The world is racing toward the end of the century. And the role of Germany once again confounds both Moscow and Washington.
THE LAST months of 1983 produced a string of startling, unexpected events. On the first day of September, a South Korean civilian airliner was shot from the skies, having inexplicably flown over Soviet territory in the Far East. The world barely recovered from this shock when the next month produced a series of stunning incidents. First, on October 9, 17 top South Korean officials, four of them cabinet ministers, were assassinated in a bomb blast while visiting Rangoon, Burma. Later, three officials of the North Korean military, who had slipped into the country before the explosion, were charged with the gruesome murder. Later in the month, horrific bomb blasts took the lives of nearly 300 French and American members of the multinational "peacekeeping" forces in Beirut, Lebanon. Two weeks later, Israelis and Arabs perished in a similar incident.
October 25, two days after the Beirut massacres, U.S. forces, combined with those of six eastern Caribbean nations, intervened in the tiny "Spice Island" nation of Grenada. American citizens, whose lives were potentially in danger, were flown back to safety in the United States. And as a corollary, the Soviet-Cuban plan to communize one country after another in the eastern Caribbean was stopped in its tracks. Of all of the events listed, the Grenada rescue operation (U.S. President Ronald Reagan insisted it was not an invasion) may prove to be the most significant of all in the long run. First of all, the intervention threw a monkey wrench into communist plans throughout the Caribbean-Central American region. Lifting America out of its post-Vietnam trauma, Mr. Reagan secured a quick, decisive military victory, ending a string of communist successes around the world. Moscow and Havana now do not know where next or whether the resolute Mr. Reagan might use U.S. power. The Grenada campaign, however well received by the vast majority of Americans, to say nothing of a number of Caribbean nations, also had its impact on Western Europe.
Individually and privately, European leaders were generally glad to see the U.S. finally flex its muscles a bit to get rid of a localized political cancer. But publicly, praises were few and muted. The Grenada affair came right in the midst of the NATO plan to install intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe. The governments • of members West Germany and the Netherlands face a stiff challenge from those opposed to the missile deployment plan. For a while, the shooting down by the Soviets of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 stifled the anti missile opposition, much of which is also anti-American in tone. However, when U.S. Marines and Army Rangers descended upon Grenada without even informing Great Britain (Grenada is a Commonwealth member state), President Reagan was once again portrayed as trigger happy, one who was willing to take dangerous risks to challenge Soviet ambitions. Might he not do so in Europe as well, should war, nuclear war, threaten to break out? However remote this linkage between tiny Grenada and nuclear-stalemated Europe may be, the association was made.
Trans-Atlantic Rift Grows
The Grenada affair is symbolic of the slow but inexorable rift developing between the United States and its European allies. Mr. Reagan came into office in January 1981 determined to reverse America's declining position in the world. At first this was welcomed in Europe, whose political leaders had tired of the uncertainty of the previous administration. But now many believe Mr. Reagan has gone too far. Strength is one thing, but a climate of U.S.-Soviet confrontation — typified by Mr. Reagan's calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire" — worries Europeans who live under the ever-lengthening shadow of Soviet military might. American officials counter by saying that this is precisely the point — that Western Europe has allowed itself to become intimidated by Moscow, and is in danger of losing its independent status. The missile controversy in Europe has not ended just because of the installation of the first few new generation weapons. The full complement of Pershing II and cruise missiles is not due to be in place until four or five years down the road — plenty of time for political sparks to fly between a presently determined United States and an oftentimes reluctant Europe. The key nation, of course, is West Germany, now considered by some analysts to be potentially the weak link in the NATO alliance. In a report on West Germany's widespread antimissile demonstrations last October, Meir Merhav of. the Jerusalem Post wrote that "the political struggle over what is Germany's most vital concern will continue, and possibly become less peaceful, even after the first missiles are stationed. The demonstrations will not sway the ruling coalition to deviate from its political course, but they reveal a wide and growing breach between the popular mood and the government's policy." Demonstrations against the NATO plan are expected not only to continue, but to escalate as sub": sequently more Pershing IIs are installed. At stake is the very future of NATO and West Germany's pivotal role in it.
NATO at the Crossroads
"The history of diplomacy is a story of shifting alliances," wrote Richard J. Barnet in an article about NATO, and specifically about German-American relations, in the October 17, 1983 issue of The New Yorker. "Nations do not have and cannot have permanent attachments," Mr. Barnet continued. "The anarchic international system is always in motion. Times change. and so do allies." The postwar Atlantic Alliance is 35 years old, a long time for any alliance to last. The strains and cracks are showing more than ever before. Nations in Western Europe are no longer content to let the United States exert sole leadership on security matters. Both in Britain and West Germany, for example, there are calls for a "dual-key" arrangement for the new U.S. — made missiles that are being deployed in Europe. Under such a dual-key link, the United States would be unable to fire the "Euromissiles" without consent from the host country's military command personnel. This is a radical departure from previous sole U.S. control of smaller "battlefield" nuclear weapons in Europe. This move represents a European desire to insure against U.S. "recklessness." The key country, again, is West Germany. In his analysis entitled "The 'German Question' Returns," in the October 31 issue of Newsweek. French international relations expert Pierre Lellouche observed that what is going on in West Germany far transcends the question of the new missiles themselves. The missile controversy in the key nation in the very heart of Europe has to do with the age-old "German question," says Mr. Lellouche. He wrote: "If Germany is profoundly disturbed by the Pershings, it is because they are American weapons placed under the sole control of the President of the United States. That situation maintains Germany in the position of a defeated vassal state — a vassal state that continues to pay the price of its tragic mistakes of the 1930s by a painful division of the German nation between two blocs dominated by two rival superpowers. The Pershing missile palisade symbolizes the permanence of that division, perhaps even more than the Berlin Wall." Like it or not, continued Mr. Lellouche, "the Germans are gradually — and perhaps inevitably — breaking away from the postwar institutions that were supposed to take care of the 'German problem' once and for all. NATO, which was conceived as a political device to 'anchor' the western part of Germany firmly to the West, as well as a military alliance against the Soviets, no longer does the trick. And the European Community has failed to channel German national aspirations into the 'ersatz European nationalism' its founders envisioned some 25 years ago."
The Role of Germany
The "German question," concludes Mr. Lellouche, is "back on the table" once again. It is this issue, rather than the arithmetic of the missile deployment, that "will be the more important question facing both the West — and the Soviet Union — in the future. Let us not fool ourselves. The missiles issue will not 'go away' by the end of the year. It will be with us for many more months and years to come, simply because the Euromissiles battle is not a battle over hardware but over the fate of Germany, and with it, over the fate of Europe as a whole." In a curious mixture, political forces on both the left and the right are intimating that German self-interest might be better served by adopting a more independent posture. These forces, nevertheless, see Germany's future radically differently. Those on the left would like to see a neutral Germany of limited ambitions, a peaceful "green" nation dropped out of Europe's controversies. Their vision is of a reunified, neutral Germany divorced from both the Western (NATO) and Eastern (Warsaw Pact) alliances. Circles on the right, however, view Germany as exerting a more forceful independent policy, but one in concert with like-minded allies in Europe. Jerusalem Post columnist Meir Merhav says that "the tendency towards a neutralism motivated by German self-interest is seen on the left.... " At the same time, Merhav notes, Franz Josef Strauss, on the right, wants Germany to have a greater role in the use of the new nuclear arms. "He wants Europe to become the third nuclear superpower," writes Merhav. "He spoke to a rally called by his Christian Social Union in Munich. He intimated in a barely noticed half-sentence of his address that this 'would make Germany independent of the U.S.'" It was Mr. Strauss who, as a long-time advocate of a strong "European pillar" within NATO, shocked Bonn a few months ago with a sudden suggestion that the West Germans should be given the "second key" to the nuclear weapons stationed on their soil. At the same time Mr. Strauss was speaking at the promissile rally in Munich, referred to by journalist Merhav, French Defense Minister Charles Hernu, in Paris, approved a call by an opposition leader, Jacques Chirac, for more active West German participation in European defense. Mr. Chirac, leader of a neo-Gaullist party, had said in Bonn that he expected West Germany to join France and Britain in developing a European nuclear deterrent force in about five years. The French, still nominal members of NATO, realize the alliance is in danger. Should it dissolve, they would much prefer to have West Germany somehow linked with them, even to the point of sharing in nuclear matters, than to see a powerful Germany go its own way or be pulled eastward.
Grave Soviet Miscalculation?
The long-term Soviet foreign policy objective regarding Europe is to detach Western Europe's nations from their dependence on the United States, and attach them and their vital industries and resources to the Soviet Union. In his book Soviet Strategy in Europe strategic expert Richard Pipes writes: "Russian military power resting on a West European economic base would give the U.S.S.R. indisputable world hegemony — the sort of thing that Hitler was dreaming of when, having conquered continental Europe, he attempted to annex it to Soviet Russia's national resources and manpower." However, such a separation of America from Europe, says Mr. Pipes, "must not be hurried." Why? Simply because it carries such grave risks for the ' Soviets themselves. Continues this author: "The U.S. forces in Western Europe present no offensive threat to the Soviet Union. Their ultimate removal is essential if the U.S.S.R. is to control Western Europe, but their purely defensive character does not seriously inhibit Russia's freedom to maneuver. What the Soviet Union fears more is a German-French-English military alliance that might spring into existence should U.S. troops withdraw precipitately from Western Europe. "The Russians are well aware that close to the surface of what appears to be a 'neutralist' Western Europe there lurk powerful nationalist sentiments that could easily assume militant forms. Nor do they forget that England and France have nuclear deterrents that they could place at West Germany's disposal. "Hasty action on their [the Soviets'] part, therefore, could cause the emergence on their western flank of a nuclear threat probably much greater than that which they face in the east, from China, let alone from the United States. ,As long as the United States is in control of European defenses, this development is not likely to occur. Hence Soviet strategy is to hurry slowly." The Soviets, simply put, are playing with fire in their attempt to split the United States from Europe over the missiles issue! It is the Soviets, as much as any power, who will be responsible for allowing what they fear most — the final end-time resurrection of a powerful united Europe — spoken of so often in the pages of The Plain Truth — to emerge.