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Germany Reuniting

September 13, 1990



WITH a world crisis unsolved in the Persian Gulf, the historic German reunification process is taking place off center stage. Yet the significance of a reunited Germany on Oct. 3 is hard to overstate. Last week a behemoth ``Second State'' treaty was signed between East and West Germany on internal issues such as abortion and property rights. And yes, the new German capital will be Berlin.

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Yesterday the World War II Four Powers signed off on the final ``two-plus-four'' agreements in Moscow - laying out the process and terms, after 40 years, for a withdrawal from Berlin. Still undisclosed is the cost to Germany of relocating Soviet troops. Already Berlin - er, Bonn - is linking the costs to the Gulf crisis, saying that money spent on the Soviets helps NATO and may have to substitute for help with new costs for security in the Gulf. That's too convenient. Reunification and Gulf costs should be uncoupled in the German mind.

Still, reunification is moving with the precision of German engineering - even if the representatives in the East German People's Chamber can't tell you much about the details in the 1,000-page treaty they just signed. The treaty's bound to be full of loopholes and constitutional contradictions. These will have to be worked out in coming years.

Broadly speaking, two issues bear watching:

First, bad blood between East and West Germans. This must stop. Helmut Kohl's estimates of reunification costs are probably low. He'll smooth over the cost until after the Dec. 2 election. But some 3 million East Germans need to be retrained for new jobs. The cost will be hundreds of billions.

Then there's Poland, Hungary, and the Soviets to pay. With a real growth rate of 4 percent, West Germany can afford it - but not without sacrifices.

Second, status of force agreements. Can NATO forces be deployed on East German land? It's hard to know if Germany and the Soviets have tacitly agreed not to deploy. That would be unfortunate. Germany wants more than anything to be a fully sovereign nation, with no ``special treatment.'' That can't happen if some areas remain ``special.''