Conflicting signals from Moscow
Stay cool and collected and wait for the Soviet leadership to sort itself out , the Bonn government is urging. Push Washington to make concessions - including a moratorium on new missile stationing - the opposition Social Democrats are urging.
These are the contrasting reactions here as a remarkable 10 months of mini-detente between West Germany and Eastern Europe came to an end. The dialogue between Bonn and its East European neighbors had defied steadily worsening superpower relations.
The end of the mini-detente was marked by Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov's pulling out of his planned visit to Bonn this month just days after East German leader Erich Honecker reneged on his plans for a September visit to West Germany.
So far as is known, the third scheduled East European visit, by maverick Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaucescu in October, is still on.
The center-right government here and Western diplomats blame Soviet pressure on East Germany and Bulgaria for both cancellations. The Soviet Union ended its own more-or-less friendly dialogue with Bonn a few months after West Germany began to deploy new NATO missiles last November.
And since last spring it has expressed growing unhappiness over the anomalous continued friendly dialogue between West Germany and Moscow's client states in Eastern Europe.
The prescribed Soviet response to the West German missile stationing was instead a return (after a decade's silence) to condemnation of alleged West German designs on Polish and Czech territory.
The West German Social Democrats also put primary blame for the cancellations on Moscow, but they accord some blame as well to Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
He should have known that a Central European mini-detente could not work in the long run without overall detente with Moscow, argued Karsten Voigt, the Social Democrats' spokesman on security issues, in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Therefore Dr. Kohl should have pressured President Reagan to strive for superpower dialogue and arms control.
Those who now say that since the Soviets are pragmatic they will return to East-West negotiations once Mr. Reagan is reelected, continued Voigt, are the same ones who said a few months ago that since the Soviets are pragmatic they would negotiate with the shoo-in Reagan even before he got releected.
Voigt does not expect the Kremlin to react this way after a Reagan reelection any more than before. As an incentive to East-West talks Voigt therefore urges such moves as a moratorium on deployment of medium-range missiles by East and West.
A moratorium would be anathema to both the West German and American governments. The view of both is that Moscow tried to gain European nuclear superiority with the SS-20 buildup it began in 1977 and should not be rewarded with a moratorium before the West has completed its counterdeployments.
Both governments think that any Western concessions at this point would be wasted, since the interregnum leadership in the Kremlin is too weak to enter serious negotiations with the West.
In line with this view Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher has reacted to Zhivkov's ''postponement'' of his trip by counseling steadiness and warning against ''nervousness.'' Government policy, he and others are making clear, will be to continue to offer dialogue (but not unilateral concessions) to the East - and then wait it out until Moscow and/or its allies are ready to resume the dialogue.
Mr. Genscher himself expects to see Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko later this month at the United Nations in New York.
Mr. Gromyko is widely identified here as the architect of Moscow's hard-line insistence that Honecker and Zhivkov not visit West Germany now.
Genscher has also been planning to visit Warsaw in November, but this trip is in doubt following stepped-up Polish allegations of West German ''revanchism,'' or desire to get back former German territory.
In the Bonn government view Moscow got itself into the current impasse with the West as well as into the current spat with its East European clients.
It is therefore up to Moscow (and not the West) to extract itself. Soviet detente propaganda prior to NATO missile deployment failed to persuade Bonn to reject the new missiles. But it did give Eastern Europe an appetite for detente.
In this view the East Europeans may be expected to continue their maneuvering for detente and their lobbying to this end with their Soviet ally. And the best support Bonn can give to this is to hold steady.