Moscow frowns on moves toward detente by allies
There could be more behind Moscow's frown on both Germanys than meets the eye. But it is too early to be certain. The East German leadership still seems to be following its own course in relations with Bonn, almost a week after Pravda's acerbic blast at West Germany.
For some time, East Germany has believed it is possible to limit damage to East-West relations over the stationing of new NATO missiles in West Germany. Thus it seeks a mutually accommodating relationship with West Germany, for economic self-interest and because of professed concern for lost detente.
And in a statement Monday, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher used virtually identical language in rebutting Moscow's charges. He insisted that by improving relations, the two Germanys are keeping detente alive. Peace, he said, was not a task for the superpowers alone.
At this writing, the East German Communist Party newspaper Neues Deutsch-land has ignored Pravda's Aug. 2 tirade about West Germany's ''destabilizing'' intentions in its policy toward the German Democratic Republic.
Instead, the paper reprinted a comment from a Budapest weekly explicitly commending East Germany's ''Western policy'' and its readiness to build ties with Bonn. This was a helpful way to mitigate the otherwise total breakdown in East-West contacts, it said.
The tone of the West German press early this week appeared to reflect Bonn's confidence that the trip of East German leader, Erich Honecker, to West Germany will go ahead next month as planned.
Informed East Europeans share this view, particularly in Budapest and East Berlin. They say it is unlikely that the Soviets would carry their criticism to the point where Mr. Honecker might put off his trip.
''That's not something that can be said with any absolute certainty, of course,'' said one such source. ''But if Honecker were to be seen backing off under apparent pressure, it could only make the present freeze-up in East-West relations worse.''
And what the Soviets do not want is more troubled relations, he said, however suspicious they are of President Reagan's interest in arms negotiations, such as those Moscow has proposed on space weapons.
Moreover, to force Honecker's hand could well have serious consequences for everyone, the Soviets included.
Honecker's position is seen as an exceedingly strong one. In the East bloc, East Germany is second in economic and industrial potential only to the Soviets themselves and is the Soviets' principal trading partner.
In Eastern Europe, only the hard-line Prague regime and the Warsaw government , still in a sensitive situation, profess to take Soviet talk of West German ''revanchism'' seriously. Nor do many East Europeans believe the Soviets themselves entertain serious fears of ''reunification.''
Both Budapest and East Berlin believe it is their relatively new tendency to assert their own foreign policies that led to the Soviets' huffing and puffing at West Germany.
The Soviets have learned to live with Romania, which is a kind of institutionalized maverick in foreign policy - with both sides knowing the limits of the game. For example, Romania's decision to go to the Los Angeles Olympic Games, from which the rest of Moscow's allies stayed away, has been ignored by the Soviet news media.
East Berlin's apparent resolve to carry on ''detente'' with West Germany is similar to the innovative foreign policy of Hungary, a fellow Warsaw Pact member.
Earlier this year, Budapest announced that - despite the collapse of East-West detente - lesser members of European alliances (in this case, the Warsaw Pact) could pursue ''national interests'' without upsetting international obligations.
What is at stake for Hungary is the relatively open nature of the country and of its economy, built up through a massive interchange of economic cooperation with the West over 15 years. It does not wish to sacrifice that beneficial Western connection on the altar of chill between the superpowers.
On the contrary, Hungary has told the Soviets it believes good bilateral links between individual Warsaw Pact and NATO members can also help improve the international climate.
Things became more serious for Moscow last fall when Hungary, East Germany, and Bulgaria showed misgivings about the Soviet deployment of short-range missiles in the East bloc in response to NATO's deployments in the West.
Czechoslovakia, one of the nations brought into counterdeployment, did its best to gloss it over, but its concern was clearly as evident as any.
Hungary showed its skepticism of Soviet prognoses of an irretrievable crisis. So it was not surprising that the Hungarians hastened to lend support to the East Berlin leadership following Moscow's latest outburst over Germany. Good relations between the two Germanys, they said, was one specific way in which a broader detente might be encouraged.
It would be premature to speak of some definitive trend in East European foreign policy attitudes. But it is possible to talk of some departures from the accepted monolithic pattern of past behavior in at least three East bloc states.
Hungary's departure has been long established in the economy and is now being applied to foreign policy.
East Germany has followed that latter example to remind the Soviets that its foreign policy is determined in East Berlin.
Bulgaria, one of the less noticed members of the alliance, pursues a foreign policy that is unquestionably loyal to Moscow. But in economic practice, it is moving closer to Hungarian-style innovation - i.e., some private enterprise.
These three countries have one important factor in common. Their leaders - Janos Kadar (Hungary), Erich Honecker (East Germany), and Todor Zhivkov (Bulgaria) - are the strongest, most established, stablest leaders in EastEurope.
And this stands out even more clearly in the uncertainty of Moscow's changed and weakened leadership.