Europe's yearning for a degree unity that leaves room for all the rich splendors of its linguistic, cultural and intellectual diversity is as old as the millennium. Charlemagne's vision in fractured form has endured, often painfully, during a thousand years of European civil wars. Now, at last, it may be reaching some kind of fruition in the 34-nation summit convening in Paris this weekend.
The dramas associated with Vienna in 1815 and Versailles in 1919 are strangely absent from this assemblage under the stultifying name of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is as if all emotion has been drained from a continent that in this generation dragged itself from Hitlerism to the crumbling of the Berlin Wall.
Yet CSCE is breathtakingly daring in conception. Implicit in its structure is the realization that two outside superpowers had to impose the European peace of the last 45 years. The question is how to keep the United States and the Soviet Union sufficiently involved but also sufficiently removed to allow the core Europeans to build upon their essential Europeanness.
When CSCE first assembled in Helsinki in 1975, its purpose was to reconcile itself to postwar borders and Cold War division. That was the Brezhnev era, and the result was a brave effort to ease tensions and make life a little more palatable behind the Iron Curtain. Now CSCE's happier mission is to celebrate the end of the Cold War through a pan-European organization that will increasingly promote the free movement of ideas, people and goods "from the Atlantic to the Urals." That Gaullist phrase should concern the American people. It trumpets the undisputed fact that the Soviet Union is part of the Euro-Asian land mass and the United States is not. For better or for worse, Russians will always be less the outsiders in Europe than Americans are.
While it is comparatively easy to set up a CSCE secretariat, or a rudimentary CSCE parliament, or even a mechanism to supervise arms control compliance, CSCE cannot determine policies set in Moscow and Washington. U.S. budgetary problems will be the defining instrument for how many U.S. troops remain assigned to NATO and for how long. Moscow's desperate economic straits will make it dependent on Western help and therefore less menacing.
Into the resulting power vacuum marches a newly united Germany, and the conundrum facing the new Europe is how to handle or, how it will be handled -- by the new Germany. German expansionism in a military sense is a thing of the past. But German expansionism in an economic sense is already driving Europe and, more important, is welcomed by many nations historically fearful of German arms. The continent's future, however, lies not in the Germanization of Europe but in the Europeanization of Germany.