BONN is watching events in the new Commonwealth of Independent
States with more scrutiny than perhaps any other West European
There are still 233,000 Soviet Army troops on German soil.
Because Germany loaned the most to the former Soviet Union, it also
stands to lose the most if the newly independent republics fail to
pay. The economy of eastern Germany, suffering from the collapse of
trade with the former superpower, awaits a resumption of commercial
And because of their sheer proximity to the commonwealth
republics, Germans worry that they will be the first to be hit by a
wave of immigrants if the economy of the commonwealth grows much
worse - as experience in Central and Eastern Europe shows it is
sure to do.
Germans will miss Mikhail Gorbachev. It was Mr. Gorbachev, after
all, who allowed Germany's reunification. Within minutes of
Gorbachev's resignation, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl issued a
statement resonating with gratitude. "The decisive contributions of
Mikhail Gorbachev to German unity, and to the new beginning in
relations between our peoples, remain unforgettable. We Germans -
and I personally - owe him a great debt," Mr. Kohl said. "Without
Mikhail Gorbachev, it would have been impossible to overcome the
But the Germans cannot hold on to the past. So far, they have
officially recognized Russia and the Ukraine as independent states
and expect to recognize the other republics soon. In November,
Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited Bonn, and Kohl is expected
to return the visit soon.
Helping the new commonwealth achieve economic and social
stability is the Germans' highest priority. "Our chief concern is
in the economic field - that the new organization of republics be a
positive step to speed up economic reform and initiate economic
recovery," says a senior government official here.
One of the factors behind this concern, he admits, is the threat
of mass migration from the east.
For example, nearly 2 million Volga Germans, whom Stalin
forceably relocated to the central and east Asian parts of the
Soviet Union, are automatically eligible for German citizenship
simply because they are ethnic Germans. Bonn fears these Germans
will flood the country if their economic and cultural situation
does not improve. With considerable assistance from Bonn, Mr.
Yeltsin is trying to reestablish an autonomous homeland for the
Volga Germans, says the government official.
On the subject of economic aid to the new commonwealth, the
Germans say they have reached their limit and are pushing hard for
a coordinated, international effort. …