East-West German friendship is steady despite Soviet-US jitters
Nothing can sour East-West German cordiality, it seems. Those 55 East German squatters who were in the West German mission in East Berlin at the beginning of July are all back home now, presumably awaiting exit visas to emigrate to West Germany once the glare of publicity has faded. The West German mission is now being rebuilt so that visa applicants cannot get past outer reception windows.
At the same time the Soviet media continue to accuse Bonn of ''revanchism'' and ''militaristic ambitions'' (in connection with the Western European Union's recent lifting of residual restrictions on West German weapons production). And there are reports that the Soviets have misgivings about East German party chief Erich Honecker's pending maiden visit to West Germany.
Yet none of these disturbances seems to burden East-West German relations. East Berlin's transport minister, Otto Arndt, went home Wednesday after his own maiden visit to West Germany, having signed agreements to open direct airline flights between Leipzig and four West German cities during next fall's Leipzig fair. And most important, Mr. Honecker is going right ahead with his plans for his West German swing.
The primary value of this relationship seems to be its stabilizing effect on Central Europe. In a period when Moscow and Washington are at loggerheads, East-West German relations give predictability to Europe and help ensure that no accidents will be triggered on the most heavily armed confrontation line on earth.
The East Germans call this a ''security partnership'' between the two Germanys. The conservative Bonn government, mistrusting the overtones of that phrase, refers to a ''common responsibility'' for peace.
For Bonn the stabilization of Central Europe - and the concomitant domestic peace it brings West Germany during a period of ongoing NATO missile deployments - is worth a good deal of cash. West German banks have just extended another 950 million deutsche mark credit to East Germany, and reports in the West German press - selectively denied by Bonn government spokesmen - speak of payments of 5 million marks ($1.8 million) for all 55 squatters.
For their part the record 25,000 emigrants let out of East Germany earlier this year are reported to have fetched some 7,500 marks ($2,700) per person.
Whatever the total hard- currency flow, it helps East Berlin pay back its $9 billion to $10 billion foreign debt - and helps to maintain an East German standard of living high enough to avert wide unrest. The Soviet Union, too, benefits from this East German tranquility as well as from consumer and machinery imports from East Germany.
Despite its qualms about pan-German coziness, Moscow could benefit in another way in the future from the open East German channels to the West. The latest Honecker suggestion - to withdraw short-range Soviet missiles from East Germany if NATO withdraws its intermediate-range Pershing IIs from West Germany - is a nonstarter, since it is intermediate-range missiles in the Soviet Union that the new Pershings are countering. But Honecker is keeping a dialogue going and could at some point provide Moscow with a face-saving way to return to nuclear arms control talks.
After being ostracized in the 1950s and '60s East Germany is reveling in its new role. It has given honors to the first heads of non-German NATO governments ever to visit it: Italy's Bettino Craxi and Greece's Andreas Papandreou. It has also welcomed Sweden's Olof Palme.
The cost East Berlin will pay Bonn for the credits and for the Honecker visit to West Germany has yet to be confirmed.
But current negotiations are reported in the West German press to be leading to: another 5,000 East German emigrants this year; increased travel possibilities for East Germans; reduction of the compulsory daily exchange for Westerners visiting East Germany from 25 to 15 marks; and continuation of the slow dismantling of automatic shooting devices at the East-West German border.