The time has come for others to notice, and take account of, an important new feature on the world scene. The West Europeans have foreign policies of their own. They are pushing those policies whether they accord with those coming from Washington, as in southern Africa, or are in disagreement with them, as in dealings with Moscow and the Mideast.
In other words, the West European countries are no longer satellites of the United States in world affairs. They are friends. They are associates. They are allies. Their foreign policies frequently parallel those of Washington, and probably will in the future more often than not
But Europe has, in efect, asserted its independence in matters where it thinks its own interests dictate a difference from Washington.
That new independence was most noticeably exercised in the declaration on Palestine issued in Vinice by the European Common Market "nine" on June 13. They broke loose from the Camp David framework and now call for a new initiative aimed at a prompt end to the military occupation of the Arab territories overrun by Israel during the 1967 war.
It is to be seen also in the determination of the Europeans to talk with Laonid Brezhniv on their own. first it was French President Giscard d'Estaing slipping into Poland for a Brezhnev chat -- to Washington's great surprise. Now it is West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, heading for Moscow at the end of this month.
But where their interests are seen by the Europeans to be identical with those of Washington, they will pursue parallel policies. One example of this is the close coordination of US and West European efforts to push South Africa toward giving up control of Namibia, the former German colony of South-West Africa. There is also cooperation in trying to think out ways to encourage South Africa to move away from its racial separation (apartheid) system.
Europe's independent initiatives have been stimulated by rising violence in both the Middle East and southern Africa. Arab resistance to Israeli military occupation, given half a chance, would probably approach civil war proportions. Black resistance to white South African repression is explosive both literally adn figuratively.
Violence between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East is dangerous to Europe's access to Middle East oil. Racial violence in southern Africa damages Europe's access to the materials and the markets of that part of the world. Unsettled conditions in either area open up opportunities for Moscow's intervention. Add that Europeans increasingly regard white oppression of blacks in South Africa and Israeli oppression of Arabs in the occupied territories as being just plain immoral.
Europe has an interest in peace between Arabs and Israelis. It has an interest in a new stability in southern Africa involving a rising share both in government and in the economy for the black majorities. Europe has found US cooperation helpful in Africa. It worked in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). IT may yet work in Namibia. But Europe feels that the US has run out of ability to do anything constructive about the Middle East, at least for the time being.
European impatience with Washington over the Middle East reached the breaking point when President Carter repuciated his own ambassador's vote for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel's policy of planting more settlements in the occupied Arab territories. That happened on March 3. Ever since, the West Europeans have been working toward their June 13 declaration of Venice.
An episode in the US Senate this past week underlined their reason for pursuing an independent line. Sen. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois proposed a minor amendment to the pending foreign aid bill. He wanted to give President Carter the right to hold back $150 million (out of a total of $2.2 billion earmarked for Israel during the 1981 fiscal year) until Mr. Carter concluded that Israel had "ceased the expansion of tis settlements in the West Bank and other occupied territories."
The witholding would have been little more than a hint of senatorial doubt about current Israeli policies. The amendment was immediately shot down by 85 to 7 votes. The moral is that the United States simply cannot apply pressure on Israel during an election year.
Which means that there can be no progess toward a Mideast peace between now and election day unless someone else takes the initiative. Which is what the Europeans did on June 13. Their move is intended to apply to Israel some of the pressure that cannot come from Washington.
Western Europe is, of course, a long way from forming and pursuing a major body of independent policy in world affairs. YEt the machinery now exists for making European as distinct from US policy. The "nine" did it at Venice.
This may be only the first step of the toddler learning to walk, but what has been done once can be done more easily the next time. That first step is always the hardest. And the first step has been taken.
Meanwhile, the month of June has witnessed a rise in the level and spread of violence in Southern Africa. On the night of June 1-2, black revolutionaries successfully bombed three important elements of South Africa's complex for converting coal into oil and gasoline. Two other explosions were barely averted.
About a week later, the South African whites struck deep into Angola in a raid said to have been one of their biggest single military operations since World War II. It was aimed at a base in southern Angola allegedly used by blacks from Namibia who are hoping some day to assert the independence of their country from South Africa.
On June 16 severe rioting, the worst since the Soweto riots of four years ago , broke out in soweto and other black or mixed race areas of South Africa. IT continued for much of the week. More than 40 blacks were reported to have been killed and hundreds wounded.