Risks, Results, and Reflections
In the event NATO and the WTO conclude an agreement in the Negotiations on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe ( CFE), the WTO will be required to reduce its conventional forces substantially, roughly to parity with NATO at force levels lower than current Alliance levels. If this occurs, the threat that the Soviet Union and its allies have heretofore posed to NATO, and to U.S. interests in Europe, could cease to be an overriding security policy concern for either European or U.S. publics. Recent demands from Eastern European nations for Soviet troop withdrawals have created uncertainties, however, that call for a cautious approach.
Even considering new uncertainties, progress in the CFE negotiations has been so spectacular that some Western leaders predict an agreement in 1990 and implementation within two to three years thereafter. The United States and its NATO allies are also committed to new negotiations to reduce U.S. and Soviet Short- Range Nuclear Force (SNF) weapons. Other arms negotiations are also in train, and together with CFE, they are perceived by European and U.S. publics alike to portend dramatic improvements in both U.S./European security and the larger fabric of East-West political and economic relations.
In fact, prospects for deep arms reductions and a politico-economic restructuring throughout Eastern Europe have seemingly given European and U.S. publics an abiding sense of optimism. This optimism has not been dampened either by the increasing Eastern political instability, which is accompanying the thaws in both East-East and East-West relations, or by the reality that many difficult problems remain to be resolved. Furthermore, most Europeans have yet to appreciate that a really dramatic improvement in East-West relations could result in a sea change in U.S. global strategy, and potentially in the force mix, priorities, and peacetime deployments of U.S. forces committed to NATO. From a U.S. perspective, however, a substantial reduction in both CONUS-based and forward-deployed