OVERNIGHT, German unification has changed security issues in Europe. After the falling of the Berlin Wall last November, many progressive voices in Europe and the Soviet Union argued that security in a new Europe should be taken up by the 35-nation Helsinki process known as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The process would become an institution, and gradually replace the cold war security provided by NATO. It would allow the Soviets a voice in a Europe whole and free.
Early last summer, US Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze gave CSCE their blessing, provided East and West could agree to conventional force reductions in Europe (CFE). Last week tentative CFE agreements were rapidly reached. Yet CSCE and CFE now seem eclipsed by events and logistics. German unification will ipso facto have Soviet troops out of East Germany in three years. Building a CSCE institution will take time, not to mention money. Security decisions both in Europe, and involving Europeans, need to be made now. This is one of the lessons of the Persian Gulf crisis. European response to the Gulf has seemed paralyzed and confused.
Moreover, there are rapid gyrations and shiftings by interests within current European structures. The European Community is bidding to put some flesh on its skeletal security arm, the Western European Union. The EC is holding an intergovernmental conference on security later this year.
The British are pushing to Europeanize NATO. British Foreign Secretary Hurd says NATO is an institution already in place that offers a deterrent to any Soviet threat. A balance between Europe and the US must be struck inside NATO. We agree. Will Germany stay in NATO? It should.
There is still an important role for a CSCE to play. It retains a Soviet presence, which could prove useful in regional disputes such as may develop in Yugoslavia. Environmental clean-up is another area. Who cleans up nuclear waste at abandoned military bases, for example?
The CSCE flame must burn at the Nov. 19 meeting in Paris of member nations. But it will face heavy new winds.