Updating the NATO Alliance

The year 1980 sent a shock wave through the community of nations which revolve around the United States. It was the year when the machinery which had been set up some 30 years ago to protect their communal interests simply did not work.

One example was the failure of the community to take any effective action against the Soviet Union over its invasion of Afghanistan. The United States proposed group action. The reaction among allies and associates was at best perfunctory. President Carter's attempt to mobilize a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow was a disaster bordering on fiasco. It served to advertise the inability of the Western allies to coordinate their reactions to Moscow's initiative.

One healthy result of the events of 1980 was to stimulate a vast amount of thinking among the so-called "think tanks" of the Western community. These organizations, which usually combine present and former government officials in the foreign policy area with academics who specialize in the same areas, have been beavering away for a year trying to think through what has gone wrong and what ought to be done to improve matters. The results are now proliferating in a series of pamphlets. I have three of these in front of me. There are more.

In going through these pamphlets I find agreement on the basic premise. We are in a new world condition. That new condition is most easily identified by the fact that the Soviet Union now has "global reach" (which it did not have during the first 25 years after World War II) and the Soviet Union has begun to exercise its "global reach" in the "third world," which means countries not allied or associated formally with either the Western or the Warsaw Pact systems of alliances.

Add that this third world "is an area where, unlike Europe, there are few rules and few understandings between the Great Powers."

Add also that the third-world are includes the oil of Arabia and the Gulf which is vital to the industrial welfare of the modern industrial democracies; it includes the enormously important sea lane "choke points" -- the Suez Canal, and Singapore straits, the Cape of Good Hope. And it is made up largely of uncommitted countries which are jealous of their independence and enjoy being able to play one great power off against another.

On what to do about it, there is less agreement.

The American point of view comes out most strongly in a pamphlet put out by the Atlantic Council of the United States called "The Credibility of the NATO Deterrent." This calls primarily for more Western military power, particularly by the United States. It includes the proposal that the US "be prepared to turn to some form of compulsory service if adequate results are not forthcoming from other means in the near future."

A more general Nato point of view is found in "Western Security," a publication put out jointly by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and equivalent organizations in London, Paris, and Bonn. This puts almost equal stress on improving the machinery for consultation within the NATO alliance. It proposes a new "forum for consultation" to consist primarily of the main members of the NATO alliance. There should be a "secretariat" to study the security problems of the community, make recommendations, and prepare for "summit conferences" of the heads of government.

Most radical of the reports I have seen comes from the British Atlantic Council called "A Global Strategy to Meet the Global Threat. "It notes that "for six months after the invasion of Afghanistan no meetings of Heads of Government was held; and when it was, in Venice, it was concerned mainly with economic matters." It wants new machinery to avoid a future year like 1980 when the Western allies failed to concert their plans and strategies.

It proposes not only "a new forum of the Atlantic community" associated with Japan and "perhaps even China in the future." It also wants "an international staff in permanent being, reporting to a political directorate." The staff "would need to be multi-disciplinary, including diplomatic, economic and scientific specialists." The staff could have "regional subdivisions." The staff would make recommendations to the governments and prepare for summit conferences.

In other words NATO is out of date in its present form. It has protected Western Europe and North America for a generation. But when the economic interests of those communities are endangered in the third-world area the old machinery breaks down. It did not work in 1980. It will not suffice for similar crises probably lying ahead. The danger is acute at the moment in Lebanon and between Israel and Iraq.

For anyone wanting to do homework on the subject of the "global threat" and what to do about it I particularly recommend the pamphlet put out by the British Atlantic Committee, because it goes farther than the others in recommending new action. Also, perhaps not surp risingly, It is written in clear and readable English

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