Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, in a farewell speech to Parliament on Wednesday, mounted a biting, double-barreled attack on Reagan Administration policies.
Schmidt criticized both the U.S. budget deficit and the Strategic Defense Initiative, President Reagan’s space-based missile defense program, commonly called “Star Wars.”
Schmidt, 67, charged that the United States is pressuring West Germany to expand its economy at a time when the United States should be reducing its own deficit.
A member of the opposition Social Democratic Party, he also declared that the Strategic Defense Initiative would cause a new arms race with the Soviet Union and jeopardize European security.
Schmidt was chancellor for eight years, from 1974 to 1982, and now, after 33 years in the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, he has chosen not to seek reelection.
In what was billed as his farewell speech, a two-hour review of national and international affairs, Schmidt needled opposition politicians in the same somewhat arrogant style he affected as the head of government.
He accused Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a Christian Democrat, of knuckling under to political pressure from Washington, and he declared that West Germany’s influence in Washington is at the lowest point in 20 years.
“He who gives the impression of having no objection to the status of a protected dependent should not be surprised if he is treated that way,” Schmidt said.
He said the deployment of a U.S. defense system in outer space would lead the Soviets to build a counter-system, and he argued that there would be no defense for Europe against medium- and short-range nuclear weapons.
“Increased security for the territories of the Soviet Union and the United States could only be added to the cost of reduced security in Europe,” he said.
He described the U.S. budget deficit, which is expected to be about $230 billion in 1986, as a threat to world economic stability. But he admitted that the surplus in West Germany’s current accounts is probably too high, and he urged the central bank to reduce interest rates at its regular meeting today.
Schmidt lost the chancellorship in 1982 when the small, centrist Free Democratic Party ended a 13-year coalition with the Social Democrats and shifted its support to the Christian Democrats. Schmidt had fallen out with his own party after recommending deployment of U.S. mid-range nuclear missiles in West Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
Afterward, Schmidt took no active role in party politics. He shunned the 1983 election, which brought Kohl to power, and has since played the role of elder statesman, spending much of his time lecturing and writing on international affairs.
On Wednesday, Kohl paid tribute to Schmidt, who served as minister of economics, finance and defense as well as chancellor. Kohl said Schmidt was “one of the great parliamentary and political figures in West German history.”
But he rejected Schmidt’s criticism of West Germany’s relations with the United States. He said his government has urged President Reagan to honor existing arms control treaties with Moscow and has contributed its own proposals for new agreements.