U.S. Forces in EuropeThe United States faced pressures to withdraw our forces from Western Europe for budgetary reasons, and pressures to keep them there for purely symbolic reasons. All these arguments evaded the crucial question: What defense function do and should our forces in Europe perform?
I decided, despite these pressures, that given a similar approach by our allies, the United States would maintain and improve its forces in Europe and not reduce them without reciprocal action by our adversaries. This decision, which I announced at the December NATO meeting, flowed directly from the analysis we had conducted in the NSC system and reinforced in NATO consultation. It had become clear to me that without undiminished American participation in European defense, neither the alliance's strategy, nor America's commitment, nor Western cohesion would be credible.
No token presence could serve our purpose. Our substantial contribution of United States forces-about 25 percent of NATO's peace time capabilities in Central Europe-insures the viability of the strategy of flexible response. It enables us to found alliance defense on something other than reliance on the threat of strategic nuclear war. It is the basis of our allies' confidence in us. It links European defense to a common strategy and to the nuclear power of the United States.
America's presence in substantial force is psychologically crucial as well. It provides the sense of security which encourages our partners' efforts to unite and to do more for themselves. Our direct and largescale involvement in Europe is the essential ingredient of the cohesion of the West which has set the stage for the effort to negotiate a reduction of tension.
Accurately or inaccurately, our allies would interpret a substantial withdrawal of American forces as a substantial withdrawal of America's commitment. Were they to conclude this was happening, they would not necessarily do more on their own to compensate; they would more likely lose confidence in the very possibility of Western defense, and reduce their reliance on Western solidarity.
In maintaining and improving our forces in Europe-and in the seas on Europe's flanks-we are doing what is necessary to encourage our European allies to take up a greater share of the collective responsibility. They are doing so, and the alliance is stronger for it.