How Kohl's strength may help at West summit
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl departs for the Williamsburg economic summit with his domestic ducks more or less in order. At the triumphal first convention of his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since the conservatives took over the government last October and won election in March, Dr. Kohl basked in the enthusiasm of his followers May 25 and 26.
Plenty of problems remain. The conservative government's package of 5 billion deutsche marks (about $2 billion) cuts in social welfare and other public spending is controversial, even within the CDU. Budget deficits continue at a rate that goes against the conservative grain. Unemployment, especially youth unemployment, remains high. The economy, while promising at the moment to rise out of its decline of the past two years, is heavily dependent on sometimes unreliable foreign orders for West German exports.
And, of course, Kohl faces potential polarization in the country in the fall as what now looks like the inevitable deployment of new NATO missiles go forward.
These problems have not yet crowded in on the eight-month-old Kohl government , however. And the prevailing mood within the CDU is still elation at taking over the government after 13 long years in opposition. That euphoria still marks the party's attitude toward the man who made it all possible, Helmut Kohl. Not surprisingly, the Cologne convention gave Kohl a resounding vote of confidence and reelected him chairman of the party.
This strong domestic backing along with Kohl's good personal relations with President Reagan and the upswing in the West's economy lead the West German government to relative optimism in entering talks with the other six major Western leaders at the Williamsburg summit. Optimism in this case is defined as not repeating the fiasco of last year's Versailles summit, while agreeing on modest cooperation to sustain the West's economic recovery.
For its part, Bonn is doing what it can to help avoid confrontation at the summit. It played a role in persuading Reagan not to make controversial limitations on East-West trade the centerpiece of Williamsbjrg. And Kohl has conspicuously dissociated himself from French complaints about unstable American exchange rates and French demands for a whole new Bretton Woods system.
The Kohl government is also (in some contrast to the British government) downplaying the issue of high American interest rates. Here the West German government view is that the preferable tactic is to praise the decline that has already occurred (a drop of 5 percent since last year) and to rely on Washington's own self-interest in seeing a continued drop.
Overall, the West Germans think that the mission of the 1983 economic summit should - and will - be to take modest steps together to strengthen the beginning upturn in the industrialized democracies.