UNITED NATIONS — German Chancellor Helmut Kohl warned Tuesday that the potential instability of Eastern Europe and the republics of the former Soviet Union make it vital to keep American troops in Europe.
In a few stark and clear sentences, the German leader offered his explanation to a puzzle troubling many Americans: What is the point of deploying American troops in Europe after the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War?
"Everyone knows that the transformation in Central, Eastern and southeastern Europe can produce new threats to our security and to pan-European stability," Kohl told the annual convention of the American Newspaper Publishers Assn. in a special session at the United Nations. He described these threats as economic, social, political and military.
". . . For a long time to come, there will be enormous stocks of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in the successor republics of the former Soviet Union," he went on. "They remain a source of danger against a background of political instability, and hence conflict.
"Not least for this reason, the substantial presence of North American forces in Western Europe and Germany remains indispensable for the security of both our nations, now and in the future. It is the essence of our security partnership, and it is in both Europe's and America's interest."
At present, the United States maintains a force of 220,000 troops in Europe as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that was originally fashioned to meet the potential threat of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.
Kohl did not detail how NATO forces could now be used to pacify conflicts in Eastern Europe. And he spoke to the publishers only a few hours after the Bush Administration made it clear that the U.S. troops now in Europe will not be deployed to Yugoslavia to try to calm the ethnic fighting there.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said in Washington that the Bush Administration would support the dispatch of U.N. peacekeeping troops but only if there was a durable cease-fire and if all sides to the complex conflict agreed. Most analysts believe that these conditions are now impossible to meet.
Soon after he entered the Secretariat building to meet U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Kohl was questioned by reporters about Germany's role in the United Nations. News reports from Germany said that a member of the chancellor's governing coalition had demanded that Kohl insist on a permanent seat for Germany on the U.N. Security Council.
But Kohl told reporters, "Whoever says that we now have to talk about Germany being a member of the Security Council doesn't know what he is talking about."