Seeking to check the tailspin in East-West relations, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl today proposed setting up a process of regular consultations with the Soviet Union when he travels to Moscow this summer.
In a major speech before parliament outlining his government's policy agenda for the next four years, Kohl declared that he would seek to revive a stable dialogue with the Soviet leadership during a four-day visit to Moscow beginning July 4.
"I intend, if we can agree on this, to pursue this dialogue in the future with a certain regularity," Kohl said. "We want to achieve a new and better quality in relations with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries."
While tempering such remarks with harsh strictures about the Soviet Union's arms buildup and its repressive actions in Poland and Afghanistan, Kohl's conciliatory overtures to Moscow indicated that, perhaps more than any other western leader, he now plans to take the initiative in exploring ways to reduce tensions with the Soviet Union.
Earlier efforts by Kohl's predecessor, Helmut Schmidt, a Social Democrat, to carve out a role for himself as an "interpreter" and "honest mediator" between Moscow and Washington on strategic nuclear issues drew a chilly response from the United States and further strained already difficult relations between the two countries.
The State Department had no comment on Kohl's speech. One official said that "on the surface it doesn't look too startling but we will have to see a full text." He noted that Kohl had been a "loyal ally" and also said that "we have our own dialogue with the Soviets at the secretary-of-state level."
The move by Kohl could exacerbate strains within his own center-right coalition government. Franz Josef Strauss, leader of the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union, has clamored for a more hard-line approach toward East Bloc countries.
Kohl expressed guarded approval for Soviet leader Yuri Andropov's statement yesterday that Moscow was prepared to count warheads, and not just missiles, in disarmament talks with the United States on medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
He said that Andropov's remarks, made during a visit to Moscow by East German leader Erich Honecker, "confirm our view that the Soviet Union has not yet said its last word on the United States' proposal for an interim solution."
Along with other European allies, Bonn endorsed President Reagan's offer in March to negotiate an equal ceiling for nuclear warheads in Europe as an initial step toward an ultimate ban on all land-based medium-range nuclear missiles.
But Kohl warned that unless the Soviet Union realized that a fair compromise was in its own interest, West Germany would deploy Pershing II nuclear missiles later this year.
"I want to leave no doubt," he proclaimed, "if the Soviet Union is not prepared to create security in Europe through disarmament, then we must create security for ourselves by deploying American medium-range missiles."
Nonetheless, Kohl's speech largely reflected the moderate views of Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, whose Free Democratic Party is particularly active in trying to improved East-West relations.
Genscher has occupied his post since 1974, when detente still thrived, and many analysts have predicted that his close personal friendship with Kohl will help continue a policy of seeking better ties with the East that was initiated by the previous Social Democratic-led government.
Also, Kohl is known to feel that West Germany must undertake special efforts to bolster relations with Moscow since the Soviet Union's relations elsewhere in the West--in Paris, London, and Washington--have soured recently because of security suspicions.
In his speech today, Kohl said that while he and his countrymen "are not wanderers between East and West," their unique position on the cutting edge between two blocs "forces us more than others to engage in an intellectual and political discussion with communist social systems and commits us to mutual understanding."
In recent weeks, Christian Social Union leader Strauss, has clashed with leading Free Democrats in a bitter policy row that was exacerbated by the deaths of two West Germans at border crossings after they were interrogated by East German police.
Although East German authorities ruled both deaths were caused by heart failure, Strauss called one case murder after an autopsy showed the man had head and neck wounds.
Kohl deferred, in part, to Strauss' anti-Soviet convictions by saying today that he deplored Moscow's "policy of expansion, which led to the invasion of Afghanistan and also restricts the freedom of decision of the Polish people."
While recognizing Moscow's legitimate security needs, Kohl said that "nothing justifies the Soviet Union's excessive armament, which threatens the security of its neighbors and serves the purpose of political coercion."
Kohl firmly rejected the notion of unilateral disarmament and responded to jeers from deputies of the antinuclear Greens party by saying, "Nobody negotiates with the defenseless."
At another point, Greens leader Petra Kelly and another woman disrupted his speech by displaying a banner attacking Bonn's support for U.S. policies in Central America.
Kohl's government lately has indicated a shift toward a line more compatible with the Reagan administration's views. Bonn intends to upgrade its diplomatic mission in El Salvador soon and will resume economic aid while whittling down economic support for the government in Nicaragua.
On economic issues, Kohl stressed what he called "a program of renewal" that would cut public spending and provide tax incentives to industry in order to fuel economic recovery and alleviate unemployment.
His speech coincided with news that the jobless total had fallen by 132,000 in April to 2.25 million--9.2 percent of the work force--after hitting a postwar peak of more than 2.5 million in February.