8) West European Emancipation and the Second Cold War


Religion was still a very important aspect of society in America, but it wasn't so much in western Europe at this time. Because of this, the US government had to appeal to religious groups. By the time of Reagan's 'Evil Empire Speech', the superpower détente was long dead and both powers were rearming and very much against each other once more. The Reagan administration pursued a vast armaments programme and the superpowers were reinforcing their nuclear positions in Europe. But, the Soviet Union still weren't economically strong enough to keep up with the US. The superpowers confronted each other through proxies in the Third World. The Soviets were bogged down in Afghanistan and suffered from long-term structural economic problems. The Americans were bogged down in Vietnam, but now the tables had turned. The Soviet's responded to Reagan's challenge and the Second Cold War was in full swing. But, there were old men with health problems in charge of both regimes, meaning there were no new ideas, although they were both more than happy to continue with the Cold War.

The origins of the Second Cold War took place in the 1970s. The limits of the superpower détente in the Middle East were noticeable between 1967 and 1973 with the US' involvement and withdrawal from Vietnam. There was also the Sino-American rapproachement against the background of the Sino-Soviet split. Members of the House of Amendments voted not to allow trade with the USSR from itself and its favourite trading partners in the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, limiting the amount of good trading partners the USSR could have. The Angolan Civil War and the Ogaden War where both superpowers supported opposing sides also served to increase tensions. Jimmy Carter's human rights advocacy couldn't be followed through in the USSR, and then, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan seems to have been the tipping point.

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Jimmy Carter aimed to distinguish himself from the previous, especially Nixon, administrations. He was more 'moralistic' in foreign policy, but seemed incapable of following this through as he ended up in proxy wars. He had increasingly 'strong' responses to the Soviet offensive in the Third World (first in the Horn of Africa and then in Afghanistan), and he eventually decided to strengthen the West's nuclear position in Europe. Reagan wanted to end the zig-zag course of the Carter administration and wanted to 'win' the Cold War from a position of strength. So, he built on and added to his predecessor's Cold War initiatives. He was also more willing to negotiate and compromise.

The West European response to the Second Cold War saw them clinging onto détente, but they still needed US backing. They desired to continue with détente even after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as they had a different position to that of the US in dealing with the Soviets. Transatlantic tensions were emerging in the 1970s and lasted into the 1980s disagreeing over how to 'fight' the Cold War, an apparent US high-handedness in dealing with the Europeans that had never disappeared, a West European questioning of the US moral leadership (e.g. Vietnam), a West European assertiveness based on economic success, an increasing role of the EC (like there was a kind of democracy now forming in Greece), and a commitment to NATO defence. West Europe had successfully emancipated themselves economically from the US, but they didn't break with them despite the transatlantic tensions. They still needed security support from the US. There had to be political compromise.

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Emancipation of Western Europe

The emancipation of western Europe from the US started in the 1960s due to things like de Gaulle's political challenge, and challenges from others for more autonomy. In the 1970s, even though many countries still needed to be economically inter-connected with the US, economic challenges began calling for more independence. This economic challenge was partially self-inflicted by the US though. It was an inevitable result of Europe's economic recovery and was more 'severe' than a political challenge. The US had helped the Europeans get back on their feet following WWII, but there was always the risk that they could eventually outperform the US. The Europeans were becoming increasingly powerful and beginning to pose a challenge to the US, which they weren't happy about. So, the Bretton Woods system was established in 1944 that fixed the value of the dollar to gold, and fixed the value of other international currencies to the dollar. It allowed for a more stable economic system, both internationally and at home.

Dollar-based trade was promoted by the US within the Western Bloc and it increased trade in Europe. The US became a victim of its own success though as they moved from having a trade surplus to a trade deficit. They were also increasing dollar reserves in Europe and Japan, but the US didn't have enough gold reserves when the other countries asked for their gold. There was no more trade surplus to compensate for the US balance of payments deficit. By 1971, the situation became alarming for the US. So, the Nixon administration created the 'New Economic Policy' which suspended convertibility (dollar for gold), imposed an extra charge on imports and there were cuts to overseas aid. But, the Western Europeans weren't happy as, if the US could de-value the dollar, then European products could become more expensive.

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Nixon's unilateral move in West Europe meant there were no transatlantic consultations when transforming the western economic system. There were European concerns for the dollar and of future exports to the US. Between 1971 and 1973, there were attempts to save the Bretton Woods System as it was failing, but there was no saving it. In 1973, the dollar lost value against other major currencies, and Washington didn't intervene to support the price of the dollar. This resulted in the definitive end of the Bretton Woods System. This was also bad timing as it happened just 2 months before Kissinger's 'Year of Europe Speech' where Europe was gaining its own voice.

Kissinger's speech received a lukewarm welcome in Western Europe. It was a call for a rethinking of the Atlantic Alliance against the background of changing global realities. It referred to the economic strength of the EC (and Japan) and called on Europe to share the burden and participate in the creation and signing of a new 'Atlantic Charter'. West Europe thought it was bad timing due to the heightened sensitivity over the Bretton Woods System, and they believed the US were trying to keep the EC and its expanding role under control. A period of consultation among the West Europeans began. In 1973, they agreed to develop a response to the draft charter proposed by the US and refused to engage in bilateral discussions with the US in the meantime. In September 1973, the EC draft document was delivered to Washington which made no reference to the Atlantic partnership or interdependence, but insisted on Europe being a distinct entity. The US were now irritated. A transatlantic 'crash' followed with mounting economic and political frustrations providing the basis. The 'oil crisis' was the detonator.

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1973 also saw the October War where the US took Israel's side and the Soviet Union took Egypt and Syria's side. Oil became a weapon as price hikes and embargo by oil were pitting Arab states against the US and other pro-Israeli states. Europe depended on Middle Eastern oil supplies and so Europe challenged the US. Most West European states refused to support the US in helping Israel, Israel was called on to withdraw to the 1967 borders following the fighting, and the EC searched for a dialogue with the oil producers, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The US were unwilling to engage with a more 'conciliatory' European approach that proposed a consumer cartel of the largest industrial nations that would negotiate with OPEC and force a West European compliance with Washington's scheme. The US did manage to bring about a European compliance, despite France's resistance. The end of the 'Year of Europe' occured on the 19th June 1974 with the Declaration on Atlantic Relations. Britain, France and Germany underwent leadership changes in early 1974, and Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon following the Watergate scandal in summer 1974. This all eased the inter-allied tensions.

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Democratisation only began in the 1970s and involved Greece, Portugal and Spain. These countries had authoritarian right-wing regimes and were supported by the US, but a democratic transition began from the mid-1970s. US policymakers saw democratisation as a potential springboard for a westward and southward expansion of communism in Europe as the right-wing leaders were beginning to lose their power. The US also feared losing their influence in the Mediterranean. But, there was too much pull by Western Europe for this to happen and the states began to be integrated into the Western Bloc.

  • There was a military coup led be Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos in Greece in April 1967. He ruled for a few years and attempted to turn Greece into a democracy, changing it from a monarchy to a presidential republic in May 1973. He was 'elected' president. But, there were disagreements within the military junta, and opposition to the regime that led to a political crisis. During this, the police chief, Dimitrios Ioannidis, emerged as the de facto leader.
  • A military coup was instigated by Athens in Cyprus in July 1974. Cyprus was a British colony jointly ruled by (mainly) Geece and Turkey. Powerful Turkish troops landed in Cyprus aiming to protect the Turkish minority which led to the fall of the junta in Athens. Despite talks in Geneva, Turkish troops occupied a third of the island where they had expelled the Greeks. Although the Greek part of the island was largely left to Greece's own devices. The US passively sided with its strategically more important NATO ally, Turkey, which made the Greeks withdraw from NATO. Greece did eventually return as it was the only viable way to move forward. The former PM, Konstantinos Karamanlis, succeeded in strengthening the Greek democracy and negotiated the country's entry into the EC (joined in 1981) and its return to NATO in 1980. Greece became a very politically stable country in the EC.
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  • There had been a long-term dictatorship in Portugal under Antonio Salazar. The regime was repressive and brutal, but Salazar was an enlightened dictator and wasn't too bad compared to other European dictators. Portugal was a NATO founding member. But, in 1967, Salazar died and was replaced by Marcelo Caetano, and this didn't mark the end of the dictatorship. It held onto its empire including its colonies in Africa. But, they were heavily involved in the decolonisation wars in Africa which they saw as simple insurgencies that needed to be put down. These wars were very costly and led to poverty at home. The country had been under a semi-authoritarian regime so it could now look to the future and attempt democratisation. The Carnation Revolution of April 1974 was a bloodless military coup that overthrew the authoritarian regime. This was welcomed by the population and ended the independence wars of Portuguese Africa. Free elections were now held and leadership was claimed by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) headed by Alvaro Cunhal. They weren't a big party though and ended up 3rd in the April 1975 elections. The Socialists (PSP) and the right-wing Popular Democrats (PPD) made an unsuccessful bid for total power ousting the communists and putting the country on a path towards democracy, which was confirmed in the elections of April 1976. Portugal stayed in NATO and joined the EC in 1986 after it started its application in 1977. The Soviets also weren't interested in helping the PCP so as to not derail the European détente. The US were worried, but were also ready to abandon Portugal to a communist fate. The EC helped in the democratisation of Portugal, but it largely took the initiative itself.
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  • Spain had a fascist regime under the dictator General Francisco Franco. Franco had won the Spanish Civil War that had taken place between 1936 and 1939. But, his regime wasn't completely fascist as he made a political party out of it, and after WWII, it became a regular military totalitarian regime with only bits of fascism left. It also became an important US Cold War ally as it seemed the regime would continue in much the same way even following Franco's death. But, Franco died in 1975 and he left King Juan Carlos as his heir. Once in power, Juan Carlos initiated and led Spain through a democratisation process. His real intentions had been hidden from Franco for a long time. But, because of his actions, he received lots of US and European support as it appeared Spain would never be at risk of falling to communism. Like Portugal, after starting the application process in 1977, Spain became a member of the EC in 1986, and joined NATO in 1982.
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The ‘Outbreak’ of the Second Cold War

The Second Cold War was 'officially triggered' by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 which caught Europe at a time of uncertainty. Although the outbreak didn't stop the West European commitment to détente. The 1970s in general were a period of uncertainty. Europe didn't realise how strong they now were as there were many countries still suffering economic crises. The effects of emancipation and democratisation were only felt in the 1980s. They still had high inflation, deindustrialisation, unemployment, monetary instability, strikes, social unrest, oil crises, left-wing terrorism, and increasing nationalist violence.

The European détente for Western Europe was a matter of life and death as they wanted to reduce the risk of a nuclear Armageddon in Europe. The détente had also increased East-West trade, increased personal contacts with Eastern Europeans, and created a subtle strategy to destroy the Soviet Bloc and 'reunite' Europe. Western Europe and the US agreed on values and long-term aims, but disagreed over tactics. The Western European reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan involved widespread condemnation of the Soviet Union, but they didn't believe it sufficiently important to derail the European détente.

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But, this invasion of Afghanistan wasn't the beginning of the fall of détente as the US had held previous doubts about it. The US feared Soviet expansion towards the Persian Gulf as that could have led to the fall of the Shah and their regime which then could have then fallen to communism. The late Carter administration decided to increase defence spending and impose sanctions against Moscow. There was no European support for a trade embargo against the Soviets. German Chancellor Schmidt and French President Giscard d’Estaing individually met with Brezhnev in the summer of 1980, which the US were strongly against. There was also limited West European support for the US-led boycott of the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow. Only the FRG, Norway and Turkey boycotted the games.

Reagan then became president. He believed that previous administrations had weakened America and held a strong anti-communist rhetoric. There was also a massive military build-up which sort of contributed to a renewal of the nuclear arms race. Reagan commited to pursue and win the nuclear arms race. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was established, and there was an extensive and increasing covert support programme given to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Western Europe feared that the Reagan offensive could lead to an escalation of the Cold War and ultimately the obliteration of Europe.

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The Polish Crisis also helped to increase tensions. Martial law and a ban of the independent trades union, Solidarity, was imposed in December 1981 by General Wojciech Jaruzelski. American sanctions were introduced against Poland and the Soviet Union. But, the West Europeans disliked the unilateral US decision and weren't willing to move beyond a limited set of trade restrictions against the Soviet Union. The US once again made a decision without first consulting Europe who refused to play along. The US continued its diplomatic and economic pressure on its West European allies, but there was much EC resistance, even from Margaret Thatcher who had been a good ally of Reagan. Reagan hadn't consulted her when he took military action on the British colony of Granada which annoyed Britain. The US Third World interventions, the US criticism of EC protectionism, and the European questioning of SDI all also added to the tensions.

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The US Nuclear Umbrella

Security was a common denominator between all the countries involved in the Cold War. Both sides were at constant competition to outweigh their opponent's nuclear capabilities. The West European reliance on the US nuclear umbrella allowed them to overcome many, including strategic, disagreements. The strategic 'imbalance' involved West European concerns in the late 1970s over the deployment of Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) (S S-20s) in Eastern Europe from 1976 onwards. Schmidt called on the US and NATO to address the imbalance which could provide the Soviets with political leverage over Western Europe. Carter was reluctant to match or surpass the Soviet IRBM deployment. This left the Europeans with some options. They could involve themselves in a costly conventional military build-up, develop an autonomous West European nuclear force, or rely on a strengthened American nuclear arsenal. The Guadeloupe Summit held in January 1979 between the US, UK, France, and the FRG led to Carter agreeing to furnish the Europeans with Cruise and Pershing missiles. Carter's 'double-track decision' was multilateralised in NATO in December 1979 with the decision to deploy 572 Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe, but they hoped the arms-control agreements would make this unnecessary.

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The Euromissile Crisis then followed with US-Soviet negotiations on limiting long-range theatre nuclear force (LRTNF) arms launched in Geneva in November 1981. The Soviets demanded the nuclear arsenals in Britain and France should be included in the talks. This demand was rejected by London and Paris who wanted to retain an independent nuclear deterrent. But, there were enormous anti-nuclear demonstrations in Europe, particularly in Belgium, the FRG, Italy, The Netherlands, and the UK. The Soviets hoped that popular opposition would stop the plans for deployment. But, despite Chancellor Schmidt's temporary doubts, the NATO allies went through with the missiles deployment which started in 1983.

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