While proclaiming solidarity with the United States, the West German government has been advanceing the notion that a "division of labor" should be outlined and pursued among Western allies in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
This concept of differing European foreign policy responses to the American moves to punish the Soviet Union for the invasion of Afghanistan has been advocated increasingly by West German officials.
The current talk in Bonn points up the varying diplomatic, economic and military talents among the Western allies. A "division of labor" in the context of the Afghanistan invasion might see the Americans and British concentrating on military reaction while the other allies, in particular West Germany, deal with economic aspects.
No official pronouncements have been made, and none are expeced here, heralding this development as a major rearticulation of West German foreign policy. That is not Bonn's style. Indeed, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt avoided using the term "division of labor" earlier this month when he outlined the aid to Turkey and Pakistan and diplomatic links to the Persian Gulf his country planned to make in response to the Soviet invasion.
But the phrase is being used widely by West German officials in discussions with reporters and has been taken up by the press here.
"The question is whether a coordinated, all-or-nothing attitude of all alliance partners really is desirable for America or whether a certain division of labor with the Europeans would make more sense," wrote Contess Marion Doenhoff last week, copublisher of the respected weekly, Die Zeit.
Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who arrived in Bonn Monday night to attend an international seminar, picked up on the theme. In a television interview, he said that NATO should decide on a "division of labor" which could assign to Bonn a greater economic burden, presumably in the event that the United States or the British elect to redeploy European forces or material to the Middle East.
Predictably, an expanded economic contribution is the role West Germany is seeking to reserve for itself in what officials here stress is a still-developing strategy of response by the Western allies to the Soviet invasion. One Bonn official drew the distinction between "positive" economics in the form of increased development aid and "negative" economics in the form of sanctions.
Bonn has declined to take any initiative on sanctions against the Soviets and has agreed only to go along with whatever joint sanctions may be decided upon by the European Community and the Paris-based coordinating committee for the export of high technology products from allied countries to communist nations, known as cocom.
On a boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games, the West German government stated only "great understanding" for President Carter's position, and is known not to be enthusiasitc about the idea. But it is likely that Bonn would side with the United States in the event a U.S. team is not sent to Moscow, West German officials say.
According to officials, the exact distribution of roles has not been worked out among the allies and is currently the focus of frequent meetings among planners from various countries.
Sensitive to U.S. criticism that they talk about solidarity without showing it, West German officials see themselves in a sort of public relations dilemma in America. Announcing an increase in Turkish aid, they acknowledge, is hardly as dramatic as a boycott of the Olympics or as severing some diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union.
Particularly irksome in this regard for the Bonn government has been the performance of British Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher. Officials here give her credit for a masterful job of convincing the American public of Britain's solidarity, but they say her bark has been greater than the real sacrifices London has made against the Soviet Union.
As his aides note, Schmidt has been forced to be considerably more restrained that Thatcher in his rhetoric, due in part to the deep interest he has in keeping alive detente with the Soviets -- a policy championed by Schmidt's Social Democratic Party over the past decade and one which the chancellor has to defend in elections this autumn.
Furthermore, officials here argue that their aid and diplomatic efforts will have more of an effect in the long run in containing Soviet influence than an Olympic boycott or trade sanctions. "Our $ statements may be more reserved," one official said, "but that should not cause people to think we are any less engaged."
Besides, Bonn officials point to West Germany's greater dependence on the Soviet Union for trade -- particularly natural and enriched uranium -- and to existing trade treaties with Moscow as factors making them more reluctant to take economic sactions against the Soviets.
Some U.S. officials question the West German strategy."The charitable view," one American said, "would be that the Germans are simply stating something that is simply a reflection of what already exists. The uncharitable view is that they are using this idea to avoid taking actions they dislike."
One consequence of the Soviet invasion is that the Bonn government feels itself even more dependent on the military umbrella of the United States. This explains in part the strong expressions of solidarity with the United States voiced recently by Schmidt and others.