Kohl seeks to further West German-Soviet thaw. But reaffirms that Bonn's foreign policy is firmly anchored in NATO sphere
Keynoting the center-right government's policy for the next four years, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has: Offered unspecified economic cooperation in response to Mikhail Gorbachev's effort to open up the Soviet Union.
Called for arms control in the balance of strategic offense and strategic defense (``star wars'') as well as in Euromissiles.
Anticipated further improvement in East-West German relations.
In his government declaration presented in the Bundestag yesterday, Dr. Kohl also restated that West German foreign policy is anchored in the United States-Western European alliance and urged further steps toward European unification. In domestic policy he set priorities of overhauling pensions, reforming the health system, combating AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), and cleaning up the environment. In the last category he focused on air, forests, and water, and also promised to introduce legislation to make it easier to ban or regulate dangerous chemicals.
As viewed from the chancellery, the most important signal in the declaration was the friendly message to Moscow. This has been apparent in the abundant leaks given to West German news media in the two days before the speech.
Bonn wants to normalize relations after three years of being frozen out by Moscow following West German deployment of US Euromissiles over strenuous Soviet opposition. In his speech Kohl did not boast - as he has sometimes done - that the stationing decision was correct. Nor did he say it forced the Kremlin to abandon its attempt to block deployment through grass-roots political opposition rather than through negotiating arms control with the appropriate Western governments. Instead, Kohl noted Mr. Gorbachev's much cited ``new thinking'' in foreign policy and said simply, ``We take him at his word: If his course offers opportunities for more understanding, more cooperation, and, above all, concrete results in disarmament and arms control, we will seize them.''
Kohl again proposed an East-West conference on economic cooperation. ``We want to intensify the political dialogue,'' with the Soviet Union, he said. ``We want progress in the humanitarian area; we want to bring into force as soon as possible the long-prepared agreement on scientific technical cooperation and exchange; we want to achieve an environmental agreement soon; we want finally to fill the German-Soviet cultural agreement with life by concluding a two-year program.''
The reading here is that the Kremlin is in fact now ready to proceed with normalizing bilateral relations. The Soviet Union itself signaled a thaw last summer, even before the conservative Kohl was reelected in January. Things froze up last fall, however, after Kohl compared Gorbachev to Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels in a magazine interview. But high-ranking Soviet visitors will start coming to Bonn in a few weeks, and a visit by Gorbachev is not ruled out this year.
In arms control, Kohl pointedly noted the importance of compromise on strategic defensive as well as offensive weapons and again cast his weight on the side of strict observance of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty limiting testing and development of space components for any strategic defense or star wars (in the US program called the Strategic Defense Initiative). Both superpowers, he said, ``must make efforts to find a cooperative solution to the relation between offensive and defensive weapons that takes account of the security interests of both sides. This is true especially for the application of the ABM Treaty.''
This repeated Kohl's strong backing of Reagan administration moderates in recent weeks in their resistance to a permissive interpretation of the ABM Treaty advanced by Pentagon hard-liners.
Kohl also repeated his government's support for the conclusion of an arms control deal as now being negotiated in Geneva that would eliminate the 1,000-5,500 kilometer (625-3,440 mile) range missiles from Europe and leave the superpowers with only medium-range 100 warheads each on their own territory. He noted Bonn's concern about a resulting Soviet superiority in shorter-range Euromissiles, but asked only that this category be discussed in immediate follow-up negotiations under the principle of the right to equal numbers for both West and East at the lowest possible level.
Kohl placed all his foreign policy comments in the context of the clear anchoring of West Germany in the NATO alliance and the fellowship of democratic values. Picking up one of his favorite phrases in countering any German irritation with the US or any neutralist urge to equate Moscow and Washington, he asserted that West Germany is not ``a wanderer between the [two] worlds [of East and West].''
In East-West German relations Kohl repeated that Bonn is not giving up the goal of achieving a united Germany some day. This can only take place when there is a settlement that overcomes the division of Europe, however, he said. In the meantime, Bonn's policy toward East Germany aims at increasing contacts between Germans across the border, and improving human rights for all Germans.