West German parties quarrel over pursuit of d'etente with the Soviet bloc

The Bonn coalition's right and left wings are again squabbling in public over policy toward the Soviet bloc. Veteran Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of the Liberal Party is plumping for ``continuity'' and a ``new d'etente policy.''

But Bavarian Premier Franz Josef Strauss, who is the chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU), condemns such ``empty words.''

He warns that d'etente must not be pursued at the cost of souring relations between the United States and West Germany.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) sits rather mutely in the middle and hopes that the US-Soviet summit three months hence will produce a coincidence of West German and US policy toward Moscow.

The Liberal-CSU conflict harks back to the days when both conservative parties -- the Bavarian CSU and its sister CDU in the rest of West Germany -- opposed the ``Ostpolitik'' introduced by the then Social Democratic-Liberal coalition in the 1970s.

The argument simmered down when the Liberals switched sides and brought the conservatives to power in 1982 -- and when Dr. Strauss himself became a major actor in d'etente by arranging for loans to East Germany by (primarily) Bavarian banks two years back.

In that period, representatives of postwar German refugees from areas that were taken from Germany and given to Poland kept up the accusations that Mr. Genscher was too soft in not pressing claims for an eastward revision of the Polish-East German border. The big gun of Franz Josef Strauss was himself silent, however -- until Strauss rejoined the refugees this summer in scoring Genscher's d'etente.

Both Strauss and the refugees took particular offense at Genscher's use of the adjective ``new'' in describing West German goals in Ostpolitik.

This past weekend Strauss also twisted the knife by noting his own interest in becoming foreign minister; no one, he said, has a ``permanent'' claim on the Foreign Ministry.

Genscher -- who has worried that the hard-won postwar reconciliation between Bonn and Warsaw might be jeopardized by the German refugees' demands that Polish Silesia eventually revert to a reunified Germany -- did add another cautionary adjective, ``realistic,'' to modify ``d'etente policy.''

Otherwise, he didn't backtrack.

The chairmen of the three coalition parties are to get together sometime within the next few weeks to hammer out a common policy on Ostpolitik.

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