West German President Richard von Weizsaecker, starting an official visit to the Soviet Union, urged policy-makers on Monday to stop thinking in terms of East and West blocs.
“As we approach the next millennium we should cease to think as blocs and in terms of bloc boundaries,” Von Weizsaecker, whose six-day visit is the first to the Soviet Union by a West German head of state in 12 years, told a Kremlin banquet.
Von Weizsaecker, who meets Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev today, also called for a “radical and balanced” reduction in arms, including deep cuts in conventional weapons.
“What is important is a balanced defense without any capability for aggression, the exclusion of the possibility for mounting surprise operations,” he said in a speech released by West German officials.
A remark by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl about Gorbachev last year and 19-year-old West German pilot Mathias Rust’s flight to Moscow in a light plane six weeks ago have colored relations between Moscow and Bonn.
Von Weizsaecker told a news briefing that he had had about two hours of “serious talks which were full of trust” with Soviet President Andrei A. Gromyko.
He said they had discussed international and bilateral relations but gave no details other than to say that he had urged greater contacts between Bonn and Moscow.
In his banquet speech, he called for the Soviet Union to remove troops sent to Afghanistan in 1979 to support Kabul’s Communist government against Muslim guerrillas.
He praised what he called a Soviet initiative on opening dialogue with the West on human rights and urged Moscow to listen to Soviet citizens of German nationality seeking to join their families in the West.
He said people in East and West Germany, divided since World War II, still believe they belong to one nation. But he made clear that he did not want to raise tensions on the issue.
“We will not violate existing borders. Our aim is to rid them of their divisive and inhumane character,” said Von Weizsaecker, whose office is largely ceremonial but carries considerable moral authority.
Although Soviet officials have said they hoped the visit would improve mutual understanding on arms control issues, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda struck a dissonant chord Monday.
Pravda said West Germany had no logical right to keep its 72 Pershing 1A missiles, which are armed with U.S. nuclear warheads, under a proposed superpower accord to rid Europe of all U.S. and Soviet medium-range missiles.
It said Washington was trying to keep the Pershing 1As out of the pact, which would also cover shorter-range missiles, because “existing cooperation between allies” was not subject to negotiation at the Geneva arms talks.
West Germany’s Pershing 1As fall into the shorter-range category of missiles capable of traveling 300 to 1,000 miles. Medium-range missiles can strike targets 1,000 to 3,000 miles away.
Moscow has portrayed the West German missile issue as a major obstacle to the successful conclusion of an arms deal.
The president’s visit follows bitterness over a remark by Kohl last year comparing Gorbachev’s public relations skills with those of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
Kohl never apologized for the comment. This prompted the Kremlin to cancel several ministerial trips.
Further strains appeared when Rust flew his light plane more than 400 miles from Helsinki to Moscow and landed next to the Kremlin.
Rust’s flight sparked a top-level Soviet military shake-up and created fears of a new chill in relations with Bonn.