Bonn to pay Moscow $8 billion for removing its troops from East Germany

September 12, 1990|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Special to The Sun

BERLIN -- The price of German unity was pushed another notch higher yesterday when West Germany agreed that the Soviet Union would receive $8 billion for the withdrawal of its 365,000 troops in East Germany.

The agreement, one of the last hurdles to Soviet approval of German unification, was confirmed after weeks of haggling over the price tag. The Soviets had asked for nearly twice the amount, saying it was necessary for transportation, rehousing and reintegration of the troops, who will leave over the next four years.

Soviet soldiers have occupied East Germany since World War II ended 45 years ago.

There was never any doubt Germany would end up paying a sizable amount, with West Germany's wanting all problems resolved by unification Oct. 3.

West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher openly called the amount the "price of German unity," indicating there was little choice but for a united Germany to pay the cost or face uncertainty about its full sovereignty.

"The price won't hurt Germany. It will solve a lot of problems, including European ones. Europe will be stable and Germany will be united," Mr. Genscher said.

The timing also was important, coming during the foreign ministers' meeting in Moscow of the two Germanys and the four victorious wartime Allies. It was feared that the question of cost would snag the meeting, which is to be the last in a series of conferences among the six countries designed to solve foreign policy questions surrounding unification.

Both the Soviet Union and West Germany had been eager to solve the question of troop withdrawals, especially in light of increasing protests against the troops' presence in East Germany. Over the past month there have been several attacks on Soviet barracks, the most serious the shooting death of a Soviet guard in the city of Perleberg. The 19-year-old was shot six times in front of his camp and his assault rifle was taken.

Usually, however, anger at the Soviets' presence has led to defacings of Soviet war memorials and protests at low-level aircraft flights. West German Defense Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg said over the weekend that the Soviets should voluntarily end their military maneuvers and have "respect for the environmental effects" of their training flights.

Although the Germans are eager for the troops to go, ordinary Soviet soldiers are worried about their prospects. Soldiers' wives, for example, have staged protests inside their compounds over their bleak prospects upon returning to a nearly bankrupt Soviet Union. At a recent protest, a group of wives carried banners saying, "What will become of us?" and "[West German Chancellor Helmut] Kohl help us!"

Although the troops' restationing will cost a lot of money, economic agreements recently concluded also will be expensive. West Germany said last week that a united Germany would honor 400 agreements signed between the Soviets and East Germany and that it had agreed to a 20-year treaty of economic cooperation that could end up costing billions of dollars.

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