West Germany's foreign minister Wednesday endorsed a Bush Administration proposal to assure continued U.S. influence in a post-Cold War Europe, even though America's military power may be overshadowed by the economic might of the 12-nation European Community.
After meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher called for a new transatlantic partnership between Washington and Europe after the Common Market completes its scheduled political and economic integration next year.
"We should try to get a declaration defining the common objectives, the common tasks and challenges of the European Community and the United States," Genscher told reporters at the White House. Later, he told a press conference that U.S.-EC cooperation would strengthen the worldwide influence of the democracies on both sides of the Atlantic.
In a speech last December, Baker said the United States is determined to continue to play a role in European affairs even if changing circumstances diminish the importance of U.S. military power.
Baker said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should evolve from a primarily military alliance to a political grouping. And he called for regular cooperation between the United States and the European Community. Genscher supported both proposals.
Genscher also said that the foreign ministers of West and East Germany, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union will probably meet before the end of the month to discuss German reunification. This meeting, dubbed the two-plus-four talks, brings together the two German states and the four Allied victors of World War II.
West Germany and the United States want a unified Germany to be a member of NATO, while the Soviet Union has said that the country should be independent of any military bloc. But at his press conference, Genscher expressed optimism that Moscow would eventually agree to German membership in NATO.
"A neutral Germany would increase instability," he said. "It would introduce a degree of unpredictability in Germany and in Europe."
He added that "opinion in the Soviet Union has not been finalized," while Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia have expressed support for German membership in NATO, something that "will affect the opinion of the Soviet Union."
Genscher added that the Soviet Union "is no longer an aggressive country."
He said Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev "do not consider the country of the other to be a threat. We think this is a realistic assessment."
Under these circumstances, Genscher said, the plan to modernize and upgrade NATO's short-range nuclear arsenal is dead. The plan was once the subject of heated controversy between West Germany, which opposed it, and the United States and most other NATO members, who favored it.
When asked about the modernization proposal, Genscher said: "That is an issue of the past. We should only discuss matters of the future."