Western Europe and the First ABM Debate: 1965-72
To better understand Western European concerns about SDI it would be useful to examine European attitudes toward missile defenses during the ABM debates of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Though much has changed, both in terms of the strategic environment and the technology that can support missile defense systems, European anxieties over SDI are not dissimilar to those concerns raised during the first ABM debate.
For the sake of analysis, early European reaction to the concept of ABM will be divided into two periods. The first period runs roughly from 1965 to 1969, when existence of the Soviet Union's ABM network was confirmed and the possibility of American emulation became real. During this period, European reaction and attitudes toward BMD can be characterized as ambivalent. At the very least, there existed in Europe the attitude that such decisions concerning strategic forces are better left to the Americans. Informed discussion of ABM in Western Europe was confined to very limited circles, although some generalized and occasionally sensationalized treatment was afforded the subject in the popular press.1
The second period coincides with the emergence of Germany's Ostpolitik and the U.S.-Soviet SALT negotiations. This post-1969 period also contains the already emerging vociferous public debate in the United States over ABM. During this period, official and public European reaction to ABM took its cue from critics in the United States and became overwhelmingly hostile both to the idea of BMD and to adoption of BMD by the United States. By this time, most of the arguments against ABM that may have been fomenting during the first period had surfaced and were being used to support ratification of the 1972 ABM Treaty.
The distinction between these two periods should not be overdrawn. Com-