The United States and Western Europe since 1945: From "Empire" by Invitation to Transatlantic Drift

By Geir Lundestad | Go to book overview

5 The United States, Western Europe, and Out-of-Area Disputes, 1945-1975

Invitations Frequently Declined

The United States and the Western European countries certainly had their differences over various European questions: the initial role for the United States, the rearmament of West Germany, the exact combination of arms and diplomacy in relations with the Soviet Union, France's position within the Western alliance. These were all serious questions, but all debate still took place against the background of a Soviet threat that disturbed the entire “free world” and a NATO framework that had been established to deal with this threat. However, out-of-area, i.e. outside the area covered by core Article 5 of the NATO treaty, disagreements between the United States and many Western European countries were even more frequent and the common framework much weaker.

Until about 1960 the pattern was that the European colonial powers wanted the support of the United States in their efforts to hang on to their colonies, but outside the areas where Washington saw a Communist threat and therefore felt justified in taking a lead, it was reluctant to provide such support. After about 1960 the pattern was reversed with the United States increasingly asking for Europe's assistance in the global struggle against Communism. Now, however, with their colonies in the process of gaining independence, the Europeans were focusing more on European matters. To put this in invitational terms, it could be argued that before 1960 the Europeans invited the Americans into their troubled areas while after 1960 the United States invited the Europeans to support it in the struggle against Communism. Contrary to the situation in Europe, both sets of invitations were frequently declined. 1

Still, even these disagreements, serious as some of them were, were limited by several factors. First, despite the different starting points of anti-colonial United States and colonial Western Europe, their views were far from diametrically opposed, and varied according to who called upon whom for support. Second, disagreements between Washington on the one hand and London, Paris, the Hague, and even other European capitals on the other were

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