Theater Nuclear Forces: Public Opinion in Western Europe

  • Donald R. DeLuca
Part of the Advances in Foreign Policy Analysis book series (AFPA)


Despite the outcome of the March 1983 West German election— favorable from the point of view of the Reagan administration—it is clear that many Europeans do not support the deployment of a new generation of American theater nuclear weapons in their countries. Some observers imagine that this reluctance is based on a new “war scare,” an upsurge of pacifism, or a new wave of anti-Americanism. None of these explanations, however, can be supported by closer analysis. There was a “war scare” around 1980, but it has now passed; no upsurge of pacifism ever existed; and anti-Americanism is present, but in no significantly greater degree than the postwar norm. The problem is both more specific and more general—a new loss of confidence in the current political leadership of the United States combined with a long-standing popular reluctance to rely as confidently as do their governments on nuclear deterrence. Suspicion and distaste are directed toward the American government, not toward American citizens. These attitudes are more widespread in Britain than in West Germany, and they are concentrated in the young, those voters who will be in the electorate for decades to come. Unless the implications of these attitudes are faced constructively, the recent crisis in the NATO over West European defense will not be the last of its kind. An undercurrent of fear and mistrust will remain, surfacing periodically with unpredictable and profoundly dangerous implications.


Nuclear Weapon Global Community Question Wording Military Strength American Troop 


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  1. 1.
    For example, see John P. Robinson, Polls Apart (Cabin John, MD: Seven Locks Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  2. 16.
    Alain Enthoven and Wayne Smith, How Much is Enough (New York: Harper and Row, 1971)Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    Harris surveys as reported in Connie DeBoer, “The Polls: Our Commitment to World War III,” Public Opinion Quarterly 45 (1981), 129.Google Scholar
  4. 19.
    Michael Howard, “Reassurance and Deterrence: Western Defense in the 1980s,” Foreign Affairs 61 (Winter 1982–83), 309–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Bruce Russett 2006

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  • Donald R. DeLuca

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