Reunified Germany, The New Europe: Opportunities And Challenges


In a period of epic change, perhaps no country has been more profoundly altered with greater strategic implications than Germany. Exactly one year ago, an historic opening was made in the Berlin Wall; within a month, it will be gone altogether. On 3 October 1990, the two German states created in 1949 — and divided by that wall for nearly thirty years — were reunited as one sovereign and democratic nation. What is more, territory formerly constituting the front line of the Warsaw Pact has been peacefully incorporated into that of a NATO member state.

In strategic terms, an event of nearly as much moment is scheduled to occur today. The leader of the new and unified Germany, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev will sign new treaties of friendship and cooperation. These accords are, quite literally, the price exacted by Moscow for "allowing" German reunification. (As a practical matter, the Soviet Union had little choice but to accede to the liberation of East Germany since the alternative — Kremlin support for brutal repression — would have aborted vitally needed Western financial and technological assistance to the USSR.) Arguably, these treaties represent the most important German-Soviet agreements since the economic and non-aggression pacts signed by Hitler and Stalin in August 1939.

While the exact terms of the new agreements have not yet been publicly disclosed, some aspects are known:

  • Neither side will unleash a war with the other nor provide military aid to any third power that attacks the other state.

  • Germany has granted the USSR the right to continue to station as many as 380,000 Soviet troops on former East German territory through 1994.

  • Germany will pay at least $8 billion to defray Moscow’s costs for such deployments and eventual relocations (over and above the $3 billion in credits extended in June 1990).

  • Germany has pledged to encourage the flow of large quantities of German capital and technology. If it has not also agreed explicitly to encourage similar flows on the part of other Western industrialized nations, it certainly has undertaken to do so on its own initiative. (As German Foreign Minister Hans Deitrich Genscher put it with characteristic cynicism on 8 November 1990, "We don’t want to monopolize the West’s relations with the East.")


Today’s activities in Bonn underscore an all-too-often overlooked reality: The astonishing developments in contemporary Germany entail serious risks for the West’s security interests even as they hold out promising opportunities.

The Center for Security Policy believes that it is imperative that the United States and its allies begin to address both the opportunities and the risks posed by such developments. This is particularly true in the run-up to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) meetings to be held in Paris next week. These sessions — and the signing ceremony for a new Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement and a Bush-Gorbachev meeting to be held on their margins — will do much to shape the future European security structure. The concurrent, rapid relocation to the Persian Gulf of roughly half the present U.S. Army’s combat power deployed in Europe raises the stakes for such deliberations still further.

The Opportunities

It is possible that the new, unified Germany will: deepen its economic and political links with the European Community; remain a constructive member of a NATO alliance that continues to play a vital part in keeping the peace by sharing in the burden of effective deterrence; and seek to maintain and strengthen its relationships with France and with the United States. If so, it will likely serve as a vital engine for the successful democratization and economic resuscitation of Central and Eastern Europe — and perhaps even of the Soviet Union, itself.

The following are among the benefits likely to accrue were Germany to pursue such an approach:

  • Vindication of the basic premises of the NATO alliance, i.e., that an armed coalition — which includes, importantly, the United States — could deter Soviet military attack and that it would, over time, create political and economic forces throughout Europe which the oppressive regimes of the East could neither compete with nor suppress.

  • The prospect of a future, real reduction in the conventional military threat facing Western Europe. This will be of considerable strategic significance provided the dismantling of the East German army and integration of 50,000 of its officers (roughly half of the total) and enlisted personnel into the Bundeswer do not wind up greatly reducing the integrity and reliability of those German forces assigned to NATO. Another important variable is the pace and completeness of the withdrawal of Soviet occupation forces from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

  • A positive example for Central European countries in transition arising from the process used by Germany to transform both the political and economic institutions within the formerly communist region. While the transition facing each of these countries is unique and while the resources of West Germany provide an opportunity for rapid change not available elsewhere, there will nonetheless likely be salutary effects and lessons to be learned throughout the region from the East German experience.

  • If properly disciplined, thoughtfully directed and transparently provided, German assistance to the Soviet Union could contribute significantly to the establishment of democratic and market institutions there, as well.


The Risks

In 1952, in a desperate bid to prevent West German rearmament and membership in a Western military alliance, Joseph Stalin offered to permit reunification of Germany with free elections. To prevent West Germany from formally joining NATO, the post-Stalin Soviet leadership reiterated this offer in 1954 and first proposed the convening of a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

Ever since, Soviet diplomacy has featured the following persistent themes: there is no need for NATO; Moscow would be willing at any time to dissolve the Warsaw Treaty Organization provided NATO were also disbanded; and both alliance systems should be replaced by an all-European collective security arrangement. It is noteworthy that Mikhail Gorbachev has repeatedly trumpeted these Soviet proposals over the past year.

Such continuity in Soviet policy objectives, combined with Moscow’s pressing economic requirements, suggest that the following serious challenges lie ahead in the aftermath of German reunification:

  • The risk that the glow of reunification and the unraveling of some communist regimes in Central Europe will lead to a series of political and military agreements which result in the de facto — if not de jure — demise of NATO as an alliance with an integrated military command and credible deterrent forces. In this regard, the language of the new Soviet-German non-aggression pact may raise questions about Germany’s ability to fulfill its treaty commitments to the collective security of allied nations.

  • Strong pressures for effectively supplanting NATO by a new collective security agreement under a CSCE rubric.

  • Adoption of a neutralist stance by the unified Germany. This would be a particularly serious prospect were the Social Democrats to gain power in the 2 December elections. After all, during the 1980s, as the principal opposition party, the SPD: vehemently resisted deployment of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces; retreated from its once strong commitment to NATO; assumed unification could only be attained through accommodation of the Soviet Union and East Germany; and seemed ready to dispense with NATO for all intents and purposes in favor of a new CSCE arrangement.

  • The Soviet Union will seek to exploit the political-economic relationship — reminiscent, in important respects, of the German-Soviet ties established earlier in this century (notably, the Rapallo accord of 1922 as well as the Economic Pact of 1939) — it is establishing with Germany for pernicious purposes.

  • In particular, it may seek to extract massive additional economic and technological assistance primarily to maintain an otherwise unsustainable military capability. The USSR may also seek to exploit the continuing presence of its 380,000 troops and uncounted KGB personnel in Germany to foster both technology diversions and the effective neutralization of the new German state.

  • Clearly, as German public spending will be increasingly directed toward domestic requirements — especially those associated with revitalizing the former East German states — Moscow will become more assertive in ensuring that its claims on Bonn’s foreign assistance come before those of the fragile democratic and free market systems struggling to take hold in Central Europe.


Implications for U.S. Policy

During the entire post-World War II era, the U.S.-German relationship has made a vital contribution to the growth of democratic institutions and to Germany’s reconciliation with and integration into the West. For the next years, the wisdom of U.S. policy will remain key to assuring that the bright promises of reunification are realized. Among the implications for U.S. policy are the following:

  • The Bush Administration should continue to affirm and welcome the promise of German reunification in freedom while adopting a far more vigilant attitude toward the challenges inherent in this development.

  • In particular, the United States must take the lead in order to assure that, while NATO responds positively to changing circumstances in Europe, it does not do so (either through unilateral actions or through CFE or other negotiations) in a way which will lead to political or military arrangements that effectively undermine NATO’s ability to serve as an effective deterrent mechanism. It is imperative that NATO be preserved as the preeminent political and military organization charged with, and capable of, contending with the actual military capabilities — not professed or perceived intentions — of the Soviet Union and other potential threats to European security.

  • In this regard, the United States must take a firm position in the coming, complex political-military negotiations on "new security arrangements" for Europe. While welcoming sensible CSCE or CFE agreements, it must prevent Moscow and/or Bonn from subverting an effective NATO through the device of expanding CSCE’s charter as a collective security organization.

  • The United States, along with other key NATO members such as the United Kingdom and France, must insist that Germany make full, timely and good-faith disclosure of all of its agreements with the Soviet Union. Failure to do so can only serve to create suspicions (which the Soviets can be expected covertly to encourage) that can be very damaging to bilateral relations and to NATO cohesiveness.

  • The United States must also persuade Germany to channel and constrain its economic and especially its high technology assistance to Moscow so as to avoid a situation in which such assistance enables anti-reform forces in the USSR to prevail over those committed to genuine democratic and free market change. Equally important, steps must be taken now to ensure that the looming, massive Soviet debt to Germany does not give rise to untoward political, as well as economic, leverage that can be exploited to advance the Kremlin’s continuing agenda: the neutralization of a united Germany.

  • At the same time, the United States must set an example through its own aid practices and must use its influence with Bonn to ensure that the struggling nations of Central and Eastern Europe are not abandoned as a result of a fixation with aid to the Soviet Union.


The Center believes that if the Bush Administration were to adopt such an approach — and to encourage similar action on the part of its allies — it could do much to reduce the danger that the significant risks rather than the promising opportunities will realized in the aftermath of German reunification.

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