West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has privately criticized President Carter for not consulting fully and early enough with his European allies on responses to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, according to informed sources.
In a foreign policy briefing with Social Democratic Party members Tuesday night, Schmidt reportedly voiced renewed annoyance with the way Washington has coordinated policies with Europe. According to one report, Schmidt said that Carter would have to become used to "a different kind of consultation."
[Schmidt, now visiting in Brussels, was told by Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens that "the voice of Europe has remained dangerously silent" on the Afghan crisis, Reuter reported.]
While not specifying his objections to the way Carter has behaved, Schmidt is said to have warned against frantic and ill-considered action by the United States.
The German chancellor repeatedly has urged President Carter not to overreact against either the Soviet Union or Iran.
Schmidt and Carter have been in frequent phone contact in recent weeks, as have other senior Bonn officials with their counterparts in Washington, making Schmidt's latest criticism somewhat curious.
However, it seems that despite the frequent consultations, Schmidt continues to feel uneasy about Carter's policy-making.
Schmidt has shown irritation with Carter in the past. It tends to ebb and flow in relation to the political challenges the two leaders face together. The latest flare-up has been aggravated in part by Bonn's greater dependence on Washington in finding cues for its own foreign policy responses.
Schmidt reportedly again stressed the necessity for security purpose of declaring solidarity with the United States. He also said the Soviets will not be able to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe -- a theme heard with increasing emphasis recently in talks with Bonn officials, responding to what they see as a Soviet press offensive to do just that.
Senior Bonn officials will soon have the chance to voice their concerns face-to-face with U.S. officials. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance is due here next week and Schmidt is scheduled to visit Carter during the first week in March.
It is not just the chancellor and his coalition Cabinet who are expressing agravation with the Carter administration. Opposition leader Franz Josef Schmidt in national elections this autumn, also has criticized Carter for not keeping allied countries more informed.
Bonn's irritation with U.S. policy on Afghanistan centers on the feeling that Washington has been too shortsighted. The West German view is that Carter has focused too much on such punitive sanctions as an Olympic boycott and not enough on orchestrating a longer term, coordinated Western response to contain Soviet influence.
Bonn prefers a strategy of economic and diplomatic initiatives toward Turkey, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf states and Africa, based on a clear division of labor among the allies.
One problem in this regard has been finding the proper forum for closer Western consultation. This is why the meeting of Western foreign ministers that had been planned for Bonn was being looked on here with special interest.
Although the meeting was scuttled by France's announcement last week that it would not attend, Bonn officials blame Washington for fumbling the chance away by leaking a premature announcement to the press while some tricky diplomatic problems had still to be solved.
Officials here also complain that they learned of Carter's intention to propose an Olympic boycott only several hours before the president actually did so. The West German government has said it is prepared to go along with a boycott of the games if the Soviet Union does not withdraw from Afghanistan. But Schmidt is said to have deep reservation about the political wisdom of an Olympic boycott and his government has yet to endorse the measure fully.