East-West Arms Control: Challenges for the Western Alliance

By David Dewitt; Hans Rattinger | Go to book overview

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Strategy, arms control and reassurance: dilemmas in German-American security relations

Herbert Dittgen

INTRODUCTION

Given the interdependence within the East-West conflict no nation can pursue an autonomous national security policy. Rather, the members of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact are forced to cooperate within their respective alliances, and these two antagonistic alliances must co-operate with one another in at least some limited way. In Europe this system of long-term alliances, combined with the system of mutual nuclear deterrence, has to some extent mitigated the classical security dilemma which results from the lack of any truly enforceable and internationally recognized norm which would prevent nations from attacking each other. The danger of a nuclear war has raised the need for coexistence to a stabilizing imperative. However, the dilemma of nuclear deterrence has taken the place of the classical security dilemma. How can the security of an alliance be based on the threat of using nuclear weapons, when that use itself would be an irrational act?

The nuclear dilemma has led not only to a latent conflict within the Western alliance, but in light of the public debate over the continued reliance on nuclear deterrence it has complicated the ability of the West to realize a common defence strategy. Michael Howard defined this relationship between deterrence and reassurance for the Western security policy:

The object of deterrence is to persuade an adversary that the cost to him of seeking a military solution to his political problem will far outweigh the benefits. The object of reassurance is to persuade one’s own people, and those of one’s allies, that the benefits of military action, or preparation for it, will outweigh the costs. 1

In the era of strategic parity, the relationship between a credible

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