What The Future Holds

A panel of TIME experts foresees East European instability -- and inevitable German unity in a reshaped Continent

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Migranyan noted Moscow's persistent rejection of reunification. "The Soviet Union is not yet ready to accept any form of reunification," he declared. "It would have a major destabilizing effect." Even a loose East-West German confederation, he said, would create internal problems for Gorbachev and tensions with the West. Migranyan suggested that the Soviet Union, the U.S., France and Britain formally agree to prevent any joining of the Germanys in the near future. Grunwald demurred, pointing out that the U.S. could never accept such a formal accord because of Washington's official commitment to the goal of reunification. Moreover, said Grunwald, the Soviets could do little to prevent such a course if it actually took place, short of using force, which all agreed was highly improbable.

Anyone who takes in the atmosphere along the perforated Berlin Wall today, declared Moisi, should be able to discern -- by the body language of the Volkspolizei on the Eastern side and the Berlin police on the Western side -- an extraordinary and palpable tug of togetherness. "The citizens of the German Democratic Republic really have a feeling of humiliation about being second-class citizens ((compared with their Western counterparts)), and that feeling can be ameliorated only by reunification." Opposing that process, suggested Moisi, would ultimately cause more problems than it would solve.

In any case, asked Vogel, "if reunification should happen, where is the threat to the rest of Europe? Please, let us stop thinking of reunification producing a Fourth Reich built on the ashes of NATO." One solution, he suggested, was to make the transformation of the East bloc a "European task. If there is concern about the re-emergence of a German superpower, the best of all ways to get a lever on it would be to invest in a West European relief and aid operation in East Germany and create a European orientation to that process."

"There are those in Europe who fear that the events in Eastern Europe have compromised the dynamics of 1992," said Moisi, "but there are also those who believe in Europe with a capital E, which embraces those nations lost to Soviet power for two generations." He suggested that the people of Eastern Europe had achieved "a spiritual dimension, of those who had to fight for 40 years against oppression" -- an attitude from which the West could learn. Eastern Europe's transformation, he said, "is not a one-way street."

Perhaps, Moisi suggested, Europe in some ways needs German reunification despite all the problems it would bring. He postulated that West Germany still suffers from an identity crisis, a "unidimensional" sense of itself as merely an industrial rather than a political power. The result, he said, was a kind of "German economic arrogance"; if, in the process of reunification, Germany could attain a "more diverse identity," that arrogance might fade. His advice to the West: "Nothing is more dangerous than to say to Germans today 'We fear you.' If we do that, we will create a Germany according to that image, the kind of Germany we would deserve."

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