For the West, mere survival is seldom exciting or heroic
Mid-June in world affairs turns out to be one of those times when the things that don't happen are as important as those that do. There has been no major top headline during the past week. At time of writing , Iran had not launched its big offensive against Iraq. No major change had shaken Central America. Clan warfare in Lebanon had gone its usual sporadic way. A flurry of reports about possible American-Soviet summitry had produced little visible progress toward an actual summit.
What is as important, if not more so, is that the NATO alliance is surviving in spite of internal strains. And so, too, is the European Economic Community (EEC).
The biggest immediate problem in holding the West more or less together is over Britain's contribution to the EEC budget. The last high-level meeting, in Brussels last March, was supposed to find a compromise. The effort failed.
On Monday and Tuesday, at Fontainebleau, the European Community leaders will try again. If they fail, they will have to try and try again - just as the NATO leaders had to keep trying last year to resolve the divisive problem of the deployment of new nuclear missiles, and just as NATO had to meet frequently the year before to unsnarl differences over the American effort to mobilize an economic boycott of the Soviet Union.
Those dangerous issues of other years are finished now. Washington gave up the economic boycott idea long ago. The NATO allies in Europe have accepted the new nuclear weapons, except for the Dutch who are delaying their final decision for the time being.
Now the Western allies are agreed on the need to get a fresh dialogue going with the Soviets. The economic summit two weeks ago in London was proof that at this time the major countries in the Western community, including Japan, are more or less moving in the same direction - even though some differences in point of view had to be smoothed over.
Meanwhile, the West Europeans have gone to the polls to elect new members for the European Parliament. An estimated 40 percent of the voters did not bother to vote, thus showing their lack of concern about a parliament that has virtually no power. Those who did bother to vote frequently used it as a chance to show their dislike of their own current governments. Ruling parties did poorly everywhere except in Greece.
It was a warning to the rulers of each member nation that there is widespread disaffection with their national policies.
Disaffection with West Europe's policies exists, too, in Washington. Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat from Georgia and senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asserted that unless the European members of NATO ''shape up'' and increase their contributions to the defense of Europe, the US should bring home some 90,000 of the 355,000 troops the US currently maintains in Europe.
It won't happen. This is a manifestation of an annual complaint in Congress about the European allies. The important thing is that complaints like this, balancing off the complaints so often aired against US policies by the European allies, are aired in public. No one pretends that the NATO allies and associates are a harmonious family. Far from it. There have been vigorous quarrels. One of the roughest was over that idea of the Reagan administration that the Soviet Union could be moved, and perhaps even changed, by an economic boycott.
The Europeans refused to join in any such project. They insisted on attempted conciliation with the Soviets. Today, that approach of putting pressure on the Soviets has given way to discussion of how they can be induced to come out of their new self-isolationism. Meanwhile, Europe struggles to put its own economic house in order.