December 12

This Day in History

Cold War

Dec 12, 1987:

Shultz calls on European allies to increase defense spending

During an official visit to Denmark, U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz issues a statement calling on America's NATO allies in western Europe to sharply increase their defense spending. Shultz bluntly informed his Danish hosts that it was "important for all of us to increase our contributions to NATO, to insure that we do everything we can to preserve our values." The call for funds was in direct response to the INF Treaty that had recently been signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Shultz's visit was the first of many stops in Europe. Just days before, the Soviet Union and the United States signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty that promised to eliminate much of the two nations' nuclear arsenals in Europe. Critics of the treaty in the United States and in Western Europe argued that this would leave America's NATO allies nearly defenseless against the massive conventional forces of the Soviet Union. Shultz himself had not been a supporter of the treaty. With the treaty in force, however, the secretary now issued a call for increased spending by NATO members on their conventional armed forces. As Shultz concluded, "It's not a viewpoint. It's a description of reality." Denmark strongly supported the INF Treaty. However, the United States had criticized Denmark for years because of its small defense budget. According to one U.S. diplomat, the Danes' philosophy was that "the Soviets are not a major threat and that in any case, their British and American friends would always come to their aid."

Talks between Shultz and Danish officials were cordial, but reflected the growing tension between the United States and some of its NATO allies concerning defense issues in Europe. Instead of agreeing with the secretary's suggestion for increased defense spending, the Danish representative pushed even more to render Europe a "nuclear-free" zone. The inconclusive talks, and the Danish refusal to consider increased defense spending, were evidence of the increasing power of the "no-nuke" movement in Western Europe.

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