Europe Between the Superpowers

Europe Between the Superpowers

For some time now, the new world order that emerged after World War II has been profoundly shaken. America no longer is the unchallenged Number One. Yet that conviction seems to die hard in this country—just as the trend of isolationism still has a way of popping up when things don’t go our way abroad. Indeed, the Reagan sweep owed much to the frustrations caused by the last decade’s successful challenges to United States power—from the defeat in Vietnam to the hostages held in Iran.

In Europe, the de facto dividing line established at Yalta and Potsdam between the two superpowers’ zones of influence has long been fortified by the military alliance systems, and was again more recently officially recognized in the Helsinki agreements. But the two superpowers’ absolute and relative strengths have undergone considerable changes. In the military realm, the United States lost its nuclear monopoly over 30 years ago and, during the last decade, its substantial margin over the Soviet Union in nuclear weapons. Despite several attempts at some sort of control—from the first Test Ban treaty under Kennedy and Khrushchev to the unconfirmed but so far honored SALT H under Carter and Brezhnev—the nuclear arsenal on both sides has reached a level of mutual overkill, thereby increasing the danger of conflagration.

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Lima