Full Citation

  • Title Squeezed between the superpowers
  • Author Clough, Patrica
  • Publication Title The Independent
  • Collection The Independent
  • Date Friday,  July 3, 1987
  • Issue Number 229
  • Page Number 19
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The Independent
  • Copyright Statement © Independent Print Limited.
Squeezed between the superpowers Patrica Clough on German frustration as their defences are bargained away over their heads The prospect of a double-zero mis? sile deal is breeding a new mood on the West Gennan right wing which, officials here fear, spells danger. It is a bitter feeling of betrayal by their most trusted and admired ally, the United States. It is a sense of being stripped naked, left with weapons which could turn Germany into a nuclear inferno, but not endanger others. It is a feeling, once again, of standing by helplessly while foreign powers dispose of their future. The reaction is all the more alarming be? cause it is reminiscent of a mood which has brought trouble more than once in German histoiy. The feeling of having been carved up by bigger powers and prevented from achiev? ing the greatness of other European states led, early in this centuiy, to the massive build-up of Gennan sea power to rival Britain's, and then to the Fiist World War. When the war ended, the Treaty of Ver? sailles, which stripped Geimany of some territories, limited its sovereignty and im? posed heavy reparations, bred the Dotchstosslegende ? the myth of the "stab in the back" ? which in turn helped Hitler's rise to power. The cunent reaction among right-wing? ers was triggered by last autumn's Reykja? vik summit, at which Mikhail Gorbachev unexpectedly accepted Nato's offer to re? move all medium-range (1,000-5,500 kilometres) missiles from Europe, and President Reagan, without consulting his allies, went on to propose scrapping all the nuclear weapons on which their security was based. The right wing grew even more alarmed when Mr Gorbachev went on to propose a double-zero deal, including weapons be? tween 500 and 1,000 kilometres as well. That, they feel, would leave front-line West Germany in a far weaker position than the rest of the Nato allies, vulnerable to battle? field weapons, and without the protection of weapons which could threaten Soviet territoiy. Publicly the protests have been polite and relatively muted. Privately, members accuse President Reagan of gambling away West Germany's security for the sake of polishing his image after the Irangate scan? dal. What worries insiders is that the re? sentment is growing precisely among the most loyal supporteis of the United States in West German politics. "It is the bitter? ness of a rejected lover," says one high de? fence ministry official; "it is extremely dangerous." At present the mood is limited mainly to leading right-wing politicians, a vocal sec? tion of the ruling Christian Democrat- Christian Social parliamentary party and the influential, ultra-conservative Frank? furter AUgemeine: "But if things go on like this," another defence expert says, "it could spread to the moderates." The right-wingers' fiist reaction was to by and stop the government from agreeing "Reagan and Gorbachev will have a summit at Thanksgiving, and you can say, 'Look how they are carving np Germany.' 28 to the shorter-range zero deal, but they caved in after Chancellor Kohl had to yield to pressure from the United States and from his own voters. Then last week Alfred Dregger, the right-wing leader of the par? liamentary party, produced proposals for a European Security Union, in which Britain and, particularly, France would spread their nuclear umbrellas over West Ger? many. The Chancellor promptly poured cold water over the idea, insisting that nothing could replace the alliance with the United States. Manfred Wdrner, the de? fence minister, warned of the danger of "inappropriate reactions". But there seems little chance of the movement dying down as long as Nato in general, and West Germany in particular, is drifting along without a strategy for the future. "We have no Koraept, no vision, no policy," defence officials say angrily. "If Gorbachev came along tomorrow with an? other attractive offer that pleased the vot? ers, we would probably have to say yes to that too. We just don't know what we want" The ministiy has produced no lack of ideas for future policy, but the coalition, they complain, won't get its act together. Suggestions that the Chancellor should take a firm lead meet with rolled eyes and a weary sigh. Frustration with Mr Kohl, and his habit of sitting on problems in the hope that they will solve themselves, is beyond words. The divisions within the coalition are only helping to fuel the bitterness. Many in the CDU and CSU resent the way Hans- Dietrich Genscher, the Free Democrat Foreign Minister who enthusiastically sup? ports the double-zero, has been able to get his way. They accuse him of gambling with the countiy's security in order to cuny popularity with the voters ? and indeed the small FDP is riding high, with three big electoral successes this year and Mr Genscher at the top of the popularity polls. Behind this is also frustration with the fact that for 21 years the CDU and CSU, which together form the biggest political block in the countiy, have had no control over the foreign ministiy, and with it West Germany's role in the world. Apart from the bright, youngish Volker Ruhe it has no serious foreign policy experts, and mem? beis can only gnash their teeth when the cunning Mr Genscher, who has been in the job for 18 years, runs rings round them. To counter this sense of impotence among the CDU and CSU, Thomas Kielinger, editor of the conseivative Rheinischer Merkur, has proposed a National Security Council where representatives of the party can help shape foreign and security policy. There are at least two possible scenarios for the rest of the story. In the first, the United States and the other allies go on al? lowing the West Germans to feel vulner? able and abandoned. Tbe Americans nego? tiate away the German dual-key Pershing la shorter-range missiles ? the Germans' last vestige of control over missiles which reach, if not to the Soviet Union, at least deep into Warsaw Pact territoiy, and which they insist on keeping. Whereupon, even though West Germany is not Weimar, and after two disastrous world wars people are more realistic and wary than their fore? bears, the feeling of betrayal to political ad? venturers would be complete. "And then Gorbachev and Reagan will have their summit at Thanksgiving," Mr Keilinger says, "and there will be pictures of them at Camp David with a roast turkey, and you will be able to say, 'look how they are carv? ing up Germany.'" The second scenario, fortunately, looks more promising. Although no one is taking Mr Dregger's proposal of a European Se? curity Union seriously, there is now much talk of closei European, and particularly Franco-German, defence co-operation. Mr Kohl's proposals for a meted Franco- German brigade successfully deflected the debate into more feasible channels. It was his own idea and came as a complete sur? prise to the defence ministiy. Experts there say it would do nothing for the two coun? tries strategically and would pose huge practical problems. But it has been a public relations success: people here and in Paris are talking about it If it succeeds, it will be a symbol of closer co-operation; if it doesn't, it will at least have helped encour? age the idea that Europeans should get to? gether and do more for their own defence. If the present mood can be channelled to that end, at least it will have served a useful purpose.