Germany doesn't want to send troops to the Persian Gulf because, it says, it is haunted by its Nazi past. Neither does the Soviet Union, which says it is haunted by Afghanistan in its recent past.

Such conscientious objection is an irritant that mars otherwise amicable relationships with the United States. Clearly, a new approach is called for.A possible solution occurred to me during a visit to Berlin to inspect the newly unified Germany. It was while I was trying on a fur hat with a Soviet officer's insignia at a stall near the Brandenburg Gate. It seemed surreal that this once-dreaded emblem of Soviet might was now a souvenir for tourists.

Elsewhere, I was told, one can buy weapons, including Kalashnikov rifles and even ground-to-air missiles. This represents a massive fire sale of a demoralized occupation army with no reason for being and no idea of where to go.

The German graffiti outside their encampments say, "Russians go home!" And two divisions have, in fact, left - minus some deserters.

But many of the 360,000 troops that remain won't or can't go because, in their homeland, there are not enough homes for them and precious little opportunity in a foundering economy.

So, this is my idea for a highly trained military force that has lost its reason for existence: Enlist it in a new foreign legion, organized and financed by the Federal Republic of Germany and send it to the gulf.

Soldiers in this new "Desert Legion" could be offered much more generous pay than the $17 a month that a private gets currently. There would be the lure of sunny Saudi Arabia instead of a Russian winter among food shortages. They could come under the aegis of the United Nations and function under American operational command - the nucleus for a new regional security system for the Middle East.