The Bonn government finally came around to endorsing ``double-zero'' arms control in Euromissiles yesterday. After two months of dithering, it has fallen into line with the United States position, as Liberal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher had urged from the beginning. As expected, the center-right coalition qualified its approval of removing from Europe all superpower intermediate-range (500 to 5,500 kilometers, or 310 to 3,415 miles) missiles by specifying that West Germany's 72 720-km-range Pershing 1-A's should remain in place; this corresponds to the US position.
West Germany controls the Pershing 1 missiles, while the US controls their nuclear warheads.
The coalition has also stipulated that the government position to be unveiled in Parliament Thursday specifies that further East-West negotiations should seek to reduce nuclear weapons below the range of 500 km, as well as to reduce chemical weapons and conventional forces in Europe. Government spokesmen are at pains to say that the latter recommendations constitute no precondition for a Euromissile deal, however.
The present West German position could have been agreed on when Moscow first proposed the ``second zero option'' for ranges between 500 and 1,000 km last April.
Christian Democratic Chancellor Helmut Kohl gambled on European-wide opposition to a deal in this form, however, and stalled in hopes of generating such opposition. Essentially, Bonn objects to shifting nuclear deterrence of war from the longer-range Euromissiles (over 1,000 km) that could reach the Soviet Union to the shortest-range missiles that basically would be exploded only in German territory. But since NATO had itself proposed the first zero solution in longer-range Euromissiles six years ago, Bonn could not oppose that element.
Therefore, Bonn focused its rhetorical complaints on the shorter-range Euromissiles between 500 and 1,000 km as a kind of surrogate.
Exclusion of the 72 Pershing 1s from the current arms control is tricky, since West Germany is committed not to acquire nuclear weapons, but the logical grounds for the Pershings' exclusion from US-Soviet arms control is that they are not superpower (US) but third-country (West German) missiles.
The whole issue is also problematical for West Germany, since the Pershing 1-A's will become obsolete by the early 1990s and must be replaced, probably by the Pershing 1-B's that are identical, with the addition of one rocket stage, with the longer-range American Pershing 2s that would be pulled out under Euromissile arms control. That presages a fierce political battle.