The NATO alliance celebrated its 35th anniversary this week with a foreign ministers' meeting in Washington. They said farewell to Joseph Luns of the Netherlands, who has headed the organization as secretary-general for 13 years, and welcomed in his place Lord Carrington, who resigned as British foreign secretary because he had failed to foresee and forestall the Falklands war.
After suitable rituals, they then took up the same old subject that brought them into existence 35 years ago - what to do about the Soviet Union. And as usual over these 35 years, they concluded that they still need to maintain a collective military defense. But, also as usual, they stepped deftly around the need they all recognize to spend more money on conventional arms in order to reduce the danger of one side being tempted to use nuclear arms.
They cast a thoughtful glance at the vicious war going on between Iran and Iraq in the Persian Gulf but agreed that the best thing they can do is to keep out of it as much as possible, even though Europe depends heavily on the Gulf for its oil.
The Americans continued to urge the West European allies to develop more military ability to play a role in such places as the Gulf, which is more important to Europe than to the United States. But the Europeans countered by pointing to the lag in their economies, for which they blame Washington's unbalanced budget, on grounds it has sucked vast quantities of Europe's investment capital across the Atlantic to get those new high interest rates Americans are willing to pay.