Tiny countries roar

CONSIDER Liechtenstein. Not many people think about the 26,000 Liechtensteiners and their eye-blink of a country, wedged between Switzerland and Austria. The principality is about the size of Washington, D.C. Now consider Liechtenstein and arms control. ``Asking Liechtenstein what it thinks about arms control is much less important to the United States government than asking Pittsburgh,'' a State Department desk officer says.

Or what about Monaco? This flyspeck in geographical terms -- about the size of New York City's Central Park -- is even more of a flyspeck in international political terms.

Although Liechtenstein and Monaco are the littlest, there are other small countries in Europe, like Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. They also have difficulty influencing the US on arms control, or even communicating their views. But it is more than just frustration for these mouse-size countries when dealing with international issues. Their stakes are enormous because of the potential devastation from a nuclear exchange between the superpowers.

Larger countries like France, West Germany, and Britain have expressed guarded concern over the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and loud support for arms control talks. But small European countries, whose aims are similar, feel their pressure on the US is nothing more than a pinprick.

Belgium has 9.9 million people in an area the size of Maryland; the Netherlands has 14.3 million; and the Rhode Island-size Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has only 365,000.

Antinuclear sentiment is strong in all three countries, which want the US to take a softer line with the Russians. They say they are speaking out more in NATO affairs and in other international and European bodies. And public protests in these three nations are regular and loud.

Small countries such as these should ``set the situation straight'' and be better represented, some of their officials contend. That argument is compelling in an age asked to consider broadest possible democracy and the rights of the individual vis-`a-vis the majority.

Kara Swisher is a recent graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism.

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