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6-10-2015, 22:43

An American priority

The first significant evidence showing that the Cold War influenced European integration relates to the role played by the United States in supporting

European unity. This support was by no means guaranteed. Why, after all, should Washington have looked favourably upon a political and economic process which was quite explicitly intended by some of its proponents to create a rival to American power? There was also a danger that efforts to establish stronger regional ties within Europe might cut across the US-led drive to encourage global co-operation. Yet American backing not only materialised but proved vitally important in getting the process of integration off the ground. This reflected the belief by policy-makers in Washington that neither the economic prosperity nor the political stability that Western Europe required in order to withstand the challenge of Communism could be realised were the continent allowed to fall once more into the type of internecine rivalries which had characterised the interwar years. Franco-German acrimony in particular could not be allowed to fester. The United States thus threw itself with much energy into the promotion of European unity from 1947 onwards.252

It is admittedly the case that the first major American initiative designed to bring the countries of Western Europe closer together - the Marshall Plan - fell far short of its ambitious objectives as far as European unity was concerned.253 Western European governments proved very enthusiastic recipients of US financial largesse. The American aim of transferring to Europe some of the secrets of its economic growth was also partially successful. But US attempts to use Marshall aid as a mechanism to oblige the states of Western Europe to cooperate more closely with one another accomplished little. Washington was not, therefore, presented with one single, jointly designed list of Europe’s financial requirements as it had hoped; instead, Europe’s desiderata took the form of a patchwork of separate national wish-lists.254 Nor were the institutions of the Marshall Plan to become the embryo of a united European government. The British and French were able to obstruct such plans and ensure that bodies such as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) remained weak and purely intergovernmental, unable to impose joint European policies upon unwilling national governments.255 Western Europe hence proved impossible to push into any form of unity not of its own making.

This initial frustration did not deter the United States, however. For as Washington would quickly discover, it was able to accomplish much more by acting as external sponsor of Western Europe’s own, French-led, efforts to move towards greater political and economic unity. No explanation of why the Schuman Plan succeeded, and indeed of why the EDC progressed as far as it did, would be complete without recognition of the substantial backing provided by the United States.

American policy-makers were closely involved with the Schuman Plan from the very outset. Dean G. Acheson, the secretary of state, was the second foreign statesmen to be informed about the scheme, preceded only by the German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, without whose approval the plan would have been stillborn. Acheson indeed heard of the French initiative before it had even been approved by the full French cabinet. The enthusiasm of the US response was, moreover, of great importance as Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, and Jean Monnet, the man responsible for devising the plan, sought to rebut both domestic misgivings and criticism from the British in particular. US representatives were also deeply involved in the negotiations which led to the signature of the Treaty of Paris in 1951. Monnet extracted maximum advantage from his extensive network of US supporters. John McCloy, for instance, the US high commissioner in Germany, played a crucial role in pressurising Bonn to give ground over the vexed question of industrial concentration in the coal and steel industries, which threatened to disrupt the whole negotiation. And US lobbying in favour ofEuropean integration was even more obvious, if rather less successful, in the lengthy struggle to secure agreement to the planned EDC. John Foster Dulles’s celebrated threat to conduct 'an agonising reappraisal’ of the American commitment to European security were the EDC not established was just the most famous incident in an energetic and wide-ranging campaign.256

Such unsubtle intervention in an ostensibly European decision actually proved counterproductive, as the Americans were to realise once the EDC had been rejected. The United States continued, however, to be involved, albeit rather less obviously, in the diplomacy which was to lead to the 1957 Treaties of Rome and the establishment of the EEC. The United States was, it is true, initially more interested in the proposed European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) than in the EEC. This US enthusiasm, it has been recently argued, reflected a strong belief that Euratom might constitute an effective mechanism for preventing dangerous nuclear proliferation.257 The

Americans hence took somewhat longer than might have been expected to realise that of the two projects under consideration, the economic community had the greater potential. By 1958, however, Washington was sufficiently aware of the EEC’s importance to play an active role in ensuring that the proposed European customs union did not receive too rough a passage when discussed in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). A pattern of American support for the EEC was thus established which would remain unchanged until the very late 1960s, at least. Both the European institutions, and all of those in favour of greater European unity, would derive substantial benefits from having so powerful an external sponsor.