The European members of the NATO alliance gathered in Paris this week and backed up President Carter in Washington beyond expectations and probabilities. Not only did they go along in denouncing the Soviet "intervention" in Afghanistan. They called that deed "unacceptable." They said that Soviet withdrawal of troops is "indispensable." In effecT, they put Moscow on notice that detente will end between the West European allies and Moscow as well as between Washington and Moscow unless Moscow [Word omitted from source] its deed.
The French have not yet decided formally to call off French participation in the Olympic games. But they said that if most other noncommunist countries join the boycott they probably will also. They don't intend to go to a gathering of a Warsaw Pact sports circle.
All of which says that the men of Moscow have failed to frighten the French and West Germans away from "the Carter doctrine."
This is not for want of trying in Moscow. The Kremlin has been stoking up a "war scare." First reactions in Bonn and Paris seemed to indicate that the West Germans for the sake of their flourishing and rising trade with the East and the French for the sake of their "independence" from Washington would visibly dissassociate themselves from the more extreme implications of the stand which Mr. Carter took in his State of the Union address of Jan. 23.
They have chosen a separate and independent although parallel line of policy. They have not yet decided to boycott the Olympics. They have not yet cut off the regular flow of trade with Warsaw Pact countries, although they have cut back in the high technology market. They have not committed themselves to backing up Mr. Carter with their own military forces in the waters of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.
But they have agreed to fulfill their promise to increase their military contribution to NATO. And the demand for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan must have come as a great big surprise to the Kremlin which was clearly hoping to use the Carter pledge to defend the Gulf area "by use of any means necessary, including military force" as a wedge to separate Washington from the two main countries of Western Europe. Alliance splitting has always seemed to be a promising Moscow operation. This time it has not worked.
People talk about "the luck of the Irish." Well it's time to talk about "the luck of the Carters."
When the current political campaign opened last summer Mr. Carter's rivals took up foreign policy positions on the "hawk" side. And so, where are they now?
Mr. Carter's defiance of the Soviets, his declaration of intent to defend the Gulf area, his buildup of a substantial naval force (two carriers) in the area have neutralized the "hawks" on his right. But this exposed him to the danger of "doves" going into action on his left. Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts sensed that opportunity. He tossed a charge of "helter-skelter militarism." If the French and Germans in Paris this week had picked up that line, Mr. Carter could have been in danger from a rearoused "peace" party on his left. But with the French and West Germans going along, agreeing and supporting, Senator Kennedy is not likely to get far down that line.
This is not the first time Mr. Carter has been rescued by events he did not bring about. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was for him in one way a blessing, well-disguised of course. It gave him a chance to back away from his campaign of sanctions against the Iranians. That in turn helped to [word omitted from source] comparative moderate to the presidency of Iran who is doing his best of work out a compromise for the release of the hostages. Without the Afghan invasion Mr. Carter might by this time have caused the Iranians to invite the Soviets in to help defend themselves against Mr. Carter.
Earlier, the Iranian crisis gave Mr. Carter a superb political platform. His political fortunes had been on the up side from the moment Senator Kennedy had announced his rival candidacy. They boomed upwards farther and faster with the hostages. He got loud plaudits from the right and neutralized most of his critics and rivals from that side by his anti-Soviet posture.
Mr. Carter did not plan the Kennedy candidacy, which revived and galvanized the Carter candidacy Mr. Carter did not plan the seizure of the hostages which made him the "front runner" in his own party. He did not plan the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which has allowed him to continue to campaign from the White House. Yet he has benefitted from each one of these events.
It must been frustrating to those who must campaign against him.