I am a firm believer in the value of periodic Summit meetings. A meeting of all the Alliance heads of state and government is in itself an important event. It has to be a success. Neither the Alliance as a whole nor the individual participants can afford anything else. But there is more to it than this. A Summit provides a useful catylist for demonstrating the cohesion of the Alliance, for reaffirming its objectives and for setting a course for future action. No one expects the participants to discuss in detail the documents they approve.

There is never enough time for this; indeed it could lead to disaster if they attempted to do so, since the essence of success is the appearance of unanimity, which requires careful advance preparation. This preparation involves many hours of arduous negotiation and bargaining between the Permanent Representatives of all the member countries and their staffs, reflecting instructions received from their Governments. Inevitably, this process demands compromises by all concerned. But this does not mean that the documents should be regarded merely as attempts to paper over the cracks, to produce a spurious and ephemeral unity. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the preparatory work is equal in value to the Summit meeting itself, since it is here that genuine efforts are made by all the Allies to reconcile differences of view and approach, with the aim of reaching agreement on the texts to be submitted to the heads of Government.

 The NATO leaders attending the Bonn Summit assemble for the photographers. But did the meeting get the Press attention it deserved?

The NATO leaders attending the Bonn Summit assemble for the photographers. But did the meeting get the Press attention it deserved?

So it was with the Summit meeting of 1974, which met to ratify, and thereby give added status and authority to, the Declaration on Alliance Relations, which had been in course of preparation for a year and had been approved by Foreign Ministers a week earlier in Ottawa to mark the 25th anniversary of the Alliance. The heads of Government followed this up by meeting again in 1975 to review and reaffirm the commitments in the Declaration. The London Summit of 1977 established a programme of work for the Alliance, the results of which were reviewed at the Washington Summit in 1978. This meeting was of outstanding importance. The heads of Government approved a study on the long-term trends in East-West relations, the essentials of which remain valid today; and they endorsed the aim of three per cent real annual increases in defence expenditure and the Long Term Defence Programme, which, besides providing a framework for improvements in Alliance conventional defence during the 1980s, led to the double-track decision of December 1979 on Intermediate Range Nuclear Force modernisation and arms control. Alliance defence planning is still based on the implementation of these decisions.

The latest in the series of Summit meetings was held in Bonn on 10 June this year. The requirement for success was no different, but it was particularly important for President Reagan, the Summit being the culmination of his first visit to Europe since he took office 18 months earlier. So it was appropriate that a fine sounding declaration was unanimously approved, containing a “Programme for Peace in Freedom". The meeting lasted only a few hours, but the declaration plus accompanying documents on arms control and defence were, as usual, the outcome of many weeks of hard discussion to which all members of the Alliance contributed. In them, the principles and purposes of the Alliance were reaffirmed, clearly and unexceptionably. These documents should leave no doubt that the Alliance is united on fundamentals, that the behaviour of the Soviet Union is still seen by all as the principal threat to peace and stability, that the constancy of the United States' commitment remains unaltered and that deterrence and détente continue to be the twin pillars of Alliance policy. In short, the Summit apparently achieved its primary purpose.

So far so good. After several years during which the public image of the Alliance had so often been one of disarray, this display of unity could only be welcomed. At this point one would like to have been able to add "and the Alliance lived happily ever after". But there is no hope of this.


People who have claimed to see in the transatlantic disputes of recent years the seeds of disintegration are wide of the mark or have short memories. The United States could no more afford to abandon the Alliance with Europe than the reverse. The political, strategic and economic interests of the two sides of the Atlantic are too closely bound together to be unravelled, however exasperating or frustrating each may find the other. Moreover, there is nothing very new about the disputes, except that the international scene in which they occur is constantly evolving; many of those experienced in the past have seemed at the time just as traumatic. On the other hand there is no plateau in intra-Alliance relations. Nor is there any golden age of harmony to look back to. Many disputes arise from differences which are ineradicable—differences of size, of geography, of history and of economic circumstances. Others arise from different national priorities and perceptions, which are difficult to reconcile. The fact is that cohesion between the 15—now 16—independent member Governments is not, and never has been, maintained without constant effort in all fields of Alliance activity. So the important question to ask about the Summit is how far it will contribute towards resolving—or mitigating—the Alliance's problems. Here I have to I admit to disappointment. The Summit Declaration is strong on broad principles but lamentably weak on specifics and guidelines for the future. Of course developments over the next few months may prove me wrong. I hope they will. So far there are few signs of this. What then are the main problems?

Public presentation

First is public presentation. There is something wrong with the Alliance's image. There is much ignorance about why it is needed, what it does and how it contributes to Peace in Freedom"; in particular, why strengthening defence is not only consistent with, but a necessary condition for, progress in arms control negotiations. The motives of many in the "Peace Movement" are sincere, if misguided. The support they receive from those who are by no means ignorant of, but are hostile to, the Alliance's objectives is less sincere.

Within its limited budget and terms of reference, the NATO Information Service does its best. But the message is not getting through. For example, the Alliance has produced two admirable documents this year: the first ever comparison of NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in April, 2 and the Special Edition of the NATO Review in June containing articles by distinguished contributors on different aspects of Alliance policy. The first is a sobering analysis; the second a realistic assessment. I know little about the reaction to them in other countries, but I have neither seen nor heard any mention of either in the British media. Moreover, news of the Summit itself has been virtually non-existent: so far as the man in the street-even the general newspaper reader- was concerned it might not have taken place. Yet there are points in the Declaration, and in the statement on arms control, which if handled imaginatively could have rivalled President Brezhnev's undertaking on No First Use of Nuclear Weapons which was timed to hit the headlines on the eve of the second UN Special Session on Disarmament. It will be said that this is largely a matter for individual governments, and that each country has its own particular requirements. This is quite true, but the results are, or should be, very much a matter for concern to the Alliance as a whole. believe the question of public presentation is becoming of such importance and urgency that it justifies a major effort at co-ordination on an Alliance basis. This could involve some reorganisation of the Brussels bureaucracy.


Next, defence. The need is clear: to maintain a credible deterrent posture and to avoid any lowering of the nuclear threshold. The task is well documented in the force comparisons paper, to which I have I referred. The problem is, as it has long been, how to reduce the growing adverse balance. As far as it goes, the Summit commitment to "continue to strengthen NATO's defence posture, with special regard to conventional forces" cannot be faulted. But it does not go very far. The measures proposed to achieve this commitment are little more than repetition of those which have been the basis of NATO's defence planning for several years. There is one conspicuous absentee: the aim of three per cent annual real increases in defence spending, which was endorsed at the 1978 Summit. European fulfilment of this aim, has, to say the least, been patchy. It was reaffirmed by the Defence Ministers last May, but its omission from the Bonn Summit document is bound to imply doubt about the continued Alliance commitment to it. This is pity. The unpalatable fact is that more defence means more money at a time when money is everywhere short. Three per cent is a useful, if rough and ready, benchmark for assessing national effort (the military authorities have suggested that four per cent is needed).

Exploring "ways of achieving greater effectiveness in the application of national resources to defence" could go some way towards mitigating the additional financial burden. But hitherto this has not been outstandingly successful. If results are to be achieved in the future, it will be necessary to break some accepted moulds. For this to happen, a strong political impetus will be needed. Yet there is little sign of this. It could have been provided if the Summit had directed the Alliance to examine specific steps, such as readjustment of rôles, rationalisation of deployment, functional specialisation and co-operation on logistic and service tasks. As David Greenwood suggested in the June Special Edition of the NATO Review, the Alliance might consider organising itself as a "collective enterprise" rather than continuing to function as a "joint venture".

 British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and NATO Secretary General Joseph Luns a have a discussion before the start of the Bonn Summit.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and NATO Secretary General Joseph Luns a have a discussion before the start of the Bonn Summit.

East-West relations

The third problem is the handling of East-West relations. Consultation about East-West relations has long been a feature of Alliance activity. In practice, it has always been the pre-requisite for coordinating defence policies. Since the adoption in December 1967 of the Report on the Future Tasks of the Alliance (known as the Harmel Report after the initiator of the exercise, the then Belgian Foreign Minister), which stressed the equal importance of pursuing measures designed to promote détente, such consultation has become indispensable and continuous. This has been one of the most successful and constructive aspects of the political development of the Alliance. Indeed. as the state of East-West relations goes to the heart of Alliance security, it would have been disastrous for Alliance cohesion if this had not been so.

There has been no shortage of argument, often heated. But, I believe it is true to say that, in the main, there has been no serious divergence of views about Soviet behaviour or indeed over the assessment of Soviet intentions. The disputes, of which the most acute have been between the two sides of the Atlantic, reflect differences—often major ones—about what can and should be done about them. The distinction between the American view of East-West relations as global and the European view as regional is too simplistic and anyway outmoded (at least since the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which highlighted it). But it still contains a germ of truth: for the Europeans, détente is a necessary condition for peaceful co-existence (and valuable commercial exchanges) in the same continent: whereas for the Americans it is less an end in itself than the desirable outcome, which may or may not be attained, of efforts to "manage" super-power confrontation.

There is plenty about East-West relations and détente in the Summit Declaration, all of it (naturally) in terms which all 16 Governments were able to accept. But any illusions that the differences might somehow have been resolved were quickly dissipated by subsequent disputes over, for example, trade credits and the gas pipeline. There is no need to expand on these. But they demonstrate the pressing need for the Alliance to work out a Code of Conduct for East-West relations, something which would provide specific guidance on the application of the agreed principles in the Declaration. It will certainly not be easy, and will involve compromises. But unless the effort is made, continuation of the existing differences will put an increasing strain on transatlantic relations.

Outside treaty area

Finally, the handling of issues outside the Treaty area. It has often been claimed that this is the most important current problem facing the Alliance in the 1980s. Though do not rate it above the others have mentioned, it has certainly emerged as a matter in which new thinking is needed, if the Alliance is to be in a position to react constructively to threats to stability and to the vital interests of its members which do not directly impact on the Treaty commitment.

The importance of these issues to the Alliance was recognised in the 1967 Harmel report, which said: "The North Atlantic Treaty area cannot be treated in isolation from the rest of the world. Crises and conflicts arising outside the area may impair its security either directly or by affecting the global balance". So Harmel recommended continuing Alliance consultation on these issues. But in the 1974 Declaration on Atlantic Relations the emphasis was much reduced: "(The Allies) are firmly resolved to strengthen the practice of frank and timely consultations by all means which may be appropriate on matters relating to their common interests as members of the Alliance, bearing in mind that these interests can be affected by events in other areas of the world".

It is little exaggeration to say that the practice has been largely confined to briefings and limited exchanges of information. These may, and do, reveal differences between members of the Alliance over substance and method, as well as over national priorities. It should be the function of consultation to reconcile these differences. But, to be effective, such consultation has to be a genuine two-way process with no Issues excluded because they are too sensitive or too controversial. The Alliance has, admittedly, to tread a delicate path between the appearance of overt interference in the affairs of other countries and of inability to concert its views on how best to safeguard its interests. Unfortunately the impression sometimes given is that it is the latter rather than the former which is the inhibiting factor. Is there perhaps a role here for Political Co-operation among the Ten of the European Community? Much has been done by the Ten to improve their coordination of foreign policy and to develop a "European view". If the results could in some way be used to strengthen the consultation process in the Alliance, this could only be beneficial. The Bonn Summit Declaration goes no further than the communiqués issued by the Foreign Ministers after their two meetings in 1981. But this is surely not the last word on this subject.


None of this can detract from the real achievements of the Alliance. Its survival for 33 years is ample evidence of its success and, if it did nothing else, the Summit Declaration demonstrated its continued vitality and importance to all its members. That the Alliance has the ability and can muster the will to act collectively is not in doubt; in recent years, the double-track decision on intermediate Range Nuclear Forces in December 1979, the firm stand on Poland, backed by contingency planning, in December 1980, and the impressive display of Allied solidarity at the Madrid Review Conference on European Security throughout 1981, both in presenting the Western case on human rights and in support of the French initiative on confidence building measures are outstanding examples.

All its life, the Alliance has needed, and has not lacked, resilience: this was shown by the way it recovered its balance in the summer of 1980 after a distressing period of disunity following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and again in January 1982 after similar signs of disarray following the declaration of martial law in Poland. But the agenda for the 1980s remains formidable. If we are to retain public support, especially of the younger generation, we must get the public image right; if we are to maintain the credibility of deterrence, we must find ways of improving the effectiveness of our conventional forces; if we are to present a coherent response to the Soviet challenge, we must somehow reconcile our divergences over East-West relations; if we are successfully to resist threats to Alliance interests world-wide, we must devise means for better co-ordination of our strategies.

 The Alliance recovered its balance after a period of disunity following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Above, armed soldiers were posted outside Kabul mosques shortly after the invasion.

The Alliance recovered its balance after a period of disunity following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Above, armed soldiers were posted outside Kabul mosques shortly after the invasion.

No single Summit could be expected to resolve these problems. What this one might have done would have been to indicate the way in which they were to be tackled, possibly with a declared intention to review progress at a further Summit next year. Since this was not done, the initiative is left to the Foreign and Defence Ministers, who are due to hold their regular meetings towards the end of the year. They may not find it easy, in the absence of clear guidance from the heads of Government. But there is one expedient to which I hope they will give serious consideration. This is the establishment of a Special Review outside the normal Alliance framework. It has been adopted on two previous occasions. First, in 1956, when a Committee ("The Three Wise Men") was set up "to advise the Council on ways and means to improve and extend NATO cooperation in non-military fields and to develop greater unity within the Atlantic Community". The Three Wise Men produced a masterly report from which the political practices and procedures as they exist today have evolved. Second, in December 1967, when the Foreign Ministers approved the Harmel Report, which had been based on studies directed by five senior officials nominated by different member governments. Its broad principles are still relevant to Alliance policies and activities.

Excellent though both these reports are, they date from 26 and 15 years ago respectively. It is high time a new review took place to deal with the changed problems and circumstances of the 1980s. The two precedents are quite different. The Three Wise Men operated more or less independently; the Harmel exercise was carefully controlled. I believe the needs of the Alliance would best be served by adopting the former model. I but I can well understand that cautious Governments may prefer the latter. But whichever model is chosen, I have little doubt that, if the Alliance is to prosper in the 1980s, as it has in the three previous decades, the decision should be made soon, and the one option which is not open is to do nothing.