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Unity Achieved, Germany Ponders Future Role

By Francine S. KieferStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 3, 1990


TODAY the Germans realize their 40-year-old dream of reunification. The division of the nation and the post-war era of East-West confrontation have ended. The remarkable process of change begun by candlelight street protests in East German cities last October has been accomplished in just under one year.

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But ahead lies a long period of adjustment for the Germans: internally, as they try to integrate two different economies and societies; externally, as their role in world politics evolves, especially in relation to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. (German governments merge, Page 4.)

With a population of nearly 80 million people, the new Germany is the most populous country in Europe, excluding the Soviet Union. In land mass, it is now second to France. Economically, it is at the top of the list.

But the united Germany also has more neighbors than any other European country (nine, to be exact). This fact, combined with the burden of its role in two world wars, is why a united Germany will exercise ``responsibility,'' not ``power'' in the world, as Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher recently put it.

Most diplomats and politicians understand this to mean an emphasis on economics and diplomacy, rather than on military might. They also see Germany anchored in the European Community (EC) and NATO, continuing its push toward Western European integration, but at the same time doing more to bring Eastern Europe into the fold - if only through loose association at first.

For instance, Mr. Genscher, the most popular politician in Germany, was a key figure in the drive to ``institutionalize'' the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which will take up some of his ideas at its summit next month.

Through the Ostpolitik begun in the 1970s, Bonn, more than any other West European capital, had close ties to the East. With reunification, this relationship is expected to intensify politically, culturally, and economically.

``We can and we will do more for these countries,'' says a senior government official here, who asked not to be named. One reason Germany is intent on this, he adds, is fear of what might happen if Eastern Europe, above all the Soviet Union, is neglected.

``Anarchy or erosion of Soviet Russia might be very dangerous,'' says the official. ``If a country is weakened at home, it sometimes tries to find a solution abroad.''

The Germans have already agreed to provide Moscow with $8 billion to facilitate removal of its troops from eastern Germany. An economic agreement is expected to be initialed shortly.

But, say the Germans, they cannot do it all, especially in view of the cost of reunification, which could easily run 100 billion deutsche marks ($65 billion) a year for the forseeable future.

``The goal has to be that the West agrees on a huge aid program for the Soviet Union,'' says Wilhelm Bruns, foreign policy specialist at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation here.

Indeed, Bonn started the ball rolling in this direction at this year's EC summit in Dublin and economic summit in Houston. Feasibility studies on Soviet aid are expected this fall as a result of both summits.

The big question among Germany's Western allies is whether a new Eastern thrust (or even just the preoccupation with unification itself) will be at their expense.