Western European Reaction to the Strategic Defense Initiative
On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan, in his now famous "Star Wars" speech, reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the security of Western Europe:
As we pursue our goal of defense technologies, we recognize that our allies rely upon our strategic offensive power to deter attacks against them. Their vital interests and ours are inextricably linked--their safety and ours are one. And no change in technology can or will alter that reality. We must and shall continue to honor our commitments.
Tonight, consistent with our obligations under the ABM Treaty and recognizing the need for close consultation with our allies, I am taking an important first step. I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles. . . .
Despite this attempt to assuage prospective European apprehension over SDI, initial reactions from most of Europe were less than favorable. The President's promise to consult with the Allies was forsaken the moment Reagan delivered his speech, for no Allied leader--with the sole exception of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain--was informed in advance of the speech's SDI theme. It was déjà vu to many in Europe who could still remember how the United States announced its decision to deploy the Sentinel ABM system in 1967.
For the sake of analysis, European reactions to the President's speech, and indeed, to the concept of missile defenses, can be classified into five major categories of concern: