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German Unification And Western Security

As two Germanys fire up pace of unification, allies on both sides debate strategic impact of a single German state

By Francine S. KieferStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 6, 1990


IT seems there's no stopping German unification. Even the Soviet Union and East Germany admit as much. But how can a single, giant ``Deutschland'' be made to fit in the European political landscape?

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This question is especially tough, because welding Germany's two parts together is tantamount to dismantling the continent's postwar security structure.

Exactly what kind of united Germany emerges will have to be hammered out in consultation with the Germanys' European neighbors and the four victorious powers of World War II - the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.

Despite the daunting task, leaders in NATO and Warsaw Pact countries are beginning to turn over various scenarios. These include a united Germany in NATO; a united Germany in which the western part belongs to NATO but a special case is made for the eastern part; and a neutral Germany.

These ideas are, for the time being, in conceptual stages. But they may not be for long. As recent months in East Germany have shown, citizens in the street are the driving force behind change - and the East Germans appear to want unification overnight. It's a serious possibility the new government will put the unification question to the people via referendum shortly after East Germany's national elections on March 18.

With nearly 2,000 East Germans daily moving to West Germany and with those left behind clamoring for unity, East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow finally gave in last week.

He abandoned his position that the Germanys remain separate and more or less fell in behind West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's unification plan, which calls for a final goal of a single German federation.

Mr. Modrow departed from the Kohl plan in proposing that a united Germany be neutral. But this is not acceptable to West German leader Mr. Kohl or his allies.

Modrow voiced the neutrality idea after visiting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. In the early 1950s, the Soviets tried to tempt the Germanys by offering them unity in exchange for neutrality. A neutral Germany today would be a severe blow to NATO, since West Germany has more troops in NATO than any other alliance member.

From the NATO perspective, the chance of a neutral Germany is remote. The idea of an unattached powerhouse in the middle of Europe is not acceptable to Germany's neighbors. Besides, ``West Germany is part of the West and wants to remain in the West,'' says a senior NATO official in Brussels.

Mr. Kohl has several times rejected the neutrality idea since it was voiced by Modrow.

``History has proven that a Germany in between East and West is not a good idea,'' says a Bonn government official.

``No one can guarantee the country will remain neutral in the long run,'' warned Hans van den Broek, the Dutch foreign minister, late last month.

But while NATO leaders reject neutrality, there is the public to be reckoned with. Fifty-seven percent of West Germans say they would favor reunification even if it meant having a neutral Germany, according to a poll published by the West German tabloid Bild on Saturday.