Trade and Payments in Western Europe: A Study in Economic Cooperation, 1947-51

By William Diebold Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
THE IMPACT OF REARMAMENT

MUTUAL aid among the countries of Western Europe began as an item on the agenda of recovery. By working together, the Marshall Plan countries were to help each other to increase production and to speed the time when they would be able to pay their own way in world trade. The State Department and the European chancelleries were not unaware of the political advantages that might come from closer economic cooperation but, in the short run at least, these were conceived largely as flowing from increased economic strength. As tension grew between Russia and the western world, emphasis began to shift toward economic strength as war potential, toward cooperation as a means of providing greater political unity. More and more frequently, Western Europe was called bastion or bulwark. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed and plans were propounded for common defense measures. But still economic recovery was the first aim. Rearmament, said the official statements, was not to interfere with the restoration of Europe's economic health.

The invasion of Southern Korea changed the premises. It dramatically confirmed the thesis that direct military action was one of the weapons the Kremlin would use to gain a prize when the circumstances seemed favorable, even at the risk of world war. Europe's need to rearm became patent to many who before had been skeptical. The tempo of planning and preparation increased. Military strength in being became a more urgent and immediate goal. Economic strength, political stability and social coherence remained Europe's essential foundations, which she dare not endanger by all-out rearmament, but some sacrifice of civilian production seemed

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