New Century, Old Question: Can Europe Keep
By LOREN B. THOMPSON
LOREN B. THOMPSON is chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute.
In 1968, French journalist J.J. Servan-Schreiber published a hugely
influential book called The American Challenge, which argued that Europe
was falling behind the United States. It was not the Soviet Union that
worried him so much as the U.S. economic and technological "colossus" (as
he called it) whose multinational corporations were invading Western
Europe. Unless Europe transformed itself into a truly integrated regional
economy capable of keeping up with the United States in the computer
and aerospace industries, he warned, it would be permanently relegated
to second-class status.
Today, a third of a century later, the Soviet Union is gone, and the
European Union (EU) really is beginning to resemble a unified market.
Arianespace, a European consortium, leads the world in commercial space
launches, and Airbus has surpassed Boeing in commercial aircraft sales.
But, as the Western alliance's spring air offensive over former Yugoslavia
demonstrated, whether Europe can keep up with the pace of technological
innovation in U.S. weapons systems is still an open question.
Servan-Schreiber's book was the most seminal study of trans-Atlantic
relations in his generation because it crystallized the misgivings of
many European policymakers and intellectuals about America's expanding
global role. Today, those misgivings have grown even greater. The value
of U.S. security guarantees is less apparent to many Europeans, while
the global influence of the United States seems to be approaching something
akin to hegemony.
The Clinton administration has been careful not to overplay its hand--especially
in Europe--but it is hard for Europeans to overlook how dominant the
United States has become on the world stage. It spends as much on defense
as all the countries of Europe combined (Russia included); from biotechnology
to the Internet, it dominates virtually every new technology of the digital
era; two-thirds of global trade is conducted in dollars; and American
culture is routinely assailed on every continent for overwhelming traditional
values with materialism and sensuality.
European nations are no less susceptible to the appeals of chauvinism
and envy than other countries. Indeed, they may be more susceptible because
it was not so long ago that some of them dictated global economic, technological,
and cultural standards. With the waning of Russian military power and
Japanese economic influence, there is no external force more useful to
serve as a rallying point for a common European identity than the great
democracy to the west.
Just as the threat of communist aggression provided the impetus for
a common alliance among the previously fractious countries of Western
Europe 50 years ago, so the fear of being subverted by U.S. power and
values now gives urgency to the European pursuit of a common persona.
In ServanSchreiber's day the impulse was tempered by awareness of
the looming danger to the east; with that danger now dissipated, fears
of the U.S. challenge can have free rein over the popular mind.
Against this backdrop, some of the goals that the Bush and Clinton administrations
have pursued in Europe in the post-Cold War era look rather implausible.
The notion that European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) would provide suitable partners for coalition warfare was cast
into doubt by the experience of the Kosovo campaign. The theory that
defense research and production should be rationalized on a trans-Atlantic
basis has been disproved by the business strategies of industrialists
on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. And the belief that open trade in
military goods could be achieved within the alliance has gradually run
aground on the twin shoals of U.S. security concerns and European economic
The last year of the "American Century" provided considerable
evidence for the thesis that NATO without a Soviet threat is a questionable
proposition over the long run. Despite some remarkable diplomatic and
military successes during the year, the undertow of trans-Atlantic doubt
and resentment seems to be running ever stronger, while the currents
favoring common action are weakening. That is the main focus for a review
of European affairs in 1999, and the obvious place to begin is Operation
Allied Force--the Kosovo campaign--which unfolded over former Yugoslavia
during the spring of 1999.
Coalition Warfare in the Balkans
It was supremely ironic that NATO held a Washington summit in April
of last year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the alliance's founding
in the midst of the first major European military campaign the allies
had ever jointly prosecuted. After a decade of trying diplomatically
to contain the efforts of Slobodan Milosevic to fashion a Greater Serbia
out of the ruins of former Yugoslavia, the allies finally resorted to
the collective use of force against his military and political apparatus.
Operation Allied Force began on the third day of spring with a gradually
expanding bombing campaign, and by the time it was successfully concluded
11 weeks later the last spring of the second millennium was nearly gone,
along with much of Serbia's infrastructure.
The Kosovo campaign was a remarkable operation--not just because of
its military prowess, but also because of the ability of the Clinton
administration to hold together an ambivalent alliance. That diplomatic
achievement came despite a scenario in which many of the campaign's underlying
military assumptions were proved wrong, and even when it became apparent
that Republicans in the Congress would not follow the tradition of muting
partisan criticism in wartime. There is no need to recapitulate the partisan
rhetoric surrounding U.S. involvement, but it is useful to review how
wrong much of the alliance's reasoning for the campaign turned out to
First of all, few alliance leaders anticipated the air campaign would
last longer than a week. Because the wily Serbian dictator had repeatedly
backed down when confronted with Western threats, it was widely assumed
that a few demonstration strikes would be sufficient to prove NATO resolve,
and Milosevic then would seek some sort of accommodation. Indeed, the
nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise was redeployed to the
Persian Gulf from its NATO mission in the Adriatic shortly before hostilities
commenced. But Kosovo turned out to have such heavy symbolic importance
for Milosevic--whose post-communist political career had been based largely
on appeals to renascent Serbian nationalism--that he did not retreat.
Quite the opposite: Serbian military and paramilitary forces in Kosovo
seized the initiative by greatly accelerating the "ethnic cleansing" of
the province. This was the Western alliance's second miscalculation.
Its carefully sequenced plan of gradually escalating bombing had no ready
answer to the forcible expulsion of nearly a million Albanian Kosovars--raising
the specter that Milosevic's moves would present the West with a political
fait accompli in the form of a thoroughly "cleansed" Kosovo.
After a week of light bombing--impeded in equal measure by poor weather
and political micromanagement--the alliance resolved to expand the air
campaign. The number of aircraft committed was doubled to 900, while
the range of targets was broadened. By mid-April, 14 of NATO's 19 nations
were contributing planes to the campaign, and four dozen European bases
were actively supporting the air war. The USS Theodore Roosevelt and
other Navy and Marine Corps ships and aircraft arrived to add their muscle
to the operation.
But as the bombing expanded to tactical military targets in Kosovo and
infrastructure targets around the Serbian capital of Belgrade, new problems
with the allied air campaign became apparent. The suppression of enemy
air defenses, regarded as the vital first step in any sustained bombing
effort, proved far harder to accomplish than had been anticipated. Serbian
forces operating in Kosovo also were hard to find, at least in part because
of a shortage of allied ground-surveillance aircraft. In both cases,
the Serbs showed considerable skill at exploiting mobility, concealment,
and deception to foil allied targeters.
Another serious problem was the poor quality of many European planes
committed to the fight. European aircraft generally lacked the low observables,
secure communications, reliable identification friend-or-foe, and electronic-warfare
gear needed to maximize survivability in hostile airspace. Fortunately,
the Serbian air force was driven from the skies during the early days
of the conflict, and ground-based air defenses were mostly last-generation
technology with limited range and electronic countermeasures. Nonetheless,
if the United States had not provided continuous electronic-warfare support
from Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers, Western losses might very
well have been extensive.
With notable exceptions like the French Mirage 2000, the Europeans also
lacked the sort of precision-targeting capability and "through-the-weather" munitions
favored by their U.S. counterparts to maximize lethality and minimize
collateral damage. U.S. forces flew 70 percent of all allied strike missions
and used 80 percent of the precision-guided munitions employed. In the
end, U.S. Air Force and Navy strike assets were more than sufficient
to accomplish most military objectives, but the picture of European air
power that emerged from the campaign was not encouraging for proponents
of coalition warfare. As one senior U.S. officer disparagingly commented, "We
slipped some training wheels on the Europeans and put them in the middle
of the freeway; after a few days, we said, 'we better get these kids
out of the road.'"
Shortfalls in European military capabilities were exacerbated by weak
political resolve. France--which at 100 aircraft provided the second
largest contingent of allied air power after the United States--opposed
targeting Belgrade's key economic assets such as the electrical power
grid until early May. Italy and Greece resisted sending any signals that
suggested allied willingness to use ground forces. Russia gave material
and rhetorical support to the Serbs. The difficulty of coordinating European
leaders and their forces was so daunting that U.S. commanders actively
sought to exclude their planes from many missions.
But for all these problems, by early June the allied air offensive had
begun to take a heavy toll on Serbia's economic, military, and political
infrastructure. Serbian air defenses had succeeded in downing only two
Western planes--both pilots were rescued--while almost all of the allied
munitions were hitting their intended targets. In an air war that saw
38,000 aircraft sorties and 26,000 bombs and missiles employed, only
20 cases of significant collateral damage were reported. At least one
of those cases, the unintended B-2 bombing of the Chinese embassy in
Belgrade, involved poor target intelligence rather than an errant munition.
The stealthy B-2 proved particularly impressive despite having to fly
30-hour nonstop circuits from the central United States, delivering 650
satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions against over a hundred
different targets in a mere 49 sorties. U.S. Navy planes flying 3,100
sorties (1,700 strike sorties) from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
USS Theodore Roosevelt also performed very well, accounting for nearly
half of all the damage done to the
Serbian power grid and political apparatus. Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B
Prowlers provided support jamming for all allied aircraft (including
the stealthy ones), and the Navy also launched three quarters of the
219 cruise missiles used in the campaign. The sea-launched Tomahawk proved
to be an extremely reliable 24-hour-a-day all-weather weapon, accounting
for the destruction of nearly 50 percent of key fixed targets. It also
was effective against mobile targets, destroying 85 percent of the parked
aircraft, missile launchers, and early-warning radar sites it attacked.
It is not hard to see why allied leaders assumed such a vast array of
airborne firepower would compel Milosevic to pull his forces out of Kosovo.
But it did not--at least not all by itself. Serbian forces were so dug
in around Kosovo that they seemed able to ride out the allied assault
from the air indefinitely. Serbia's infrastructure had taken a pounding,
but by late May allied planners were beginning to run out of targets
and Milosevic still had not capitulated.
As June began, Britain and the United States were seriously considering
a ground invasion despite the strong opposition of other members of the
alliance. It seems likely that his awareness that planning for a ground
operation was underway is the principal reason that Milosevic finally
accepted allied terms on 3 June--just as constant allied reiteration
earlier in the campaign that there would be no ground operation probably
stiffened his resolve. Other factors in Milosevic's change of heart probably
included the prolonged loss of electrical power and water pressure in
Belgrade due to bombing; Russia's insistence that it could not continue
to aid Serbia; and a ground offensive by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
that drew Serbian forces out of their hiding places in the province,
enabling allied aircraft to target them more effectively.
Allied bombing ceased on 10 June. Data released by Supreme Allied Commander
Gen. Wesley K. Clark indicated that Serb forces in Kosovo had lost 93
tanks, 153 armored personnel carriers, 339 other military vehicles, and
389 artillery pieces and mortars. But the Serbian Army and paramilitary
units that came out of Kosovo after the fighting ended still appeared
defiant, and Milosevic was able to win several last-minute concessions
such as Russian participation in the occupation of the province. At year's
end, Milosevic was still in power, and the military apparatus that provides
much of the basis for that power appeared to be largely intact. NATO's
pronouncements of a great Western victory seem at least somewhat exaggerated,
Lessons for the Alliance
In the immediate aftermath of the Kosovo campaign there was much relief
in Western capitals that allied war aims had been achieved without a
ground invasion. The alliance had managed to maintain a united political
front throughout the controversial bombing campaign, had suffered minimal
combat losses, and had reversed the eviction of Albanian Kosovars from
their homeland. The exile of Serbian Kosovars--and crimes of revenge
at the hands of ethnic Albanians--soon commenced. By year's end, international
observers in Kosovo accused former members of the KLA of orchestrating
a campaign of hate and violence to rid the province of Serbs.
The sense of relief that NATO experienced in June also was tempered
by recognition of how surprisingly difficult the campaign had been. Considering
that half the world's great military powers had been arrayed against
a backward Balkan rump-state of 10 million that spent less on its military
in a year than the Western alliance spent in one day, the results seemed
something less than decisive--especially since Europe's last dictator
was still in power in Belgrade.
Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and
NATO's southern region during Operation Allied Force, detected some worrisome
signs in the air campaign's fitful progress. A late summer briefing drafted
by his staff--and leaked to the news media--argued that micromanagement
by NATO's political leaders had permeated "every aspect of planning
and execution" in the operation, undercutting the alliance's military
effectiveness. Instead of decisive operations, his staff charged, the
alliance had waged "incremental war." Excessive concern about
collateral damage had created "sanctuaries and opportunities for
the adversary" that were eagerly exploited. Finally, a "lack
of credible threat of ground invasion," the briefing stated, "probably
prolonged the air campaign."
Ellis called for a debate of the role that politics (and politicians)
should play in future military operations. Clark and Air Force Lt. Gen.
Michael C. Short, who led the allied Kosovo air campaign, expressed similar
sentiments. However, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, gave a speech in November arguing that
gradualism and heavy political oversight are probably inescapable features
of coalition warfare, at least when it is conducted by a diverse, democratic
alliance. This view was shared by senior members of the Clinton administration,
who were more attuned to the political requirements of successful coalition
warfare than many military operators. Some senior U.S. officers privately
praised Clinton for persevering with the air war despite constant partisan
criticism in the Congress.
One area where U.S. political and military leaders were in agreement,
though, was that the performance of European forces in the Kosovo operation
left much to be desired. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) after-action
review on Kosovo, released to Congress in mid-October, noted that parallel
U.S. and NATO command-and-control structures and systems complicated
operational planning and the maintenance of unity of command. Secretary
of Defense William S. Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry
H. Shelton said that the United States needed to work with its allies
to enhance NATO's contingency planning process, to develop an overarching
command-and-control policy, and to enhance procedures and conduct exercises
strengthening NATO's political-military interfaces.
European members of NATO had proved to be deficient in virtually every
facet of military technology--from airlift to precision targeting to
aerial refueling to electronic warfare to airborne surveillance. Even
in relatively inexpensive technologies such as secure communications
links the allies were wanting--proof, Ralston said, of how "foolish" some
of their investment priorities were.
The most obvious reason for the shortfalls, said German Gen. Klaus Nauman,
the retiring chairman of NATO's Military Committee, was that European
members of the alliance "were very generous in giving themselves
a peace dividend" when the Cold War ended. Although the regional
economy of the European Union is similar in size to that of the United
States, European NATO nations collectively spent only 60 percent of what
the United States did on defense. And when their larger population was
factored into the comparison, the Europeans spent barely half as much
as the Americans in per capita terms.
But that was only the beginning of the problem, according to Cohen.
At a September conference of NATO defense ministers in Toronto, he complained
that the European members of NATO further diluted the value of their
defense spending by failing to coordinate with one another, thereby,
producing fragmented and duplicative investment programs. European NATO
countries "spend roughly 60 percent of what the United States does
and they get about 10 percent of the capability," Cohen said. "That
has to change."
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott delivered a similar message
three weeks later at a conference in London commemorating the founding
of NATO. Talbott warned that if the disparities in budgetary burdens
and military capabilities reflected in the Kosovo operation are not corrected,
the American public (meaning Congress) would gradually tire of contributing
to European security. The potential for congressional criticism became
all too apparent in November, when the U.S. Army gave two of its 10 active-duty
divisions the lowest possible readiness ratings because they had brigades
tied down on peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Of course, the Europeans have contributed the vast majority of the 30,000
peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 50,000 in Kosovo. The question
members of Congress and the Clinton administration were asking was whether
the Europeans could contribute significantly to the more demanding challenge
of peacemaking. The Europeans had sought to be responsive at the alliance's
April summit in Washington, embracing a "Defense Capabilities Initiative" aimed
at enhancing their interoperability, mobility, intelligence, communications,
and logistics. The 58 separate goals of the initiative, if actually implemented,
would go a long way toward addressing U.S. complaints that the Europeans
have not been sharing the security burden equally.
But "paper is patient," as an old German saying observes.
Whether the declarations at the Washington summit and subsequent meetings
will translate into sustained increases in military investment on the
part of the Europeans is unclear. The government of Germany sent a discouraging
sign after the summit when it signaled its defense budget for next year
would probably be cut, rather than increased, in order to address more
pressing domestic obligations. Because Germany's economy is so much larger
than that of the other European NATO members, any failure on Berlin's
part to fund more ambitious military spending plans would almost surely
doom European efforts to catch up.
A further complication was introduced by France, which has not actually
been part of the alliance's military structure since President Charles
de Gaulle pulled it out in 1966--but nonetheless constantly offers suggestions
for improving NATO's role in European security. In mid-November the French
government released an assessment of the Kosovo operation that conceded
its military was deficient in key warfighting technologies. The findings
were similar to an earlier lessons-learned report compiled by Great Britain.
But, unlike the British study, the French assessment went on to complain
that "part of the military operations were conducted by the United
States outside the strict framework of NATO and its proceedings."
That was a somewhat surprising criticism coming from France, since Paris
had been the main impediment to unrestricted use of U.S. air power throughout
the campaign. However, complaints about U.S. unilateralism were a frequent
theme in French pronouncements on the meaning of Kosovo during the summer
and fall of 1999. A French Senate report in August warned of "crushing
American superiority" in cutting-edge military capabilities, and
it asserted that during the Balkan operation "the United States
had a virtual monopoly of information on the opponent but did not always
share it with its allies." The French generally concluded from such
findings that Europe needed to be less dependent on the United States
for the means of conducting warfare.
Other European states felt the same way, but perhaps not as passionately
as Paris. In early October, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana relinquished
his position in the alliance to become the EU's first High Representative
for a Common Foreign and Security Policy. EU leaders gave the former
socialist a mandate to devise a common defense identity for the union
by the end of 2000 that would enable it to act autonomously from the
United States if security objectives diverged. The Clinton administration
responded warily to this move, worrying that the EU might eventually
eclipse NATO in European security arrangements--excluding the United
States from a central role in the process. The Wall Street Journal commented
that the Europeans and the United States were "behaving like a husband
and wife preparing for a messy divorce."
Whether it will actually come to that is unclear. EU security plans
at present are so nebulous that they may never amount to much--especially
if members refuse to spend more on their militaries. Even within Europe,
the membership of NATO and the EU are not coterminous. Ireland and Sweden
are part of the union but not of the alliance. Turkey is a key member
of the alliance, but its perennial applications for membership in the
union have been blocked by Greece. How these complexities would be sorted
out in a pan-European security framework is anyone's guess. It also is
not clear if the EU could muster the assertive political leadership needed
to galvanize action when dealing with a crisis comparable to that encountered
in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosovo--leadership traditionally provided by
the United States in NATO's political and military frameworks.
For all the uncertainty, though, it was clear by the end of 1999 that
most European nations saw in Operation Allied Force a message that change
is needed. Even the United Kingdom, with stronger ties to the United
States and weaker ties to the continent than other EU members, seems
persuaded that Europe needs a more unified security posture to match
its increasingly integrated marketplace and legal structures. Indeed,
some observers thought they saw implicit market support for a unified
defense establishment during the year in the cross-border merger moves
of major European military suppliers.
Defense Industry Integration
Last year began with British Aerospace's acquisition of the Marconi
Electronics defense and missile business owned by the General Electric
Company (U.K.)--creating a $20 billion military and aerospace enterprise.
That move disappointed some U.S. policymakers who had hoped to see a
trans-Atlantic merger of military suppliers. But since the new combination
only involved British companies, it did not really further the integration
of Europe's or NATO's defense industries.
A more portentous development was announced in October, when DaimlerChrysler
Aerospace agreed to merge with France's Aerospatiale Matra to create
the world's third largest defense and aerospace company (after Boeing
and Lockheed Martin). A week later, Aerospatiale, British Aerospace,
and Finmeccanica agreed to merge their missile business. Since Finmeccanica
was already partnered with British Aerospace's Marconi unit in a missile
venture and DaimlerChrysler's missile lines were about to be merged with
those of Aerospatiale, the end result would be a single pan-European
The exclusively European character of these combinations provoked consternation
in the United States, where Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre and
other senior Pentagon policymakers had been urging European military
suppliers to merge with U.S. defense contractors so that the industry
could be rationalized on a trans-Atlantic basis. By late October, though,
Hamre was saying that the vast scale of the new European enterprises
effectively precluded major trans-Atlantic mergers.
The marketplace thus has produced a series of business moves that reinforce
the European urge to pursue a security role separate from and independent
of the United States. U.S. defense companies are increasingly pessimistic
that they will be able to sell their products in Europe in the future.
And since the Airbus commercial airliner consortium will be jointly owned
by British Aerospace and the new DaimlerChrysler/Aerospatiale combination,
economic considerations are likely to encourage a further European sense
of isolation from U.S. interests. Unless Russia suddenly regains its
former stature as a looming threat to the collective security of the
West--an improbable development--U.S. and European interests are likely
to continue diverging.
The Helpless Giant
It is a measure of how greatly the European political landscape has
shifted since the end of the Cold War that an assessment of regional
security developments in the past year could have gotten this far without
turning to the subject of Russia. The Russian economy and political culture
showed little sign of recovery in 1999 from the depressed conditions
of recent years. Per-capita gross domestic product has plummeted by a
third since the beginning of the decade. In real terms--after accounting
for inflation--Russia's economy today is about half the size of the Soviet
Union's economy in the late 1980s, when it was already lagging far behind
the West. Corruption and inefficiency are rampant, in part because the
government of President Boris Yeltsin has allowed political considerations
to drive the restructuring of state-owned enterprises. Many state enterprises
have been kept alive despite abysmal productivity, sapping the strength
of a nascent private sector. When privatization does occur, Yeltsin's
cronies are often the main beneficiaries.
Other parts of the former Soviet Union are struggling too. The gross
domestic product of the Ukraine has contracted at an average annual rate
of 11 percent since 1988, producing such widespread dissatisfaction that
nearly half of the electorate voted for communist and socialist candidates
in the first round of presidential balloting in mid-autumn. The Ukrainian
economy today is estimated to be about 40 percent of its size in the
late 1980s. In general, the further east former communist countries are
located, the bleaker their economic circumstances. Poland and Hungary
have fared reasonably well, with per-capita wealth levels approaching
twice the Russian figure. How much of this differential is due to geography--proximity
to the open markets of Western Europe--and how much is due to culture
or political inertia is unclear.
What is clear to many Russians is that their nation no longer controls
its fate. With health trends similar to an underdeveloped country and
chronic political infighting creating widespread disillusionment with
democracy, the public seems increasingly willing to back any leader who
can put an end to the decay of the Yeltsin era. That concerns other European
leaders, whose domestic and defense agendas are predicated on the assumption
that Russia will not revisit its former expansionist policies.
Even if radical nationalists or reform communists seized power in Moscow,
though, it would be a long time before the Russian military could regain
its former stature. An October assessment by DOD's National Defense University
found that "the Russian armed forces are in disarray, and will require
two to three decades to recover." The collapse of Russian military
power is so profound, NDU warned, that a political vacuum has been created
in Central Asia. The latest round of fighting in the Southern Caucasus
is one manifestation of this.
Another manifestation is the grow-ing Russian dependence on nuclear
weapons in its defense posture. Gen. Ralston, who has been designated
to succeed Gen. Clark as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, told the Senate
Armed Services Committee in late October that "as conventional capabilities
erode, they [the Russians] will rely more on their nuclear forces." Ralston
warned that "we have to do everything we can to make sure Russia
does not become a failed state." Unfortunately, Congressional support
for aid to the beleaguered states has waned as evidence emerged that
the Russians were diverting funds to other purposes. Congress even slashed
funds for the demilitarization of Russian nuclear forces--despite hearing
that 4,800 nuclear warheads, 365 intercontinental missiles, and 49 bombers
have been destroyed under the Nunn-Lugar program.
Russia's nuclear establishment today is a pale shadow of its Cold War
scale. Although its 17 nuclear-weapons production facilities still employ
100,000 scientists and engineers, annual output of warheads has fallen
from 4,000 at the height of the Cold War to perhaps 200 today. The Russians
are deploying a new single-warhead, mobile intercontinental ballistic
missile (ICBM) (the SS-27) to replace multiple-warhead missiles banned
by the second round of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks--even though
the Duma has not actually ratified the treaty--but the new systems are
appearing at the rate of only one per month. Plans for a new class of
ballistic-missile submarines have been delayed, forcing the Navy to defer
decommissioning of Delta III submarines. Even the Russian early-warning
system is in disrepair, providing such unreliable coverage that the United
States has stepped in to provide assistance.
Against this backdrop, Russian threats about U.S. plans to build a thin
national missile defense system ring hollow. Russian leaders claim the
system--designed to counter small nuclear attacks by rogue states such
as North Korea--will compromise their nuclear deterrent. Any move to
modify the 1972 ABM (Antiballistic Missile) treaty, they say, may provoke
a surge in Russian offensive deployments. Some Western European governments
take this threat seriously, but the Clinton administration and Republican-led
Congress seem less than impressed. It now looks likely that, despite
European apprehensions the United States will decide to go ahead with
the start of construction of a defensive network in June 2000.
So where does all this leave Europe at the end of the American Century?
Much as Charles Dickens described it in A Tale of Two Cities at the time
in history when the United States was being founded. It is the best of
times and the worst of times, a period of peace and prosperity in the
West, depression and dissolution in the East, and hope mixed with apprehension
among the states caught in between. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
captured Europe's uncertainty about the future when he commemorated the
10th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall on 9 November, pointing
out that it was on the same day in 1938 that the Nazis launched the Kristallnacht
pogrom against Jews that foreshadowed the Holocaust. Imperialism, Fascism,
Communism--they all seem today to be part of Europe's past. But what
the future holds is no more settled than it was when the century began.