Reagan, Schmidt seek common ground on Poland. White House talks underscore Soviet role, threat to NATO
President Reagan and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt have announced a measure of agreement over Poland, thus possibly narrowing allied differences. But despite the two leaders' top-level talks here, their differences remained clear.
Both Messrs. Reagan and Schmidt appeared to be in a mood to accentuate shared views rather than disagreements over Poland at this stage. Both seem clearly to recognize the dangers which a split in the NATO alliance over Poland would pose. And neither wants to get into a position of being isolated in his views.
But despite all this, differences were evident, if only in the tone and emphasis of some of the two leaders' comments. Following their Jan. 5 meeting and luncheon at the White House, it was Reagan who was the more forceful in pointing to Soviet involvement in the Polish crisis and in calling for a ''tangible'' allied response.
Schmidt, for his part, said that he ''fully subscribes'' to what the President said. The Chancellor stressed points which had been included in a communique issued by the foreign ministers of the European Community (EC) the day before. He said that President Reagan was ''satisfied'' with those points. Both men stressed the need for the Polish authorities to lift martial law, release prisoners, and renew their dialogue with the Solidarity trade union movement.
In a statement made on the South Lawn of the White House following his meeting with Schmidt, Reagan gave, in effect, what was a warning to the Western alliance: ''Should we fail to insist that the Soviet Union stop pressuring Poland directly and indirectly,'' said the President, ''the gravest consequences for international relations could occur.''
Prior to his visit to the White House, Schmidt complained
to US senators and congressmen at a breakfast meeting that the American people had not been fully informed of what West Germany was doing in response to the Polish crisis. Schmidt also declared that West Germany had not been consulted adequately in advance by the United States as to the economic sanctions that President Reagan had announced concerning Poland.
emphasizing that the West German parliament did take a stand on Dec. 18, five days before President Reagan made his first major statement on the subject.
US officials were pleased that during his visit here Schmidt has recognized Soviet influence in the Polish repression. Until now, the US has stressed the Soviet role much more than has West Germany, where there has been a tendency to consider Poland's military leader, Wojciech Jaruzelski, to be a nationalist attempting to preempt Soviet moves.
The Reagan administration expects, meanwhile, to have a common position with the West Europeans on the human rights aspects of the Polish question when it raises that question with the Soviets at the Madrid meetings on the implementation of the 1975 Helsinki agreements, now set to resume Feb. 9.
The EC communique of Jan. 4 was welcomed by the United States as a possible sign of a toughening West European position on Poland. But it was still not clear from the communique or from the Schmidt visit here whether the West Europeans would do what the Americans want them to do: take parallel actions to the economic sanctions against the Soviets which President Reagan announced last week. Chancellor Schmidt, for one, has indicated that while such sanctions might have symbolic value they are unlikely to be effective in influencing Soviet and Polish behavior in ways that benefit the Polish people. Indeed, some West Europeans, including most notably the West Germans, are concerned that sanctions might serve only to drive the Polish military leadership more firmly into the embrace of the Soviets.
The West Germans would like to know more about what is happening in Poland before taking further action, and Schmidt has been counseling caution.
Reagan and Schmidt's statements of common concern may amount to little more than a facade of unity unless the two leaders can come to a broader agreement on Poland and what to do about it. The underlying conceptions and philosophy with which they approach the questions of East-West relations appear to remain significantly different. This is partly because the West Germans have benefited so much more than have the Americans from detente with the Soviets. The domestic pressures at work on the two leaders are also quite different, given the antinuclear movement in West Germany and the more hawkish sentiments prevalent in many quarters in the United States.