The unification of Germany today changes the world. No longer will Europe be divided by an Iron Curtain bristling with the armies of the two superpowers. No longer, conversely, will France and Poland and Germany's other neighbors find shelter under the protective umbrellas of the United States and the Soviet Union. Instead, the Americans and the Russians will have to exercise what is left of their old duopoly of power not through hostility but through the kind of cooperation vividly etched in the Persian Gulf crisis.
Whether the new Europe will be a source of stability as the Third World grows more turbulent depends in large measure on the character of the new united Germany. Its predecessor states -- the Kaiserreich and the Hitlerreich -- launched the two world wars of this century. Its dominant western sector has for 45 years been oriented in liberal democracy and prosperous free markets; its eastern rump will take a long time recovering from Communist repression and mismanagement.
What the amalgam will produce is an understandable obsession among Germany's neighbors. All of them are aware that the German economic preeminence on the continent cannot be challenged. On the contrary, the Deutsche Mark is looked to by Russians and Poles, Hungarians and Czechoslovaks, as the salvation of their wrecked economies -- all this on the premise that a united Germany will not revert to militarism.
As for Germany's western allies, they invest much hope in a Europeanized Germany, not a Germanized Europe. Whether the French and the British can insure this result by binding Germany into the European Community will be the stuff of intricate diplomacy. Can the Russians induce the Germans into a pan-European security system? Can the Americans can maintain NATO as an effective alliance encompassing Germany? These questions also are on the diplomatic agenda.
As Soviet troops leave East Germany by 1994 it is inconceivable that U.S. troops will remain in force in West Germany for very long. Yet Washington chatter about converting NATO into|| TC political organization with "out of area" missions has yet to be clarified or roundly endorsed by the Europeans.
With East-West conflict over -- and containment of -- Germany no longer a preoccupation, the superpowers are free to cooperate in enforcing their version of a new world order on an unruly Iraq, or an Angola torn by surrogate wars. There is even the prospect of Russian troops fighting alongside Americans in the event of hostilities in the Gulf; or of Americans welcoming Russians to Middle East diplomacy if there is peace.
The ramifications of German unity are globe-girdling. We believe the new German state is not expansionist; its self-interest is to be a good neighbor. Until Germany proves otherwise, its intentions should be accepted at face value.