Polls show Germans want closer ties with world powers but not with crises

January 16, 1991|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Special for The Sun

BERLIN -- Despite Germany's re-emergence as a major power, people here do not want their country to get involved in world events, especially not the Persian Gulf conflict.

Recent opinion polls, as well as interviews with experts and ordinary people, show that Germans are suspicious of involvement in world trouble spots, such as the Middle East.

Although the polls indicate support for continuing the country's alliance with the United States, this doesn't mean Germans want to support U.S. causes too strongly. In a poll published by the weekly Die Zeit, only 33 percent supported sending troops to the gulf. In another poll published by the Suddeutsche Zeitung, 75 zTC percent said Germany should "stay out" of international conflicts and concentrate on domestic problems.

The polls may explain why the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl has backed the United States' opposition to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait but has done little concrete to support it, according to Gunther Hellmann, a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin specializing in German policy in the Middle East.

"The government is afraid of retriggering the peace movement, which opposed deployment of the Pershing 2 missiles [in West Germany] in the 1980s," Mr. Hellman said.

One way the government has avoided facing the question of sending forces to the gulf, he said, has been to agree with opposition groups that the country's Basic Law doesn't allow troops to be sent out of the country, except to fulfill treaty obligations.

Going through the difficult process of amending the Basic Law to allow German forces to go to the gulf, which would require opposition consent, is unlikely in the near future, Mr. Hellmann said, because the government is preoccupied with domestic problems.

Only 32 percent of Germans support changing the Basic Law, according to the Die Zeit poll.

Germany has limited its commitment to giving the United States money, sending minesweepers to the Mediterranean and sending 18 fighter-bombers to North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally Turkey as a deterrent against a possible Iraqi attack.

Even these modest moves have met with opposition, underscoring the basic feeling of German unease with international involvements outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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