Kohl's Expectations High for Moscow Trip
Participants at the Houston Summit praised Soviet reforms, but held back on aid commitments. Chancellor Kohl heads to Moscow this weekend with his own aid plan - but expects concessions on German unification in return
WHEN West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visits Mikhail Gorbachev this weekend, he hopes to get some reward for Western accomplishments of the last six weeks. The Germans' view is that the West has delivered most of what the Soviets have asked for, and now it is time for Moscow to be more cooperative on German unification. ``The time has come to sit down with the Soviets and get down to brass tacks,'' says a West German government official in Bonn, who asked not to be named. ``Now it is up to the Soviets to respond in a positive manner to what we've been doing.''Skip to next paragraph
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These deeds are numerous: a new look for NATO, several arms control proposals, willingness to develop an all-European security order, and a proposal for a non-aggression declaration among NATO and Warsaw Pact members.
It would have been nice, say the Germans, if the economic summit in Houston had produced a more specific pledge of aid to the Soviet Union. But at least Houston showed that the West is willing to help the Soviets if economic and political reform continues. Combined with the European Community's decision to have the European Commission investigate how best to aid the Soviets, Houston sends a positive signal to Moscow.
Last month, West Germany announced a $3 billion line of credit for the Soviet Union. Several German officials interviewed in Bonn say they expect a Western aid package for the Soviets by year's end. In Moscow, Mr. Kohl will be accompanied by West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Finance Minister Theo Waigel. The delegation is expected to suggest concrete economic projects and press for free market-style reforms.
When Kohl visits President Gorbachev, ``his basic message will be, `If you go along, we will go along,''' says an advisor to the chancellor. This refers not only to the economic side of things, but also to the political and security side, he says. For instance, Kohl has said that when he is in Moscow he will discuss limits on all-German troops - a particular concern of the Soviets.
According to the Bonn official, the Germans now want to take up specifics. They want to work on a withdrawal agreement that determines timing of a Soviet troop pullout. The Germans are not interested in an interim period, as suggested by the Soviets, during which German sovereignty would be limited, even after unification, and East Germany would still be tied to the Warsaw Pact.
Given the recent summits in the West and Bonn's own bilateral discussions with the Soviets, the Germans are optimistic that Moscow will come around on the issue of German NATO membership. Even the tumultuous Soviet Communist Party Congress has not dampened German optimism. Mr. Gorbachev managed to keep the conservatives under control, says the Bonn official. And as for the state of the party itself, he says, it ``is becoming more irrelevant.''
While Bonn hopes this weekend will result in a positive response from the Soviets and the beginning of some concrete steps, officials here caution not to look for a big breakthrough yet.
Moscow will want to get credit for cooperating with the West while on its own turf, when the six nations discussing the external aspects of unification meet there in September. Moscow will also need time to ``explain'' Germany's membership in NATO to its own public, the advisor to Kohl says, adding: ``We're willing to allow for that.''