Why Haig's Bonn trip was such as roaring success
The half of the Reagan foreign policy team that gets on well with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt visited West Germany Sept. 13 and 14. The half that doesn't, didn't.
And so Secretary of State Alexander Haig's trip was a roaring success -- and the shadow of the absent Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger loomed constantly in the background.
This contrast is no empty gossip about personalities. It is of crucial importance to the alliance -- and a source of considerable confusion. If the US administration and its major European ally basically like and trust each other, this presumes a basis for working out solutions to today's snarled security issues.
If, on the other hand, the two allies mistrust each other, the various diverging views and interests reinforce the mistrust in a selffulfilling way.
The confusion arises when it is not clear -- as at present -- just what the Reagan administration view about West Germany really is.
Haig and Weinberger both speak for President Reagan. But Haig gives the Europeans a promise to negotiate European nuclear arms control with the Russians , discusses the concrete negotiating position with Schmidt, and repeats incessantly that the US is serious about arms control.
Weinberger, on the other hand, (in European eyes) hits the Europeans over the head with an unconsulted announcemetn that the US will assemble the controversial neutron warhead that would be used only in Europe. At the same time he signals his annoyance with European claims of a right to consultation -- and never mind the problems the neutron warhead creates fro European governments trying to sell their peoples on the more important "Eurostrategic" weapons.
Is the proper interpretation of the Haig-Weinberger contradictions -- as some in the chancellery suspect -- that the Reagan administration really wants Schmidt to fail to convince his skeptical Social Democrats about the need for new Eurostrategic missiles -- and be replaced by a conservative?
Or is the proper interpretation -- as suggested by the scrupulousness with which National Security Adviser Richard Allen treated this issue on a recent visit here -- that the Reagan administration is "either benignly or mischievously) neutral about schmidt?
In the Haig view his cordial tours d'horizonm with Schmidt and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher prove how good US-West German relations are. At his closing press conference he spoke of "fundamental convergence" of views between the two countries.
Working-level diplomats back this up by citing the "superb cooperation" in recent NATO discussions in Oberammergau about the most crucial issue facing teh alliance: the US position in the forthcoming American-Soviet negotiations on European nuclear weapons. Informed sources say this cooperation includes West German delight at the new Reagan emphasis on verification in any arms control with the Russians.
Adherents of the Haig view of good US-German relations also cite Washington's very mild reaction to this September's cutting back of the West German 1982 military budget to below inflation, because of a financial squeeze. Here Haig's policy has been to base judgment on West Germany's well-trained and -equipped conscript Army rather than on deutsche mark numbers.
The more pessimistic view of bilateral relations -- as often expressed by US Defense Department officials -- regards West Germany as something of a troublemaker.
It fears the 6 percent energy dependence on the Soviet Union that West Germany will probably sign up for this fall with a multibillion dollar gas-for-pipeline deal. It resents Bonn's unwillingness to pay for peacetime "host nation support" for US troops stationed here to defend West Germany.
In this view the West Germans and other Europeans should also stop resisting American efforts to tighten up on sensitive technologies banned for export to the Soviet Union; should be tougher on their domestic "peace movements"; and should cut their social welfare spending. If Europe doesn't thus pull its own weight in its own defense, the bottom line reads, the US might just pull out of Europe.
Ironically, Haig would agree with many of these aims, but would argue that they can be reached only through good relations and consultation -- and that they will be subject to compromise along the way.
As Haif flies home, Bonn is still waiting to see which view will prevail.