The Sign from Brussels
NATO managed to push through its decision by the skin of its teeth. The solidarity of the alliance has thus been maintained outwardly to some extent, though there are cracks from within that had to be covered over by an arduous finessing of words. That should encourage the enemy that he might still be able to achieve the nuclear fissure of the alliance through a drumfire of propaganda. So it is now a matter of waiting to see whether, and how, the first step into the gray zone – which was nothing more than the approval of the program – will be followed in 3-4 years by the second, which will enable its implementation. But after [U.S. President Jimmy] Carter sent the signal, that very same day in Washington, that he was willing to lead, one need not watch the developments without optimism.
To be sure, the Soviet Union has enough Trojan donkeys that can be put to use in its interests, and not only in Belgium or especially in the Netherlands – where the NATO resolution was accepted only with all kinds of “ifs” and “buts” – but throughout much of the western camp. The governments of the alliance need strength and wisdom to resist the storms that still endanger the course of their security policies.
[Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich] Genscher put it in very hopeful terms: “Now the Soviet Union can no longer influence our decision.” But it will try, because knowledge of how excessively the Soviets have built up arms is by no means widespread. On the one hand, German Chancellor [Helmut] Schmidt can be happy that Carter is finally prepared to take on the leadership after Schmidt found numerous occasions to express his regret that leadership was lacking. On the other hand, however, Schmidt has to think about the fact that his own leadership role within the SPD will not be any easier if America adopts a policy that in many ways represents a de facto if not verbal departure from its détente strategy up to now.
But what is the reality? According to the Federal Republic’s Security White Book, which is based on a cautious estimate, the Soviet Union possesses 1,370 weapons systems of the kind that threaten Europe, but so far only a total of 386 nuclear weapons of the same type that the United States, Britain, and France have deployed in Europe. Meanwhile, however, total numbers only insufficiently establish the relative strength of the weapons, because they reflect neither the qualitative nor the quantitative changes that would result from the introduction of SS-20 missiles and backfire bombers into the eastern capability.
The efforts of the West to reestablish the balance is thus rather late in coming, but probably still in time. If, starting in 1983, the Americans want to introduce a total of 572 intermediate-range nuclear weapons – namely, 464 Tomahawk Cruise missiles and 108 Pershing II XR ballistic missiles – into the alliance, then, in view of the Soviet arsenal, they are executing a rather modest plan, which also involves the removal of 1,000 nuclear warheads.