chapter  5
18 Pages

The United States and Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals? 1957–72

By the late 1950s Western Europe increasingly challenged US power and foreign policy on a number of issues. There was disagreement in most of the key areas of US national interest. Most prominently on issues of security, France challenged Washington’s leadership of the Western Alliance and sought a more independent role. On economic matters, Washington worried about the more cohesive six European countries that formed the European Economic Community (EEC), and the possibilities that they would become more competitive. And ideologically, during this period, Western Europe made moves to break out of the Cold War framework and move towards détente with the East. In each case Washington advanced options that would serve its national interests. Europe was divided in many ways during this period. Not only were there the obvious divisions between East and West, but there were also tensions and divisions within the East which erupted most prominently in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. In the West, as the EEC moved towards integration, seven outer European countries formed the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). These divisions facilitated US influence and interests. As Britain almost constantly looked across the Atlantic to secure its ‘special relationship’, slowing the depth of integration, Germany and France initiated Ostpolitik with the states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which also challenged the Cold War context of US policy. The key issues for Washington during this period related to whether it could impress upon West Europeans the importance of the Atlantic framework rather than any autonomous European alternatives, and whether it should enhance European independence or independently extend its own engagement with the East Europeans and the Soviet Union. US national interests, be they economic, security related or ideological, demanded that Washington remain an influential power in Europe and Washington continued to pursue policies through which it could assert its ‘leadership’.