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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Western Allies: Tensions, Yes Collapse, No

LONDON - When the media smell a good story, they chase it like a pack of famished hounds. Someone in authority throws them a few bones, which, devoured and regurgitated, become news.


But the version of events that reaches the public may not always be accurate or placed in an intelligent context.


Lately, some Western newspapers have been chewing over a story that looks juicy but may be all rubber. Its essence is that the entire Western alliance, but especially the Franco-German relationship, is under serious strain. Recent disputes over political, security, commercial and financial issues are said to show that the West could hold together only during the Cold War. With the Soviet threat gone, the United States and Western Europe are supposed to be acting once more like self-interested national powers.


The evidence for this theory is as follows. The Clinton administration is angering France and Britain by making it known that it wants Germany (like Japan) to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Indeed, the Unites States is said to regard Germany now as its chief European ally. Hence their joint call, against French and British wishes, for an end to the arms embargo on Bosnia's Moslems. Hence also the deal that allowed Germany, but no other European Community country, to escape U. S. sanctions over the international telecommunications business.


Other disputes between France and Germany concern economic policy. France thinks German interest rates are too high for Europe's health, and its finance minister, Edmond Alphandery, said so last week. The Germans responded by canceling a meeting between Alphandery and the German finance minister and Central Bank president. There has also been endless friction over how to liberalize world trade at the GATT talks, with the French more protectionist than the Germans.


On defense, a rift is said to have emerged between Frenchmen eager for a distinct Western European security identity and Germans reluctant to see the United States abandon Europe.


Few would deny that tensions exist in the Franco-German relationship. They also existed not long ago in the U. S. -German relationship, when the U. S. thought Germany offered a weak response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From time to time, tensions exist in every relationship between any two Western powers. But they stay under control, largely because the economies, cultures and national interests of Western countries have become so closely interwoven since 1945.


There is a story to be told about the West's difficulties in shaping responses to the vastly changed world of the 1990s. But the imminent end of the Western alliance? That tastes of rubber.