Clinton Calls for Tolerance, Unity in Europe US President's Support for German Leadership on Continent Stirs Some Concerns

By Justin Burke, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 1994 | Go to article overview

Clinton Calls for Tolerance, Unity in Europe US President's Support for German Leadership on Continent Stirs Some Concerns


Justin Burke, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


POLITICAL leaders on both sides of the Atlantic try to sound upbeat over the way the new European order is developing. But the public proclamations of content cannot hide completely the discomfort that European officials seem to be feeling.

President Clinton wrapped up his third visit in seven months to Europe on July 12 with a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Standing on the Gate's eastern side, the US president expounded on anchoring the formerly Communist states of Eastern and Central Europe in the Western European market-democratic order. The creation of a single Europe served as the central theme of Mr. Clinton's stops in Latvia, Poland, and Germany, all sandwiched around the Group of Seven summit in Italy.

"Nichts wird uns aufhalten, alles ist moglich, Berlin ist frei!" Clinton said in German to the cheering throng: "Nothing can stop us. Everything is possible. Berlin is free."

Clinton also called on Germans to be open-minded when confronting the changes taking place in Europe. "We must reject those who would divide us with scalding words about race, ethnicity, or religion," he said.

On July 11 in Bonn, Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl showcased their strong personal rapport, seeking to give the impression that German-US relations have never been better. At a joint news conference, the two were on a first-name basis and heaped praise on each other's accomplishments.

But behind the warm personal feelings that Clinton and Mr. Kohl have for each other lies a certain degree of tension between the United States and Germany over their post-cold-war relationship.

Throughout his two-day German tour, Clinton repeatedly called on Germany to assume a larger role in developing the new European order. Distracted by crises in other parts of the globe - from North Korea to Haiti - the US wants a reunified Germany doing more to keep the continent on a stable political path.

The status of European leader was something that Germany used to crave; it launched two world wars in this century in the name of achieving continental dominance. Chiefly because of the devastating defeats suffered in 1918 and 1945, German leaders of today aren't exactly eager to pick up the mantle of leadership.

From the end of World War II until reunification in 1990, it was easy for leaders to avoid the leadership question. For one, the country was divided. Also, the West German Constitution barred the Army from operating beyond the country's borders, except when acting in defense of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The inability to project military force effectively prevented Germany from building a dominant role in European politics.

On July 12, however, the nation's Constitutional Court issued an opinion redefining the restrictions on military action, thus permitting the military's inclusion in multilateral peacekeeping operations around the world. The ruling states that parliamentary approval will be necessary in each case for troops to join in an international military force.

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