Western Europe is becoming increasingly concerned about its own defense. The worry felt in a number of West European capitals is that the Atlantic Alliance has become unbalanced, with the United States weighing too heavily and West Europe too lightly in the scales.
Foreign ministers from the newly revived Western European Union (WEU) met Tuesday in Paris and agreed that West Europe should do more. How willing these nations are to back their words with actions remains to be seen. Some indications may come when they meet again in Rome in October.
To add muscle to European defense, the WEU is expected to pursue ways of cooperating on arms production, step up joint discussion of defense issues, lift the remaining restrictions on West German rearmament, and discuss common approaches to security issues falling outside the NATO area, such as the Iran-Iraq war.
The WEU countries - France, West Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Britain , and Holland - would also like the WEU to become a platform for public discussion of where Europe stands in the Western alliance.
The initial optimism bred by the Paris meeting may not last. Britain is suspicious of any moves which might cause divisions within the alliance or be seen as anti-American. The fact that only Britain and France possess nuclear weapons and that France remains outside NATO's military command present obvious obstacles to full policy coordination. Nationalism is still strong.
But the Paris meeting showed that the major West European powers are at least ready to recognize that it is time Europeans began talking about their defense.