Reagan administration officials reacted yesterday to the clear-cut election victory of West Germany's conservative parties with enthusiasm and relief.
Officials viewed the results as likely to add an important and timely dose of stability to relationships in the western alliance and to alliance dealings with the Soviet Union on crucial negotiations about limiting nuclear-tipped, medium-range missiles in Europe.
Several U.S. officials also hinted privately that, with the elections over, the administration may decide to offer some new compromise proposal on the stalemated arms reduction talks in Geneva before the current round ends late this month.
These officials stressed that there have been no orders to the bureaucracy to come up with such a proposal.
But they said the idea was being discussed in the State Department and elsewhere, and one senior official said he thinks there is "a good chance" that some such step might be taken to help persuade allied populations that Washington, rather than Moscow, is the more flexible.
President Reagan telephoned his congratulations late yesterday to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, leader of the Christian Democratic Union party, which along with its sister party in Bavaria won a sweeping victory.
A White House spokesman said the president told Kohl that he "looks forward to working together as they and our governments have done in the past on the economic and security challenges which our nations face" and that he wanted to "reaffirm" the strong ties between the two nations. Administration specialists have said that the conservative German leader and Reagan have developed a liking for each other and a good personal relationship.
Assessing the preliminary election results, U.S. specialists said the vote showed that a solid, basically middle-of-the-road political center remains in West Germany and that it is more stable than is thought in some assessments that forecast Bonn heading toward neutralism and distancing itself from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Kohl's victory, U.S. officials said, also is likely to be welcomed by other key allies, especially the French, British and Italians, who have supported the U.S. position on the arms question. The results, they said, undoubtedly calmed fears in the alliance that NATO could be torn apart if a new government in Bonn broke ranks over such a crucial issue.
Although the declining West German economy may have been more important at the polling booth than the question of whether to accept basing of new U.S. missiles if arms talks fail, U.S. specialists also believe that the results show that West Germany's relationship with the United States, which has been strained, is not as big an issue as had been feared.
Officials here believe the vote of confidence in Kohl, a strong backer of good relations with Washington and of the existing security relationship, also may help ease pressure from some U.S. senators for decreasing the number of U.S. troops in West Germany.
The election results were in some ways ideal for the Reagan administration.
Although the winning conservatives fell short of an absolute majority, the much smaller liberal Free Democratic Party managed to win enough votes to retain their position in parliament and thus presumably remain part of the ruling coalition with the conservatives.
This probably means that Free Democrat Hans-Dietrich Genscher will remain as foreign minister and that economics minister Otto Graf Lambsdorff also may remain. Both are highly regarded in Washington and viewed in the State Department as adding more continuity and stability to West German policy.
White House officials said they also could work with Bavarian conservative Franz Josef Strauss if he became foreign minister, a post he wants and is expected to push for. Reagan also is known to be an admirer of Strauss. Opinion here is divided on the success of West Germany's anti-nuclear Green Party in achieving representation in parliament for the first time. Some officials feel representation would legitimize this party, which is adamantly opposed to any new missile deployment and wants Bonn out of NATO.
Others said it would be better to have them operating within the political system than perhaps demonstrating even more forcefully from outside it.
The impact of the election, however, will be greatest in the crucial arms control issue, as Washington sees it.
Kohl strongly supported--if there is no arms agreement--deploying new U.S. Pershing II and cruise missiles in December in West Germany, Italy and Britain to counter existing Soviet weapons. Hans-Jochen Vogel, his Social Democratic Party opponent, had said those missiles should only be deployed under "extreme circumstances."
It has long been assumed here that a Kohl victory would help persuade Moscow that the West has the will to go ahead with the new missile deployments in the absence of an agreement. Moscow, the reasoning goes, would understand this and thus be more forthcoming at the talks.
But last week, Kohl and Vogel made public statements suggesting that Washington, soon after the election, would make a compromise proposal. U.S. officials say that these statements were basically electioneering but that they accurately reflect the fact that the next German chancellor does need political help from Washington if he is to defuse the explosive public controversy over the need for the new weapons.
In that context, officials here now are talking privately about the possibility of a new U.S. proposal later this month. The Geneva talks adjourn about March 25 and are not scheduled to resume for several months. U.S. and European officials believe that the Soviets could again take the propaganda advantage during that recess unless the United States acts first.
Officials say the most likely compromise would be an offer to deploy fewer than 572 of the new missiles in return for a Soviet cutback on its existing missile force. Reagan's current "zero-zero" proposal calls for elimination of all Soviet and U.S. missiles.