Between Involvement and Detachment: The Johnson administration's perception of France, West Germany, and NATO, 1963-1969

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch


  • Gry Thomasen

Between Involvement and Detachment takes grasp with the Johnson administration’s (1963-1969) perceptions of and responses to the Western European realignments. Arguing that the Johnson administration set out to maintain the American unilateralist position in the transatlantic relation, not just as a function of America’s position as a superpower, but also as a function of certain historically based Euro-skepticism, the thesis suggests that America’s Western European policy can be seen on a continuum of involvement and detachment. Based on archival research, the thesis concludes, that these policies, essentially, were detached as America rejected the European reason of state.
The Western European realignments were recorded in the Johnson administration with de Gaulle’s critique of US hegemony in Western Europe in the early 1960s. The thesis argues that the administration to a large extent had a traditional reading of de Gaulle’s policies, and feared that if Gaullist thinking spread among the European allies, it would merit to a return to traditional European power politics. The analysis shows that, by 1964 the administration believed, according to this study, that NATO’s principle of integration stood between the current ‘balanced’ Western Europe and the Europe of the pre-War period. In addition the administration held the opinion that the German problem and the Western European détente tampered with the US unilateralism in its relations with the Soviet Union, and its position as the leader of the Western world.
De Gaulle’s withdrawal from NATO’s integrated command in 1966, and the subsequent British and Belgian calls for a reform of the alliance and a détente with East, contributed to the administration’s fear of alliance disintegration and return to European power politics. The thesis argues that the Department of State attempted a ‘political bargain’, with which the allies would be given political consultation and a détente in return for re-commitment to integration, whereas the Acheson Committee proposed a détente and deterrence formula in NATO to the overcome this perceived alliance disintegration. Thus the US proposed the Harmel formula before Harmel.
In general, the developments in Western Europe put the Johnson administration in a state of alarm, and the European allies therefore had a larger impact on America’s policies, except in the essentially detached nuclear policy, which the administration maintained.
Despite changed circumstances, the Nixon administration’s relation with and perceptions of the European allies largely resemble the traditionalist view of the Johnson administration.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKøbenhavn
PublisherDet Humanistiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet
Number of pages223
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 51121418