The Evolution of PartnershipWhen the Atlantic Alliance was formed, we were united in the face of a common danger. Today, while our concern for security remains, it is no longer enough for us to concentrate simply on what we are trying to prevent; we need a clearer vision of what we are seeking to achieve. Our deepest challenges today cannot be addressed without a new and more positive sense of common purpose. They arise from the evolution of our relationship with each other.
The United States broke with its isolationist history at the precise moment of Europe's prostration. Our predominance in the West was a necessity in the aftermath of the Second World War. But today the renewal of Western European institutions and foreign policies is an accomplished fact. Our partnership, once a vehicle for our underwriting of Europe's defense and recovery, has grown into a more balanced, dynamic and complex coalition.
We welcome this success of our postwar policies. This administration does not view our allies as pieces in an American "grand design." We have accepted, for example, France's desire to maintain an independent posture in world affairs, and have strengthened our bilateral relations. In 1970 two other allies were vigorously taking the initiative in diplomacy. Chancellor Brandt pursued West Germany's Eastern policy, seeking reconciliation with Germany's neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe; Prime Minister Heath, in his Guildhall address on November 16, declared his intention to see that British policies are determined by British interests.
Our allies' new spirit of independence, reflecting as it does their vitality as nations, can be a source of strength. But our cohesion, too, is a source of strength, which makes possible the freedom of action of individual allies. We must learn to reconcile autonomy and unity. This is America's commitment, and the alliance's challenge.
But the necessary transition to an equal partnership is still in progress.
In the postwar period of American predominance, Americans became accustomed to view alliance issues in largely technical terms, for we were in a position to devise strategies and programs unilaterally. Our partners often automatically accepted our prescriptions, as a way to win influence over our actions. This diminished their sense of involvement, and encouraged a sense of dependency.
Today their attitudes are ambivalent. They still look to America for leadership in European diplomacy and defense even while they assert their autonomy. They still presuppose a strong American military presence in Europe, even while they no longer act as dependent. It is not surprising that many of the assumptions of 1949 should no longer apply to our relationship in 1971. But how should we define our respective roles today? This is the key question which we and our allies must face openly and frankly together in the period ahead.
When I came into office, I made a personal commitment to strengthening the ties of the West.
My first foreign trip at the start of my term was to Western Europe, to seek the benefit of our allies' wisdom and experience in world affairs. My first stop was to meet with the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, and I then conferred in turn with the heads of state and government of Belgium, Great Britain, West Germany, Italy and France.
In 1970 I sought the views and counsel of Prime Ministers Wilson, Heath, and Baunsgaard, President Pompidou, Chancellor Brandt, and allied foreign ministers, who paid official visits to Washington. In January 1970, Prime Minister Wilson became the first foreign head of government to attend a meeting of our own National Security Council, as he took part in our deliberation on policy toward Europe.
Last fall I traveled to Europe again, visiting Britain and Italy and NATO's southern headquarters in Naples, where I met with NATO Secretary General Brosio and senior allied military commanders. Because peace in the Mediterranean -one of the focuses of my trip- is not a concern of NATO alone, I called on our valued friends in Spain, conferred at Naples with all our ambassadors to Mediterranean countries and visited nonaligned Yugoslavia, to deepen my understanding of the views and concerns of countries beyond the alliance who all have a stake in peace in the region.
The United States has consulted continuously in NATO on the status and issues of its bilateral strategic arms limitation talks with the U.S.S.R. We recognized our obligation to keep our allies fully informed and to seek their ideas. We have made clear that we would make no agreement which sacrificed their interests.
At the milestone ministerial sessions of the North Atlantic Council in May and December 1970, we and our allies undertook and completed a fundamental review of alliance defense strategy and posture.
But consultation is not an end in itself What makes it imperative is the agenda before us.
Western Europe is uniting, and will soon be in a position to forge an identity of its own, distinct from America within the Atlantic world. As nations and peoples we in the West now share both the horizons and the burdens of the most advanced modern societies. This challenges us to develop a partnership engaging the collective energies and wisdom of our fifteen sovereign states.
The expansion of Soviet military power has put NATO's postwar reliance on U.S. strategic nuclear strength into a new perspective. America's guarantee of nuclear defense remains crucial, but it can no longer be the sole basis of allied deterrence. The constant evolution in strategic conditions -in arms control as well as in weaponry- is of vital concern to our allies as well as to us. This requires us to adapt our alliance strategy to new conditions and share its burdens. The cruel and unnatural division of Europe is no longer accepted as inevitable or permanent. Today there is a growing impatience with confrontation. We and our allies seek a European detente. But we know that we cannot achieve it if we let slip away the dose friendships in the West and the basic conditions of stability which have set the stage for it. This obligates our allies and ourselves to conduct our diplomacy in harmony, as we jointly and severally seek concrete negotiations on the range of issues in order to make detente a reality.
In our consultation on this agenda, I have assured our allies and friends in Europe that the United States will continue to play a role of leadership, commensurate with our position in the world. But America's task today -as the Nixon Doctrine reflects- is to evoke the contribution which the alliance is capable of making. This new purpose of our leadership and partnership will test our maturity and compassion just as the Marshall Plan tested our energy and technical skill.