The End of Atlantic Era?

International affairs are again in a state of flux. The talk in the United States is of a new Soviet openness, of the possible decline of American power and of the mounting economic challenge from Japan. In Britain and Western Europe fears are voiced about the durability of America's troop commitments arid the debilitating effects of the US budget deficit. Commentators assess the new military ties between Britain, France and West Germany, and ask whether 'Europe' can achieve a political and military unity of its own. An underlying question is being posed: is the Atlantic alliance coming apart at the seams?

None of this is new, of course. A similar debate occurred a decade and a half ago, when Britain was belatedly joining the European Community, President Nixon was signing the SALT I arms control agreement in Moscow, and there was talk of a new era of American 'isolationism' in the wake of Vietnam. Since then, however, we have seen the resurgence of American military power, a period of new 'cold war' and the failure of the European Community to maintain the momentum of the early 1970s. 'Detente' withered; 'Europe' stagnated.

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