President Carter's shakeup of the U.S. government has mystified top West German officials, leaving many of them hoping for the best but worried about the image and political strength of their most important ally.
"We are not in a very good mood," said a senior government official here. "But it is still too early to make any real judgements. We discuss what is happening every morning but it is still a puzzle, still hard for us to understand the underlying meaning of what's going on."
The Germans are concerned about possible disruptions in the international monetary and energy fields caused by the Cabinet-level resignations and shifts ordered by the White House. They also are concerned that the changes may mean Carter is now focusing primarily on getting reelected.
Carter's decision to increase the power of adviser Hamiliton Jordan and "to dismiss men of such stature" as Joseph A. Califano Jr. Michael Blumenthal and James Schlesinger will be hard for Europeans to understand, another officials said, "unless the president had decided to invest all his remaining energy into winning the next election. If that is the case, it will not inspire confidence among the allies."
That view reflects a fairly widespread suspicion within European governments of the growing power of the Georgians surrounding the president. The aides are considered to be clever politically but too narrowly focused on the president rather than on the role of the United States in the world.
"The reshuffle will not include persons responsible for foreign and security policies. But this will only partly reassure the allies and the rest of the world," the leading Cologne newspaper said today.
"For they see the young people from Georgia become even mightier. American likes youth. But the rest of the world is more skeptical.
Officials here said they want to believe the most optimistic assessments being reporter from Washington that the moves will strengthen the president's hand. "but we are waiting for a real reshaping that can convince the other side of the world that the president still is in command, rather than that he is interested in just hearing nice things from Cabinet ministers and spending all his time campaigning," one of them added.
There have been strains, particularly in the first two years of the Carter administration, between Bonn and Washington. "But nobody here is gloating," said an aide to Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. "We hope the president can regain the ground he seems to have lost since the energy speech. We have our fingers crossed because it isn't only an American problem. It is a problem for all of us."
Although Bonn has been reassured privately that the removal of Treasury Secretary Blumenthal does not mean a shift in U.S. fiscal policy, his departure is seen here as an important loss.
Of immediate concern is the fact that his replacement by Federal Reserve chief G. William Miller who is well respected in Bonn -- leaves a hole once again at the top of the Federal Reserve, the only agency that can act quickly when the dollar is under pressure -- as it frequently is here.
Some of the regret here over Blumenthal's departure may stem from the fact that he had appeared to come around to the West German view on support of the dollar overseas and backing off the pressure on Bonn to increase its own spending as a way to help pull others out of recession. But West German officials say the departure of Blumenthal, who was born in Germany, will be felt on the ground that he had become very good at this job.