RECENTLY it has been asked whether the Germans, having had the help of many other nations in winning the great prize of reunification, are now turning away from their own responsibilities to other nations. That sense of uncertainty and growing resentment has reached Bonn, prompting a welcome if only partially reassuring answer from Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Confronting the mounting anti-American sentiment on German streets over the U.S. role in the Persian Gulf, Mr. Kohl placed his country squarely on the side of the United States, including the decision of the allied coalition to go to war against Iraq. He also announced Germany's intention to substantially increase financial support for the military effort beyond the $2.2 billion pledged earlier. And as a "sign of solidarity" with Israel, he announced a $170 million emergency aid package for that besieged state and dispatched Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and leaders of all key German political parties there.

These actions place Germany on track with Japan, which also announced an additional $9 billion contribution to the war effort and the provision of civilian and military aircraft to rescue crisis-marooned refugees. While belated, the German and Japanese announcements are major and credible and may lessen concerns that they are two opulent freeloaders hiding behind domestic opinion and unwilling to take risks and responsibilities consistent with the level of respect they seek from their allies.

Nonetheless, a question still lingers over Germany, where voices are being raised against the idea that NATO, Germany's protector and patron for two generations, has a commitment to defend Turkey against a possible Iraqi retaliatory attack following U.S.-launched bombing raids from Turkey. Chancellor Kohl has yet to say what Germany will do if Iraq attacks. He has repeatedly stated that Germany's constitution forbids deployment of its military outside NATO territory, though that restriction is not applicable to Turkey, a NATO member. No other treaty member disputes NATO's obligation to come to the defense of a member under attack.

It should not be necessary to observe that the United States and other members of the NATO alliance expended billions of dollars over more than four decades to protect Germans against hostile threats, allowing them to concentrate on becoming the richest nation in Europe. The prospect of $50-a-barrel oil and a Saddam Hussein sitting astride the Middle East is as much Germany's problem as it is that of others. Turkey has understood that from the start. Ironically, it is technology supplied by 80 German firms suspected of violating the U.N. arms embargo that has put an edge of credibility on Saddam Hussein's chemical warfare threat to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey. And it is now reported that German companies have helped Iraqis increase the range of Scud missiles, enabling the Iraqis to strike Israel. Germany's voice must be heard on the question of support for Turkey -- or what is the value of mutual defense?