German Reunification and the Future of the Blocs

By Simon Rosenblum | 1990-06-01 12:00:00

DURING THE OPENING days of the February Open Skies Conference in Ottawa, the issue of German reunification largely preempted the formal business of the conference. It was there that the foreign ministers were working out the "two plus four" plan-the two German states would be free to settle the terms of their reunification by themselves but work out future security arrangements and Germany's role among its neighboring states together with the four allied powers. "Two plus four" does not answer, however, the fundamental question of whether the new German State will be neutral as the Soviet Union prefers, or a member of NATO as the United States demands. The issue of whether or not a unified Germany is a member of NATO should be treated as something of a red herring. A German decision for "neutrality" can be seen not so much as a decision to stay out of the conflict between East and West-a conflict which is rapidly winding down-but rather as a decision for independence. Likewise, the new German state should have the right to join NATO if that is its freely made choice.

SOVIET FOREIGN MINISTER Shevardnadze was correct in telling the Canadian Parliament that "European states are entitled to guarantees that a united Germany, ifand when it is established, will not be a threat to them." And the military potential of a unified Germany can be reduced/restricted in a number of ways: (1) the new German State would have to make security guarantees to its neighbors-particularly Poland-based on current borders; (2) the present commitment of West Germany and East Germany to the Non-Proliferation Treaty not to produce or acquire nuclear weapons would be taken over by a unified Germany; and (3) under European security arrangements, each country could be obligated to ensure that national and regional military ceilings are negotiated and adhered to.

None of this depends on whether the New Germany is in a military alliance or, for that matter, whether NATO and the Warsaw Pact continue to exist. Even former NATO Secretary-General Lord Carrington has acknowledged that "the move towards democracy across Eastern Europe is undermining the traditional basis on which the Warsaw Pact and NATO existed." The new Czechoslavakian government is most persuasive on this matter. Their foreign minister told the Open Skies Conference that "we proceed from the assumption that the prospect of European security should be based on a comprehensive bloc-free, collective and democratic approach." In that regard, the role of the military alliances today is to rapidly demilitarize Europe to the point that the alliances become irrelevant.

THE ALLIANCE SYSTEM is being rapidly outdated. As an American delegate to the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) talks has noted: "How can you have collective [i.e. alliance] ceilings if you don't know which side these guys [East Europeans] are going to be on?" What is needed rather is the emergence of strong all-European institutions for controlling arms, guaranteeing borders and human rights and mediating and reducing conflicts. These institutions could emerge from the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which includes all members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact as well as the 12 neutral and nonaligned nations of Europe.

THE CSCE is more appropriate for this task than NATO or the European Economic Community, since it already includes all European nations as well as the U.S., Canada, and the USSR. Further, it has tremendous credibility in Eastern Europe as the international body most effective in promoting democracy and human rights in the East since its founding and the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. And in that context German neutrality would be a non-issue, for, as West German Social Democratic Party military strategist Egon Bahr argues, neutrality would lose its meaning in "a Europe free of alliances," where "there would be no-body to be neutral against.

Simon Rosenbium is Ottawa Representative, Project Ploughshares.

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1990

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1990, page 13. Some rights reserved.

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