western Europe concerning the nature of the Soviet Union. If one draws out the logical conclusions of Egon Bahr's hopes for "change through rapprochement" the last stop can easily be the peace movement's slogan of "make peace without weapons."
The peace movements and the current "German uncertainties" are to a large extent the West's self-inflicted wounds. A wise and prudent American foreign policy is a necessary precondition for the Atlantic Alliance. But the sufficient conditions needed to truly restore the whole moral and psychological as well as military balance of forces in Europe include a northern European left which has it eyes open about the Soviet Union and is convinced that there is something very fundamental at stake in the conflict between East and West. Without that basis in the moral order, no amount of strategic brilliance or foreign policy sophistication will be able to keep the peace and sustain political freedom in Western Europe. The West has won this skirmish with the Soviets but its weak spots will take a long time to overcome. Unaccustomed as it may sound, we can coexist most peacefully with the Soviet Union when the Russians understand first, that nothing is to be gained by accumulating more weapons, and second, that the Western public is fully aware that there is all the difference in the world between "both superpowers." Neither of these assumptions are ambiguously clear in the minds of the northern European, especially the West German left. At the moment, this is the greatest cause for concern in assessing all of the aspects of today's balance of forces in Europe. The bright spot is that the Western European electorates have demonstrated more common sense than the highly educated articulate leftish minorities in the universities churches and the media.
Jeffrey Herf a lecturer in Social Studies for two years, is spending this year as a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for International Affairs working on a study of national identity and moral order in West Germany and their implications for East-West relations.