Bonn-Moscow talks: how strong 'Ostpolitik'?
In a policy statement mixing firm language with flexibility on May 4, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told the Bundestag (parliament) he would propose regular West German-So iet consultations when he visits Moscow on July 4.
The statement confirmed that despite his sharper tongue toward the Soviet Union, Mr. Kohl intends to take over where his predecessor, Helmut Schmidt, left off as the Kremlin's main Western interlocutor.
Mr. Kohl's speech appeared to underline his intention of exerting authority over factions in his own center-right government, which have publicly argued in the last two weeks for a harder line toward the Soviet bloc. Those quarrels, initiated by the death of a West German traveler under police questioning in East Germany, led East German head of state Erich Honecker last week to cancel a planned visit to Bonn for this year.
While Mr. Kohl accused Moscow of relentlessly building up its military strength to intimidate its neighbors and exert political coercion, he also stressed the broad opportunities for economic and scientific cooperation.
His principal challenger over ''Ostpolitik,'' right-wing Bavarian Premier Franz Josef Strauss, may have drawn some comfort from the tone of Mr. Kohl's criticism of Moscow. But he appeared to have wrought little change in the substance of Bonn's policy.
The chancellor said he would use his four-day July visit to the Soviet Union to press Soviet leader Yuri Andropov to make concessions on disarmament which would relieve the West of its commitment to deploy new United States medium-range nuclear missiles from next December.
But he added, ''I wish to leave no doubt: if the Soviet Union is not ready to create security in Europe by disarming, then we will have to create our own security by deploying American medium-range weapons.''
Mr. Kohl, who also sought to counter unilateralist arguments from Western Europe's big antinuclear movement, asserted he was certain President Reagan very much wanted the success of the Geneva nuclear disarmament talks. He also welcomed Mr. Andropov's announcement May 3 that Moscow is prepared to count warheads in the negotiations and not just launching systems - a key Western demand.
To the advocates of unilateral disarmament, he said, ''nobody negotiates with the defenseless.''
Soviet sources in Bonn welcomed the idea of regular West German-Soviet talks and said Moscow believed such discussions could help rebuild East-West confidence.