The West German government probably would not oppose the stationing of U.S. produced neutron weapons on West German soil.
That is the view of most leading government and political figures here about one of the most politically sensitive defense issues to arise in the postwar era.
The Bonn government, however, has made no final decision on the stationing of these special atomic weapons here.
Nor is it likely to say anything about allowing deployment until President Carter publicly states his intent to produce the weapons and the 14-member NATO military alliance agrees that they are necessary and should be stockpiled on the potential battlefield of West Germany.
In effect, Bonn and Washington, the two most curcial links in West European defense plans, are locked in a "which comes first, the chicken or the egg" situation when it comes to publicly endorsing this controversial new atomic warhead for short-range missiles and artillery shells.
Although President Carter appears to want some public declarations of support from NATO allies before he makes his decision to request production funds from Congress, the West Germans "don't want to give an answer before it is decided by the President to produce the weapons," said a top aide to Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
"We are not going to invite deployment before your president has even made that decision and make political foos of ourselves," another official said.
The neutron weapons - which are designed to kill primarily by enhanced radiation techniques rather than by the combined blast, heat and shock of existing atomic weapons - have generated sharp controversy and some strong criticism here.
The widespread view after discussions earlier this month in the Parliament, or Bundestag, however, is that West Germany will not prevent introduction of the new weapon if Carter gives the go-ahead.
Although the Parliament did not give a resounding "yes" to the new weapon, "at least no major obstacle was put in its path," an aide to Schmidt said.
A speech by Conrad Ahlers, a member of the Bundestag Defense Committee and of Schmidt's ruling Social Democrat Party, is widely interpreted as reflecting the coalition government's position. Reciting the pros and cons of the new weapon, Ahlers concluded, "In my opinion, we will have to learn to live with the neutron bomb and to include it in our defense concept."
Defense Minister George Leber, also a social Democrat, rejected as too emotional the most stinging criticism of the waepon that came this summer from his party colleague, Egon Bahr, the executive secretary of the Social Democrats.
Bahr called the weapon's design - which kills people without causing the enormous physical damage of standard atomic weapons - an example of "perverted thinking."
Leber said the new weapon was neither more nor less humane than other atomic weapons.
Leber was also careful to say neither yes nor no to deployment. He cautioned that more discussions are needed and that such decisions can only be taken by NATO as a whole. A Bonn newspaper reported after Leber's speech, however, that "indications are that a basic decision has been taken in facor of the neutron bomb."
Conservative opposition party leaders have generally expressed support for the weapon.
Politicans here make it clear, however, that if the government appears to be enthusiastic about the weapons, the situation could prove to be a minefield because it clearly remains controversial.
Thus, in Bonn's view, the NATO consulations are very important to give an allied, rather than a U.S. West German, cast to the situation. Bonn-Washington discussions and commitments are apt to remain private until all major positions are worked out, sources here say.
The neutron weapon is likely to be a main topic of conversation here Tuesday night when President Carter's national security adviser, Zbignie Brzezinski, has scheduled a private dinner meeting with Schmidt.
West German military strategists generally view the neurtron warheads as having significant advantages againt massed Soviet tank armies. The strong radiation emitted by these weapons, they suggest, could penetrate the heavy shielding against atomic attack that Soviet tanks already carry. Thus, they view the weapon as a major factor in deterring attack.
The argument against these weapons has been that they are seen as being easier to use and control and therefore could lower the threshold at which warring nations might decide to escalate to nuclear warfare.
Leber argued in Parliament that these weapons, in his view, would ot lower that threshold and that the guidelines for use of nuclear weapons would not be changed by the neutron weapon.
The issue is especially sensitive here because the basically short-range field army missiles and artillery that would carry the neutron warhead would be based in West Germany and undoubtedly would be landing on East german or West German soil when they are fired. The question of when a conventional war becomes a nuclear war is of critical importance to people who live on the battlefield.
Although the trend here at the moment may be to go along with the neutron weapon, there is lingering disas the Frankfurter Allgencine newspaper noted, at how the Carter administration showed so little skill in allowing such an important, yet controvermay, as the Frankfurter Allegencine newspaper noted, at how the Carter administration showed so little skill in allowing such an important, yet controversial new weapon to be introduced into public and political discussion.
The West German believe that the United States blundered b not being more open and informative with its allies and the public.
Right after the neutron weapon controversy developed, portions of a new U.S. strategy assessment were revealed in the press. They suggested that the United States might give up one-third of West German territory in the face of an initial Soviet attack.
Although U.S. officials explained that new administrations always order studies of all possible options, and the flap has since died down, the West Germans viewed it as yet another alarming signal of confused thinking in Washington.