U. S. Foreign Policy, the "Third Force," and European Union: Eisenhower and Europe's Neutrals

Article excerpt

IN JANUARY 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden--all former Cold War neutrals--were admitted as full members of the European Union. Europeans hailed their admission as another milestone on the road to integration, yet it attracted scant attention in the United States. From an historical perspective, however, it should have attracted American attention. For this development is as much a legacy of America's Cold War endeavor to forge close political and economic ties between these neutrals and America's European allies as it is a tribute to Europe's determined effort at union.

In the past, historians have often tended to view virtually all of America's foreign policy decisions following World War II through the prism of the Cold War. Fear of Soviet communism, from this perspective, overrode more reasonable, realistic assessments of the international situation, contributing to policy decisions that aggravated the Soviet-American rivalry, tended to ignore the interests of the lesser nations, sometimes worked to the advantage of the Soviet Union, and nearly always were short-sighted in their evaluation of American interests. Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency has been particularly vulnerable to such accusations. However, a close examination of the American policy toward Europe's neutrals during these years belies this viewpoint.

Originally conceived during the 1950s as a means of promoting western collective security, America's neutral policy survived as a blueprint for European relationships in the post-Cold War era. A consideration of the rationale for and implementation of this policy, especially as it applied to Austria, Finland, and Sweden, contributes to the growing appreciation among historians of the Eisenhower administration's long-range impact on America's international relations. In recent years, the old perception of Eisenhower's administration as so preoccupied combating the Soviet threat that it was either blind to or ignored international realities has been challenged by a growing historical record documenting a more pragmatic and complex foreign policy. An examination of the U.S.-neutral relationship reinforces this new historical perspective and at the same time exposes a policy tailored to both the Cold War and post-Cold War eras.

America's stance with regard to Europe's neutrals was in a state of flux during Harry S. Truman's presidency, slowly evolving away from a stubborn insistence that states choose between the U.S. or Soviet camps toward a recognition of neutrality as an acceptable, or at least tolerable, third option. This trend culminated and was formalized during Eisenhower's tenure in office. As with most policies at the time, its principal motivation was to contain Soviet communism, but as it took shape, policymakers conceded that there was little chance of swaying these neutrals from their independent course. Consequently, they adopted a consistent plan of action, grounded in a pragmatic assessment of and respect for the neutral stance. This was merged with America's persistent support for an integrated Europe to fashion an effective system of collective security.

From the time he assumed office in 1953, Eisenhower committed himself to strengthening the collective security system Truman had inaugurated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization both by expanding the number of nations identifying with the West and by augmenting European economic and political cohesion as a complement to military preparedness. In effect, Eisenhower set out to broaden the scope of collective security. Aside from West Germany, the neutrals were the prime targets. Obviously, they would reject alliance membership, but if their economic and political interests paralleled the West's, collective security would be reinforced indirectly. Policymakers, therefore, strove to devise a working relationship with these neutrals.

This was a difficult task since Cold War animosities often engendered a distrust of nations--like the neutrals--with contrary agendas. …