If the European members of NATO had withheld their approval, then the American partners in the pact would have been more or less released from all responsibility for deterrence, and the Soviet adversaries would have had a chance to successfully intimidate NATO states. America’s nuclear guarantee for Europe presumes that the leading power can deploy nuclear weapons that satisfy the strategy of “flexible response.” In an emergency, the community cannot expect that the United States will take giant steps toward escalation, which would lead to a premature total [nuclear] exchange with the Soviet Union in the battle for our continent. In its own interest, this community must insure that its strongest member has developed an ability to escalate in small steps that correspond with the requirements of the strategy. Militarily and politically, its connection to our part of the earth thus becomes broader and deeper, and the credibility of its guarantee of protection will subsequently increase.
This insight comes thanks to energetic planning in London and Bonn; Rome joined in with an encouragingly firm stance. Washington wants to increase its deployment for the security of the West considerably, in order to counter the challenge from the East. Of course, it is making its contribution to the alliance dependent on what the NATO partners do to defy nuclear and conventional pressure from Moscow. Will the allies comply with the package deal and increase their respective military budgets; will it not come to pass that the effective three-percent increase is relativized after the fact, as happened once before in the German budget?
All in all, U.S. Secretary of State [Cyrus] Vance does not seem to have left the NATO meeting with a bad impression. He let it be understood that one could deal with Holland going its own way, and he seemed to regard Belgium’s qualified approval also as a “oui,” as did the Belgian press the next day.
President Carter’s speech demonstrates that words are being backed by deeds. The Soviet arms build-up under the sign of “détente” convinced him. His program provides for an annual increase in the military budget of a real 4.5 percent for five years. As a result, a different wind is blowing from Washington. NATO should understand the signs of the times, prove its solidarity, and seal the cracks in the ranks of the allies as soon as possible. The Soviets have ways to have influence, but America has them too, thank God – to an incomparably greater extent.
Source: Wolfram von Raven, “Das Zeichen von Brüssel” [“The Sign from Brussels”], Die Welt, December 14, 1979.
Translation: Allison Brown