European Rivalries Are Not Inevitable

The opinion-page article ``Should NATO Close Shop?'' March 10, is in many respects more likely to sow confusion than to contribute to a clear analysis of the subject.

The authors base their argument on one assumption: that the recurrence of power rivalries in Europe is inevitable. Not surprisingly, the recommendations of the authors are not limited to keeping NATO from taking in new member states, but suggest that the United States insulate itself ``from the economic and political consequences of future European rivalries.'' They conclude that it might be better for America if NATO did go out of business.

Why are great power rivalries involving ``Germany, Russia, and Ukraine'' inevitable? Germans would fear nothing more than being drawn into old power rivalries. In fact, Germany is firmly determined to prevent this; witness its dogged adherence to NATO and the pursuit of greater European unity by a succession of federal governments.

It is true that in the past NATO has been a success story not only in preventing an attack on Western Europe by the Soviet Union and in neutralizing the projection of power into Europe, which the Soviet Union inevitably would have achieved without the presence of the countervailing American potential, but also in neutralizing potential conflicts between member states, the most notable example being Greece and Turkey. But the assumption that Europeans should stage a reprise of the rather sad performance of the past century is without factual basis. The European peninsula remains brittle and vulnerable in many respects, resting on the edge of political fault lines (North Africa, the Middle East, the Gulf, the former Soviet Union), which may well produce major political tremors in the decades ahead. The danger of destabilization would not come from inside Europe but rather from the outside, and European states would only have limited ability to avoid the fallout from conflicts in their vicinity.

The US has been an important element of stability in Europe. Of course, there are costs involved; however, the price of the US disengaging from Europe might well be higher. The Europeans want the US to remain involved not because they fear to be left to their own devices and to the demons of the past, but because they and the US hold similar views and political and economic systems. This is why the close and symbiotic relationship between the US and Europe is an element of stability not only in Europe but for the world as a whole. No problem we face in common would be easier to solve with an American withdrawal. Quite independent of whether we should extend NATO to new members, the US should not disengage from Europe because of misguided historic determinism, which would turn out to be simply a self-fulfilling prophesy. Immo Stabreit, Washington German Ambassador to the US

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