Year XXIX, 1987, Number 2, Page 91
Two Possibilities for European Defence
The negotiations between the Americans and Russians for the double zero option have once more brought the problem of European defence to the fore. The fact is that after Reykjavik the prospect of American disengagement in Europe albeit partial and gradual is becoming an increasingly realistic possibility. The double zero option is only the nuclear side of this process, which will eventually affect conventional weapons too.
The Europeans have thus been brought squarely face to face with their responsibilities by the train of events, and inevitably the expectation of a weakened American umbrella will give rise to the answer — albeit a merely verbal one — of European defence. The attitude of the Europeans, however, reveals a surprising degree of blindness which takes some of them down a reactionary road and condemns the others to impotence. It is a fact: a) that the requirement of European defence is particularly stressed in certain conservative quarters who do not hide their aversion to both the current process of détente between the two superpowers and the prospect of the withdrawal of medium and short range missiles from Europe and who conduct rearguard battles like that over the Pershing 1 missiles; b) that the left, even when speaking of European defence, is incapable of indicating credible and effective alternatives. The blindness lies in this: the talk is about European defence in general, overlooking the fact that there are two alternative possibilities: 1) a European defence which remains within bipolarism, 2) a European defence which, precisely because it exists, transcends bipolarism.
A European defence which remains part of bipolarism, feeding it and subjected to its hegemony, belongs to a Europe which is still not politically united (nation-states with their own military sovereignty, their weakness and incapacity to defend themselves by themselves, the need for American protection). On the other hand, a European defence which transcends bipolarism is a European defence in the literal sense of the term, in the hands of a European government. This Europe (the Community with its 12 members), with its 320 million inhabitants and its cultural resources, needs neither American protection, nor an arms race to balance the might of the USSR.
This possibility is as yet unexplored because the problem of European defence has always been seen both by politicians and by observers in terms of a bipolar equilibrium, i.e. an international scenario in which the balance of forces and the nature of the strategic equation remain substantially unchanged. In this light, European defence only means a greater European contribution to the American defence of Europe and hence greater military expenditure for Europe and growing militarization of society. If the bipolar outlook is maintained and if European responsibility in this area is increased, Europe as the most exposed region of the Atlantic Pact will clearly become the area with the greatest interest in strengthening both nuclear and conventional theatre weapons (in the illusion that a deterrent which has now lost all credibility could be reconstructed) and hence obstructing the consolidation of détente. And this tendency, it should be noted, would be all the stronger in that the solution to the problem of security could only be seen in exclusively military terms, assuming Europe remains divided and politically weak.
This in itself is sufficient to show the inconsistency of the reality hiding behind the image of European defence as presented in the slogans of the leaders of European governments. The fact is that without a European government a hypothetical European army would simply be a military dictatorship (i.e. de facto subservience of European armed forces to the American government). Moreover, a European executive, with the full powers of a true government, could not possibly be created from nothing from one day to the next. It follows that the formula for European defence adopted in politicians’ speeches and journalists’ articles only covers the more or less conscious design of a traditional alliance — probably behind the façade of the Western European Union — with all its inefficiencies and weaknesses. Such a solution would only worsen the current situation inasmuch as a) it would merely supplement American defence of Europe and would hence slip back into the logic of opposing blocks, perpetuating the current risks and tensions, b) it would be less integrated than the current defence system because the greater degree of autonomy, however small, of European governments vis-à-vis the American government and in their reciprocal relationships would slow down the decision-making process and c) it would be forced to compensate its lesser political and organizational efficiency with greater military commitment, in particular in the conventional sector which directly affects the whole of society (with compulsory military service) and thus develops belligerence rather than pacifism in the public’s soul.
The problem is therefore to modify the approach to the problem of European security radically and to tackle it primarily in its political rather than military dimension. The essence of the question lies in accelerating and giving a positive identity to the process of evolution of the world equilibrium towards multipolarism. It is a process which is already under way, but which for the time being only appears negatively as the progressive weakening of the leadership of the two superpowers. This means that today one type of equilibrium is dissolving without any concrete prospect of the birth of a new equilibrium, more consonant with real power relationships (not just political and military relationships, but industrial, commercial and cultural as well), which would thus be more peaceful and progressive than the current equilibrium. The result of this evolution is merely anarchy, the multiplication of local conflicts and an exasperated increase in military expenditure.
Europe is the only place where a reversal of trend could begin in a relatively short space of time. In the present state of affairs it is, however, unthinkable that the transfer of sovereignty — without which no true European pole can arise — could take place directly on the military plane, i.e. in the sector constituting the solidest bulwark of national sovereignty. It is much more realistic to think in terms of a gradual process: the first step would be in a sector like the economic and monetary one, in which it would be more difficult for governments and political forces to reject substantial transfer of sovereignty. Moreover, this is essential if the Common Market is to be really united by 1992. It would also be perceived as the natural development of initiatives which have already begun and of institutions that already exist.
It should be noted that, quite apart from being more realistic, the economic and monetary approach to European unification, unlike the previous approach, also falls in with the current process of détente. Europe would no longer look like the recalcitrant ally of the United States, attempting to boycott the initiatives that the United States and the Soviet Union are taking to further disarmament. On the contrary, Europe would be seen as a great economic pole intrinsically more peace-loving since it would be militarily less developed than the two superpowers and hence interested in the creation of strategic equilibria with increasingly lower levels of weapons. It would be capable of taking on precise responsibilities in the management of areas which today are a permanent source of serious instability, such as Third World debt, the functioning of the International Monetary System, regional crises, in particular the Middle East and the Gulf, the peaceful solution to which is of immediate and vital interest to Europeans. Most commentators, moreover, agree that today the threat to Western Europe from the Soviet Union is not military but political: in the last instance, it is a question of the danger of the detachment of Germany from the rest of Europe, or the “Finlandization” of Europe. Obviously, the only response to a political rather than military danger must also be political and not military.
Only with the prospect of an ordered transition to multipolarism — regarding which the creation of an economic and monetary Union in Europe is a decisive step — would the first embryo of positive government of the world economy become possible. This is becoming increasingly vital in a world of growing interdependence like the current one. It is important to point out that today we have come to the end of a cycle in which the world economy — or rather the economy of the Western world — was in some way guaranteed by American leadership. Today, American leadership is in decline, worn out by the responsibility of having had to run world economic affairs for the last forty years. And this has caused the crisis in the management of the international economy, which can be resolved only with the creation of a new political order, based on collaboration between great poles which are equally autonomous and responsible.
This is certainly not the reality underlying the increasingly vacuous yet increasingly spectacular ceremonies of the Summits of the Heads of Governments of the world’s five or seven most industrialized countries. These Summits (which like all Summits — including the ones between the US and the USSR — when they occur frequently enough act as directories and exercise some sectorial control, excluding weaker countries from their decisions) are the most typical means of expression of contemporary imperialism in the transition from bipolarism to multipolarism, which by definition creates a situation which lies half way between hegemony and international anarchy. (Summits playing an active role in processes of regional integration are a separate case). A high degree of blindness exists even here. How astonishing, for example, is the failure to appreciate how a possible monetary system based on the dollar, the yen and the Deutsche Mark would prevent the formation of a European currency by making an imperialist trend prevail over the development towards European integration which is based on the equality of the member states.
With these Summits (or Directories) a declining hegemonic power tries to compensate its own growing impotence by involving its most important satellites in the decision-making process, with the intention of furthering the image of collaboration or even integration between economic policies (and foreign policies) of the hegemonic power and its allies. The truth is that the arrogance of the Summits (and we may merely recall the acts of vandalism to which Venice was subjected) in actual fact hides the opposite of integration, by proposing the impossible task of resolving the problems of a world economy which is increasingly interdependent through the squabbling “collaboration” between a superpower — the United States — no longer able to guarantee world economic order with its own resources and its most significant satellites whose interests are different from those of the United States. By profiting from growing US weakness, they have acquired sufficient autonomy to be able to remove themselves partially from its hegemony, but do not have the necessary weight to exercise the responsibility that Americans have had to abandon.
The impotence of the Summits and their structurally imperialist character clearly emerge from the fact that they believe they can govern the world economy by systematically excluding both the Soviet Union and the entire Third World, i.e. the vast majority of the world population on whose destiny the destiny of the entire world depends, and in particular the destiny of the industrialized areas of the world. The point then is not to call for different decisions and more democratic and advanced content as the European left usually does. It is the Summit method itself which is the negation of democracy, insofar as it is identified with the quite vain attempt to resolve world problems by imposing the supremacy of a small number of states over the others and hence strengthening the appearance, if not the substance, of the former’s sovereignty. We need to follow the opposite road to the one followed in the Summits in the realization that the only way to make a start to solving the problem of world government is to create poles of regional integration, beginning with the European pole. This means strengthening the awareness that the Summit policy runs counter to European integration or any other form of regional integration.