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Germany's Role

June 12, 1993

* In his commentary, "The More Things Change: Europe Slips Into Old Roles" (Opinion, May 30), Martin Walker seems to have slipped into old modes of thinking himself. Reunited democratic Germany is not the "Fourth Reich." Furthermore, to state that Germany "provoke(d) the first European war since it plunged us into the last one" is simply preposterous. Understandable frustration over the war in Bosnia, which is deeply rooted in history, must not be permitted to foster cheap polemics.

Let me try to put the record straight:

* It was Serbia's communist-nationalist leader Milosevic and his old military guard who by recklessly pursuing their expansionist design for Greater Serbia upset the delicate balance between the Yugoslav republics and forced that state apart. Germany's insistence on recognition of Croatia and Slovenia, acknowledging their freely expressed wish for self-determination, was designed to put an obstacle in Milosevic's way. It was the barbarous destruction of Vucovar and the indiscriminate shelling of Dubrovnik by the Yugoslav army that overcame the initial reticence of the international community. Far from precipitating the conflict, Serb expansion into Croatia came to a halt after the European Community decided unanimously to recognize that country.

* In contrast to the controversy surrounding the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, the decision to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina was based on a broad international consensus. The widely held assumption was that recognition would, as was seen to be the case in Croatia, act as a brake on Serbian aggression.

We know that Milosevic was not deterred by the sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which, as he correctly assessed, the international community was not willing to defend by forceful means.

Throughout the conflict, Germany has always spoken up for the respect of human rights and against the oppression of minorities and the change of borders by use of force. Serbia stands accused of having violated each and every one of these principles. This does not mean that Germany turns a blind eye to Croatian or, indeed, Muslim violations of international law and human rights. But the aggressor remains the aggressor and must be called just that.

GOTTFRIED HAAS, Press Counselor

German Embassy, Washington

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