Foreign Correspondent: Oh, Henry: Murmansk—or the Price of Détente


Tjome, Norway. In September one of the most expensive tennis matches ever was played at Bastad in Sweden; a Davis Cup match against Chile triggered a storm of indignation against "junta-Chile." During the match 1,500 policemen were mobilized in order to hold back the demonstrators (among whom appeared Sweden's former prime minister, Tage Erlander). The public was not admitted; only a token crowd of police and carefully screened press men were allowed to watch the match, which Sweden won. Dear as the victory may have been to the aficionados of the white sport, it was certainly expensive for the Swedish taxpayer. The lack of revenue and the unusual costs gave a net loss of Swedish kroner 5.2 million—or well over $1.1 million.

A couple of weeks later Sweden played Czechoslovakia in another round of tennis. Not a murmur of protest was heard throughout the kingdom of Sweden.

Mysterious are the ways of moral indignation.

So what, the reader may ask, isn't this just another example of sickening international double morality? It is indeed, and I am not going to moralize about it. International double morality is a fact, and there is no sense in arguing against facts, however mysterious or repulsive.

But facts have consequences, and we all—diplomats, politicians and plain people—adjust to multiple morality by consciously or unconsciously accepting that the evils of the socialist countries are somehow justified by the nobility of Marxist ideas, whereas the ills of the Western world are manifestations of the intrinsically evil nature of capitalism. Particularly the leaders of small nations know damned well that there is considerably more displeasure to be incurred by protesting against something-or-other within the Soviet orbit than within the American. This is unfortunate.

Small nations usually have to bend the way the wind is blowing, not because they are more opportunist than big nations, but because small nations are much more aware of the fact that there is no historical inevitability in their existence as independent states. In fact even today after the mushrooming of "national independence" there are (my guess!) still more nationalities living as mere "minorities" than as full-fledged nation-states. You see, the brutal lesson of history is that while big nations may suffer defeat, small nations may suffer extinction.

I have noticed that it is very hard for citizens of bigger and more powerful nations to understand what this means. It means that mere survival, which is not uppermost in the minds of the leaders of the big nations, is a conscious foreign policy consideration in the minds of the leaders of the small nations. It has to be. And when international morality is rewarding being nice to the Soviets, you have ipso facto a built-in bias against the U.S.

And now I get to the point, which is NATO. The way the small nations get around their survival problem is by making powerful friends and entering political and military alliances. Norway is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and so far there has been a great deal of grass-roots support for the membership. But though there is no definite sign that the support is waning, NATO is beginning to seem sort of irrelevant to many people. How has this come about? Certainly Norway, which has a border in common with the Soviet Union, is no less but more than ever at her military mercy; certainly the Red Army is no less formidable; certainly the Russian passion for a cordon sanitaire along her borders is as strong as ever.

Well, it is happening not because the Soviet Union is becoming less of a problem, but because NATO and the U.S. seem less of a solution. There is a price to be paid for everything, even for Henry Kissinger's policy of détente, and part of the price, I guess, is that small nations all over the world are adjusting their sights for survival. They will not jeopardize it by opposing the Soviet Union (or China) if the U.S. cannot or will not guarantee it.

Of course Vietnam has something to do with it. But not as much in the form of reproach and blame against the U.S. as in the form of the realistic appraisal that certainly not for another 20 or 30 years will the U.S. commit its soldiers to the ground defense of another, small country. This the small countries know, and don't blame them too harshly for acting accordingly.

For Norway the present situation is unpleasant. In the first place when you are a small nation with a border in common with the Soviet Union, you are easily convinced of the necessity for a military defense. In the second place, while the Scandinavians may be very critical of their welfare states, they prefer their social democratic frying pan to the communist fire.

Détente is (or is taken to be) the successor to the cold war. It is really nothing of the sort. The cold war has never ended; all that happened was that the West got bored with it. That is the trouble with détente.

Just as the cold war in the end seemed futile, because it seemed to point to nothing better than a showdown between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., so détente is driving us all up a dead end, into the silly illusion that there is ground for loving coexistence between East and West, between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., between communism and capitalism. But no such common ground exists except on communist premises.


That is why I keep seeing the spectre of John Foster Dulles looming at the end of the tunnel of Henry Kissinger's détente. Diplomatically John Foster Dulles looks like an amateur next to Henry Kissinger, whose performance is almost flawless. But Dulles had a point of logic on which nobody so far has faulted him, but which made him widely unpopular. The point is that if the West accepts the basic Soviet premise that no piece of communist territory is negotiable, whereas the rest of the whole world is—then sooner or later the Western world will be driven up against the wall, leaving the U.S. with only the alternatives of war or surrender. So—Dulles talked about "rolling back communism" or "going to the brink of war" and scared the wits out of many, and became an easy target for one of the most consistently venomous campaigns ever directed on a global scale against a U.S. Secretary of State.

But let's be clear about it: Dulles was shouted down not by logic, but by Western wishful thinking. Kissinger, on the other hand, rides very cleverly on wishful thinking, not on logic. But for the leaders of many nations, particularly the small ones, wishful thinking is not enough; it simply does not guarantee survival. As the policy of détente inexorably works itself out to its bitter end and the SALT talks drag on and on and on, smaller nations are beginning to worry about whose piece of territory is the next in line to be negotiated for the glory of détente. And the northern part of Norway certainly could be considered to be a negotiable piece of territory. Eminently negotiable, as a matter of fact.

During the last few years the Soviets have amassed the largest concentration of military power in the world on the Kola peninsula, which is just behind the border which Norway has in common with the Soviet Union. It is the biggest base in the world, however you look at it: nuclear and conventional, air, naval, land and amphibious. It means that the most advanced perimeter of Soviet defense today goes far out in the Atlantic, well beyond little Norway. The most advanced line of Soviet defense against an attack in the North Atlantic goes south of Iceland, right outside Scotland.

The question many people raise here is whether, in these circumstances, the U.S. would commit its air, ground and naval forces to the defense of Norway; the U.S. forces would have to move into air and naval space dominated by the Soviet Union. The inevitable answer is—"not very likely". Well, how about nuclear retaliation, or the threat of it? But the atom bomb was never Henry Kissinger's game even as a political weapon, and the threat of nuclear retaliation is less credible than ever in the age of détente.

So what good does NATO do? It does not provide any guarantee against the Russians, who stand to lose only their friendship with Mr. Kissinger if they invade Norway. And—who knows?—in the end Kissinger himself may find Northern Norway a convenient piece to be sacrificed in the game of political chess between Washington and Moscow.

It does not matter much whether the readers or I agree with this line of thinking or not. The point is that this type of brutal cynicism is an inevitable expression of Realpolitik of exactly the same kind that Mr. Kissinger's policy of détente is. As I said there is a price to be paid for everything, there is no such thing as a free détente, either.

I do think that Henry Kissinger did the right thing in pulling the U.S. out of Vietnam. The U.S. landed in the position (it was not inevitable) of appearing to fight the war of foreign colonialists against national liberators, and from then on it was hopeless. But that is certainly not the position so far as Norway is concerned.

There is no danger that the communists here will be the leaders of any "war of national liberation". The danger is a Soviet war of Norwegian suppression, by military invasion or by political Finlandization (the latter being more likely). Henry's policy of détente does not cover our case, and it scares the hell out of some of us.