"For the first time in 40 years, Europe will be meeting and discussing and planning without an artificial East-West divide to block progress," said Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d. The separate signing of a nonaggression declaration between NATO and the Warsaw Pact "will, in a sense bury the Cold War hatchet," he said.
But it is no small irony that the most urgent topic at the Paris summit will be the prospect of war.
Bush will be striving to shore up support for his gulf policies and the controversial announcement last week that he is nearly doubling American troop strength in order to achieve the power to launch an offensive to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.
He also hopes to persuade other countries to support a proposed U.N. resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Iraq.
To that end, Bush will meet with the allied leaders and breakfast with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Paris.
Throughout Bush's week abroad, the issues of war and peace will be placed in ironic counterpoint, culminating in a seven-hour Thanksgiving Day visit by the President and Barbara Bush to some of the 230,000 American soldiers stationed in the Persian Gulf region. The Bushes will eat Thanksgiving dinner in the desert with the soldiers.
"I know I'll express what's in the heart of every American when I shake their hands, young men and young women, and say, 'Thank you. Thank you for standing for freedom, for our security and for peace in our world,' " Bush said earlier this week. While in the Middle East, Bush will confer with Saudi and exiled Kuwaiti leaders and stop for consultations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as he works to keep intact the Arab coalition that has supported the U.S. position in the gulf since Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bush would seek a commitment for more Egyptian troops in the U.S.-led military buildup against Iraq.
Before the Paris summit, Bush will visit Prague tomorrow to meet with Czechoslovak playwright-turned-president Vaclav Havel and deliver a speech on the democratization of Eastern Europe, the unification of Germany and the unfolding of a new Europe that was scarcely imaginable a year ago.
Bush's speech in Prague's central Wenceslaus Square is timed to mark the first anniversary of the "velvet revolution" that saw the end of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
After a few hours with Kohl, Bush and his huge entourage move on to Paris for the European conference, the first such gathering since 1975 in Helsinki, where communist leaders signed - and later ignored - human rights provisions that purported to guarantee basic rights for their citizens.
Joining Bush in Paris on Sunday will be Baker, who left yesterday for preliminary talks with Western allies in Geneva and Brussels, Belgium, about the gulf crisis.
Over the weekend, Baker will meet with the foreign ministers of Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, Zaire, Romania and Finland. Baker is meeting with those members of U.N. Security Council to lobby for the U.S. proposal for a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.