West German conservatives practice 'Ostpolitik,' too
West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher has just returned from trips to Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, after visiting Czechoslovakia and Romania earlier this year. And sometime communist baiter and Bavarian Premier Franz Josef Strauss is currently off on a tour of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and East Germany.Skip to next paragraph
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Ostpolitikm (the ''Eastern policy'' of detente) is as alive and well under a conservative chancellor as it was under its Social Democratic initiators.
That Chancellor and Christian Democratic leader Helmut Kohl approvingly terms all this ''continuity'' is not surprising. That Dr. Kohl's right-wing Bavarian ally deems it positive is astounding - and is the real measure of just how routine dealing with the East has become.
When the conservatives came to power last October after 13 years in opposition, it was not completely clear that Ostpolitikm would survive.
The new boys were, after all, reverent heirs of that first conservative chancellor, Konrad Adenauer - a man who built his career on refusing to negotiate with the East (except in getting German prisoners of war returned from Siberian camps a decade after the end of World War II).
The conservatives had also voted against Chancellor Willy Brandt's Ostpolitikm treaties in the early 1970s. They had strongly criticized Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in the early 1980s for giving too much to the East Germans without demanding any quid pro quom. And after the March election that confirmed the conservative government in office, Strauss's Christian Social Union (CSU) kept urging on Kohl a tougher policy toward East Berlin.
At the end of June, however, the Kohl government suddenly announced that it was guaranteeing an untied 1 billion deutsche mark ($400 million) loan to East Germany, with no political strings attached. In particular, although some West German officials hinted tht something might be in the offing, there was no sign of any lowering of the onerous more than doubling of daily fees which East Germany began charging Western visitors three years ago.
The usual protests about being soft on East Germany rose from the CSU ranks - with a notable exception in party chairman Franz Josef Strauss.
In July the reason for this unusual silence became clear. The nimble-footed Strauss, it turned out, was himself a major intermediary in the loan guarantee.
One less nimble-footed MP, Franz Handlos - a quarter-century veteran of the CSU and West Germany's top vote-getter - quit the party in disgust. He charged Strauss with running a ''one-man democracy'' and wrote to him: ''Where is the credibility when you talk for years about (the principle of) quid pro quo vis-a-vis the GDR (German Democratic Republic, or East Germany) and then do just the opposite?''
Indeed, Strauss's and the conservative government's defense of the credit guarantee would have done their Social Democratic predecessors proud. Having bad relations with East Germany would not help the East German people in any case. Confidence-building measures could help lubricate relations. East Berlin was moving on facilitating the flow of letter and package mail and on discussing cross-border environmental issues. Furthermore, noted Strauss, East Berlin border guards - whom he accused of ''murder'' last spring in the death by heart attack of a West German visitor during border questioning - were being nicer to Western travelers.
Ostpolitikm, it seems, is here to stay.