Two Gorbachev allies urge him to be flexible at Geneva summit
At least two East European countries have pressed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to show flexibility at his summit with President Reagan in Geneva. East Germany and Hungary have encouraged Moscow to seek a new East-West d'etente -- just as Britain and West Germany urged the United States to match recent Soviet concessions with some of its own.
And just as there were cracks in NATO unanimity behind the faade at last month's Brussels alliance meeting with US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, so there was private disagreement among the Warsaw Pact leaders who met with Mr. Gorbachev in Sofia, Bulgaria, two weeks ago, according to well-placed sources.
These East European sources say that Hungarian leader Janos Kadar strongly encouraged Gorbachev to meet Reagan at least half way at the Nov. 19-20 summit in Geneva, and that East German leader Erich Honecker came out in favor of a new East-West thaw.
Hungary and East Germany have an important economic stake in relations with the West that could be harmed if the Reagan-Gorbachev summit ends in failure. If that happened, Moscow might well tighten its grip on its allies, as it has done in past times of trouble. Budapest and East Berlin would be the biggest losers.
In recent years, East Germany has markedly improved its economic and cultural ties with West Germany. And Hungary's economic reform has won it most-favored-nation trading status with the US.
``For both, new marching orders from Moscow -- in the sense of less friendly ties with the West -- would be bad news indeed,'' says one East European diplomat.
Since 1982, the two nations have been allied in their belief that smaller nations have an important role to play in improving relations between the two superpowers.
Mr. Kadar and Mr. Honecker repeatedly have said that the NATO decision to station new cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe should not be an obstacle to closer relations between East and West. And Honecker has agreed with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that ``both Germanies share a common responsibility'' in not starting a new war.
Recent articles in the Polish press have been critical of the East Berlin-Budapest axis. One article, in the Warsaw daily Zycie Warszawy, complained about ``too much pragmatism on the part of East Germany,'' and warned about ``the dangers of West German revanchism.''
Similar denunciations appeared in the Czechoslovak press in 1984. Soon afterward, Moscow intervened to stop Honecker from meeting with Helmut Kohl in Bonn.
``Of course, Poland may be issuing these warnings on its own. It has always feared that the two Germanies would improve their ties and start remembering the provinces lost to Poland after World War II. In fact, [Polish leader Wojciech] Jaruzelski also stands to gain from an improved East-West atmosphere. He went to the United Nations in late September -- when all East European leaders stayed home -- and personally indicated to various top Western leaders that Poland wanted to open a window to the West a nd be less dependant on the Soviet Union,'' says a well-informed Western official.
Poland on the one hand, and Hungary and East Germany on the other, seem eager to woo the West, even though they seek to do so on separate but parallel tracks.
In fact, Kadar has just ended a visit to London, and Honecker is expected to travel to Bonn next month -- ``if all goes well in Geneva,'' adds a West German diplomat.