West Germany waffles over issue of shorter-range missiles. Bonn wants to see Soviet draft treaty before making decision
Staffelstein, West Germany
Chancellor Helmut Kohl still stands between the rock of eliminating ``shorter range'' Euromissiles and the hard place of deploying new nuclear missiles in West Germany. He therefore waffled at the meeting yesterday that was supposed to resolve the quarrel between his foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and his defense minister, Manfred W"orner. There was no decision, a government spokesman said, and there will be none until after Bonn has seen the actual Soviet draft of a Euromissile arms control treaty.
The Soviets were widely expected to present that draft at the Geneva negotiations yesterday. The rest of Europe is waiting to see which options Bonn will take. Since geography decrees that West Germany would be the key country in any deployment in shorter-range missiles, the European allies likely will follow where Bonn leads.
The US favors accepting the Euromissile arms control deal that has been shaping up over the past two months, including the ``second zero option'' that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev proposed two weeks ago, but is waiting to hear what the European allies think. Under the second zero option, the superpower Euromissile arms control deal would expand to remove from Europe not only all of the ``longer range'' intermediate nuclear forces (LRINF, with ranges of 1,000 to 5,500 kilometers, or 600 to 3,400 miles) but also all shorter-range intermediate forces (SRINF of 500 to 1,000 km).
The West German view splits Mr. Genscher, who like the US wants to accept this deal for political reasons, and Dr. W"orner, who wants to reject it for military reasons.
Immediately after the meeting with Dr. Kohl in Bonn, Genscher travelled to Luxembourg to discuss the Euromissile issue on the fringes of the European Community's foreign ministers meeting. He will be joined by W"orner in Luxembourg today as the joint meeting of foreign and defense ministers of the West European Union (WEU) tries to shape a unified position on the issue. The WEU is an exclusively European collective security alliance that has recently been revitalized as Europeans have tried to form a common security policy. Besides West Germany, its other members are Britain, France, Italy, and the Benelux countries.
Immediately after the WEU meeting NATO's High Level Group, which distributes nuclear tasks among the allies, will hold a session to refine the final NATO position.
Until this week, Bonn's policy was to seek as a follow-on to ``zero'' LRINF Euromissiles an agreement on equal (but not zero) East-West feelings for SRINF. With that prescription, Bonn hopes to preserve a Western right to deploy SRINF without actually doing so. The Soviet Union currently has some 40 SRINF missiles based in East Germany and Czecholsovakia and another 80 or so in the Soviet Union. The US has none. West Germany has 72 Pershing 1-As, but the Soviets are apparently not insisting on counting these in the East-West Euromissile balance.
In an international press conference last week, US Secretary of State George Shultz said the decision on a second zero option was up to the European allies - but he specified if it were rejected, then NATO would have to proceed with actual deployment of SRINF and not just claim a theoretical right to do so. ``If we're going to say we have a right to deploy, then ... we should be ready to deploy,'' he said.
For Kohl, such a course would mean reopening the bruising political fight of the early 1980s about deploying new Euromissiles in West Germany. The West German public tolerates the world's highest density of nuclear weapons per acre per capita, but opinion polls show it does not want more missiles in its backyard. And it especially would not want new missiles when there was a general mood of d'etente.
The second zero option is equally unpalatable, however. As a front-line state, West Germany has grave misgivings about pushing the range of theater nuclear weapons further and further down toward categories that would basically have utility only when used on West (and East) German territory. At the same time, Bonn fears that the trend toward deemphasizing nuclear weapons would give added weight to Soviet theater conventional superiority and possibly make conventional war less unthinkable.