WESTERN EUROPE: A Sense of Vacuum

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"As the world is knit together today, there is nowhere where American influence does not count, nowhere where it may not be markedly beneficent," wrote London's Spectator last week. "Nothing indeed demonstrates that more clearly than the sense of vacuum created when

America has for a brief interval to mark time in her diplomatic activity." In Paris, the Socialist Le Populaire waited less patiently for the U.S. election to be over: "This period of uncertainty . . . has been largely responsible for the many misunderstandings between European states and the U.S. in ... the last few weeks."

"Unhappy State." The sense of vacuum resulted partly from the State Department's tendency to postpone hard decisions; but shrewd foreign offices abroad also hesitated to accept promises from or make commitments to a State Department whose mandate was hanging on an election. And so, without effective prodding from the U.S., the European Army plan languished, unratified by the two most important nations in it, France and Germany. France aired its grievances against the U.S. (TIME, Nov. 3); NATO adjured its member nations to meet their 1952 armament targets, and feared they wouldn't. In Britain last week, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden announced that he would visit the U.S. and seek an interview with the new President. Proposed agenda: 1) "the unhappy state of affairs" in the Atlantic alliance; 2) a "rather fundamental reconsideration of the attitude of the Western allies toward each other."

Self Reliance. This rather fundamental reconsideration has been going on for months as one European nation after another found its feet and began chafing uneasily under its "client-patron" relationship with the U.S. European governments, reported New York Times Correspondent Michael Hoffman in Geneva, "are awfully tired of feeling dependent on the United States."

Sometimes the surge toward self-reliance bursts into the kind of truculence, resentment or restiveness that sets American taxpayers to muttering about rank ingratitude. In Britain, the yellow press makes cheap capital out of the so-called "G.I. problem," involving 35,000 U.S. servicemen manning U.S. bomber bases there. In Italy, a U.S. official reported that he could detect "by osmosis" that Italians are getting a little tired of U.S. advice.

But, much more healthily, Europe's businessmen are conducting an all-out campaign for "Trade, Not Aid." Last week, five U.S. allies—Denmark, The Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—charged that U.S. tariff restrictions on imported dairy products are a flagrant violation of the worldwide General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). "It is incomprehensible," said a Danish delegate to GATT, "that the U.S. prefers to continue to assist us through dollar grants from the American taxpayer . . . instead of allowing us to pay in goods for dollars we urgently need to buy American products." The Dutch, even angrier, slapped a retaliatory tariff on U.S. flour imports.

In short, part of the vehemence reflects the fact that the patient is getting well enough to feel cantankerous.