The Soviet Union on Tuesday rejected West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's plan for German reunification, sharply criticizing it as an attempt to dictate to East Germany and warning that efforts to press the issue could destabilize all of Europe.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, backed by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and other top Kremlin leaders, made clear that Moscow strongly objects to Kohl's 10-point plan for gradual, step-by-step unity as trying to determine the outcome of the political, economic and social reforms now under way in East Germany.
Meeting with Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the visiting West German foreign minister, the Soviet leadership issued its strongest and most formal warning yet to the West not to intervene, even indirectly, in the tumultuous changes taking place throughout much of Eastern Europe.
Noting both Moscow's commitment to political self-determination and its strategic interests in Eastern Europe, Shevardnadze bluntly told Genscher that Bonn's reunification proposals, however phrased and oriented toward the distant future, already constituted interference in East Germany's internal affairs.
"The Soviet side considers it unacceptable to dictate to the sovereign state of the German Democratic Republic on how it should develop its relations with the other German state," Shevardnadze told Genscher, according to an account of their conversation from the official Tass news agency.
"The leadership of the German Democratic Republic has taken the road of broad reforms, profound renewal and democratization of the country's public and political life," the Soviet foreign minister continued. "A huge amount of constructive work lies ahead, and it will require time.
"In this period, every side should preserve restraint and wisdom and should avoid interfering in the internal affairs of the German Democratic Republic, either by words or actions."
Any attempt by the West to accelerate the changes, Shevardnadze warned, would have "unpredictable consequences," endangering the reforms under way there and elsewhere in the region.
The Soviet Union is undoubtedly more concerned about East Germany, its key ally in Eastern Europe, than over developments in other socialist countries in the region. But Shevardnadze's outspoken and sometimes quite tough comments were intended, according to informed Soviet sources, as a broader warning to the West about trying to direct or influence the political, economic and social reforms now under way in the region.
The Kohl plan, presented last week to the West German Parliament and then to a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders on Monday, envisages step-by-step cooperation between East and West Germany through the creation of joint institutions. The eventual result could be a federation of the two states within a united Europe.
Genscher said that Kohl has no timetable and favors an evolutionary process, but he repeated Bonn's undiminished hope of a reunited Germany.
Addressing a news conference, Genscher said he had sought to reassure Gorbachev, Shevardnadze and other Soviet officials on Bonn's intentions.
"We have never left any doubt that we are aware of our special responsibility for stability in Europe," Genscher commented. "Our national fate is embedded in the fate of Europe. That means there is not going to be a separate 'German cause.' "
Reunification would require the active consent of both German states, he said, and would have to come as part of a broader East-West rapprochement and a general easing of tensions there.
"Under no circumstances will we take advantage of the difficulties arising inevitably from this situation in Eastern Europe," Genscher said, pledging that Bonn will not push its vision for the future of Europe but will not relent in its propagation either.