Kohl Polishes Germany's Influence

By Francine S. Kiefer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor. Monitor Correspondent Howard LaFranchi contributed to this report from Paris. | The Christian Science Monitor, July 19, 1990 | Go to article overview

Kohl Polishes Germany's Influence


Francine S. Kiefer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor. Monitor Correspondent Howard LaFranchi contributed to this report from Paris., The Christian Science Monitor


NEVER has West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had the prominence among world leaders that he has this year.

His goal of a united Germany in a united Europe dominated the recent summits of Western leaders in Dublin, London, and Houston. His trip to Moscow this week cleared the last big hurdle to reunification, Soviet objection to all-German membership in NATO.

With German reunification in reach, many diplomats and foreign policy specialists now rank Mr. Kohl as the most influential leader in Western Europe and certainly a key actor on the world stage.

Aside from a few blunders, they say, Kohl has performed admirably in his new international role - not a small feat for someone whose forte is domestic politics.

"The key to German influence ... is that Germany is still adhering to its postwar principle - asserting themselves through and with others. That should be comforting," says Daniel Hamilton, a German affairs specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

The recent Western summits reflect this. While their outcomes bore the mark of German influence, granting just about everything on Bonn's wish list, Kohl himself shared or ducked the limelight.

At the European Community (EC) summit in Dublin, for instance, Kohl and French President Francois Mitterrand worked together on aid to the Soviet Union. In London, it was United States President Bush's plan which put the new face on NATO. Bonn and Washington have a much closer, more trusting relationship than a year ago, and Kohl often expresses thanks for Bush's early and consistent support of reunification.

For Kohl, "the important thing is the outcome and not the credit," says an advieor in the chancellery. "Kohl has been a team player. He's consulted as well as one could expect or one could hope," says a senior Western diplomat in Bonn.

The towering chancellor, however, has had moments in the last year when he has been less than graceful in his relations with other leaders.

"He's learning," says Rudiger von Wechmar, former German ambassador in London and now a member of the European Parliament. First and foremost, he says, Kohl is a domestic politician. This has led to some "unnecessary mistakes" in the international arena.

Mr. von Wechmar recalls the lack of sufficient consultation with allies before Kohl addressed the Bundestag (West German Parliament) last fall with a 10-point plan for German confederation.

Kohl's initial resistance to speeded-up European economic and political union caused a brief cool period between himself and Mr. …

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