The four World War II powers that defeated and carved up Nazi Germany signed a treaty today with the two Germanys sanctioning their unification and heralding the return of their full sovereignty.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III proclaimed the signing a "rendezvous with history."
"This represents the end of a 45-year journey," Baker said after he and the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, Britain, France and the two Germanys signed the treaty settling the global aspects of German unification.
At the signing ceremony inside Moscow's posh October Hotel, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev watched West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher affix the first signature, followed by East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere, who is also foreign minister.
The Allies were next: French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, Baker and British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.
All involved shook hands and drank a champagne toast immediately after the signing.
The sweeping document, called the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, climaxes seven months of tough bargaining between the six nations.
In it, the same four powers that defeated Germany in 1945 give their seal of approval to German unity. It will lead to scrapping their special rights in Germany--such as their control of air corridors into Berlin.
The treaty was the last major document needed to clear the way for merging the two Germanys on Oct. 3.
Under the document, the Soviet Union loses East Germany as its most valued military ally. The six nations agreed all of Germany can belong to NATO.
The Soviets will be allowed to keep their estimated 370,000 troops in East Germany for a maximum of four more years. Armed forces of the three Western World War II allies will be permitted to remain in Berlin as long as Soviet troops are still in East Germany.
Both German nations also vowed to renounce ownership or use of atomic, chemical and biological weapons.
The Soviets won a concession that no nuclear weapons will be deployed on East German soil even after all Red Army troops are withdrawn.
The treaty also states that a united Germany will never try to claim land forfeited to Poland after World War II.
The horrible devastation of World War II, started by Nazi Germany in 1939, is evoked in the six-nation treaty. Germany's division--and the start of the the Cold War era--followed the Nazis' 1945 defeat.
"The governments of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) reaffirm their declarations that only peace will emanate from German soil," the treaty states.
It adds, "According to the constitution of the united Germany, acts tending to and undertaken with the intent to disturb the peaceful relations between nations, especially to prepare for aggressive war, are unconstitutional and punishable."
Genscher said the treaty signing was "a day of joy and jubilation" for Germans, but that the victims of World War II and the Nazi terror must never be forgotten and the "agony of the Jewish people" never repeated.