CHANCELLOR Helmut Kohl is trying to douse the flames of accusation that his country has become too aggressive in its foreign policy.
Germany has been criticized recently for ramming through recognition of Croatia and Slovenia in the European Community; stubbornly sticking to high interest rates when its partners are asking for the opposite; and demanding that other countries besides Germany "share the burden" of aid to Eastern Europe.
But at a briefing with the foreign press Jan. 22, Chancellor Kohl said, "We are neither flexing our muscles, nor are we riding into the East."
Germany, he added, is "simply in the process of adjusting to new circumstances," including European unity, democracy in the East, and Germany's reunification.
"I don't think we deserve ... to be watched with mistrust," he said.
He characterized Germany's adjustment as "a learning process" and said that "it may be that we occasionally make mistakes along the way." Kohl emphatically denied, however, that Germany had bulldozed the EC on the issue of Yugoslavia. "No one was run over," he said. Privately, though, officials here admit to German arm-twisting in the case of Yugoslavia.
Kohl reiterated his position that, as Europe's most populous state with the most neighbors, reunited Germany "must carry more responsibility" in the world. This includes changing the German Constitution to allow German troops to take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions, he said. Kohl admitted, though, that because of political opposition, this might not be accomplished before the next parliamentary election in 1994.
Given Germany's history, the chancellor said he could understand why countries are asking themselves who the Germans of today are. "That is a legitimate question," he said.
But Kohl said those countries which are saying, "we thought the Germans were gone, and now they're back again," are simply "jealous" of German economic success or have other problems beyond their control. This attitude, he said, is something the Germans must live with, "like the weather."
In a speech in Bonn Jan. 21, United States Ambassador Robert Kimmitt came to the defense of the Germans, saying that the US welcomed Germany's new assertiveness in foreign policy.
"Let me state, clearly and unequivocally, that we welcome and value this German assertiveness in collective actions designed to achieve common goals and objectives," he said.
The ambassador admitted, though, that Germany's decision on Yugoslavia fell among the "5 percent" of issues where Germany and the US do not agree.