Trends are under way that will dramatically alter the political landscape of Europe. SOMETIMES one startling and unexpected development can help alter the course of history.
Just such a "bolt out of the blue" occurred September 1, 1983, when a Korean civilian airliner, with 269 passengers aboard, was shot down by a Soviet fighter plane.
The American — made 747 jumbo jet had strayed off course over sensitive military zones in the Soviet Union's Far East region near Japan and Korea.
For weeks the world remained stunned over the act that terminated Korean Airlines Flight 007. Assertions from Moscow that the plane was on an American spying mission over Soviet "sacred territory" and that its fighter pilots would do the same thing again under similar circumstances further added to rising East-West tensions.
Impact on Europe The Korean jet downing has generated considerable political fallout. It has hardened relations between Washington and Moscow. And it has virtually assured that the controversial NATO plan to install new weapons in Western Europe will go ahead as scheduled.
For a while, it appeared that the considerable public opposition to the deployment of the Pershing II and cruise missiles — NATO's new generation weapons designed to offset the Soviet Union's SS-20 intermediate missiles — might succeed in some key European countries, specifically West Germany. But the impact of the antinuclear peace movement has been markedly reduced because of the airliner tragedy.
Verbal Cold War The question of deploying intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe has generated some of the harshest exchanges between Washington and Moscow in recent years.
In September Soviet President Yuri Andropov replied blisteringly to a speech in the United Nations by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
In his address, Mr. Reagan offered the Soviets new concessions on the "Euromissile" issue. Yet it didn't impress Mr. Andropov, who said the United States was just "prattling" about flexibility in the Geneva INF talks on the "burning issue" of reducing nuclear arsenals in Europe. The Reagan concessions were, he said, more of the same "deceptive" smoke screen to cover actual deployment (the Soviets especially dread the Pershing IIs, which could strike Soviet territory in less than 10 minutes from launch time).
Earlier, Moscow authorities implied their representatives may both walk out of the Geneva talks and take countermeasures by moving its nuclear forces "closer" to the United States and by putting SS-20 medium-range missiles on the territory of Warsaw Pact allies, probably East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
Unusual Plea for United Europe The Kremlin leaders have been clearly stung by what they call the White House's "anticommunist crusade," given added impetus by the airliner tragedy. They particularly resent that President Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."
Moscow's assessment of U.S. intentions was further enhanced when Vice-president George Bush toured Eastern Europe shortly after the airliner disaster.
In unusually blunt language, Mr. Bush said in Vienna after his visits to Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania that "the brutal murder of 269 civilians" only underlined for him Russia's distance from European civilization.
The vice-president went on to condemn the post World War II division of Europe, saying that there was no agreement at the ill-fated 1945 Yalta conference to divide Europe into "spheres of influence."
In his aggressive speech — one of the harshest yet delivered by a top American official since the Cold War days of the 1950s — Mr. Bush referred to "the wound which runs through the heart of Europe."
Addressing an audience in the former Imperial Hofburg Palace in Vienna, the U.S. vice-president called, according to the words of Daily Telegraph correspondent Richard Bassett, "for a united Central Europe free from the alien influence of the Soviet Union."
Eastern European states, Mr. Bush continued, should choose to free themselves from Soviet domination and join the Free World. Either that, he said, or forever be condemned to what he called a life of ignorance, backwardness and poverty.
Down through the years American officials have supported — usually in the form of lip service — the concept of a united Western Europe. Rarely has anyone publicly advocated a united Europe that would encompass countries from Central and Eastern Europe as well.
Another Unity Plea in Vienna Vice-president Bush was not the only leading personality to speak out on the issue of European unity from Vienna in September. Preceding him by about two weeks was Pope John Paul II. Since the aftermath of the airliner tragedy still dominated newspaper headlines, statements by the Pope in what was the capital of the once-powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire drew scant attention.
It was the first Papal pilgrimage to Vienna in two centuries. While there, as he has done so often in his five-year-long pontificate, the Polish-born Pontiff once again urged Europeans on both sides of the Iron Curtain to unite on the basis of their common Christian heritage.
In a prayer service coinciding with the 300th anniversary of the bloody liberation of Vienna from the massive Turkish siege of 1683, the Pope said that "this solemn feast... draws our vision beyond natural, national and artificial borders over all Europe, over all the peoples of the continent with its common past, from the Atlantic to the Urals, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean."
To the Pope, the people of Europe, despite their linguistic and ethnic differences, nevertheless represent one common Christian civilization. He decries Europe's present-day "artificial" division (via the Iron Curtain) in to two ideological camps, one dominated by the United States, the other by the Soviet Union.
John Paul's address, as well as speeches by cardinals from Germany, France, Poland and Yugoslavia, was carried live by Austrian television in a broadcast that people in border areas of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia could watch.
At the service, the Pontiff dedicated a nearly 30-foot-high bronze cross. "Under this sign of the cross we place Austria and Europe because only under the cross is there hope," the Pope said. "The cultural unity of the European continent that continues despite all the crises and division is not comprehensible without the content of the Christian message," he said, describing a "common heritage" for all the Continent.
Significantly, on the eve of the visit, Austrian Primate Cardinal Franz Koenig said the Pope considers neutral Austria as a bridge between East and West. Austria and its capital Vienna appear headed for a vital role in Europe's future.
"One-lung" Christian? Behind the scenes, John Paul II has been working tirelessly to achieve the type of East-West unity in Europe Vice-president Bush alluded to.
His master plan, if one may call it that, is far more extensive than any secular politician has devised to date, because it deals with the healing of fundamental cultural and religious schisms that no political leader knows how to deal with.
For example, at a symposium in Rome, the Pope spoke of the urgent necessity of a "rapprochement between the spiritual heritage of the Christian Eastern and Western culture" — meaning the Orthodox communities in the East and the Roman Catholic and Protestant worlds in the West.
The Pope told the visiting scholars that he had confided the following to representatives of various non-Catholic communities in mid- 1980, shortly after having visited Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Demetrios I in Istanbul: "One cannot as a Christian, I would even say as a Catholic, breathe with only one lung; it is necessary to have two lungs, that is to say, Oriental and Occidental."
Within the Western Christian-professing world, too, the ecumenical drive is slowly but steadily producing results.
Last September an official panel of Lutheran and Roman Catholic scholars, after a five-year study, announced that it had reached substantial agreement on "justification by faith," a key issue that divided the two churches in the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.
The 20 U.S. Catholic and Lutheran theologians said they still recognized some differences in approaches to the doctrine, but that the differences were not sufficient grounds for division.
The report was timely. It was issued during the year of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther.
Soviet Long-term Plans? The hardened Western position on the missile situation and the ongoing Papal "spiritual offensive" in Eastern Europe is, some believe, forcing the leadership in the Soviet Union to seriously consider future ties to the nations of Europe, both East and West.
According to a report from Budapest, Hungary, in the British weekly The Observer (July 31,1983), the....soviet long-term approach just might provide for a united — and, it is assumed, neutralized — Europe. Observer correspondent Lajos Lederer claims that the idea that such a plan may be in the mind of Soviet President Andropov emerged from remarks he reportedly made to Janos Kadar, the Hungarian leader, during three long meetings in Moscow.
The reason for this rethinking, says Mr. Lederer from Hungarian sources, "is the recognition by the Soviet Union that the development of nuclear missiles has destroyed the rationale for maintaining the states of Eastern Europe as a 'buffer' between Russia and the West. However loyal Poland and Hungary and the rest might be in a nuclear war, they could do nothing to prevent the annihilation of the Soviet Union."
Correspondent Lederer then adds, "The Hungarians would not be surprised if among the offers from Moscow would be a striking one: the withdrawal of military forces from Eastern Europe in exchange for American forces withdrawing from Western Europe."
Such a grand reshuffling of the political map of Europe would shake the foreign ministries of every advanced nation in the world — the U.S. State Department most of all! It would also, of necessity, entail the reunification of Germany. With the rest of Eastern Europe set free — partially, at least, into a condition of strict neutrality — East Germany, the farthest west of the East Bloc satellites, would have no place to go but into a greater German state.
The Soviets, of course, would hope that this new Germany would remain in a harmless, neutralized condition, forever appreciative of Moscow's generosity.
For Moscow to even consider such a course of action shows the dread that the Soviets have of the new generation NATO missiles, as already evidenced by the fury with which they have attacked the deployment program.
On his trip last year to Moscow to visit Soviet President Andropov, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl surprisingly, and to Mr. Andropov's face, forcefully brought up again the German desire for reunification.
That the Soviets, in contrast to past years, did not react with hostility to such a request only confirmed to some observers that they have precisely such a just-in-case policy in the back of their minds.
Neutral Austria a Type The stage is thus being set for some dramatic realignments of power in Europe.
The Soviet Union, notes political analyst William Pfaff, is occasionally "capable of sudden acts of realism." As an example, the. Soviets permitted the complete freedom of Austria in 1955 — with the stipulation that Austria become a permanently neutral state, not attached to NATO. For 10 years previously, Austria had been occupied by the Soviets and their World War II Western allies, much as Germany was.
The example of a neutral Austria thus provides a model of what Moscow might desire all of Europe to be — neutralized, and free of American influence and, above all, weaponry.
Note this as well: In such a new alignment, Austria — with its prestigious capital of Vienna — would provide, as the Pope reportedly told Cardinal Koenig, a logical "bridge between East and West."
Furthermore, down the road, Vienna just might become the headquarters city of the United Nations. Already, its huge new "U.N. City," just across the Danube River from the center of Vienna, is vying with Geneva for the role of the U.N. 's European headquarters.
Statements by high U.S. officials that the United States might be happy to see the U.N. depart New York City, coupled with Senate cutbacks in appropriations for the world body, strengthen the likelihood of a U.N. relocation in the future.
New — Yet Old — Europe What is transpiring on both sides of the Iron Curtain today are the first steps in the refashioning of Western, Central and part of Eastern Europe into a new, yet ancient, alignment — what one expert calls "Classic Europe."
Religion, given added strength by East-West church unity, will provide this combine its primary unifying element.
In the second chapter of the book of Daniel, this "Classic Europe" and its predecessors are pictured as a giant human figure, having feet "part of iron and part of clay" (Dan. 2:33). The figure's toes — obviously 10 — correspond to the 10 national units also described in Revelation 17.
The original Roman Empire was broken into two "legs" — the Eastern Empire in Byzantium (Constantinople, today Istanbul) and the Empire in the West in Rome.
Thus it is very possible that this end-time system will be composed of two distinct yet cooperative parts: the first "leg" comprising nations of Western Europe, the second incorporating nations freed from Soviet dominance in Central and Eastern Europe.
The Plain Truth will continue to keep its readers abreast of critically important events and trends shaping up in Europe.