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German Unity Worries West, East

US cautiously backs a unified Germany and NATO participation; meanwhile, concerned Poland looks to preserve its current borders

WHILE clearly endorsing German reunification this past weekend during his meetings with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, President Bush fell short of allaying Western and East European fears of German domination. Britain and France have been reticent to endorse a united Germany, and Poland is particularly concerned about possible German designs on territory awarded to Poland after World War II.

After the Bush-Kohl talks ended at the Camp David presidential retreat Sunday afternoon, Mr. Bush stated his and Chancellor Kohl's ``common belief'' that a united Germany should be ``a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including participation in its military structure.'' Bush added that ``in a unified state, the former territory of the GDR [German Democratic Republic] should have a special military status that would take into account the legitimate security interests of all interested countries, including those of the Soviet Union.''

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But as the German reunification issue unfolds, the United States is in a difficult position. At the same time it strongly supports East Germany's ultimate participation in NATO, it is also under pressure to address Poland's concern about the integrity of its German border, which has become a Warsaw Pact issue.

During the past week Polish officials have underscored their support for Soviet troops to remain in Poland until the two Germanys agree to a treaty guaranteeing the integrity of the Polish-German border.

``NATO isn't exactly rushing to help the Poles,'' says Jan Vanous, president of PlanEcon Inc. ``The only guarantor of the borders is the USSR. There's no commitment from the Allies - France, Britain, the United States - to secure Poland's borders. They say `it's the Polish problem.' To me it sounds like a pre-World War II view.''

President Bush said Sunday that the ``US respects the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act regarding the inviolability of current borders in Eastern Europe and the US recognizes the current German-Polish border.'' He fell short of asking Chancellor Kohl to do so in the name of a unified Germany.

``The Poles are justifiably concerned about German unification,'' Mr. Vanous says. ``They're concerned about whether it's the end of a new Germany, or just Phase 1. Unfortunately Germany has done a poor job of reassuring anyone.

``First, the Poles flock to the West,'' says Vanous, referring to its withdrawal from communism. ``If we don't help stabilize the situation, they will have no choice but to head East again.''

Prof. Jerry Hough, director of Duke University's Center on East-West Trade, Investment, and Communication, dismisses the border issue. ``It's not a real one,'' he says. Kohl is using the Polish border issue ``as a bargaining chip. He wants a peace treaty at the end.''

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Mr. Hough echoes the Bush administration when he says that ``there's no need for Kohl to make concessions on the [Poland] border issue, just as we shouldn't give in on the 195,000 troops stationed in West Germany. Western troops will not move [from a united Germany] until Kohl signs a border agreement with Poland. If not Western, then Soviet troops will remain,'' he says.

``Bush is being very wise. The last thing we want to do is appear an obstacle to unification,'' observes George Carver Jr., a senior fellow who specializes on intelligence and national security issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies ``Kohl's going too fast, for sure. If he's going to be effectively slowed down, Bush, Thatcher, and the Allies have to talk to him in private,'' he says.

Public admonishments, Mr. Carver warns, will only aggravate the ``depth and profundity of emotions that unification stirs in Germany. Kohl will dig in his heels and that very stubbornness will increase his popularity at home.''

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