President Bush is a strong supporter of German reunification, but some other American political leaders and experts admit to a little unease.
In asking for Senate ratification of the treaty ending the division of Germany, Bush recalled the nation's Nazi past but said the Germans had shown their commitment to democracy for more than 40 years. He added that the Germans "have not forgotten the past or the role Germany once played in the horrors of 1933-45."The Senate could act on the treaty as soon as today.
Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, R-Minn., who was born in Berlin and fled Nazi Germany with his parents at age 2, was among the most forthright about his reservations.
"We will have to watch Germany," Boschwitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few hours before unification took effect today. He said he supported the treaty but couldn't forget the past.
"Germany is Germany from the standpoint of its history, and I think we need to have some recognition of that fact," he said. "I have a mixed emotion about seeing it get back together again. Hopefully the feelings and mentality of the people have changed."
Boschwitz said Germany will be the dominant force in Europe and is already a leading world economic power.
Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he shared Boschwitz's concerns.
"I agree with him that we should all keep our eye on how things progress in Germany," said Pell, whose father, Herbert C. Pell, helped prepare the Nazi war crimes trials in Nuremberg after World War II.
"Lessons have to be drawn from history," said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress. "We have to examine why Germany was divided in the first place. It's important that Germany learn about the Holocaust and teach its young."
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., noted that Germany's commitment to cut its armed forces in half was not binding under international law. The State Department said, however, that it regards the German leaders' pledge to a limit of 370,000 as politically binding.
"I'm willing to throw my eggs in the basket that it will occur, but I don't think we should kid the American public or anyone else," Biden said.
Some members of Congress have criticized West Germany's willingness to contribute money but not troops to making Iraq withdraw from occupied Kuwait.
West German political leaders assert that their government's Basic Law, adopted at the behest of the United States and other World War II victors, prevents them from sending armed forces abroad.
Major German parties agreed recently that this provision should be changed to allow Germans to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations.
Angela Stent, a professor of government at Georgetown University, said a united Germany poses no military threat to the rest of Europe but that it may become more assertive politically because of its economic strength.