THE Maastricht agreement tried to solve the problem of a unified Germany in a "deepened" Europe. It was not intended to confront the problem of how to deal with Western Europe's new Eastern question. Yet the threat of anarchy in the East may force Europe to accelerate the creation of a common foreign and security policy, precipitating changes in the institutional structure of the European Community (EC) as well.
Europe has long been moving toward greater integration. This process culminated in the Single European Act (SEA) of 1987. With the end of the cold war and German unification, Europe could have devoted most of the early 1990s to the implementation of the SEA. It is easy to forget the earnest debate of four years ago as to whether Europe could accomplish this by 1992.
German unification resulted in a common desire by French and German leaders to guarantee there would be a "European Germany" rather than a "German Europe." Germany would be moored so tightly to Europe that no future generation could alter it. German unification, on the other hand, only stiffened the British tendency to try to minimize European integration while remaining a community member.
Under normal conditions, it would take 10 years for Europe to digest and implement the Maastricht accord. There are built-in timetables. Monetary union will occur in 1997 and 1999. Not included in the Maastricht draft, but closely related, is the renegotiation of the Brussels Treaty, which expires in 1998.
New EC members include the EFTA states. Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia may join between 1992 and 2001, boosting the EC to the point where the present institutional structure won't work. Rising public consciousness of the "European Fact" would help convert the ungainly European institutional arrangement into something resembling the government of a great power. But the world is not in normal conditions.
The same process that led to German unification and the liberation of Eastern Europe has now resulted in the disintegration of the USSR. Far from reaching the end of history, Eastern Europe and the former USSR are witnessing the return of history.
While Western Europe tries to guarantee its future by overcoming its nationalist past, Eastern Europe has returned to nationalist rivalries and the unfinished business of 1848, 1918, and 1945.
The first sign of the return of history is the Yugoslav civil war. Europe's efforts to prevent and then solve this conflict foundered on the irrational nationalism of Serbian and Croatian leaders. The problem was not that Europe could not arrive at a common policy, but that no policy worked. Germany's awkward, barely concealed semi-unilateral recognition of Slovenia and Croatia was not a result of a resurgent of German lust for domination - or renewed drang nach Osten - but of frustration and of domestic
politics overriding the wishes of the foreign policy establishment.
The Yugoslav crisis is a European crisis for three reasons. First, it is a moral crisis. Yugoslavia is an embarrassment, a skeleton in Europe's closet. It recalls unpleasant memories of what Europe used to be. Second, the Yugoslav civil war could ignite a Balkan war. At present Europe, even if it wanted to, does not have the military means to intervene in the Balkans, any more than it could have fought Saddam Hussein without the US. Finally, Yugoslavia constitutes a model of what could happen farther eas t in the former USSR.
Since no one predicted the end of the USSR, there's no reason to think we can predict what will happen there now. But the prospects of civil conflict resembling Yugoslavia's, of armies operating independently of states like in the Thirty Years War - but with atomic arsenals - gives cause for alarm. And if Europe could not cope with Yugoslavia, how can it cope with larger conflicts?
This fear explains why European leaders - especially Germans - emphasize assistance to the East to preempt such threats. A German official states German foreign policy goals: "First, stabilize the East; second, stabilize the East; third, stabilize the East."
European leaders are racing to stabilize the East before the East destabilizes the West. But does Europe have the means? Can America claim leadership, as in the Washington Conference, if it only pays a fraction of the cost?
Several conclusions arise: The first is that pressure from the East will force Europe to proceed more rapidly than intended to create a common foreign policy, security and defense cooperation, and the means to execute them.
Second, the US will maintain leadership only if it leads in the way Europe thinks important - economic assistance to the East.
Third, it would be irresponsible for Europeans or Americans to support a US departure from Europe. The situation in the East is threatening. Europeans should beware of speaking in favor of US military withdrawal lest they prove more successful than they intend. At a time of economic recession and isolationist revival in the US, such comments might produce unanticipated results.
The basis of world peace remains the close alliance of Europe and the US. That in turn requires a Europe that speaks and acts increasingly with one voice and has the means to execute common policies, and an America that has resolved its domestic problems sufficiently to remain an international force for peace, liberty, and stability.