American weakness coupled with Soviet strength is sending a cold chill through the capitals of Europe. The Continent's political leaders will soon be faced with two choices: submit to Moscow-or turn Europe into a third superpower force. THE RIFT between America and its allies is growing wider by the month.
Even Britain-America's most staunch ally — is going its own way more often than not. London, for example, has defected from a united (albeit diluted) European stand supporting President Jimmy Carter's plea for trade sanctions against Iran.
Continent Slips Away Across the Channel, President Valery Giscard d'Estaing of France surprised Washington and everybody else by surfacing in Warsaw for a surprise summit conference with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev. Only days before, French Foreign Minister Jean Francois-Poncet had lectured America's new Secretary of State Edmund Muskie on the virtues of allied consultation.
The West Germans are also showing increasing signs of independence. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt wavered on his earlier support of stationing a new generation of nuclear weapons for NATO.
Moscow's tug on Bonn is getting stronger. The German chancellor went to Moscow in late June for his own summit with Mr. Brezhnev. The dependence of Western Europe upon Mideast oil is now leading to what could be the most serious rupture of all in the alliance.
To insure access to future energy supplies, the Europeans feel they must display more sympathy with the Arab cause. In their June summit in Venice, the European Economic Community (Common Market) countries stopped just short of political recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Only intense pressure from Washington forced the EEC to postpone sponsoring a controversial resolution in the United Nations Security Council calling for Palestinian "self-determination" — a code phrase for a Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Can't Trust "the Policeman" The reason why Europeans are showing more independence in the Western camp should be obvious: It is due to the shocking decline of American leadership in the Free World, coupled with the virtually uncontested growth of Soviet military might, right on Western Europe's doorstep.
Everywhere in Europe these days, there is loose talk about America's inconsistency and incompetence. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., former aid to President John Kennedy, notes in a report from London, that the United States is becoming the "Inspector Clouseau of nations" — likening America to the bumbling detective, played by Peter Sellers, in the popular "Pink Panther" films.
European mistrust in American leadership of the Free World is now matched by growing doubts about Washington's ability to militarily defend its allied partners.
The debacle of the American rescue mission in Iran has had a profound impact upon Europe. One of the world's leading military strategists, Dr. Edward Luttwak of the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., notes that "the abandonment of the dead, of secret documents and intact helicopters is contrary to all the customs of war and the usages of the service. This has a powerful effect in intensifying the great loss of prestige that the country has suffered as a result of this debacle."
This expert in military affairs also contends that the United States "hasn't carried out a single major successful military operation in the last 30 years." — ever since the brilliant Inchon landing operation in Korea conducted by General Douglas MacArthur. The Soviet Union suffered a humiliating setback too — in October, 1962-when President Kennedy forced Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to pull his missiles out of Cuba. But the Soviets made their embarrassment payoff.
Since that time, the Russians have closed the gap in nearly all military fields with the United States. And the momentum is all in their favor. They are advancing past "rough equivalency" with America to that of a clear advantage by the early to middle 1980s.
The Soviet Union by then will have attained strategic nuclear superiority combined with conventional weapon superiority in Europe. To go along with these advantages, the Soviets will have achieved a powerful blue-water navy capable of interdicting wartime commerce between America and Europe and cutting the Western world's access to mineral resources in Africa and elsewhere.
America Falling Further Behind The United States has been slow to meet this challenge. Says former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: "Rarely in history has a nation so passively accepted such a radical change in the military balance."
Instead of "closing the gap" all evidence points to the United States further dropping behind the Soviets.
Recent news analyses have revealed shocking deficiencies in the U.S. military forces. In every service branch there are serious shortages of equipment, spare parts and supplies. Manpower shortages are critical as well, especially among the ranks of skilled technicians.
The all-volunteer force idea, critics warn, isn't working. Yet a return to the draft is fraught with explosive social consequences.
From all appearances today, the military services are being used more as vehicles for achieving social goals of eliminating racial and sexual "discrimination" — rather than as instruments of national defense.
Phyllis Schlafly, noted U.S. journalist, recently told a congressional subcommittee that the feminist movement, for example, is responsible for the issuance of maternity uniforms and the opening of nurseries on army posts.
"What a way to run the armed services," said Mrs. Schlafly. "We must be the laughing stock of the world."
And now, for the first time, women have graduated as officers from the nation's service academies. Actual combat roles for women — hotly denied by military higher-ups now — won't be far behind. Even Adolf Hitler didn't commit women to combat!
Columnist Patrick J. Buchanan put it in wry perspective: "What a bulletin to send to the Kremlin: Cease your imperalist crusade toward the Arabian Sea, or confront American coeds in the Khyber Pass."
Little wonder European leaders have growing doubts about the future reliability of America's defense commitments.
The Kissinger Shock In September, 1979, Dr. Kissinger made a "confession" of sorts about the true state of America's nuclear umbrella supposedly shielding Europe. His remarks deserved wider attention in the press. Perhaps they were just too shocking to be believed.
Nonetheless Dr. Kissinger' told a NATO study group meeting in Brussels that Europeans could no longer count on the United States to guarantee their security.
American nuclear doctrine, which rests on "assured destruction" of Soviet cities, industry and population, is no longer valid, Dr. Kissinger said, because of "the total vulnerability of the United States." (Dr. Kissinger's spoken words total vulnerability were downgraded to limited vulnerability in the official transcript typed up afterwards.)
Addressing a top-level expert's conference in Brussels on "NATO — the Next 30 years," the former secretary of state said: "Don't you Europeans keep asking us to multiply assurances we cannot possibly mean, and if we did mean should not want to execute, and if we did execute would destroy civilization. That is our strategic dilemma into which we have built ourselves by our theories and the encouragement of our allies. It is not a declining will, but an objective problem. Of course a President will threaten, but will he do it?"
NATO's unity, of course, has been based for 30 years on the premise — that the United States would do it-would, in other words, treat an attack on Europe the same as an attack on the United States.
"I have contributed some of these theories so I am not casting any blame," said Dr. Kissinger. "I have sat around the NATO council table in Brussels and elsewhere and have uttered the magic words that the U.S. military commitment remained undiminished, which had a profoundly reassuring effect... And my successors have uttered the same reassurances. And yet if my analysis is correct these words cannot be true, and if my analysis is correct we must face the fact that it is absurd to base the strategy of the West on the credibility of the threat of mutual suicide."
Dr. Kissinger's message, reported Morton Kondracke in New Republic magazine, "was such a shock that it became the center of conference debate." Don Cook, writing in the Los Angeles Times, added: "It is a rather sobering beginning to NATO's next 30 years to have one of America's most spectacular secretaries of state now saying that all the assurances he had given the alliance in the past were eyewash."
Only Two Choices Europe, in its exposed state, has but two choices in the long run: The first is to opt for greater accommodation with the Soviet Union. But in Europe's weakened state this would only amount to subservience to Moscow's wishes; the second choice is to pay the price in an all-out effort to become a third superpower bloc, in command of its own defense.
Neither alternative is really palatable at the moment. Yet the realization of just how weak, how exposed the continent really is, and what must be done about the deteriorating situation is just beginning to dawn on its men of influence.
Claude Imbert, chief editor of the French news magazine Le Point, writes in the June 2, 1980, Newsweek (European edition): "No matter how much we Europeans criticized American leadership in the past, we never ceased relying on it. So now that the United States appears to be failing in its mission as leader and champion of the European alliance, we are suddenly aware of our weaknesses vis-a-vis the Soviet Union....
"In Europe, the prospects of a new relationship with the Soviet Union take several forms. They are all, however, underlined by the fear of a weak Europe compared to an increasingly strong, arrogant and self-assured Soviet Union.... In recent talks with French diplomats, Soviet leaders didn't bother to conceal their new arrogance. Yes, they said.... We moved into Afghanistan. So what? It's no concern of yours what we do there.
"The Soviets use the same tactics over the question of nuclear weapons in Europe," said editor Imbert. "Never mind about our SS20s [huge Soviet missiles targeted on West Europe's cities], the Kremlin says now. They are not your concern. Just don't put Pershings [U.S. missiles] in Europe .... This behavior is the prelude to a bid for the neutralization of Europe, a long-term Soviet goal."
Too many Europeans, asserts Mr. Imbert, are being lulled by the idea that "Finlandization" may not be so bad after all. He appeals to fellow Europeans to "take stock of ourselves before it's too late....
In view of America's decline and Russia's burgeoning power, Europe, concluded Mr. Imbert, "is only now becoming conscious of how alone it is. A stretch of solitude is always beneficial if it is used to reflect on ultimate goals and aims-especially if they involve an ultimate spiritual survival."
Strauss Lashes Out Europe's aimless drift toward pro-Moscow neutrality is the issue Franz Josef Strauss is stressing most in his uphill battle to unseat Helmut Schmidt in the West German national elections October 5.
Mr. Strauss, discarding his "sophisticated statesman" image, has been lashing out like the Strauss of old at the left-wing in Mr. Schmidt's Social Democratic Party. These men, he claims, are leading West Germany down the dangerous path of neutralization.
For Mr. Strauss the option of a "Finlandized Europe" subservient to Moscow is not acceptable at all. Europe, he says, must show sympathy and support for the United States. Yet, at the same time, he claims in an article in the spring, 1980, issue of Policy Review, "the European partners should be ready to take global joint responsibility instead of passing the role of the policeman of the world to America."
Mr. Strauss comes down sharply on the side of the "second choice" — that of European self-defense. He writes in the same publication, "Today Europe itself must take charge of its foreign security and defense, and it must be ready to undertake the necessary long term burdens and sacrifices."
Spiritual Leadership Needed Europe clearly is facing an historic crossroads. Mr. Strauss, if elected, might be able to provide political direction to a continent adrift. But more is needed.
Western Europe is not only in an exposed state militarily. Its unprecedented material advances of the past two decades are clearly in jeopardy as well.
The energetic Pope John Paul II — the most widely traveled pontiff in history-has been trying to reawaken Europe to its prematerialistic heritage.
On March 21, 1980, the pope extolled the idea of a unified Europe in a ceremony marking the 1,500th anniversary of St. Benedict. According to a news dispatch from Vatican City, "Pope John Paul II held up the efforts of St. Benedict to create a Christian unity in the Old World as a model for a new unified Europe."
The "spiritual unity" of Europe is a theme the new pope has returned to frequently, most dynamically of all in his native Poland last year. "Christianity must commit itself anew to the formation of the spiritual unity of Europe" he said, "Economic and political reasons alone cannot do it."
The rather cool reception a largely secularized French public accorded John Paul II on his visit to France in May shows that his pleas for the "spiritual unity" of Europe have not struck home.
But as Europe's economy sours further, as the threat to its Mideast oil lifeline grows, as the state of America's "nuclear umbrella" for Europe is seen for what it really is and as Russia's leverage intensifies — watch for the warnings of Mr. Strauss and the appeals of Pope John Paul II to reach more responsive ears.