This Spring it will be twenty years since Winston Churchill, in his Fulton address of March 12, 1946, officially inaugurated the Cold War between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union. The event gained additional distinction from the fact that Churchill at the time was not head of the British government—a post then held by Mr. Clement Attlee—but simply leader of the Conservative Opposition. Fulton made it clear that he was nonetheless the effective spokesman of the Western world, for although President Truman sat beside him while he spoke, it was Churchill who issued the challenge to the Kremlin. It is arguable that this was eminently convenient for the U.S., since Churchill's prestige enabled Washington to make its own policies plausible to public opinion. However that may be, there was in those distant days something like an Anglo-American alliance, and there were occasions when the long-term policy of the alliance was formulated in British terms. The Americans still lacked experience; Roosevelt was gone; and Washington was quite content to let Churchill speak on its behalf.
Today there is no such thing as an Anglo-American alliance. There is no British leader who carries real weight in Washington, and if one existed he would be hard put to find a suitable topic, for British foreign policy is determined by global considerations of which the most important is an unspoken determination to keep in step with the United States on all major issues. (The seating of Peking in the UN is not a major issue. It is a piece of shadowboxing, since everyone knows that American and British views on the subject are substantially identical, though for internal reasons Mr. Wilson's government pretends otherwise.)
The extent of this change in the relationship between the two countries is clearer to the British than to the Americans, and clearer to the Tories than to their Labour opponents who have always tended to put domestic matters first. Britain under Labour is becoming an annex of the United States, as Holland became an annex of England after its own independent role in world affairs had come to an end. In the present case, the change dates from the Suez affair, which represented a major catastrophe for Britain as a world power (and for the Conservative party, whose backbone was broken by the enforced withdrawal from Egypt). Since Suez there has not been an effective Anglo-American alliance. There has been American stewardship of the affairs of the Western world, with occasional consultation of the allies by way of NATO. If and when NATO is wound up or reorganized—as everyone now assumes it will be when France pulls out—there may come into existence an informal grouping of the North Atlantic powers (the U.S., Britain, and Canada), plus Western Germany and a few minor satellites, but policy will continue to be shaped in Washington, and Britain will continue to go along, while reserving the right to differ over details.
In principle, there are two ways in which the British could escape from this situation: by joining an autonomous European bloc with its own nuclear arsenal (the Gaullist solution), or by going neutral and “Scandinavian”: the course advocated by the left wing of the Labour party. In practice, neither solution is likely to be adopted, though Gaullism is gaining ground among the Tories and there is some sentiment in favor of fusing the British “deterrent” with the French force de frappe. The great central bloc of opinion, running from the left wing of the Conservative party via the Liberals to the bulk of Labour, is reluctantly committed to the American orientation. It would take a major blunder on the part of the Washington policy-makers (such as handing nuclear arms to the West Germans) to upset this particular applecart. Almost anything is possible where the State Department is concerned, but even under its present management one doubts whether such an enormity will finally be committed. This particular folly will not, however, be prevented by what is known as “the pressure of public opinion.” If there is such a thing as American public opinion on the topics mentioned above, the present writer has failed to notice its manifestations.
There is indeed plenty of discussion, at the academic level, about NATO and Europe; and there is a certain amount of unofficial froth about the wickedness of the French. But there is not, so far as one can see, anything like a coherent body of non-official opinion on any subject other than the war in Vietnam. When the French Foreign Minister visits Moscow, or when the chief defense expert of the British Conservative party argues in favor of abandoning Singapore, the fact is either not noticed at all or at any rate given no prominence. Quite possibly the public may wake up one day and find its customary picture of the world scene radically altered without due advance notice having been given. It is fair to say (and I emphasize the fact because I have recently dwelt on it at some length in another context) that in this respect the average European is better off: he at least is told what is going on. He can, for example, read in full what M. Couve de Murville told the Russians when he was in Moscow, or what Mr. Enoch Powell told the British Conservative party conference last October. Few people in America are in this position, and they certainly do not include the readers of the country's daily newspapers.
The case of Mr. Powell's speech of October 14 is of particular interest because—in addition to hinting at a gradual withdrawal from Asia and concentration on Europe—he also had something unusual (for a Tory) to say about the Cold War: namely, that the Asians and the Africans will eventually have to establish a balance with Communism by their own efforts, instead of invoking the intervention of the West. In substance, this amounts to saying that the United States should not try to “save” Vietnam, and that the British should stop trying to “save” Malaysia by defending Borneo against Indonesia. Mr. Powell, a former Cabinet Minister, has a distinguished army record and represents the right wing of the Tory party, at any rate in home affairs. This section of British opinion used to be the hard core of imperial sentiment. It is now being converted to Europeanism, which in practice means accepting the logic of Gaullism. It also means acceptance of the view that while a nuclear war between the Great Powers is increasingly improbable, a limited conflict in Europe is no longer impossible.
This last consideration is worth exploring a bit further. Western policy has for years operated on the principle that a war for the control of Europe would be an all-out nuclear conflict and that in consequence it was unlikely. This was the assumption underlying NATO strategy. It was also the chief consideration guiding the British Defense White Paper of 1957 which committed Britain to national ownership of what was then called the “independent nuclear deterrent.” Possession of such a deterrent was justified on the grounds that “the overriding consideration in all military planning must be to prevent war rather than to prepare for it.” Mr. Duncan Sandys, who laid this down in 1957, was Churchill's son-in-law and had inherited the Churchillian doctrine that the peace of the world was precariously, but effectively, guaranteed by what Churchill once called the “balance of terror” between the Big Two. It is this doctrine which influential people in Britain are now giving up. They are coming to believe that “conventional” war in Europe is no longer inconceivable, since neither the Russians nor the Americans are likely to respond with a full-fledged nuclear threat to a limited outbreak somewhere along the Iron Curtain. De Gaulle, of course, has been saying this for years. The British are simply beginning to come around to his viewpoint.
From this new emphasis on the possibility of limited war in Europe, two things follow. One is the need for home-made arms to sustain a lengthy conflict or, as Mr. Powell put it, “the capacity to produce by itself, and to cooperate with other European countries in producing, modern military aircraft, or whatever may be destined to replace them in the third dimension of warfare in the future” (see the Manchester Guardian Weekly of November 4). The other consideration which follows from this appraisal is the undesirability (to put it mildly) of presenting the West Germans with an arsenal of nuclear weapons. West Germany is an artificial country, the rump of what was once the German nation, and it must be a standing temptation to any German right-wing politician or military leader to rectify this situation by fighting a limited Blitzkrieg against East Germany and Poland, under cover of the assumed Soviet-American stalemate. Fortunately, the number of Germans prepared to follow such a line is steadily shrinking, at any rate among the voters (though not necessarily among Defense Ministry personalities and army officers, a high percentage of whom are former Sudeten Germans). Unlike the American public, which lives in happy ignorance of these facts, and of much else that goes on in the world, the British and the French are quite aware of the situation. Hence the reluctance of their governments to sanction a German-American deal giving Bonn a share in the control of NATO's nuclear arsenal.
It is true that Paris has taken the lead in this matter, so that its resistance to the idea of giving the West Germans a bigger military role tends to be subsumed under the general heading of de Gaulle's rapprochement with the East. But even the British Cabinet has dug its toes in on this issue. And it has been able to do so because the Conservative Opposition is now led by men who have seen the red light. Mr. Wilson's bluster about “being strong east of Suez” gets the headlines, but it is his Defense Minister, Mr. Denis Healey, who shapes military policy, and the Defense Ministry is beginning to accept the general logic of the proposition that Britain is a European country, not an imperial power. This, of course, leaves the Americans holding the bag: not only in Vietnam, but ultimately in India too. (Not everywhere, though: the Prime Minister of Singapore has made it clear that he will on no account offer them the facilities of a base if and when the British pull out. An Anglo-American foothold in the Indian Ocean will have to be secured elsewhere.)
There is, to be sure, a built-in contradiction between the Tories' crypto-Gaullism and the official British posture, which is one of playing second fiddle to Washington within the global alliance. Materially, the only major area in which Britain can still function as an important ally of the United States is the Indian Ocean. As long as this connection holds, there will be a residue of “imperial” sentiment in Britain and a corresponding disinclination to “go into Europe,” if such a move means giving up the pretension to world status. At present Whitehall is trying to have it both ways. There is even a disposition to argue that the British connection may become more important to Washington if de Gaulle goes the whole distance toward an effective Franco-Soviet alliance “freezing” the territorial status in Europe. This last perhaps is unlikely, but the mere threat of such a development undoubtedly helps to cement the unity of the Anglo-American world (including such “rebels” as South Africa and Rhodesia, not to mention Australia and New Zealand). No real decision has yet been taken either way. In all probability it will not be taken before 1970, when NATO must either disappear or be given a new shape.
It is only in this context that talk of forming an “Atlantic Community,” with or without France and Germany, takes on a definite meaning. Such a community, with political institutions designed to give the Europeans a share in the formulation of policy, was the aim of the Kennedy administration. In the long run it probably represents the answer to the problem of integrating at least the English-speaking world into a politically conscious whole. The snag is that few people outside the United States will be in doubt as to the practical significance of the whole enterprise: which is to camouflage the hegemony of the strongest partner by making it appear that a genuine community has been founded, when in fact the basic decisions will continue to be made in Washington. In Europe, only the West Germans are prepared to swallow the logic of this process, but then their “national sovereignty” isn't worth much anyhow. The French, with their customarily disagreeable clarity of mind, have already proclaimed that “Atlantic Community” is just a synonym for “American Empire.” They are, of course, quite right, though probably not in a position to do much about it.
The obverse of this steady elimination of Western Europe from the world picture is the silent Soviet-American partnership in the defense of India against China. This goes largely unperceived, though “the facts” are constantly brought before the public. Their meaning is not always grasped because the Cold War rhetoric obscures the real relationship between the Powers. In this respect, the brief and inconclusive war between India and Pakistan provided an instructive test. By the time it was over, certain new alignments had become pretty obvious, but it would be an exaggeration to say that their logic was fully grasped by the public. Officially, the “free world” and the Communist bloc remain antagonists, and indeed Moscow and Washington continue to make faces at each other. In practice, there is an increasing tendency toward convergence—a circumstance not lost upon the Chinese and their allies in the “third world.” Neither side dares acknowledge the truth in public: the Russians because they are still bound by the myth of world Communist solidarity; the United States for obvious domestic reasons and because of the probable effect on the West Germans. But the trend is unmistakable. If not upset by a sharpening of tensions in Europe, it can only lead to an effective Soviet-American “containment policy” so far as China is concerned. Indeed, “containment” in this area may well go hand in hand with residual antagonism in Europe: the only part of the world where a forward move by either side could have dangerous consequences. Logically, all this points to an eventual decision to withdraw or “disengage” from the center of Europe where, strictly speaking, neither the Americans nor the Russians have any permanent business. Mr. George Kennan's longstanding recommendation to this effect was premature when he put it forward in the 1950's, but by now it is beginning to look more plausible.
The losers in this game—apart from the Chinese and their somewhat shrunken cohort of allies in Asia-Africa—are the proponents of nuclear control or “non-proliferation.” Unlike “disarmament” (a fraudulent slogan, whether employed by East or West), “non-proliferation” is a serious issue, in the sense that a number of people in official positions actually believe in it, even though China has now joined the “nuclear club.” For it can be argued that the investment in a nuclear-weapons program is prohibitive for all but the very rich or the very determined, and that the Big Five (USA, USSR, China, Britain, France) might tacitly agree to withhold nuclear arms from their allies—especially if China in the end gets the Security Council seat to which in law and common sense it is plainly entitled. This last seems unrealistic: not merely because (whatever the State Department may affect to believe) Peking is not really interested in joining the UN, but because membership in that body, if it finally comes about, won't make much difference. The opportunity to integrate Communist China into the world organization was missed in 1950. The real problem, of course, has never been how to keep China out, but how to get her in. By now it is no longer a live issue, for although the French are right in thinking that the aim should still be pursued, as a matter of principle and in order to demonstrate that the UN is not America's private property, it is too late now to do anything about the basic attitudes of the Peking regime. Not that China is “aggressive” (to employ the infantile terminology favored by Western spokesmen on such occasions). But its leaders are thoroughly imbued with the conviction that a military showdown with the West is inevitable. In this respect at least they can claim spiritual cousinship with some of the policy-makers in Washington.
There is, however, an even better reason why “non-proliferation” is beginning to sound Utopian. The recent flare-up between India and Pakistan has made it certain that India is going to abandon its previous posture even faster than might have been expected. Indian “pacifism” was always a hoax (Gandhi was not a pacifist, neither was Nehru: both were quite willing to use force, so long as it was safe), but it was a hoax with a purpose. While it was taken seriously abroad, it earned India some credit among the neutrals and it served to mask her real weakness. There was also a belief (unfounded, as events were to demonstrate) that the Asian countries would settle their disputes peacefully, since unlike the West they were too poor to afford costly military adventure. The mistake was to suppose that wars have to be expensive. In fact they can be fought on the cheap, especially if the United States makes avail able a gratis supply of arms to both sides, as in the case of India and Pakistan. Neither is the cost of a nuclear establishment prohibitive even for a poor country like India. It is now generally assumed that Delhi will shortly reverse its self-imposed restrictions in this domain and construct its own bomb. Nationalism is by far the strongest political force in India today, and nationalist sentiment demands that India be protected from Chinese nuclear blackmail.
The same argument applies to Pakistan, only in reverse; for after all, once India has its own bomb. . . . The difference is that Pakistan may run into technical difficulties, though one is told by the experts that making a plutonium bomb is not really all that complicated. On this subject, a writer in the London Statist of October 8, 1965, had this to say:
There are two roads to nuclear weapons capability, one a high, expensive, but direct road, the other a low, cheap, long road with many side avenues. Most “Nth” powers in the near future will choose the latter, the plutonium road. The goal in both cases is the same: the provision of fission bombs, and of fusion bombs triggered with fission bombs. . . . A plutonium extraction plant was opened in India last year and such a plant costs perhaps $50 million to build. . . . Even in 1961 India probably could have built two 20-kiloton bombs a year from the 10 kgs of plutonium produced at that time: by this year (1965) her plutonium production was expected to reach 260 kgs a year.
The trouble with plutonium, it seems, is that it is less convenient for bomb production than the alternative process of isotope separation favored by the Big Five. The latter allows for the production of fission bombs which are simple and efficient, thus providing an economical trigger for hydrogen bombs. China seems to have opted for this solution, despite the extra expense. The economics of scale are such that, once the initial investment is made, bombs can be produced very cheaply. It was this kind of “cost per kiloton” consideration that in the 1950's led the United States to favor nuclear arms at the expense of conventional armaments. By now the Russians have caught up, while the Chinese are still far behind and the Indians, poor fellows, may have to content themselves with ordinary plutonium bombs. This, however, does not affect the principle of the thing, which is that, so far as India is concerned, “non-proliferation” is now a dead issue.
All this is bad news for those well-meaning people who expected India to give a lead toward nuclear disarmament. It does not bother the chancelleries and the general staffs, East or West, for whom the coming Indian decision to enter the nuclear game signifies no more than an additional complication, if that. Both from the American and the Soviet viewpoint, there are countervailing advantages, since India can now be played off against China. The real losers are the Chinese, as their propaganda makes clear. The principal gainers so far have been the Russians, who have managed to remain on good terms with both India and Pakistan, though in general favoring India's claims.
This exercise in peacemaking called for some tactical agility, of which the Russians seem to have a larger supply than the Chinese (when is someone going to draw public attention to the poverty-stricken intellectual level of Mao's performance in all fields, from “philosophy,” so called, to foreign affairs?). It also involved a willingness to sacrifice the immediate interest of the Indian Communist party. By now, of course, such cynicism is an old habit in Moscow, but cynicism is not the whole explanation. The Russians are able to bank on anti-Western sentiment in both India and Pakistan so that when during last September's brief military flare-up they publicly warned both countries to guard against “outside intervention,” their declarations fell upon receptive ears. “Outside intervention” to most Asians means Western intervention. At the very moment when Brezhnev and Kosygin warned Ayub and Shastri against letting “outsiders” interfere in their private quarrel, an Indian military delegation was in Moscow to make arrangements for supplies. The flow of Soviet arms to India was not stopped for a day, yet there was no outcry in Pakistan. On the other hand, there was an outcry in India when the British temporarily halted military supplies (a futile gesture which impressed no one).
The Soviet commitment to India can be combined with amiable noises in the direction of Pakistan, because all concerned know that Moscow's desire to localize the conflict is genuine. What the Russians want—a firm front against China along the Himalayas—happens to suit both India and Pakistan, though not everyone says so in public.
By contrast, the American involvement in Southeast Asia does not suit India, even if it is ostensibly directed against China. Prima facie, Washington and Moscow ought to be able to find common ground in a policy of backing India, patching up the Indo-Pakistani quarrel over Kashmir (a country with a good claim to independence), and helping Delhi to acquire a small nuclear stockpile for use against the Chinese dragon. But to engage in such large-scale maneuvering, Washington would first have to extricate itself from the Vietnamese bog. This is the sort of thing the Kennedy administration was good at. It appears to be too much for the intellectual resources of its successor.
No doubt there would be some difficulty in explaining to a puzzled Congress why an under-the-counter deal with Russia against China may be necessary, but one suspects that the trouble is at least partly rooted in an uncomfortable perception that in any such arrangement the Soviet Union would be the chief gainer. This may well be the case. The course of events since the Chinese attack on India in 1962 suggests that, if India cannot face China without foreign support, such aid is likely to be more effective when coming from Russia. It is partly a matter of geography: America has no land frontier with India and is too far away for the role of protector to be made plausible to Asians. But there is also the ideological tangle into which the American policy-makers have got as a result of their obsession with Communism. India simply wants to be protected on her northern frontier. Washington wants to crusade against Communism all over the globe. The two aims have little to do with each other. Their intersection may temporarily benefit the cause of anti-Chinese cooperation, but in the long run India has more to hope from Russia than from America. At least the Russians are indifferent to ideological considerations, whereas the self-proclaimed “pragmatists” in Washington are pragmatic only in their willingness to shower arms on incompetent military regimes. In all other respects they are encased in an ideological straitjacket so tight that it prevents them from breathing.
For the immediate future, then, one must expect Moscow to win the diplomatic race in that part of the world. If the Russians cannot promote a peaceful settlement over Kashmir—their maximum goal—they will at least make sure of India by backing her to the limit. Neither the Americans nor the British can prevent this. What they can do is make sure that Soviet military support for India is supplemented by Anglo-American naval and air support (this is where the American-British moves to secure new island bases in the Indian Ocean acquire some topical interest). If China is to be “contained” it can only be done through Russia and India, not by propping up comic-opera regimes in Laos and points further east. Quite possibly this has now been grasped even by the State Department. Can it be explained to the American public?
China has given Moscow and Washington something to cooperate in: that much is certain. The obvious field of cooperation is the provision of nuclear arms for India. How does this square with the ideology of the 1963 test-ban treaty? The treaty was an attempt to freeze a situation in which only the Big Two were fully armed, with Britain increasingly dependent on the United States for the provision of nuclear weapons. Since then, France and China have gatecrashed the club, much to the indignation of the original members. It now appears to be India's turn. Since this is going to happen anyhow, there is no purpose in resisting it, and there is much to be said for doing it jointly. Moralists who bewail this state of affairs might usefully concentrate on a more fruitful issue, namely self-determination for Kashmir—a country now occupied by Indian and Pakistani troops who have no business there and should be ordered out by the Security Council, so that the inhabitants can at last get the independence to which they are entitled. Self-determination for Kashmir is a perfectly suitable issue for an organization such as the UN. It also happens to be the only possible solution of that particular problem. If the Security Council came to grips with the matter, it would for once be doing something useful. There is a field of activity here for what, in the absence of a better term, must probably be described as American statesmanship. It will be interesting to see whether the challenge is going to be taken up. My guess is that it won't, and that the initiative will be left to the Russians. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum. History does likewise. If the United States has no foreign policy—and there is no evidence to the contrary that anyone except the professional sycophants in Washington can discover—then Brezhnev and Kosygin will have to do Mr. Johnson's work for him.