Bonn and Moscow use some tough language - but keep on talking
The Soviet Union and West Germany are condemned to dialogue. They need each other politically and economically. And however irreconcilable their positions on Euromissiles, they are not going to break off that dialogue.Skip to next paragraph
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This seems to be the message - according to both Western and Soviet analysts - of the first visit to the Soviet Union by a conservative West German chancellor in more than a quarter century.
''Precisely at a moment when there is an especially critical situation between East and West, such dialogue is necessary,'' West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told a press conference during his July 4-7 Soviet visit. Dr. Kohl also indicated that his talks dealt very much with long-term Soviet-West German relations rather than just dwelling on the current feud over Euromissiles.
In similar vein, on the Soviet side a senior official told The Christian Science Monitor: ''Relations between the Soviet Union and West Germany are important for both sides. Therefore a dialogue is always useful. And in a time when there are great tensions I would say it is all the more useful.''
Certainly the next year does promise to be one of ''great tensions.'' The public Soviet emphasis on this bilateral get- acquainted summit has been on General Secretary Yuri Andropov's solemn warning that the stationing of new NATO missiles in West Germany would create a radical new situation on the European continent.
And in more direct language Soviet Premier Nikolai Tikhonov stated in a toast that new deployments ''would mean for the first time in postwar history a military threat again stems from the German soil to the Soviet people.'' He continued: ''We and our allies will respond by taking without delay additional measures to strengthen our security and develop a counterbalance to NATO's new military potential.''
Both sides thus clearly restated their intentions without budging from them. West Germany - along with Britain and Italy - is determined to station new NATO medium-range missiles on its territory beginning in December if there is no prior agreement in the Euromissile arms control talks in Geneva.
The Western position is that the 572 Pershing II and cruise missiles and warheads it plans to deploy from 1983 through 1987 are a response to the 243 Soviet Europe-targeted SS-20 missiles with 729 warheads deployed between 1977 and the present.
The Soviet Union, on the other hand, is equally determined to express its disapproval of the new NATO deployments. It is implicitly threatening to deploy more Euromissiles of its own in response to the NATO program.
Still, what caught Western diplomats' attention here was what was not included in Soviet threats preceding and during Dr. Kohl's visit. Dr. Kohl told his press conference that there was no mention of specific Soviet countermeasures in his Moscow talks - which, significantly, included a meeting with Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov and representatives of the Soviet general staff. Furthermore, Tikhonov's pledge that ''we and our allies will respond'' was more vague and thus less harsh than previous hints that the Soviet Union might station new shorter-range nuclear missiles in Eastern Europe.
The Soviet restraint - which West German diplomats are persuaded is now the basic Soviet policy line toward West Germany and not just a cyclical deemphasis of Soviet threats - is especially noteworthy in being directed at the leader of the West German conservatives, and in being manifested so early in the stationing process.
For a quarter century - ever since the last Moscow visit of a conservative chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, back in 1955 - the Russians have regarded the West German conservatives as their betes noires in contrast to the West German Social Democrats.
In the Western analysis, the new Soviet tolerance of West German conservatives reflects pragmatism in realizing that NATO deployments are in fact going to proceed - and that Moscow will probably have to deal with the newly elected Kohl for another eight years.
Under these circumstances, Western analysts believe, Moscow no longer places any real hope on blocking the deployments in West Germany by encouraging the domestic antinuclear movement and left wing of the Social Democratic Party. Moscow will still encourage the antinuclear movement in order to make Bonn pay as high a price as possible in political polarization, they believe. But its main focus has already shifted to maximizing the political and economic benefits of West German-East bloc ties.
Politically these include - for all of Kohl's disclaimers of being an ''interpreter'' between East and West, as his Social Democratic predecessor Helmut Schmidt once portrayed himself - the hope that Bonn will help soften hard-line instincts in Washington on East-West issues.
Economically the benefits include modern technology imports from West Germany , which is the Soviet Union's largest Western trade partner, with a 20 billion mark ($8 billion) exchange last year. They include as well West German financing of major East-West German projects and trade, and East Germany's effective membership in the West European Common Market through Bonn's economic treatment of both East and West Germany as a single nation.
By the same token, the West German conservatives' final acceptance of the ''Ostpolitik'' of closer East-West ties - after vehemently opposing this Social Democratic policy in the 1970s - seems to Soviet analysts to be a victory for West German pragmatism. The most dramatic symbol of the Kohl government's acknowledgment of this ''continuity'' was its extension to East Germany just before Kohl's trip to Moscow - with no known strings attached - of a billion mark ($400 million) credit.