Year XXX, 1988, Number 3, Page 159

 

 

Traditional Détente and Innovative Détente
 
 
George Bush’s Presidency of the United States and the Single Market envisaged for January 1st in Europe have led many commentators to foresee a worsening in the ties between Europe and the United States and a marked shift of American policy towards the Pacific area.
Some even go so far as to argue that the idea of a privileged free trade area between the USA and Japan is gaining ground in America, which would include some Latin American countries and would provide a solution to the problem of these countries’ foreign debt since their exports would be directed towards Japan and other countries in the Pacific basin with a favourable balance-of-payments position.
Moreover, the fast approaching deadline of December 31st 1992, together with the vital interest that Europeans have in reductions in conventional armaments and economic and technological co-operation mooted by Gorbachev keeps the ghost of “fortress Europe” alive i.e. a closed and protectionist Community, that concentrates exclusively on the protection of its trading interests, and in whose name it is prepared to have ambiguous ties with the Unites States and the Soviet Union, relying alternatively on the protection of one or the other according to the circumstances. In this respect, Kissinger went so far as to say that “Europeans are too sensitive to the suggestions of a Europe that extends its borders from the Atlantic to the Urals”, suggesting that they do not realize “that this would mean the Finlandization of Europe”.
This scenario, it is argued, would encourage growing drives to disengage the US militarily in Europe and pressures for Europeans to agree to pay a much larger share of the expenditure required for conventional defence.
 
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These are fishwives’s tales. The certain facts on the other hand are: a) that the shift in the political axis of the USA from the Atlantic to the Pacific is impossible since Europe is part of the Atlantic alliance and it is particularly in Europe that the current balance of power between the USA
and the USSR (which is still the primary factor in the world balance of power, even though bipolarism is slowly shifting towards multipolarism) can be maintained or modified and b) that the Atlantic policy of the USA will, however, be led with much less consistency as compared with the past since the drive towards the Pacific is, in any case, very pressing. In this respect, the basic facts are that the USA (52 per cent of world product in 1950, now down to 22 per cent) is still the world’s strongest nation, but can no longer guarantee the balance of power alone” (Kissinger). Hence the weight of Europe for strategic reasons (which predominate) and the weight of Japan for economic reasons.
 
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One point is clear. The greatest problem which — albeit in differing proportions — will decide the solution to all other problems, is that of détente. But precisely in this respect, we need to make a conceptual distinction between traditional détente and innovative détente. Analytically, we may consider détente as “traditional” when it remains, in vision and praxis, within the old context of power politics and security based on strength, albeit trying to make this strength prevail with moderation and prudence, and bearing in mind not only its military aspects, but also its economic, political, cultural and moral aspects. The practical and theoretical limits to this type of détente is that it cannot see, nor develop, with new political conceptions and new institutions, what is radically new in mankind’s evolution as regards the power factor in the determination of political conduct. It is perfectly true that the invention of nuclear arms, as, moreover, the risk of ecological catastrophe has drastically changed the basis on which politics and law have been founded.
We may, on the other hand, consider as innovative a détente that, insofar as this is possible, tries to go beyond power politics by means of
the replacement of traditional defence (defensive and offensive) with defensive defence (no offensive capability) and in keeping with this
principle bases the security of states on the pursuance of others’ security while provision is made for one’s own (mutual security). What is foreseen, with this type of détente, is the dawn, still vague yet already well-delineated, of the greatest revolution in the history of mankind (inasmuch as this is capable of perfecting and unifying all previous revolutions): peace based on law and equality of all human beings.
 
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Although involving two different orientations — which really can make themselves felt — this distinction does not entail two mutually excluding historical realities. Until such a time when a world government arises, it will not be possible, in actual practice, to have anything more than a sort of mixture — based on partially common objectives —between these two ways of conceiving détente and carrying it out. The reason is obvious. For as long as there are national armies, and hence security based also on national use of force — innovative détente will be able to achieve its first successes if, and only if, at the same time success is achieved in traditional détente (in other words, if the international climate favours the doves and not the hawks).
This is the first aspect of the question. The second aspect lies in the fact that innovative détente, with its rules which are very difficult to apply (defensive defence and mutual security) will be able to show itself, i.e. take hold and last, as a policy actively pursued by states, if and only if a) international politics increasingly favours economic, social and cultural development of all the peoples on the earth making the rise to power increasingly difficult for ruling classes bent on using force without scruples in domestic and foreign policy and b) if, with the development of this international policy, innovative détente really does acquire, in the thinking of growing masses of individuals, the status of a process which can completely and definitively overcome power politics, and hence even come to represent the road towards the final international order: the political and institutional unity of mankind. In all other cases, the world could not remain torn between security based on strength and security based on reciprocal trust, and advance towards the only objective which could eliminate power politics in relationships between states: world federation.
 
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If, as will certainly be necessary to achieve economic integration and maintain it over a period of time, Europe in 1992 becomes a political entity capable of acting, then the first phase of innovative détente — which now has a solid basis in the Soviet Union — will effectively bloom. In this respect three points need to be made, the first of which is that the idea of détente as an innovative force can be developed, for the time being, only in Europe, where the need is to transcend blocks, to turn armies into purely defensive armies and establish the ground rules of mutual security.
The second argument is equally solid because it is based on the raison d’Etat of a constituted Europe, for which the passage from the current political and military situation to that of a system of mutual security with purely defensive armies reduced to a minimum would lead to: a) the disappearance of nuclear weapons from its territory, the end of dangers and damage caused by mutual mistrust and the freeing of huge resources, which would be destined to civil ends, b) the possibility of developing a profound economic and political agreement with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, thus favouring their democratization, c) the possibility of governing the ties of interdependence between the two Europes, the Soviet Union, Africa and Arab countries with a plan for collaboration and aid which would give life to a market provided with incalculable powers of development.
The third argument relates to the fact that, as a federation of free nations in the same historical site in which the modern idea of a nation was formed, Europe would transform its political thinking, making the idea of an international democracy thinkable as well as that of its extension to all mankind.
This does not mean that Europe will hold any position of leadership. If innovative détente is carried out, one by one all the crucial problems in the process of unification of mankind will surface, and bit by bit each state will play a strategically decisive role, until such a time as all the peoples on the earth have achieved perpetual peace and equality.
 
The Federalist

 

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