Western Europe Bolsters Its Involvement in Gulf
PARIS — WITH a policy that Italian Foreign Minister Gianni de Michelis describes as ``one for all and all for one,'' European countries continue to respond to events in the Gulf crisis with increased solidarity: both among themselves, and with the United States and Arab countries aligned against Iraq. The two-month-old crisis is also pushing Western Europe toward new levels of military cooperation.
Leaders including French President Fran,cois Mitterrand, British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd, and Jacques Delors, president of the European Community's executive commission, say events in the Gulf provide a reminder of Europe's deficiency in defense and security cooperation.
The cooperation now being tried out may provide the foundation for the gradual construction of an all-European defense system.
Following Iraq's entry and pillage of French, Belgian, and Dutch diplomatic compounds in Kuwait City on Sept. 14, the 12 countries of the European Community decided this week to follow France's example by expelling military personnel from Iraqi embassies in their countries and limiting the movement of other embassy staff. European solidarity
French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas told his European colleagues Sept. 18 that this ``marked a new concrete proof of the solidarity of European countries in the face of Iraq's aggressions.''
But in his remarks before the foreign and defense ministers of the nine-member Western European Union (WEU), Mr. Dumas went on to say that ``to attain its full measure, European solidarity must be extended to a politico-military dimension.''
At the emergency meeting, representatives of the nine members of the WEU - Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Britain - decided to reinforce their cooperation in the Gulf by extending it to air and land forces.
They will also seek extension of the United Nations embargo to air traffic.
Already at an earlier emergency meeting here on Aug. 21, the WEU had decided to coordinate the action of naval forces deployed in the Gulf region to enforce the UN embargo against Iraq. Since then joint meetings of military commanders have taken place both in Paris and in the Gulf.
The new measures will involve fewer countries, since fewer WEU members have decided at this point to send air or ground forces to the Gulf. But the Netherlands said Sept. 18 that it was prepared to send 18 F-16 fighter planes, and Dumas said several other countries are considering further deployments.
By far, the largest European military commitments thus far to the Gulf region are from France and Britain.
Public Opinion Is Key
Just how each country's public views the military buildup in the Gulf may determine how much farther Europe goes in escalating its involvement there.
In France, for example, Mr. Mitterrand has enjoyed growing public approval as he has hardened his response to Iraq. In Spain, on the other hand, demonstrators have condemned the country's military involvement, and one recent poll showed a majority of the population wants the three ships already committed to the Gulf brought home. Before this week's WEU meeting, Spain's foreign minister said his country would not increase its military presence.
But Iraqi troops encircled Spain's Embassy in Kuwait Sept. 17, following a pattern that Dumas describes as ``testing the European countries' capacity for reaction, as well as trying to divide us.''