With Secretary of State Muskie in Europe struggling to develop common positions with our NATO allies on both the Iran crisis and the Arab-Israeli dispute, this is not the time to lose sight of our basic national interests -- nor for the Europeans to lose sight of theirs.
In 1979, the Soviets' military effort was about 50 percent larger than our own, while their military procurement budget was greater than ours by 85 percent. During the 1970s the Soviet Union put $240 billion more into defense than we did. The U.S. defense effort in real terms is still below what it was in 1968 (not counting Southeast Asia). Over the same period, the European members of NATO have either held steady or slightly increased their defense spending.
Meanwhile, mostly because of the Middle East, it has become almost a shibboleth to speak of a divergence of interests between America, and the European nations. This is false and misleading. We do have different geographical locations, different levels of dependency upon overseas crude oil and other raw materials, different degrees of political commitment to the state of Israel, and so forth.
But Europe and America have the same security interests. The threats to those interests from Soviet Military power and policy are essentially the same. Soviet airborne divisions based in the southern U.S.S.R. and Soviet combat air units based in Afghanistan threaten the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula oil supplies of Europe, America and Japan equally -- even though the percentages of imports vary considerably.
The point in this: while the Soviets are stalled in Europe by the military strength of NATO, and in the Far East by China and U.S. military deployments, it would be naive to divert very much military power from Europe to the Middle East, as has been foolishly suggested in some quarters. We must keep our troops in Europe, and even bolster our readiness there.
To be sure, the "man in the street" may perceive the Soviet threat as more virulent in the Middle East than in Europe; but no man in the street that I know of would approve getting mousetrapped in Europe (where the Soviet buildup has been heaviest) by diverting U.S. forces to the Middle East without first knowing how the gaps are going to be filled. t
Actually the gaps are to some extent being filled and, what is more, some Europeans are already helping militarily outside Europe. The Germans, the French, the British, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Norwegians, the Italians -- all are beefing up their defense forces in Europe. The British are helping us in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Penisula. The French are leaving troops in Djibouti, near the Horn of Africa, instead of returning them home. The French also have a carrier battle group deployed in the Indian Ocean.
In the final analysis, though, it will be U.S. military power that will deter Soviet political-military adventurism. But it will not be cheap. The 1981 replacement cost of our current military equipment has been calculated to be about $1.5 trillion, and its average useful life about 25 years. Our defense procurement budget proposed for 1981 is $40 billion, whereas about $60 billion is needed to keep our forces from aging and becoming absolete. In fact, a supplemental budget request for 1980 of $25 billion would be entirely appropriate, with at least 5 percent real growth each year thereafter for the next five years. The idea of defense taking a larger percentage of the federal budget, and of our gross national product, will have to become acceptable. At least it will if we are to face up to our international interests.
The rules of the global game as they have been understood for several decades are crumbling. That does not mean it is time for a cataclysm, although a tumultuous upheaval is inescapable: we are in the midst of it. Our central purpose now should be a world order shaped, to the largest degree possible, in accord with the interests of an alliance of great and small powers that are free and democratic. We should steadily build up our power -- not in sudden spurts that cannot be sustained, but over long haul. We should use our power to see that the terms of the truce, which will always be in flux, are as continually to our net advantage as circumstances permit.