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

By Geir Lundestad | Go to book overview

6 Conflict and Cooperation: American-Western European Relations (not) Redefined, 1969-1977

Redefinitions and Cooperation

In the late 1960s the wider framework for and the basic structure of the North Atlantic alliance was being challenged on virtually all fronts at the same time, causing the need for a reappraisal of relationships. In the Cold War with the Soviet Union and its allies, the confrontation continued, but now it was being combined with détente, i.e. cooperation on important military, political, and economic issues. In the American-European relationship, it was obvious that Europe was striking out more on its own. Not only France, but even loyal West Germany was developing its own policy, particularly toward the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the form of its Ostpolitik. Western Europe had also come to count for more than it had in the early years of NATO. With British membership in the European Community, the EC was beginning to rival the United States in importance, at least economically. In Southern Europe a democratic revolution was taking place.

On the other side of the Atlantic, even the Nixon administration was talking about the decline of the US and how it would now have to cooperate with the other economic centers of the world. Such self-doubts were greatly stimulated by the American withdrawal from Vietnam and the Communist takeover of South Vietnam. Also outside of Europe, the combination of the rise of the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the volatility of the Middle East highlighted a growing energy problem that was to prove quite troublesome in Atlantic relations. The rise of Japan and the Pacific rim was also beginning to redefine the role and importance of Western Europe in the world. In 1979 trade across the Pacific was to be greater than across the Atlantic.

With all these redefinitions taking place at the same time, one can easily imagine the strain they imposed on American-European relations; and, indeed, many were the quarrels and debates, on relations with the Soviet

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