One unexpected plus of Eastern Europe's abandonment of Communist rule is an end to the aid and comfort that certain regimes for so long provided to international terrorists.
New governments in a number of Warsaw Pact countries are confirming what Western intelligence agencies have long known. From the early 1970s on, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania in particular actively supported terrorists who attacked Western targets. The political shifts that have taken place in these countries don't guarantee an end to terrorist outrages. But they do signal that from here on terrorist operations in Europe will probably be far harder to carry out.
A lot of accumulated dirty laundry is suddenly being given a public washing as once super-secret intelligence files are opened. In recent weeks nine radicals long sought for bombings in West Germany have been identified and arrested in East Germany. Others are likely to be uncovered; some, fearing exposure and long prison sentences, have reportedly fled to Syria. Agents of Stasi, East Germany's internal security organization, are apparently helping to finger fugitives.
Hungary's new leaders have produced documents showing that the notorious terrorist Carlos, the underground name of Venezuela-born Illich Ramirez Sanchez, was given refuge in Budapest. He may now be living in Libya, if in fact he is still alive at all. Czechoslovakia has acknowledged that its previous regime provided weapons and explosives to terrorist groups and terrorism-sponsoring countries, like Libya. And from Romania have come reports of training camps for foreign terrorists operated by the Ceausescu regime.
The archives of East European intelligence services are probable gold mines of information about terrorist groups and activities, detailing who was responsible for what, the nature of the cooperation given different terrorist bands, and the role other governments played in facilitating terrorist operations. Terrorism was able to flourish for so long because some regimes were happy to provide terrorists with fake travel documents, weapons, training, money and asylum. Because of that a lot of innocent people died.
Now there seems to be a good chance that much of this sordid and despicable record will finally be exposed, and that a new era of international cooperation against terrorism will emerge. Eastern Europe's former Communist rulers had a lot of blood on their hands. Not all of it came from their own unhappy peoples.