Schmidt cautiously unveils his government's program
To a background chorus of praise for President-elect Ronald Reagan, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has declared his government's program for the next four years. He envisages:
* harmony with Reagan on arms control and NATO.
* Harmony with French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on trimming the huge European Community farm subsidies.
* Apparently only a modest increase in domestic nuclear power.
The Nov. 24 government presentation before the Bundestag (lower house) was hardly the summons to action that might be extected of the West's most respected leader, governing the West's most stable economy and polity with a parliamentary majority just increased from a sometimes shaky margin of 10 to a commanding 45.
Mr. Schmidt's title for his speech was, "Courage for the Future," but his theme, from the first sentence on, was "continuity." His approach was less that of a statesman at his peak, preparing to stake his prestige on policy initiatives than that of, say, a methodical bricklayer.
The first element of caution was Schmidt's delaying of his government position paper following his Oct. 5 reelection until after he had visited the United States. Chancellor Schmidt was determined during his trip to Washington not to repeat the Carter-Schmidt personality clashes with Reagan.
To this end Mr. Schmidt buried his annoyance with the timing of an American request last October for increased "host-nation support" for GIs stationed in West Germany. (Knowledgeable sources say Mr. Schmidt thought the leak of the request was deliberately timed to put pressure on him in a delicate period in financial negotiations between Schmidt's Social Democrats and their coalition partner Free Democrats.)
Schmidt likewise buried his annoyance at the flurry of leaks in the Washington press just prior to his visit, arguing that West Germany is not pulling its weight in NATO. After a week or two of hesitation Mr. Schmidt renewed the West German pledge -- both in Washington and in his Nov. 24 government declaration -- to try to increase military spending by close to the NATO-agreed 3 percent next year.
Chancellor Schmidt pointedly praised Reagan as a man "who does not take unnecessary risks," one who would certainly gather in his government "a large bunch of very experienced officials."
Schmidt also reproached the press for exaggerating some Reagan statements in the past and thus communicating a distorted image of the man. In his Nov. 24 government declaration Schmidt further specified: "I'am happy . . . to be able to report from my conversation with Governor Reagan that his reflections point in the same direction" as the West German government's on the necessity of "continuing the SALT process."
Mr. Schmidt was similarly sanguine about French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, whose past utterances about EC farm reform have sounded as unpromising from Bonn's point of view as have Mr. Reagan's criticisms of arms-control agreement with the Soviet Union. The Chancellor didn't quite say that Giscard would support reduction of agricultural subsidies; he could hardly say that before Giscard faces French farmers and other voters next spring.
Schmidt did himself talk of the need to cut agricultural surpluses and subsidies, however, then finished his discussion by invoking Giscard's ambiguous support for maintaining the 1 percent value-added-tax ceiling on EC member-state contributions.
In other foreign affairs Schmidt expressed the desire to continue the East-West dialogue with the Soviet Union. He warned, however, that detente is not a "one-way street" and that it could not survive any "new blow" comparable to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Soviet military intervention in Poland was clearly meant, but not explicitly stated.