Venice could be the summit to end all economic summits.
The congresses of the heads of the major industrial democracies
that began at Rambouillet, outside Paris, in 1975 and continued in
successive years through Puerto Rico, London, Bonn, Tokyo, Venice,
Ottawa, Versailles, Williamsburg, London again, Bonn again and now
Venice again have degenerated into opportunities for photos and
Where the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) took more than eight
months to redraw the map of Europe, the three-day Venice summit has
sought to tackle an agenda that included the:
- Promotion of noninflationary economic growth.
- Curbing of protectionism.
- Reduction of excessive trade imbalances.
- Lowering of agricultural subsidies.
- Elimination of structural barriers to investment and
- War on poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Solution of the third world's debt problems.
- Protection of shipping in the Persian Gulf and the threat of
war if Iran attacks American-flag vessels.
- Need to combat AIDS and drugs.
- Elimination of intermediate-range missiles from Europe.
Obviously, these are all terribly important problems. And one
cannot say that the economic and political problems are not closely
The drug trade, for instance, is significantly linked to the
poverty, unemployment, agricultural and balance-of-payments problems
of Venezuela, Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Similarly, the issue of European military security and the
reduction of nuclear arms is linked to the budgetary problems of the
United States, West Germany, Britain and the other members of the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As Christoph Bertram, the
diplomatic correspondent of a West German weekly, Die Zeit, writes
in the current Foreign Affairs, ``NATO's conventional forces will
almost inevitably shrink'' in the years ahead, largely because of
the budgetary squeeze and because of the shrinkage in the supply of
conscripts or volunteers.
``None of the major nations will be able to make up for the
reductions experienced by the others,'' Bertram concludes. ``On the
contrary, once one nation announces reductions all the others are
likely to follow suit only too eagerly.''
Hence, whatever the outcome of arm negotiations with the Soviet
Union, military expenditures in the West for both nuclear and
conventional forces appear to be headed down.
Should budgetary constraints - and an unwillingness to raise
taxes - be determining national and international security policy?
Or should the economic threats to the world be the crucial
determinant of budgetary policy? The summiteers come with too
little time and too little preparation to discuss so vital a