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NATO's make-believe world

Sens. John Glenn and Sam Nunn have joined me in sponsoring a Senate resolution calling on the President to propose that the North Atlantic alliance finally begin in earnest to pool our vast financial, technological, and human resources to provide for our common defense at acceptable costs. The resolution expresses the sense of the Congress that the President should make this proposal at the NATO Summit in Bonn in June.

The idea of combining the talents, resources, and energies of the free peoples of the West is of course not new. It lay at the heart of the original purpose for which NATO itself was formed. But in practice neither NATO as a military organization, nor the defense industries supporting it have functioned as a unified and integrated system.

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On paper NATO looks impressive. In terms of numbers of men under arms, and total amount spent on defense, the West would appear to be more than adequately strong to meet the threat posed by Warsaw Pact forces. But the statistics hide a grim reality.

As a military force, NATO functions as a loosely organized collection of 14 separate national defense efforts. Each member nation determines what it will buy, and when it will buy it. Levels of ammunition and other war reserves are set independently. In fact, NATO's integrated Military Command commands very little that is integrated. Consequently, NATO's forces are qualitatively uneven (some weak and some strong), and quantitatively inferior to the Warsaw Pact. They have only a limited ability to rearm, repair, reinforce, support, supply or even communicate with one another.

In short, there is less to NATO than meets the eye.

Until recently, few people on either side of the Atlantic seemed troubled that NATO cooperation was largely a facade. American nuclear superiority obviated the need for a credible, collective conventional deterrent. It permitted our European allies to adopt defense industry policies that were inspired more by national prestige or domestic economic considerations than by a real desire to contribute to our common defense. Our European allies are paying at least one-third less than we are for defense, although their combined economies are larger than ours. In R&D alone, our allies would be spending some defense of the West.

In this country, many in the defense establishment still act as if armaments cooperation was merely a rhetorical exercise. They seem to be blinded by the large favorable trade balance we enjoy in military sales abroad, and perhaps by the belief that as long as we are providing the real defense, cooperation isn't necessary.

But the costs of modern weapons systems and military programs have reached astronomical proportions. NATO's fragmented defense industrial system is causing the ''structural disarmament'' of Europe in the face of a growing Soviet threat. Formerly significant producers of first-class military equipment, such as Great Britain, are progressively leaving the scene. Were it not for sales to the third world, especially OPEC countries, Britain and France might be virtually out of the defense equipment business.

The demise of Western European defense industries would not, as some might think, lead to a commensurate increase in the sales of American military equipment to our allies. Rather it would lead to a progressive decline in the total allied military strength, as the Europeans simply procure less and less.

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The structural disarmament process is not just a European phenomenon. Eight of the 13 production lines building US Navy aircraft are turning out fewer than 20 planes a year. Three of these lines will each produce only six aircraft in fiscal year 1983. The ''inevitable results'' (in the words of Sen. John Tower's Armed Services Committee Report) ''are exorbitant unit costs and wasted resources.'' If we Americans persist in trying to produce everything ourselves, we too will finally succumb to structural disarmament. We will find ourselves spending more and more money producing everything in ever smaller quantities--all by ourselves!

NATO can no longer afford to live in a make-believe world of giving complacent lip service to allied cooperation, while its individual members pursue divergent and even con-flicting defense policies. The realities of today will not permit it. For as Winston Churchill put it: ''You must look at the facts, because the facts look at you.''

This alliance is spending more money on defense than is the Warsaw Pact. Yet we debate among ourselves as to how many days we might be able to resist attack, without resorting to nuclear war. The fact we now must look at is this:

Do the allied legislators, and the allied heads of government, have a moral right to impose a $200 billion annual tax burden on our people to produce conventional forces that are collectively so weak, that the day could come when we would face the choice or surrender, or nuclear war?

The Roth-Glenn-Nunn resolution says (in effect): No--we do not have a moral right to continue on our present course. We must pool our resources for our common defense; we must eliminate all unnecessary duplication of defense industrial effort; we must share, equitably and efficiently, the financial burdens and economic benefits of NATO defense. And we must take the first step at the NATO summit in June.

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