Tough times for those knocking German detente

The conservative revolt against West Germany's ''Ostpolitik'' was conspicuous for its lack of support. It came a month before East German party and state chief Erich Honecker is to make his first visit to West Germany. It came well after conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl was fully committed to the policy of detente with East Germany.

Ironically, in demurring at the present Ostpolitik of his own government, conservative parliamentary leader Alfred Dregger was only voicing what was conservative orthodoxy until 1982.

In that orthodoxy the eventual aim of German reunification was to be achieved by East Germany's becoming capitalist. In the meantime, the East German leaders were to be treated, if not quite as pariahs, then at least as inferiors.

Dr. Dregger echoed this viewpoint in saying in an interview Aug. 23 that West Germany's ''future does not depend on whether Honecker pays us the honor of a visit.'' His sarcasm was widely viewed in West Germany as a disinvitation to Honecker by the parliamentary leader of Chancellor Kohl's own Christian Democratic Union. It certainly was so viewed in the East German press, which in effect retorted that Honecker's future did not depend on Bonn's doing him any favors.

Significantly, the mainstream West German conservatives quickly rallied to disavow the insult to Honecker. Dregger's parliamentary deputy, Volker Ruhe, quickly met with an East German Politburo member to smooth ruffled feathers.

Kohl interpreted Dregger's comments as a simple warning against setting expectations too high for the Honecker visit. He said the whole coalition is united behind his Ostpolitik.

No one of stature has rallied to Dregger's rescue. Most noteworthy here is the silence of the old right-wing champion and Bavarian premier, Franz Josef Strauss. With great gusto Dr. Strauss converted last year to the Ostpolitik he had once excoriated by personally arranging a 1 billion mark ($330 million) credit for East Germany.

Nor was the bloc of right-wing Christian Democrats in evidence that in years past sympathized more with Strauss's views than with their own party's center pragmatists. Dregger used to be a spokesman for this bloc, but on Ostpolitik he now seems to be a chief without Indians.

In August of 1984, he is finding it is hard to turn back the clock. Dregger has not completely given up. But his comments are getting milder. And the vast majority of conservatives are backing Kohl's policy of not trying to score propaganda points off East Berlin, but giving priority to negotiating the easing of contacts between East and West Germans.

The parliamentary leader's remarks could conceivably still damage East-West German relations if Soviet pressure forces Honecker to scotch his trip in any case and East Berlin then uses Dregger's comments as a pretext for cancellation.

So far, however, the expectation here seems to be that the visit is still on. Kohl is saying he expects announcement of a final East German decision by next week.

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