Despite a barrage of official denials and reassurances from Washington, the report by columnists Evans and Novak that White House advisers are suggesting a strategy conceding the loss of one-third of West Germany to a Soviet attack has sown anxiety and some distrust here.
"The professional officer corps," says one high-ranking West German officer," is not troubled because they know that such a plan is nonsense. But is has nevertheless caused distruct and some loss of confidence" in America thinking.
A senior West Germany officer at headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Belgium said:
"After you have believed in something like the American commitment to defend Germany for 25 years, it is hard to shake the faith on the basis of just one newspaper article." But it was so detailed, he continued, referring to the columnists' report and quotations from a White House meeting, "that it does make you wonder."
Concern has not been reduced as much as government officials here had hoped in part becuase Bonn had expected that President Carter - rather than his press spokesman - wuld personally make a statement reaffirming the U.S. policy of forward defense covering West Germany up to its borders with Communist East Europe.
Foreign Ministry officials here, on the basis of telephone discussions with Washington yesterday, indicated that Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher had been told that Carter would make a public statement yesterday. "The President should have said something," a senior U.S. officer said.
A NATO official called the news account "the worst, most dangerous thing I've seen in the newspapers in years. It revives the whole question again about the basis of the American commitment, the old doubts about whether we would exchange Philadelphia for Hamburg.
Hamburg, in fact, symbolizes for West Germans the meaning of views such on those reportedly expressed in the classified White House study.
The study, according to the columnist, suggests as an optional U.S. strategy the lowering of defense spending, and the setting up of a line formed by the Weser and Lech Rivers as the point beyond which a Communist offensive would not be allowed to go. This would surrender about one-third of West Germany.
But perhaps one American in a million knows that such conceded territory includes big cities such as Munich, with more than 1 million people, and Hamburg - which, is not only the largest West German city aside from West Berlin, with nearly 2 million people, but is also the home of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
"We would never go along with that, never," says a West German commander, "and the Americans could not pull back and defend alone. Seventy-five per cent of our army is stationed in those areas. All our defense planning and training is directed at protecting them."
"If we ever tried to pull back like that," mused one U.S. officer, "we'd be taking fire from all flanks," implying that the West Germans would be firing on the Americans as well.
West German officials point out that after the formation of NATO in 1949, the main line of western defense was along the Rhine. Then it was moved farther east to the Weser and Lech rivers. But since 1966, as the West German armed forces, or Bundeswehr, began to take shape and grow to 500,000 men, the line was moved steadily eastward toward the East German border under the policy of forward defense.
"To go back to 1966 is impossible," one officer said. "The best thing the study could do is confirm that our current strategy is correct."
The lead editorial in today's Frankfurter Allegmeine newspaper accused the nameless U.S. advisers of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] with dangerous thoughts" and said such tentative obtions reflect "an alarming grievance of the real world."
If a massive attack from the East over came into densely populated West Germany, observers believe, there would be enormous chaos and a situation that would be hard to control from the first shot. Certainly the West Germans would not pull back voluntarily or surrender by cities and countryside. Nor could the Soviets be expected to roll their formations neatly into areas which would make a Weser-Lech line attractive.
West German commentators have general pointed out that aside from purely military matters, deterrence of war is a psychological thing making public discussion of such a pullback extremely risky.
Yet, as the Frankfurter allgemeine said, "The Soviets will not benefit from the West's weakening of its defense readiness by tentative plans "because ultimately the decision to invade, no matter how tempting, runs the risk of quick escalation to all-out nuclear war.
"We hope President Carter will keep his political instinct and Europe will keep its cool. After this psychological disaster, restoration of confidence is what NATO needs first of all," the paper said.