BONN — MIKHAIL GORBACHEV says his vision for a ``Common European house'' must include room for the United States and Canada. Speaking to reporters at the close of his historic four-day tour of West Germany, the Soviet leader emphasized Bonn's emerging role as Moscow's pivotal partner in Western Europe.
But he emphasized that both the Soviet Union and West Germany must stay bound by their respective commitments in East and West. ``Good neighborly relations'' between the two countries, should not cause concern in either alliance, he said.
Throughout his visit, the Soviet leader sought to strike a balance between a vision of the future that appeals to the West Germans and the political realities that have lingered over the continent since the end of World War II.
``I could not imagine realistic policies that would have the objective of somehow pushing the US out'' of Europe, he said.
But he also left open some stirring possibilities. Speaking about the Berlin Wall, for instance, he said that he didn't see much problem with getting rid of it, but that could only happen after the conditions which prompted its construction were eliminated. He also said both superpowers will eventually have to remove their military forces from foreign territory.
A Soviet aide later said Mr. Gorbachev was talking about ``the very distant future.''
That's just the sort of talk that prompted some West Germans to liken his visit - the first to West Germany by Gorbachev as the Soviet leader - to President Kennedy's visit in West Berlin in 1962. The publicity savvy Gorbachev even came up with his own parallel to Mr. Kennedy's famous ``Ich bin ein Berliner'' speech.
After plunging into a crowd to shake hands on Bonn's central market square, the Soviet leader was quoted by aides as saying he felt as though he was among his own people on Red Square.
The Gorbachev visit didn't unleash any surprising initiatives - as some analysts thought it might. However, even Gorbachev's routine policy positions gained special significance when spoken in the heart of the West German capital.
Gorbachev used the visit to emphasize his disappointment with the policy document developed at NATO's summit in Brussels last month. The paper, which lays out NATO's vision for the future, contained many ``elements of the old thinking,'' he said.
The Soviet leader didn't, however, reissue his call for immediate talks on reducing short-range nuclear weapons in Europe. Instead, he spoke out in general terms in favor of eventually eliminating all nuclear weapons in Europe and against the West's policy of nuclear deterrence.
Western analysts say Gorbachev probably wanted to avoid creating the image of overtly driving a wedge into NATO, which is deeply divided over the short-range issue.
Asked how he expected to get the US to start negotiations on short-range weapons earlier than NATO has said it's willing, he replied that it wasn't a matter to be decided by politicians on either side. ``It's dictated by the attitude and mood of the people.''
His success in shaping that attitude in West Germany could be this week's greatest accomplishment for the Soviet leader.