The cornerstone of post-World War II Europe has been the division of Germany into two states, one allied with the United States and the other with the Soviet Union. This unnatural arrangement — now in its 30th year — is under its greatest strain ever. How long will it be before the map of Germany — and all of Europe — is redrawn, with enormous consequences for the entire world?
West Germany came of full age during the first week of January 1979. The occasion was the Western summit meeting held on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Similar meetings in the past had revolved around the "Big Three" of the Atlantic world: the United States, Great Britain and France. This time — and for the first time — there was a fourth and equal member — the Federal Republic of Germany.
Growing World Role
Upon his return to Bonn after the conference, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said that his presence at the talks, along with President Carter, Prime Minister James Callaghan of Britain and President Valery Giscard d'Estaing of France, was a confirmation of his country's increasing prominence on the world scene. "The fact that we are involved in consultations that concern matters other than economic problems is no novelty," Schmidt said. "But, of course, through Guadeloupe it's
THE BERLIN WALL: both a symbol and a real-life reminder of the division of Germany and all Europe.
entered the public consciousness." The Guadeloupe summit followed closely two other events displaying West Germany's growing power and influence. First, Chancellor Schmidt was the center-stage personality when he hosted a seven-nation economic summit in Bonn in July 1978. Second, the West Germans in general and Schmidt in particular are the leading forces behind the proposed European Monetary System (EMS) which should be launched sometime later this year. Summing up Bonn's emerging leadership role, one European ambassador stationed in Bonn says that during the past year "the Germans have had greatness thrust upon them."
Island of Stability
The first few weeks of 1979 witnessed a wild flurry of international crises and upheavals. Throughout all this turmoil, one country in the Western world — West Germany — maintained a steady calm, though it was deeply concerned over events in Iran and the future availability of a good portion of its oil supply. The Federal Republic could almost be classed as an island of stability in an ocean of chaos. With her politicians clustered closely around the moderate center, with once troublesome left-wing terrorism basically under control, and with her people enjoying the benefits of perhaps the world's most solid currency, Bonn is the envy of her neighbors and allies. West Germans have, in effect, submerged their own nationalistic urges within that of Europeanism. And, as the recent showing throughout Germany of the U.S. — made television production Holocaust revealed, Germans are not afraid to take a hard, though difficult, look at the recent past of Nazi brutality.
World's Leading Exporter
Success seems to breed success for the West German economy. The steady, almost embarrassing rise in the value of the deutsche mark has in no Way put a dent in Bonn's hefty trade surplus. In fact, the 1978 surplus totaled an unexpectedly high 40.7 billion deutsche marks — the second highest in its history. Even more significantly, the surplus, when calculated in U.S. dollars, amounted to $20.3 billion, the largest on record — "an embarrassing swelling... to... unforeseen magnitude when measured in current prices," said the Journal of Commerce in New York. A modest gain in exports, coupled with appreciation of the mark, was enough to propel West Germany past the United States in 1978 to the rank of the world's number-one exporting nation. One of the most interesting components of West Germany's foreign trade picture is the role that Communist China is playing. Bonn's exports to most Communist countries in 1978 advanced at a steady rate, whereas sales to the People's Republic leaped a spectacular 72 percent. "German experts," reported another Journal of Commerce finding, "feel that China will soon become the second-biggest buyer of German goods in the East Bloc." Should this occur, it will not make the Soviet Union, Bonn's biggest Communist customer, happy, to be sure.
East Germany Slipping Badly
The apparently unstoppable success of West Germany is not occurring without drawbacks, however. The entire ideological and economic balance between capitalist West and Communist East Europe is threatening to be thrown out of kilter. This is especially true with the impact the soaring West German economy is having upon the neighboring German Democratic Republic or East Germany, where the economy is heading in the opposite direction. The economic outlook in East Germany today is grim, with little hope of improvement. Yet it was not always that way for the country's Communist bosses and centralized economic planners. East Germany, in fact, made rapid economic advancement during the 1960s. Moscow hoped that "its Germany could be developed as a showcase Communist society, thereby serving as an inspiration to the other captive nations of her East Bloc empire. It was felt that if anyone could make Marxist-Leninism a success, the determined Teutons could. For a while the experiment seemed to work. The East German living standard rose year after year. The small but hardworking state emerged from nowhere to become the world's ninth largest industrial power. The populace even began to develop a genuine pride in its country's accomplishment. A common saying was: "Look where we are now — and we didn't have the Marshall Plan to put us on our feet like the West Germans did." But then the reality of being locked into COMECON, the Russian-dictated Eastern economic web, hit hard with the eruption of the worldwide oil crisis of 1973-74. Up zoomed the prices of Soviet raw materials, including oil (though not a member of OPEC, Moscow increased its oil prices almost in step). At the same time there were few compensating price advantages for the manufactured items the East Germans sold to the Soviets and their COMECON partners. Almost overnight the East German "miracle" fizzled.
Bonn's Helping Hand
If it weren't for direct and indirect aid from her wealthy West German uncle, the GDR would be in far worse shape than it is today. The East German economy is subsidized by the Bonn government to the tune of almost $300 million a year — road transit fees, $220 million; visa charges, $14 million; and ransom payments for " buying free" political prisoners, $55 million. On this latter item, Bonn, since 1950, has quietly paid over $500 million to East Germany to buy the freedom of political captives. East Germany also permits individuals over the age of 65 to emigrate to the West to rejoin family members. This relieves the Eastern regime of having to pay further pensions and social security benefits, placing the burden for doing so upon Bonn. One joke making the rounds in East Germany is that everybody there is waiting for the year 2014, when the GDR itself will be 65, and "everyone will be able to go west." Trade between the two German states, much of it conducted by barter, also provides extra built-in advantages for the East. Goods cross the border free of customs duties, the East acquiescing to Bonn's view that this commerce represents "intra-German trade." As a result, East German products gain back-door access to the European Economic Community, making the GDR the EEC's unofficial tenth member.
Extra Benefits Bonn Pays
In trade between the two states, the GDR runs continually in the red. This amounts to a permanent interest-free line of credit, commonly known as "the swing," which now amounts to about $450 million. Even with all of these advantages, the East seems to be digging its economic ditch deeper and deeper. It has run up a $2.6 billion payments deficit with Bonn only since 1975. At the same time, it is incurring a $1 billion annual deficit with Moscow. Still, help from West Germany continues to flow in. The most recent development is an agreement for the building of a new autobahn from Hamburg across East Germany to Berlin, for which Bonn will pay nearly two-thirds of the cost. Also, parts of the Berlin canal system, which East Germany has kept closed for years, forcing Berlin freight traffic into lengthy detours, are to be reopened and improved. Bonn will pay the entire cost of this project. Some might think that the West Germans are foolish for continuing to make these apparently one-sided arrangements. But there is another way of looking at them. Bonn wants to keep the tenuous lifeline open to Berlin. It wants, moreover, to increase people-to-people contacts across the border. To the West Germans these factors are worth the considerable outlays, and even the occasional grief of seeing their kith and kin machine-gunned by border guards in tragic attempts to flee to the West. The Soviets permit all of this massive capitalist assistance simply because they cannot afford to let their most important satellite nation go down the drain. Moscow depends heavily upon East German technological expertise. Besides, when help is offered so readily from the other side, why should the U.S.S.R. alone make up the GDR's deficits?
Despite the various built-in advantages accruing to the GDR, the gap in living standards between the two parts of Germany continues to widen. In 1961 — the year in which the infamous Berlin Wall was constructed — real wages in East Germany were 76 percent of those in West Germany. Now they are 50 percent. Productivity has also slumped to about half the West German level. Worst of all, especially for the politicians and technocrats who run the Eastern regime, as well as the two million GDR Communist party members, everyone in East Germany knows how much worse off he or she is than the average citizen of the West. Every evening, over ninety percent of the people of East Germany watch West German television. Each year about eight million West Germans visit their relatives in the East, bearing personal information about life beyond the barbed-wire fence. East Germany's rulers have tried various methods to skirt the limitations of their own economic system, without corrupting it completely, in order to satisfy pent-up consumer demands. East German citizens have been permitted to obtain Western currencies and to buy Western goods in a network of so-called "inter-shops," places usually run in the Communist world for foreigners. As a result the coveted West German mark has become virtually the second currency inside the country. Many craftsmen and those who moonlight ask for payment in deutsche marks. To placate those who can't get their hands on the West marks, high-priced goods from the West can be obtained in so-called exquisit and delikat shops. Yet, all of these capitalistic sleights of hand only seem to aggravate the situation even more. Theo Sommer, editor in chief of the West German weekly Die Zeit, pointed up the dilemma confronting East Germany's rulers in an article appearing in the European edition of Newsweek (February 27, 1978): "All this — is bound to widen the gap between East Germany and its Communist neighbors even more. The main point, however, is that it deforms Communism in its westernmost bastion into a cheap imitation of capitalist consumerism. For one thing, intershop socialism makes the GDR dependent on West Germany. For another, it may give some people ideas; why put up with a copy of the affluent society? Why not go for the real thing? "Finally, it runs counter to the very core of traditional Communist thinking. Poland's leader Edward Gierek put his finger on it recently: 'We have to act decisively to prevent the copying of consumption patterns of capitalist societies....' Similar noises have been heard from the Russians. "Erich Honecker [East Germany's Communist party boss] is in a bind.... The East Germans know what amenities life can offer. Their frustration would be much greater if they were denied the semblance of prosperity Gierek deplores. "Honecker wants to open his country economically in order to stabilize it politically. He therefore offers the people the Western carrot and the Eastern stick: as much affluence as possible, as much repression as necessary. The trick may not work."
Early last year the West German weekly Der Spiegel published a 30-page manifesto issued by a group of underground dissenters in East Germany who called themselves the League of Democratic Communists of Germany. The document denounced the Soviet Union for "brutal exploitation and suppression" of East Germany. With bitter sarcasm, the anonymous authors called their country "a pathetic imitation of a Soviet Republic whose worst features have been reinforced by German thoroughness. " The Communist dissenters leveled telling salvos against the "ruling class" in the supposed classless society, stating that "no ruling class in Germany has ever so mooched from or secured itself against the people than the two dozen families that use our country as some sort of self-service store. None has ever built itself such opulent golden ghettos in the woods, guarded like fortresses. No caste has ever enriched itself so shamelessly with special stores, private imports from the West, subsidies on top of subsidies." The dissenters, while still professing allegiance to Marxist-Leninism, nevertheless questioned the very foundation of the East German state: "Why is the disparity between the productive capacity of the GDR and West Germany growing ever wider," they asked, "even though a decisive element in Lenin's thesis is the superiority of Communism over capitalism? Why is there no letup of the petitions to emigrate from the GDR or the risking of lives in attempts to escape from the Republic? Why do 94 percent of all GDR citizens seek daily flight from the Republic each evening by watching West German TV? Because the ideological psycho-terror of the State is unbearable.... Never before in the GDR has there been such a gap between expectations and reality." Harking back to a demand by Karl Marx during the Revolution of 1848 ("all of Germany is proclaimed as a unified indivisible republic"), the underground manifesto called for the restoration of basic freedoms and the reunification of Germany after the East withdraws from the Warsaw Pact and the West from NATO. The East German government naturally denounced the authenticity Of the manifesto, but the impact of its strident demands and the obvious depth of dissatisfaction it reflected in the GDR was heard loud and clear in the West. "These problems are no cause for rejoicing," editorialized the London Times of May 6, 1978. "Most Europeans feel happier with two German states and hope only that they can live together in peace. But unless this arrangement is fully accepted by the peoples as well as the governments of both German states it will remain a running sore across the heart of Europe, demanding the continuing presence of large numbers of foreign troops on both sides. And then at some point people will start wondering whether a different arrangement might not be preferable."
Germany's Division Artificial
The growing disparity between the two Germanys is causing some people to question long-held assumptions concerning the " German problem." The division of the German nation into two separate states — the one allied with the U.S.-led West and the other incorporated into the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc — has come to be taken for granted by most of the world. Nevertheless, this division is an artificial and unnatural one and, by its very nature, inherently unstable. The division is kept in force only by two factors: I) the most forbid ding physical barrier between humans since the Great Wall of China: a long barbed-wire fence paralleled by a mined "death strip" which is policed by fierce Alaskan dogs and thousands of guards in watchtowers, and which is fitted with floodlights and hidden trip-wires that set off automatic machine guns. Another wall surrounds free West Berlin, isolated inside East Germany. And 2) the stationing of massive numbers of foreign troops on the soil of both states. Most of America's 300,000 — strong NATO land force is positioned in West Germany, having under its control thousands of tactical nuclear weapons. Backing up this commitment is the very sizable military contribution from West Germany itself — at 489,000, by far the largest conventional force among Europe's NATO partners. Across the Iron Curtain, which slices Germany in half, 17 million East Germans are kept in line largely by the presence of 22 divisions of Soviet troops. A huge East German "People's Army" of about 400,000 troops, including reserves, plus an even larger militia, secures Moscow's stake in Germany's future. These foreign sentries, perpetuating Germany's partition, have been around so long that it is forgotten that the original intent after World War II was to keep Germany united — but neutralized and demilitarized — under the joint control of the four victorious powers (Russia, France, Britain and the United States). Even after the country was split by the cold war, the Soviets continued until about 1955 to talk about some sort of reunification within the framework of an East-West European security system. Nothing came of this proposal, and the rift between the two Germanys widened. It was not until 1972 that Bonn agreed to formally recognize the East German regime. Even then the main hope on the part of West Germans was to trade political recognition for a more normal relationship in their desire to open up the frozen zone to greater human contact.
Reunification Talk Surfacing
The reunification of Germany is not just around the corner, but the certainty of its occurrence is drawing closer all the time. Dramatic shifts on the world scene — especially the opening to the West of Communist China, and the paranoia this trend produces in Moscow — will have a great bearing on the German situation. Note this report from the "International Outlook" section of the January 8, 1979 issue of Business Week: "Is Moscow flirting with the idea of allowing more normal relations between the two Germanys in exchange for a loosening of Bonn's ties with the Western alliance? In short, are the Soviets about to play their German card? The standard diplomatic answer, from Bonn to Washington, is that both the Russians and West Germans are locked into positions held for 30 years — the Russians fear a reunited Germany and the West Germans depend for protection on the U.S. nuclear shield. "Yet shifting alliances are the order of the day. The current tacit entente of the U.S., Japan, and China against the Soviet Union would have been unthinkable even three years ago. So it is not unthinkable that the cornerstone of post-World War II Europe, the division of Germany into two states, one allied with the U.S., the other with the Soviet Union, could be eroding — and faster than generally recognized.... "There seems no doubt that the turn of the political tables on their far eastern borders will force the Russians to look for some counterweight in Europe. And the heart and soul of the European system is West Germany." A month later, in the February 5, 1979 issue, another Business Week dispatch put it this way: "Bonn alone cannot rescue the East German economy, and Moscow simply cannot afford to let it fall apart.... To help relieve the East Germans... the Kremlin might allow the notion of German reunification to surface again. That could get Bonn to come across with a lot more, possibly in new credit, and at the same time provide the Soviets with a European counterpoint to U.S.-China harmony."
To underscore the high importance that it attaches to German affairs, Moscow, a few months back, appointed Vladimir Semyonov to be its ambassador to West Germany. Mr. Semyonov is a deputy foreign minister, a candidate member of the Central Committee, and one of Moscow's foremost experts on German affairs. He first served in Germany in 1940. He played a role in the Molotov-von Ribbentrop conference that led to the 1939 nonaggression treaty. After the war he was a known advocate of a neutral, united Germany. Commenting on Semyonov's appointment and related matters, the London Times of October 31, 1978 editorialized that the Soviets "see the European Community growing in size and wealth and West Germany becoming the dominant economic and military power within. "There is, however, a new factor giving added urgency and importance to Soviet efforts, and that is the change in China. On top of this they now observe China endorsing the reunification of Germany, which sets a whole new puzzle for the Kremlin. "Interestingly, the Soviet response has been to scatter tiny hints that it, too, has a certain understanding for German aspirations. Some West Germans have even detected echoes of old Soviet proposals (notably Stalin's note of 1952) for a reunified neutral Germany. The Soviet leaders appear to have decided that they cannot allow China to play the reunification card alone. Could there be anything behind these hints other than a desire to counter China, woo Germany, and possibly drive a few wedges of suspicion into the Western alliance? "It is possible that one day there will be a Soviet leadership which comes to regard eastern Europe as more of a liability than an asset (which objectively it already is) but the prospect is still too distant to have any influence on contemporary policy. Therefore any Soviet hints in this direction must be purely tactical. "The new situation is, however, interesting as a reminder of how little can be taken for granted as permanent, how easily questioned are some of the basic assumptions on which the present arrangements in Europe rest."
Stage Being Set
Even shortly after Germany's defeat in World War II, the editors of The Plain Truth told readers that Germany would rise once again to unprecedented heights, and that the unnatural division of the German people would very likely be healed, producing a unified nation of enormous power and prestige. Germany, Plain Truth readers were told, would not embark again upon any careless adventure of its own, but would be the dominant power in a ten-nation union in Europe (see Revelation 17:10; Daniel 2:42). It already is the leader of the nine-nation European Community. How much more influence would the Germans wield once they are united with their industrious but frustrated countrymen to the east? The great image of Daniel 2 not only has "ten toes," but of course stands upon two feet. Could it be that the coming ten-nation union will consist of five nations or groups of nations from Western Europe (possibly considering the Benelux countries as one entity) plus five nations from Eastern Europe? The ancient Roman Empire, one must recall, was divided itself between east and west. But how could this reunification, come about? Possibly something like this: The Soviets, increasingly fearful of the emergence of China and Peking's growing ties with Japan, recognize they must fortify their position in Asia. To do so means a relaxation of tensions along the East-West line in Europe. Moscow decides to play its "German card," offering to free East Germany — perhaps even other East Bloc states — in return for West Germany and the remainder of Western Europe going neutral, abandoning NATO ties with North America. Needing assurance of peaceful intentions from Moscow, the Europeans get the Soviets to agree to an all — European nonaggression treaty. The Soviets also agree to a pullback of the monstrous SS-20 missiles aimed at West European cities from just inside the Soviet border. (Europeans are fearful right now that the proposed SALT II talks between the U.S. and the Soviets will allow these horrible weapons to remain targeted on them. U.S. credibility in West European eyes is falling rapidly.) Not being foolish, the reunited Germans and their partners in the West build up their own defenses "just in case." The odd man out in the entire matter: the United States! And what happens to the U.S.? Keep reading Mr. Armstrong's current series in The Plain Truth on the United States and Britain in prophecy to find the startling answers! This scenario may seem farfetched to some. But events in Europe and the world are moving inexorably in this direction. And, as the Business Week article said: "Shifting alliances are the order of the day."