The Foreign Service Journal - April 2017
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leaders. In part this was based

on a genuine mutuality of inter-

ests, and in part it was grounded

in the hope that with persever-

ance backed by American power

the division of the continent

could one day be ended.

Such a hope has now

become illusory. There is a

growing feeling in Europe that

the United States, by its lack of

willingness to face facts in time,

has been contributing not to

the end but to the perpetuation of the hostile confrontation that

divides the continent. Most Europeans now seem to consider,

for example, that the recently abandoned U.S. attempts to foster

greater military integration were out of step with changing histori-

cal conditions and served only to obstruct the evolution of a much-

needed and desired detente.

It is in the field of politico-military affairs that the United States

is facing its greatest difficulties in Europe. Having insisted for over

a decade and a half on the indispensability of an American troop

presence to guarantee European security and help bring about an

eventual ColdWar settlement, the United States now finds for a

very mundane reason—to wit, lack of money—that this is not quite

so essential as it seemed. And instead of working together with its

allies in search of a solution to the East-West tangle, the United

States has begun to talk about arrangements with the Russians

while pressing the Europeans tomake greater financial contribu-

tions to the maintenance of its defense establishment on their


The results of this kind of maneuvering are predictable. As far as

the Europeans are concerned, it will mean a lessening of confi-

dence in the reliability of the United States as an ally and a more

questioning attitude toward American ability to achieve the goals

it has proclaimed for Europe. The Russians, for their part, may view

these developments with equanimity, if not satisfaction, since they

appear to be on the verge of achieving a long-standing objective—

namely a U.S. troop withdrawal—without the necessity of giving up

anything in return.

Although the United States can take small comfort from this

situation, it may find that as a result of such tribulations its rela-

tionship with the Europeans will eventually be established on a

sounder basis. The United States has become too closely involved

on the European scene and is toomuch identified with certain

groups of interests. Such involvement is neither desirable nor

necessary. First of all, it calls

forth latent resentments and

leads to charges of meddling

and interference. Secondly,

while European and American

interests frequently converge,

this is not always the case, and

each side should be free to pur-

sue its affairs in whatever way is


Rethinking the U.S. Role

Given the present consti-

tution of the world, it would in fact be more satisfactory for the

United States and Europe to have a less interdependent relation-

ship. The U.S. economy is in some respects so volatile, and Ameri-

can political preoccupations in some parts of the world so intense,

that a too-close integration could have serious consequences on

both sides of the Atlantic. Ideally, one side should be able to come

to the aid of the other in case of need, as the United States has done

since 1945 and as Europe may be required to do in the not-too-

distant future if present trends continue.

The European scene is currently characterized by somuch

diversity and inner vitality that it is difficult to see how, as a practi-

cal matter, the United States can continue to play the role of guard-

ian it has assumed for the past 20 years. Not only is this becoming

technically impossible, but it is also to a certain extent a self-defeat-

ing proposition from the point of view of achieving U.S. objectives

in Europe. The United States must learn to be more detached,

to be available for assistance and help if called upon rather than

attempting, as it now so frequently does, to influence the course of

events by interference andmanipulation.

At the present time, the United States is much too emotionally

involved in toomany international conflicts and quarrels, both

in Europe and elsewhere. American officials, wherever they are

located, appear to have a compulsion to assume a stand on every

troublesome issue, whether it concerns themdirectly or not. While

such an approach is theoretically admirable, especially in light of

the self-imposed U.S. mission for keeping the peace, the results

often tumout to be meager in terms of time, effort andmoney


As applied to the European political scene, the American

attitude of compulsive neighborliness is coming to be less and

less appreciated. From a purely practical or realpolitischer point

of view, the United States has already passed the stage where its

counsels are accepted on the basis of shared ideological convic-

For many years, the U.S.

position on vital issues

affecting their countries

was accepted without

serious questioning by

European leaders.


APRIL 2017