THE OTTAWA MEETING OF NATO AND WARSAW PACT MINISTERS SPARKED SOME DRAMATIC BREAKTHROUGHS
E. KAYE FULTON,CARL MOLLINSFebruary261990
A GIANT STEP TOWARDS PEACE
THE OTTAWA MEETING OF NATO AND WARSAW PACT MINISTERS SPARKED SOME DRAMATIC BREAKTHROUGHS
The historic international conference in Ottawa was nearing its end last week when the unexpected agreements took shape. External Affairs Minister Joe Clark was about to adjourn the closing session of the talks on East-West aerial surveillance, the so-called open-skies negotiations, among the foreign ministers from 23 NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. Suddenly, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker strode into the cavernous Ottawa Conference Centre and approached Clark, the chairman of the meeting. “There may be something big breaking,” he whispered. “Can you keep the meeting going?” Playing for time, Clark called for a coffee break. Thirty minutes later, Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze emerged from a private meeting with the stunning news that the two superpowers had agreed on major reductions in their armed forces in Central Europe. At the same time, they disclosed that the United States and the principal powers in Europe had hammered out an agreement that is potentially
more far-reaching than the troop cuts—a plan for negotiating the reunification of Germany.
The breakthrough on military manpower reductions, by about 370,000 Soviet troops and 60,000 Americans to 195,000 apiece in the heart of Europe, and a general agreement to allow East and West “to inspect each other from the air,” together constitute a blueprint for promoting peace and reforming relations
between the 16 NATO nations and the seven members of Eastern Europe’s counterpart military alliance. And the Ottawa accord on a unified Germany is designed to impose supervision over the reshaping of Europe. That pact will enable Britain, France and the two superpowers to exert control over fast-moving developments that are propelling East Germany towards a merger with West Germany. As Shevardnadze told a Canadian joint parliamentary session of defence and external affairs committees two days after the conference, “The European states are entitled to guarantees that a united Germany, if and when it is established, will not be a threat to them”
Still, the agreement for negotiating German unity provoked protests from some diplomats at the open-skies conference, which opened on Feb. 11 with a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Mulroney in Parliament’s Centre Block and closed on Feb. 13 with the surprise announcements on Germany and troop cuts.
The protests arose in part because a series of secret consultations that produced the unification agreement involved only the two Germanys and the four powers that occupied Germany at the end of the Second World War. As well, the six-power accord’s schedule for unification talks excludes other countries, although some diplomats suggested that the 35-nation Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe—the so-called Helsinki group, which first met in Finland’s capital in the 1970s—should convene afterward to approve the arrangements for Germany. The nations reported to have vainly lobbied for a voice in setting the terms of reunification: Poland, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. Poland’s Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, for one, said that he is pressing the powers that will negotiate German reunification to permit Polish participation. His slogan on the issue, Mazowiecki told reporters in Warsaw, is “Nothing about us without us.”
But the six-power plan, which the drafters dubbed the “two-plus-four concept,” calls for the two Germanys first to work out their merger’s internal elements following a scheduled election in East Germany on March 18 (page 22). Then, the U.S., Soviet, British and French governments, claiming legal rights in Germany as the four former occupying powers, would join with the Germanys “to discuss external aspects of the establishment of German unity, including the issues of security of the neighboring states,” according to a brief statement issued by the six foreign ministers.
The statement’s reference to the security of neighboring states was added at Shevardnadze’s insistence, participants said, apparently in an attempt to allay Poland’s concerns. That gesture was among the agreed points that emerged from a dizzying round of private meetings and telephone calls in the two weeks before, and then during, the Ottawa conference. The process began on Jan. 29 in Washington, at a meeting between Baker and British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, and gained momentum two weeks later in Ottawa. In that period, Baker outlined the plan to visiting West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher; then, to French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas during a predawn airline stopover on Feb. 5 in Shannon, Ireland; next, in Moscow to the Soviet leaders; and by note to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as they crossed paths in Moscow. In Ottawa, the six, including East German Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer, conferred repeatedly in pairs and in groups until they reached final agreement in time to announce the joint decision on Feb. 13.
Shortly before that agreement, Shevardnad-
ze informed Baker that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev—reversing his stand of a few days earlier—had accepted a U.S.-proposed troops-reduction plan, including a provision that the Americans could augment the U.S. ceiling of 195,000 troops in Central Europe by maintaining another 30,000 on bases in Britain, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. “The deal was clearly bartered between the two ministers, without officials,” said a senior Canadian official. “For us, it was icing on the cake.”
The cake that was iced was progress on the meeting’s original task: an initiative to open up the skies over Europe and North America to regular military surveillance. Although Eastern Bloc ministers argued that the information gained should be shared, while NATO disagreed, delegates expected about 200 officials, left behind in Ottawa until Feb. 28, to work out a compromise accord to be finalized at a followup conference in Budapest in May.
But it was the round of informal contacts between the various delegations that provided the conference with its most dramatic results. So quickly did bargaining positions change that officials sometimes had difficulty keeping pace with their minister’s official line. That included unresolved differences on whether a united Germany could belong to NATO or, as the Soviets contended, should be neutral. At one point during a news conference on Feb. 12, senior Soviet spokesmen stated unequivocally that NATO membership for a united Germany was “not something we accept.” At the same time, across the street, Shevardnadze, emerging from a meeting with British counterpart Hurd, was less adamant. “There is room for negotiation,” he told Maclean’s. “I am not saying that neutrality is the only way.”
The NATO-or-neutral issue is one that has been left to be resolved in the negotiations on German unity. Opinions are divided on which
option is likely to offer more security against any future attempt by that country to flex its economic, political and military power against weaker neighbors. Poland’s foreign minister, Krzysztof Skubiszewski, said at an Ottawa news conference that his government would accept a united German role in NATO, provided that non-German NATO troops were not based in East Germany and that some Soviet troops remained there for an unspecified time.
Poland, whose invasion by Nazi Germany in 1939 precipitated the Second World War, insists meanwhile that a German unification treaty must include firm guarantees of its postwar border with Germany along the Oder and Neisse rivers, which incorporates prewar German territories. That demand prompted reassuring statements at week’s end by politicians from both parts of Germany. West Germany’s
Genscher, during a visit to Halle, his East German birthplace, said that “we must declare jointly and solemnly: we Germans have no territorial claims on any of our neighbors, including Poland.” And in Warsaw, East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow told a meeting of Polish parliamentarians, “A united German fatherland can never become a threat to its neighbors and must be their partner.” Despite such statements, and the Ottawa accord providing for outside supervision of German reunification, many Europeans watched warily as German leaders pursued unity. That concern was reinforced last week during two days of talks in Bonn between
Modrow and Kohl—despite Kohl’s coolness towards his East German visitor. Modrow had hoped to secure immediate West German aid to shore up East Germany’s troubled economy, but Kohl sent clear signals that he regards Modrow’s coalition government as just a caretaker administration. The East German delegation, which included 17 ministers, was greeted only by low-level protocol officials. And Kohl flatly turned down Modrow’s request for $10.8 billion in aid, saying that no such help would be available until after the March 18 vote. Still, the two sides agreed to set up a joint committee to meet this week and prepare for an economic and currency union.
The disdainful treatment of the East Germans by Kohl’s government prompted bitter reaction in East Berlin. For many East Germans, including opposition leaders in Mo-
drow’s coalition government, it was a humiliating reminder that the rich West Germans have the power almost to dictate terms of unification to their poorer cousins in the East. Said Antje Vollmer, a leader of the East German Green party: “Bonn’s strategy is to demoralize the East German population and to break their courage.” Sebastian Pflugbeil, a member of the New Forum opposition group and one of Modrow’s ministers, angrily criticized what he called the “self-importance and arrogance” of Western politicians. And Neues Deutschland, the newspaper of East Germany’s former Communist party, now called the Party of Democratic Socialism, headlined its account of the
meeting: “Kohl puts a pistol to Modrow’s chest.”
Kohl’s determination to force the pace of unification was underscored elsewhere last week. Before meeting Modrow, the West German leader met Gorbachev in Moscow and received what he called “a green light for the unity of our fatherland.” On his flight back to Bonn, Kohl celebrated with champagne. But, for the politicians returning home from Canada, there was at least some satisfaction that the Ottawa accord, despite controversy over the two-plus-four plan, promises to impose a measure of control over the hectic pace of the historic changes that are reshaping the world.
E. KAYE FULTON and CARL MOLLINS with GREG W. TAYLOR and HOLGER JENSEN in Ottawa and ANDREW PHILLIPS in East Berlin
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