West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, in a major speech that has gone virtually unnoticed here and was delivered under unusual conditions, he claimed that published reports of strains between Bonn and Washington often "have nothing to do with reality." He stated that "the German-American consensus cannot be shaken."
The speech amounts to the first major public attempt by Schmidt to help patch up relations with the Carter administration since both capitals called a private truce last week to their public quarreling. The dispute has gone on for months over whether Bonn has been doing its share to help stimulate the world's economy.
The speech also appears to be the centerpiece for a widening campaign by the Bonn government to put a more positive image on U.S. German relations, and follows a recent speech by Foreign Minister Klaus von Dohnanyi, just back from the United States on the same subject.
Schmidt's troubles with the Carter administration, especially over economic policy, have recently been a cause of concern within the Bonn Cabinet, especially to Genscher, that the hard feelings threatened to spill over and harm relations between the two allies in general.
Despite the apparent significance of Schmid's speech, it was delivered in Hamburg late Friday night in the middle of a newspaper strike. Although more than half of Schmidt's speech it was delivered in Hamburg late Friday night in the middle of a newspaper strike. Although more than half of Schmist's speech dealt with U.S. German relations, it delivered to an organization called the East Asian society, a small group of about 100 Hamburg businessmen who deal with Asia.
A spokeman for Schmidt, asked yesterday why American reporters had not been told about the planned speech beforehand, said Schmidt's spokesmen did not know beforehand what the main topic would be or what he would say. American diplomats here, however, say they had been tipped off about the speech one or two days before it was delivered.
The spokesman denied that the intent was to avoid press coverage either here or in the United States - though a major Schmidt theme in recent months has been to personally challenge foreign press reports, particularly editorials, that have been critical of Bonn's economic policy.
Diplomatic observers speculated that the purpose of the setting of the speech was two-fold: to make sure the Carter administration got the unaltered message via diplomatic cable and not via the press, and perhaps to show members of Schmidt's Cabinet that he was working to smooth things out with the White House.
Schmidt also appeared to use this quiet speech to display a somewhat more positive view than before on the politically controversial U.S. developed neutron warhead.
A number of American diplomats in West Germany these days are also concerned that critically important German-American relations might be harmed unnecessarily through misunderstands on either side and through personality clashes.
Schmidt, in his speech, said that the basis of German-American friendship rested on "historical, philosophical and human ties and the broad identity of our political and social values."
Those ties, he said, "were a stabilizing factor that the world can depend on."
Outside of Durope, Schmidt pointed out, the United States is West Germany's most important trading partner and it would be wrong to asset "that between friends who do business together and whose economies in somany areas are so closely interwoven that there must be pure harmony in all matters. That is not even true in a family."
When it is not possible to argue, then trust is missing. Schmidt said, and when the two governments talk and argue in the face of current problems and possibe solutions, it is done "only as friends can."
Schmidt cautioned those who still "flirt with the false theory that it is possible to create jobs through inflation." But he said the United States and Bonn agree that industrialized nations should seek non-inflationary growth and that both countries support an increase in growth rates.
Schmidt also used the occasion to spell out more fully his view on the controversial neutron bomb, and seemed to be more positive toward at least production by the United States.
Schmidt stressed that West Germany can make no decisions regarding production of nuclear weapons since it does not have any. But he said the emotion in the debate has died down that understanding of the complexities has grown as the discussion has become more factual, and that it was recognized "that all-nuclear weapons are terrible."
Schmidt emphasized again that all efforts must be exhausted to achieve progress on arms control through negotiations and that the question of actually introducing new atomic weapons into the North Atlantic alliance was a matter for joint consultation.
But he also said, "We trust that the leading nuclear power of alliance - in view of the potential nuclear threat - will provide us with the necessary protection and make its decisions accordingly."
That is the closest Schmidt has come to appearing to support any decision by the Carter administration to take the first step and actually prepare to start production of the neutron war head.