Washington greets the newly united Germany with great and genuine enthusiasm but with some quiet lesser misgivings too.

In the official view -- the right view -- unification triumphantly caps the end of the division of Europe into Cold War blocs, the rededication of a country and a continent on the basis of democracy, the free market and mutual security, and the reduction of Soviet-American tensions of which the greatest was the threat of nuclear war. That all this happened peacefully and in tandem with the Soviet Union but under American leadership -- the leadership of the past decade and the past four decades -- is cause for pride and rejoicing.

But some doubts still linger about the new Germany and about the new Europe as well. These doubts are not of the ominous portent that marked the earlier period. But they are more than nostalgia for Cold War stability. They are expressed in pragmatic questions about exactly what the future will bring.

Along with the confidence in Germany, for instance, comes the nagging question of how the united country will put its great economic might to use. Americans hope Germany will not just rescue the old East Germany -- understandably the German priority -- but will raise up the rest of East Europe as well. But if Germany does engage itself there, will it do so on terms that respect the special sensitivities of those desperate and fragile places?

No official in Washington would confess to an incipient nervousness that the emerging German-Soviet reconciliation could somehow end up loosening Germany's now-strong ties to the West. But the thought reflects an anxiety with deep historical and geopolitical sources. If it is obviously a remote possibility and one whose temptations are well understood by Germans, but it still stirs an undercurrent of long-range concern.

It is taken for granted that economically and politically Germany will dominate the new Europe. This is one of the considerations that sharpen American worries that the new Europe may tend to the "insular" rather than to the "internationalist," as Robert Zoellick, Secretary of State James Baker's man for Europe, mused out loud the other day. "Frankly, I do not believe the insular Europe is the most likely new Europe," he said. "But some public and political currents, as well as some policies, reflect this insular spirit."

That West Germany could have let its private industry secretly sell some of the more terrible tools of war to Iraq, for instance, is seen as a disturbing sign of immaturity in the use of its economic power in the world. The country's hesitation to pick up a fair share of the burden of allied costs in the Gulf is another sign.

At a time of celebration in Europe and crisis in the Gulf, the United States has necessarily avoided making a spectacle of its misgivings. But these recent actions of Germany are of the sort it is going to have to rise above if it, and for that matter Europe in general and Japan, are going to work out the modernized post-Cold War global partnership that the United States offers its special allies of the industrialized democracies.

The institutional how-to of a new Atlantic partnership is uncertain. A split with far-reaching implications is developing over whether this might better be done through NATO or the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

NATO is the leading, traditional instrument of American influence in Europe. Although the particular Soviet threat that it was set up to counter has now all but faded in European eyes, Washington regards it as eminently retoolable. Zoellick paints NATO as "a brilliantly successful expression of how democratic nations sharing common values can work together to maintain their security... insurance against any threat ... a {potential} forum for organizing the West to cope with regional conflicts ..." Almost plaintively he says: "I hope that Europeans will want to maintain this tie."

CSCE brings together on a one-nation one-voice basis 35 nations including all the Europeans plus the United States and Canada. Until now largely known for its valuable and continuing work in human rights, it is increasingly seen by Europeans as the framework of a new continental security structure. Zoellick puts it in the "hopeful but untested" category -- as being at best of auxiliary utility. But it is fast becoming Europe's favorite vehicle to ride into the new age. As the cheers subside, there will be some bumps in the road.