- Sharing Knowledge, Shaping Europe: U.S. Technological Collaboration and Nonproliferation by John Krige
By John Krige. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016. Pp. 240. $33.
John Krige is a prolific scholar on the role of space and nuclear science and technology in U.S.-European relations during the Cold War. His body of work at the intersection of Cold War science and international history is widely acclaimed, most notably his book American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe (2006). Sharing Knowledge, Shaping Europe forms a fascinating complement to this publication. Whereas American Hegemony focused on the United States’ efforts to Americanize scientific practices and institutions in post-1945 Europe and to establish a scientific order consistent with American political agendas, [End Page 188] his new book draws attention to transatlantic technological collaboration as a crucial U.S. policy instrument. Mobilizing the term “soft power” (p. 5), coined by political scientist Joseph S. Nye, Krige analyzes how technological solutions were adopted by the Department of State in order to influence nuclear and space programs in Western Europe. The aims were manifold: to foster an integrated Europe as a bastion of anti-communist stability, to promote nonproliferation by backing the civilian side of dual-use technology, to narrow the transatlantic technological gap, and to open up new markets for American firms.
The book centers around four case studies. In Chapters 1 and 2, Krige discusses the United States’ promotion of the European Energy Community EURATOM between 1955–58, a supranational organization meant to steer Western Europe onto a peaceful nuclear power course. Chapter 3 examines a space collaboration project between West Germany and the United States from the mid 1960s. American attempts to keep Britain within the framework of the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO) in 1966 take center stage in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 finally focuses on the American efforts to regulate uranium-enriching gas centrifuges in Europe in the 1960s.
Was technological collaboration a useful tool of U.S. “soft power”? The balance sheet is ambivalent. The original vision for EURATOM required the member states to renounce the development of nuclear weapons. This vision could not be upheld. Although the United States had promoted a joint program for nuclear reactor-construction and R&D, it could neither prevent the dilution of EURATOM’s supranational characteristics nor stop the construction of parallel nuclear weapons programs. As for the American efforts to use a joint space project—a probe to the sun—to divert West Germany’s resources, it is unlikely that this form of “positive disarmament” (p. 80) had any impact on the domestic debate over the FRG’s right to acquire nuclear weapons. Regarding ELDO, established to provide Europe with its own satellite launcher system, the promise of U.S. technological support did not have an effect on British policy. In 1966 Britain ultimately stuck with ELDO—as Krige shows, not because of “soft power” exercised by the United States, but simply to avoid financial penalties for pulling out. In the most captivating and complex case study, on Anglo-American debates over the proliferation risks of gas-centrifuge enrichment, the Department of State, however, did succeed in using legal and technological policies to monitor and retard the development of centrifuge technology in Western Europe, while pressure on London to remain aligned with the Continent continued.
While this overall meager outcome might frustrate readers accustomed to technological success stories, a major asset of Krige’s book is to convincingly demonstrate why technological collaboration often failed to achieve the desired result. One the one hand, disagreements within the [End Page 189] American executive branch and interagency disputes (the Atomic Energy Commission as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration were major actors) undermined the exercise of “soft power” from the beginning. On the other hand, U.S. policy makers underestimated the demands for autonomy among European governments, industrialists, and technical experts and put “too much faith in technological leadership” (p. 152). As for the latter, it would have been interesting to read more about the general, possibly changing assessment of the efficacy of...