For NATO, a `Common Atlantic Home'

AMID all the fanfare about glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union - the elections to the Congress of People's Deputies being the most recent event to capture the headlines - there is another, more troubling slogan employed by Mikhail Gorbachev which deserves greater attention. Directed mainly at our European NATO allies, this somewhat overlooked slogan goes by the name of the ``Common European Home.'' Mr. Gorbachev's vision is of a Europe extending from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains in Russia, in which the Western Europeans would replace the current definition of their interests based on common values, as embodied in the NATO alliance, with a different view of their interests based on common geography. His aim is to portray the less-threatening USSR, a country that shares the same continent with our NATO allies, as a natural partner for the Western Europeans, and to make their alliance with the United States, a distant country across the sea, seem unnatural by comparison. This scenario would send Europe back to its 19th-century diplomatic traditions, when Russia was a mainstream player and the US role in the Continent's affairs was marginal at best.

If the Common European Home begins to take shape, NATO's rationale will be undermined and America's ability to defend its interests could be seriously compromised. While President Bush is disinclined to react to every Soviet initiative with a US counterpunch, it is important that the US respond to this idea. Let's cap our current review of US strategy, slated to be ready by NATO's 40th-anniversary summit in Brussels next month, with a call for a Common Atlantic Home.

George Bush should take his cue from John F. Kennedy's 1962 speech in which he called for an Atlantic partnership based on the idea of ``twin pillars,'' one American, one European. Today the Europeans should be urged to join with the Americans to form the two wings of the Common Atlantic Home which will house our values of freedom and democracy. It will also serve to remind the world that for 40 years the US military presence in Europe under the auspices of NATO has played a major role in keeping the Continent free of the bloody conflicts that plagued it throughout its history.

When President Kennedy set out his vision of a twin-pillared alliance, the countries of Europe were not ready to meet the challenge. The Common Market was only five years old, had only six member states, and was without any vehicle for political decisionmaking. Also, President de Gaulle's desire for France to pursue an independent foreign policy was a roadblock to European unity.

Now things have changed. The six countries of the Common Market have become the 12 countries of the European Community. The EC not only coordinates trade and monetary policy, but also officially cooperates on foreign policy matters. The plan to create a single internal market by 1992 will give the Europeans an even greater sense of purpose and identity. And despite British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's rumblings from time to time, European unity is popular across the Continent, with no de Gaulle-like figure disturbing the waters.

The Common Atlantic Home would not only be an effective motto for shared values. It could also be the starting point for new policies to rejuvenate NATO as it enters middle age. Reflecting the changed balance of power within the alliance, the Europeans would contribute greater sums to the collective defense, but they would also have more to say in joint decisions. The post of NATO supreme commander, until now reserved for an American, could be rotated between an American and a European general. The Europeans would be encouraged to take the existing Franco-British cooperation on nuclear weapons policy and the new Franco-German brigade and develop them into a European defense force one day.

Some might say that a ``Common Atlantic Home'' is a public relations ploy no better than Gorbachev's own. But a catchy phrase may be what it takes in this day and age to communicate America's and Europe's intertwined history, culture, and values. Just think what a terrific sound bite it will make on Soviet television.

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