In December the North Atlantic Treaty Organization made one of the most crucial decisions of its 31-year history: to modernize its European nuclear strike force with 572 medium-range nuclear missiles aimed directly at the Soviet Union. Although the NATO decision was termed a “consensus, ” the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark objected to the new weapons. In light of U.S. sabre-rattling in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, many Europeans still question the NATO decision, says Bob Goudzwaard, a prime mover in the Dutch opposition to rearmament. A former member of the Dutch parliament, economist, author, supporter of European autonomy and influential policy adviser to the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), the party in power in the Netherlands, Goudzwaard opposes the
NATO decision on the grounds that justice, not fear, ought to be the norm for international relations, even in the case of nuclear weapons. During a recent visit to Canada, Goudzwaard was interviewed for Maclean’s by free-lance writer Roberta Green.
Maclean’s: A cliché current in Europe says that the U.S. is willing to fight the Soviets to the last European. What role did that fear play in the NATO decision? Goudzwaard: A crucial role. To take a step back, fear was a major factor in the birth of NATO. Paul-Henri Spaak opened its first session with these words: “Nous avons peur tous”—We are all afraid. With safety as our final goal, any action necessary to fight our fear is all right. In my opinion, however, it is better to act according to principles of
‘Europe is asking for the destruction of the world9
justice for international relations than according to fear.
Maclean’s: Great Britain, West Germany, and Italy backed the NATO decision because they saw a need to maintain a defence link with the U.S. How is that link important?
Goudzwaard: The link became important when Henry Kissinger told NATO’s 30th anniversary assembly last fall not to count too heavily on the protection of the U.S. strategic nuclear umbrella, implying that Europe should look after its own defence. Some nations—Great Britain, West Germany and Italy among them—then said that Europe had to do everything possible to maintain a link to those U.S. strategic forces. Installing 572 U.S.-made, U.S.-manned, U.S.-controlled medium-range missiles was viewed as one way to ensure U.S. involvement should Europe be attacked. Europe’s military link to the U.S. also raises an ethical problem because by seeking U.S. strategic aid in the case of an attack, Europe is in effect asking for the destruction of the world.
Maclean’s: What would be the effects of breaking the link between Western Europe and U.S. strategic deterrence? Goudzwaard: First, it is almost unimaginable that a European nuclear force could ever equal the combined conventional and nuclear force of the Soviet Union. So breaking the link to the U.S. leaves Europe to cope with a power it cannot cope with at all. In response, some Europeans say we should just give up while others say we will have to spend more for weapons than ever before.
Maclean’s: NATO planners believe the new missiles will both strengthen the alliance and give it an important new bargaining chip with the Soviet Union. Why, then, did the Dutch parliament oppose the decision?
Goudzwaard: First, the CDA saw the NATO proposal as an over-reaction to what was happening in the Soviet Union. Even in 1983, the number of Soviet SS-20 missiles installed will be fewer than the 572 of NATO. Second, the CDA insisted that NATO first try to negotiate with the Soviet Union to cut back its SS-20s before bringing in more weapons. The Dutch cabinet was willing to accept the number of 572 if the U.S. could promise that SALT II would be passed. Without SALT II, the new weapons only enlarge the arms race and destroy the hope for agreement in SALT III, designed to deal with medium-range missiles.
Maclean’s: Was the opposition of the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to the NATO decision a sign of resistance to U.S. dominance in Europe?
Goudzwaard: Yes. We felt that something was being forced down our throats. Moulded between the superpowers, we smaller nations feel we have no chance to be heard in any way that will change the direction of NATO. So we are revolting. In fact, NATO is risking its own existence. If it does not leave room for our opinions, sooner or later we may opt out. I do not think NATO is fully aware of that risk.
Maclean’s: What role could Canada play in NATO?
Goudzwaard: First let me point out that the question of rearming Europe, one of the most crucial elements in world policy, is absent from the present Canadian election campaign. Unless Canada takes a stand on this issue, a stand different from that of the U.S., it will be
almost impossible for the nations of Europe to change U.S. policy. We need an ally to restrict the excessive growth of nuclear weapons in the West. Canada could be that ally.
Maclean’s: What alternatives are there to an increase in nuclear arms? Goudzwaard: Somehow we have to find the courage to become vulnerable and hope that we can open up the possibility for the other side to back down. I call it limited vulnerability. It is not just a jump in the darkness. We have to negotiate. Then, if the Soviet Union shows no willingness to cut back its nuclear force, we may have to take stronger measures. Also, there is the possibility of a no-first-use declaration. If both NATO and the Soviet Union would make such a declaration, these weapons could begin to neutralize each other and yet
‘We enslave ourselves by our devotion to security '
be ready for use if either party broke the agreement.
Maclean’s: Is a no-first-use declaration a real possibility?
Goudzwaard: NATO refuses to risk it, and I have tried again and again to convince them, because no-first-use takes away a maximum deterrent threat. And, no doubt, NATO is considering first-use, especially in the Middle East if oil supplies are threatened.
Maclean’s: Do you think there is a real willingness to stop the arms race? Goudzwaard: No, I don’t think there is. And that is why these things have to be
told. I think there is hope only if people in the West realize that they are betraying themselves as I said earlier. The Soviet Union is not just a communistic devil; there is a human face behind the mask. The West is not just an innocent party with no ill intentions. To understand that we have to look at the religious root of the issue, the meaning of life. We have to come to understand that we enslave ourselves and our whole society by giving our total devotion to the goal of guaranteed safety. That cannot be the meaning of life. That is where justice comes in.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.