Another Step in Europe

THE high-level meetings in Brussels and Bonn last week helped clear the way for development of a new Europe. Both NATO and the historic ``four powers'' have agreed to help speed ahead German reunification and European integration. US Secretary of State James Baker made several key announcements, most of which have been hoped for in Europe for some time. US articulation of them was needed.

Mr. Baker affirmed the US would not modernize the NATO nuclear arsenal, or develop (or deploy) a more powerful short-range Lance missile. Whether or not the new, more political NATO Baker hopes for can work - time will tell.

Baker also moved toward a new ``security architecture'' in Europe by proposing a September meeting in New York of the foreign ministers of 35 nations. The meeting, which gives more weight to the CSCE process (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe), would lead to a summit in Paris by the end of the year. In recent weeks, CSCE has been seen as important because it gives the Soviets a way to negotiate European security issues.

Baker also made clear the US position on reunification. The US seeks ``a unified, sovereign Germany,'' he said. ``Once a united and democratic Germany exists in mutually recognized borders, the four powers will have fully met their responsibilities. The basis for any remaining special rights will no longer exist.''

Yet if the US position to close out as quickly as possible the four-power structure in Germany is clear, the Soviet position is anything but. Both US and British officials confide that the Soviets were not as forthcoming as press reports stated. Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze did not want to speed along reunification. His position that the Soviets would wait out reunification and decide later about Soviet troops in East Germany is essentially a nonposition.

It's too early to predict trouble from the Soviets on Germany. But it is clear to many diplomats that the loss of power and influence in the affairs of Central Europe is more troubling to them than previously recognized. No doubt Gorbachev is having trouble selling the idea of German unity to his populace. A weaker USSR and a suddenly sovereign and powerful German state (where the Soviets have no say) plays on Soviet fears.

German unification will now proceed apace. But the Soviet response, and demand, remains a question.

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