West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl hinted today that he had heard some "new" ideas from Soviet President Yuri Andropov on ways to break the deadlock at Soviet-American negotiations on limiting medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
"My opinion is that there is still a chance to get somewhere in Geneva," Kohl told a news conference marking the end of three days of top-level meetings here. "The Soviet leadership made clear that it does not exclude the possibility of progress being made. This, of course, is a more reserved attitude," he added.
The chancellor did not disclose what the "new" points brought up during private talks were but said, "Those things that seem to us to be new will be relayed promptly to our allies." He did not suggest any breakthrough, however.
The chancellor's guarded remarks followed harsh public exchanges with Andropov and Premier Nikolai Tikhonov that indicated no sign of flexibility by East or West on the scheduled deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe starting in December.
Ignoring attempts to intimidate him, Kohl bluntly told his hosts that the new missiles will be deployed unless they make concessions in Geneva.
It was not possible to determine to what extent the public pronouncements reflected the substance of more than three hours of private talks yesterday between Andropov and Kohl.
During his press conference, Kohl related his discussions with Andropov and other Soviet leaders. Kohl's remarks made it clear that his country should not be expected to shrink from its NATO commitments or its reinvigorated friendship with the United States.
Kohl said he rejected Andropov's broad hint that Moscow would put new nuclear missiles in East Germany to counter the American deployment and that there "would be a fence of missiles along the inter-German border."
"But I replied," Kohl said, "that you cannot cement a border closed like that."
Kohl also appeared unperturbed when Andropov on Monday canceled a private meeting with Kohl citing health reasons. Kohl readily accepted the explanation, but some Soviet officials seemed just as eager to fan rumors of a diplomatic snub. They indicated that Kohl's remarks on the eve of his departure for Moscow that blamed Soviet intransigence for lack of progress in arms control talks were highly impolite and warranted a mild reprimand.
Kohl's press conference in itself was extraordinary because he directly addressed several subjects that his predecessors had avoided for fear of offending the Soviets.
Baited by Soviet journalists who asked about "revanchist nationalistic trends" in West Germany, Kohl did not retreat into the shadows of German guilt over the Nazi era but spoke as a leader of the postwar generation.
"I told Andropov that the desire of a country for unity is its historical strength," Kohl explained. "I asked him, what would you say if Moscow were divided, if the Soviet Union were divided?"
"Would you not consider it your duty to stress that in the course of history it should be united again?"
Kohl indicated that such a goal remained perhaps an unrealistic one, but it still was one that Germans felt was "deserving of respect."
Expounding on nationalism, Kohl said that when he heard Poles singing that Poland must never die, he wondered why it was "not all right for Germans to do the same."
Kohl also said he rejected Andropov's concerns about a resurgence of "revanchism"--meaning territorial claims by Bonn--in West Germany by asserting that it did not exist.
Scores of Soviet journalists in the hall appeared to be shocked by some of Kohl's blunt statements. Kohl rejected one question prefaced with the assertion that Germany had attacked Russia twice in this century. He said he could not accept the charge of sole German responsibility for World War I.
At the same time, Kohl praised Andropov's grasp of negotiating details and sought to reassure the Soviets that his center-right government remains committed to continue the dialogue with the Kremlin. Soviet pronouncements on the continued interest in long-term trade relations with Bonn suggested that Kohl had succeeded in detaching trade from political issues dividing the two governments.
The prevailing view here is that the chancellor scored a clear diplomatic success. The tone and approach he took toward the Soviets was also expected to be gratifying to the Reagan administration. Kohl appeared to have gained a strong position as a potential mediator between Moscow and Washington.
Kohl repeatedly has denied intentions of serving as a broker between the two superpowers. But his forceful performance in Moscow was seen by western diplomats as giving Kohl unique possibilities to act as one.
Soviet reaction to Kohl's visit has been muted so far. Well-informed sources said privately that the visit "was not a fiasco," an expression suggesting that Moscow felt it had been outmaneuvered by Bonn.
A brief Tass account of Kohl's press conference was indirectly critical. It said Kohl tried to "justify the unconstructive position" of the United States at Geneva and to deny "revanchist activity in West Germany."
Apparently by mutual agreement, the visit did not conclude with a communique, presumably to avoid spelling out deep political differences.
Kohl told the news conference that he had invited Andropov to visit Bonn. The invitation was accepted with the date to be set later.