WITH the signing of a treaty fully restoring the sovereignty of a unified Germany, ``we have drawn a line under World War II and started keeping the time of a new era,'' Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said Wednesday. The Germany treaty was followed by a less-noticed but perhaps equally significant pact - the initialing yesterday of a broad treaty of ``good neighborly relations, partnership and cooperation,'' between Germany and the Soviet Union. Mr. Shevardnadze told reporters that other agreements on economic cooperation, science, technology, and arrangements for German financing of the withdrawal of Soviet forces from East Germany would follow.
Both Soviet and German leaders have imbued these ties with strategic significance, hinting that the Soviet-German relationship will be a vital axis in Europe.
``Our common task is to establish a new European order,'' West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said at the joint press conference of the two Germanys and the four allied powers of World War II.
``Our relations with East European neighbors and especially the Soviet Union are assuming new importance,'' which, he added, will be embodied in the German-Soviet treaty.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in an interview on Soviet television Wednesday, praised the pact with Germany. ``All that we have accumulated during cooperation with the two German states should be retained and developed in relations with the united Germany, in the interests of our two peoples and in the interests of Europe and the world,'' he said, according to the Soviet news agency Tass.
In part, the agreements and the rhetoric surrounding them are the price that Bonn has to pay for Soviet acquiescence to German reunification. They are also what the Kremlin feels it needs to convince the Soviet people, whose fear of Germany is deeply embedded, that there is no threat from the German superstate. Mr. Gorbachev told the population that the Germans would pay some 15 billion marks [$9.5 billion] as part of the reunification deal. Most of the sum, 12 billion marks, is to pay for the cost of relocating and rehousing the 370,000 Soviet troops stationed in East Germany. According to treaty, those troops must leave by 1994. The remainder, Gorbachev said, will be direct financial aid.
He praised a German statement saying that Germany views Soviet soldiers who will remain until 1994 as ``representatives of a friendly country.''
The Soviets also held out for certain features of the ``two plus four'' agreement, as the reunification pact is known, intended to reassure those who are concerned about the security threat of a unified Germany. The Germans accept the borders set at the end of the war, renounce ``the manufacture and possession of and control over nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons,'' and formally agree to limit the forces of a unified Germany to 370,000 men within three to four years.
The agreement also tries to take the sting out of Soviet acceptance of membership by a united Germany in the NATO alliance. While the Soviet forces are in the territory of what is now East Germany, no NATO forces will operate there.
Following Soviet withdrawal, German units assigned to the alliance will be stationed in the east, ``but without nuclear weapons carriers.'' Nor will foreign forces and nuclear weapons be deployed there. But, in last-minute compromises worked out here, the agreement does allow the stationing of so-called ``dual use'' conventional weapons, such as artillery and aircraft that could theoretically carry nuclear warheads. It also provides for foreign troops to carry out exercises there, according to the decision of the German government.
In addition the Germans agreed to a separate side letter with the Soviets which agrees to prohibit Nazism in a united Germany, protect Soviet war memorials and grave sites, and to review the applicability of East German treaties with the Soviet Union to a unified Germany.
The Soviet Defense Ministry daily Red Star, in a front-page article yesterday, noted that ``there is apprehension that the unification of the two German states can inflict damage to the security of our country.'' But, it continued, ``the treaty makes such statements groundless, because it strengthens guarantees answering all the realities of the situation in today's Europe.''
But these views are not universally shared. Despite West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's positive statements, Maj. Gen. Sergei Bogdanov, a senior official of the Soviet general staff, told the Monitor yesterday, ``we know a unified Germany will dramatically strengthen NATO.'' From a ``strictly military'' view, he said, Germany ``will possess a powerful mobilization potential'' making the limits on its forces ineffective.