To the Editor:
With his article, “The Dangers Beyond Containment” [August], Patrick Glynn has rendered a valuable service by pointing to dangers in Europe that have long been ignored by the media. To take an example: the media greeted the INF treaty with great fanfare without sensing that it practically committed every future West German government to oppose the modernization of short-range nuclear missiles.
The feeling of being “singled out” has reintroduced the perception in West Germany of a specifically German geopolitical situation (and responses). This perception has been reinforced by other recent developments such as the rediscovery of “national history,” . . . and the failure of Communism in East Germany, with the attendant hope of more civil rights for its people. The stream of refugees from East Germany is only the latest event to have given the idea of reunification a new impetus. The friendly reception accorded Gorbachev earlier should be seen against that background.
It is time for the U.S. and West Germany to ponder the consequences of a more liberalized regime in East Germany, as well as those of German reunification. The U.S. ambassador to West Germany, Vernon Walters, has recently allowed that reunification may not be far off. While a truly neutral Germany would present opportunities for a forward-looking U.S. policy, there may be reunification under less than desirable conditions.
With its past record in favor of reunification, it would be very unwise for the U.S. to oppose it now, but the geopolitical consequences of an ill-conceived policy have to be thought through. Right now, the strategic value of East Germany to the Soviet Union consists in limiting the freedom of choice for the countries between them. A reunited Germany, even one with a democratically elected government, could at some point serve Soviet interests. It would feel indebted to the USSR for allowing reunification and, at the same time, rekindle Western fears of an economically strong, more eastward than westward-looking center of Europe.
The USSR might be a partner for those who wish to reconstitute a national German state within its 1937 borders. The German extreme Right, for example, has made such a state part of its program. And even if it should not come to this, the two countries could help each other to counteract tendencies on the part of the countries between them to become too independent or too insistent on territorial integrity. Historical precedents for such an understanding exist. The likelihood that a Central Europe that is non-revisionist would emerge is, in my estimate, not very high.
Alexander Von Graevenitz
Patrick Glynn writes:
I believe Alexander von Graevenitz’s speculations accurately reflect thinking that is going on in West Germany and Europe at present—thinking of which Americans should be more aware. But while I agree with him on the need to ponder future possibilities, I cannot help feeling that in all this talk of German “reunification,” we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. The extrapolations into the future that we are making today, with a good deal of deliberate encouragement from Moscow, are leading us, and the West Germans, to behave in ways inimical to our (and West German) interest.
Let me begin with this premise: a unified Germany, under a West German-style government and firmly integrated in NATO, would pose no threat to the United States, or for that matter to the rest of Europe. Such a Germany might actually have been possible at the end of World War II, had not General Eisenhower, at President Roosevelt’s probable instructions, foolishly ceded Berlin to Stalin by stopping Allied forces on the Elbe in the spring of 1945. The division of Germany that resulted largely from this incredibly ill-advised and almost inexplicable decision has never been necessary for peace. The key to pacifying Germany was never to dismember it, as Clemenceau believed after World War I, but simply to alter its political regime—i.e., to transform it into a stable liberal democracy, and in this way to welcome it into the family of modern, liberal-democratic European nations. This was done after World War II on the Allied side. Can anyone deny that the West German people have prospered better under their present Western-oriented parliamentary government than they did under Hitlerite, Weimar, or Wilhelmine rule—or that they have not enjoyed an immeasurably better life than their East German counterparts?
However, today it would be exceedingly difficult to achieve what might have been achieved comparatively easily after World War II had the Anglo-American, and not the Soviet, armies taken Berlin: namely, a unified, truly democratic Germany. Even assuming that after “party renewal” in East Germany some liberalization takes place there, we will still be dealing with a Communist regime—one of the hardest and most ruthless in the world. “Reunification,” if it were undertaken, would necessarily involve a coalition between the present West German government and the East German government. It would also probably be offered only at the price of West Germany’s leaving NATO. I believe we have had enough experience since 1945 with coalition arrangements involving Communist and non-Communist elements, the latter unbacked by American military power, to predict how the chips would fall: it would only be a matter of time before all of Germany was more like East Germany. The reunification of Germany, under these circumstances, would merely be the first act in a play whose climax was the Communization of Germany (albeit for the time being under the allegedly pleasant “reform” Communism that we see today).
For all the emotion that has seized West German public life in recent months, I believe the West German government and people are still sensible enough to see this, and that is why I believe, if and when the moment of truth were to arrive, that reunification itself would be unlikely to occur. Rather, the possibility of reunification will be dangled before West Germany, for as long as the Soviets can sustain the illusion, in an effort to break West Germany away from its NATO partners. The Soviet goal is not so much the reunification of Germany as the Finlandization of West Germany, with the ultimate objective the weakening of American influence and gaining ever greater access to West German technology and capital for modernizing the Soviet military-industrial base. One of the bitter ironies of the present situation is that the massive exodus of East German citizens, which should be, and is, viewed as a massive defeat for the government in East Berlin, is also helping to transfix West German attention on the East and causing West Germany to become even more generous with economic aid to the Eastern bloc. Lenin, whose specialty lay in turning just such terrible defeats into strategic victories, would be proud of his successors in Moscow and Budapest, if not East Berlin.
The INF treaty—and the incompetent handling of U.S.-West German relations by the Reagan administration in its final two years—bears a heavy responsibility for all these developments; indeed, critics of the treaty predicted most of these consequences at the time. But not only is there a refusal to admit this reality in the U.S. government and elsewhere; we are preparing to enter into new arms agreements that will only intensify the divisions in the alliance and further undercut the basis of the security relationship between Washington and Bonn.