WORLD

A TRIUMPH OF WILLS

MOSCOWAGREES TO THE GERMANYS’ MEMBERSHIP IN NATO AND CLEARS THE WAY FOR UNIFICATION

HOLGER JENSEN July 30 1990
WORLD

A TRIUMPH OF WILLS

MOSCOWAGREES TO THE GERMANYS’ MEMBERSHIP IN NATO AND CLEARS THE WAY FOR UNIFICATION

HOLGER JENSEN July 30 1990

A TRIUMPH OF WILLS

WORLD

Only five months ago, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared that NATO membership was “absolutely out of the question” for a united Germany. And as recently as last week, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, flying to Paris for another of the so-called two-plus-four talks between the two Germanys and the four postwar occupation powers, predicted that they would not be able to break the impasse. Then, during a refuelling stop in Shannon, Ireland, Baker learned from reporters that Gorbachev had reversed himself, agreeing to German membership in NATO and other concessions that removed the last barriers to unification. Baker’s department had not notified him of the new developments, but it emerged later that Washington had also been overtaken by events.

Gorbachev and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced the breakthrough after they had conferred for two days in Moscow and in a mountain hideaway in the northern Caucasus. Kohl, clearly elated, called it “a fantastic result.” Under the terms of the accord, the Soviet Union effectively renounced its role as an occupying power and lifted all restrictions on German sovereignty, including the country’s right to choose its own alliances. In exchange, Germany will cut its armed forces to 370,000 troops, from 667,000 in the two German armies combined, and it will help defray the cost of keeping Soviet troops in what is now East German territory during a threeto four-year transition period. Kohl also promised a broad-ranging

treaty on technical and eco-

nomic co-operation that will make Germany a major partner in Gorbachev’s perestroika program. But Bonn officials hotly denied that Germany was, in effect, buying its freedom. Said Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich

MOSCOWAGREES TO THE GERMANYS’ MEMBERSHIP IN NATO AND CLEARS THE WAY FOR UNIFICATION

Genscher: “It is not appropriate to talk about a price paid to buy Soviet agreement.”

In Paris, delegates to the two-plus-four talks quickly took advantage of the momentum generated by Kohl and Gorbachev to allay concerns among Polish officials about their Ger-

man neighbors. Before last week’s meeting, Genscher privately assured Poland’s foreign minister, Krzysztof Skubiszewski, that the new Germany would honor all of East Germany’s current business contracts with Poland. In the

talks themselves, Genscher and his East German counterpart guaranteed that Germany’s postwar frontier with Poland, along the Oder and Neisse rivers, would remain unchanged.

All she foreign ministers then announced that they will meet in Moscow on Sept. 12 to draft a final settlement that would terminate U.S., British, French and Soviet responsibility for Germany. If that settlement gets approval from the 35-nation Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, scheduled to meet in Paris on Nov. 19, it will be followed by all-German elections on Dec. 2, leading to a formal declaration of unity.

Kohl’s personal rapport with Gorbachev seemed to strengthen his chances of being elected the first chancellor of a reunited Germany. But his host revealed after their meetings that he would I not have agreed to NATO S membership if the Western 5 alliance had not decided, at its summit in London earlier this - month, to eliminate all vestiges of the Cold War. Said Gorbachev: “We could not have reached this agreement without the context in which the visit took place.”

The Soviet leader also appeared buoyed by his recent victory over conservatives within

the Communist party, who had counted on German unification as an issue on which they could rally popular opposition to Gorbachev’s political reforms. At the 28th party congress in Moscow earlier this month, hard-line army generals argued that it would be a major mistake to allow Germany to increase its strength. Gorbachev bluntly asked them if they wanted to send in their tanks again. Afterwards, his fiercest conservative critic, Yegor Ligachev, mustered barely a sixth of the delegates’ votes in a failed attempt to win the deputy party leader’s post.

But Gorbachev still faces severe domestic difficulties. The Soviet economy has almost collapsed, and there is widespread dissatisfaction over the slow pace of reform. On July 15, 50,000 demonstrators marched through Moscow demanding an end to Communist rule. The Central Asian republics are wracked by ethnic violence; last week, there was a fresh outbreak of fighting in Kirghizia, where more than 200 people have been killed since early June. And while Gorbachev and Kohl were celebrating their foreign policy triumph last week, Ukraine became the seventh Soviet republic to declare sovereignty. Like the giant Russian Federation, it did not demand outright independence, but proclaimed itself free of Moscow’s supervision in such key areas as trade, agriculture, industry and even the stationing of Soviet troops on Ukrainian soil.

Western analysts say that Gorbachev, hoping that his foreign policy concessions will lead

to large amounts of Western aid, is counting on an economic miracle to reverse the separatist trends. Even though German officials denied that they had made any specific aid offer last week to the Soviet leader, Kohl acknowledged that in their private talks Gorbachev had placed great emphasis on what he called the “economic preconditions” necessary to achieve political reforms. And Bonn did, in fact, purchase a considerable amount of Soviet goodwill last month by granting Moscow $3.5 billion in credits to help bolster Gorbachev’s flagging reform program. Kohl also tried, at the recent Houston summit of the top seven industrialized nations, to promote a $17.4-billion aid package for the Soviets. The summiteers decided in principle to support perestroika but deferred a decision on the aid plan until a six-month study of the issue is completed.

Kohl’s success in the Soviet Union inflamed some lingering concerns about German domination of Europe. But most European leaders expressed satisfaction that German membership in NATO and the European Community would guarantee peaceful relationships. Said Walther Stlitzle, director of the respected Peace Research Institute in Stockholm: “Europeans can console themselves with the thought that no single country will find its economic and military power so hemmed in by international accords and institutions as the future Germany.”

HOLGER JENSEN