chapter  5
14 Pages

From Helsinki to the missiles question: A minor role for small countries? The case of Belgium (1973–1985)


As American Secretary of State Dean Rusk put it in the 1960s, Belgium’s role within NATO and in the world as a whole was far more influential than its surface area or population might suggest.1 Belgian statesman Paul-Henri Spaak was Secretary-General of NATO until 1961 and Pierre Harmel, who replaced him as head of the Belgian Foreign Office in March 1966, was to become the father of NATO’s ‘Harmel Doctrine’ based on his report on the future tasks for the Alliance. However, toward the beginning of the 1970s, Pierre Harmel, who, in the words of the American State Department, had become a ‘driving force in the area of détente,’2 undertook fewer trips to Eastern Europe. The ball was now firmly in the Russian and American court and Belgium was well aware that only they could call the shots. This was particularly striking during the euromissiles debate, as will be seen later in this chapter. All Belgium could aspire to do was to maintain a positive climate, which perhaps is the reason why historical documentation on Belgium’s role during the Cold War is somewhat scant.