Leap to Unity

Keith Kyle

The Second World War is rapidly approaching its formal end, amid scenes of a re-uniting and putatively dominant Germany and of a disintegrating Soviet Union. The British and French, while acknowledging with a gulp that this is, to everyone’s astonishment, a total victory for the West, can be heard nervously reflecting about how they are going to live with it. ‘In Paris,’ writes Professor Joseph Rovan in the Frankfurter All-gemeine Zeitung of 8 February, ‘people are alarmed at the idea of the enormous economic and political influence of a united Germany in Eastern Europe and the even greater clout of a united Germany in the European Community.’ It remained for the Gaullist ex-premier Michel Debré to predict gloomily in Le Monde that the age of Yalta (of which he also disapproved) would be followed by a repeat of Rapallo. Being well-practised in the protocol of Germanophilia, the French Government has had a better record in making the correct noises than the British, or rather than No 10, whose principal inhabitant has had a great time ‘speaking out’, regardless of time or place. The Germans, meanwhile, are rather too visibly marking their book according to how their allies perform, bearing in mind that what is happening is the ‘impossible solution’ to which they have been fervently committed since 1954.

The revolutionary character of the events of the last quarter of the 1989 has had the effect of making everyone in the West seem to have been right. First there is Ronald Reagan and the Pentagon Reaganites, who thought that by outspending the Russians with a colossal rearmament programme, with cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe and SDI research in the States, they would force their opponents into a competition which, with their failing economy, they could not win. The Russians have now admitted that this was true. Unilateral disarmers can claim the philosophical victory, in that a measure of unilateral disarmament (by the Soviet Union, of course, not by Britain) dislodged the roadblock on arms control. While the Right concentrates on the means by which the collapse of the Soviet threat was brought about, the Left argues that they were right all along in not finding the threat very menacing.

All this has uncovered the not very original truth that many people are happier with the menace they have known for so long than with exposure to the perils of multiform uncertainty. Nato having ‘won’, the immediate fear was that this victory might cost Nato its life. If the two German states were to merge, then surely the Soviet Union would not stand for a direct transfer of the eastern part from the Warsaw Pact to its opposite. But if West Germany were to take herself out of Nato as the price of unity, while France remained outside the alliance’s integrated command system, Nato would seem to be unravelling fast and the security linkage between the United States and Europe would be in danger of being broken. In this way, Russia would achieve at a moment of weakness what was always thought to be her aim when she appeared strong. If both super-powers withdrew to their home territory, Russia would remain in Europe and the US would not.

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