East and West Germany seem poised to explore a new rapprochement as one of the early repercussions of President Reagan's "fresh start" in relations with Moscow achieved at the Geneva summit meeting, according to diplomats and government officials.
The extended discussions in Geneva that yielded a joint declaration of objectives by the superpowers as well as a new personal rapport between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev have also produced a sense of keen anticipation here that the two Germanys may soon proceed with plans for closer cooperation that could not be sustained in a protracted climate of hostility between Moscow and Washington.
Diplomats in Bonn and East Berlin said there are strong indications that Erich Honecker may soon carry out the first visit to West Germany by an East German head of state. Honecker was forced under pressure from Moscow last year to postpone his long-awaited trip to Bonn and his birthplace in the Saarland.
The Kremlin ostensibly objected to the timing of the visit, which would have served as an emotional touchstone of continuing detente between the two German states while U.S.-Soviet contacts were still frozen. But the renewal of superpower dialogue under a new, more vigorous Soviet leader has been widely perceived as a "green light" for Honecker once again to pursue closer contacts with West Germany.
Some commentators have warned that the intention of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government to announce its decision by the end of the year on participation in Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative could be seized upon by hostile political forces in Moscow and East Berlin as a pretext to forestall Honecker's trip to West Germany.
While Kohl would like to show that he can demonstrate full allegiance to Washington and the western alliance without jeopardizing the prospect of improved ties with East Berlin, he may not be able to offer Honecker enough political or economic incentives to overcome any lingering resistance in Moscow.
Foreign Ministry officials in Bonn said if Honecker comes to West Germany soon he could not expect much more in the way of bilateral deals than token agreements to promote environmental cooperation and cultural exchanges.
Honecker's own expectations about the impact of a trip to West Germany must be minor since he knows that the present ruling coalition in Bonn remains adamantly opposed to meeting East Germany's primary demand for the recognition of separate nationality, the officials said.
Nonetheless, even though no protocol arrangements have yet been finalized, Kohl said in the wake of the summit meeting that he assumed the Honecker visit will take place "in the very near future."
In East Berlin, an unexpected reshuffle of the ruling Politburo over the weekend appeared to strengthen the forces behind Honecker supporting new initiatives with the West. Konrad Naumann, an outspoken hard-liner opposed to closer economic links with Bonn, was dropped from the 19-man body and three younger allies of the East German leader were promoted.
Diplomats in East Berlin said Honecker, 73, wants to establish greater political legitimacy for the communist regime as well as economic benefits for his people by broadening channels of cooperation with the West. He has repeatedly justified his policy of rapprochement with Bonn, at the risk of some displeasure in Moscow, by stressing that the smaller states in Central Europe need to contribute in their own ways to the reconstruction of East-West detente.
Kohl also reportedly feels a strong political motivation in restoring warmer relations with East Germany to disprove opposition claims that his unqualified support of the Reagan administration's policies has been pursued at the cost of damaged relations with its East European neighbors.
In recent months West Germany's opposition Social Democrats have undertaken joint appeals with ruling communist parties in East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia urging a freeze on nuclear weapons and the abolition of chemical and nuclear arms in the Central European zone.
The initiatives have been endorsed by Moscow, which has sought to embarrass and isolate the Kohl government in retaliation for its support of Reagan's SDI -- a research program in missile defense -- and the deployment of Pershing II and cruise nuclear missiles to counter the Soviet arsenal of SS20 rockets aimed at Western Europe.
Many Social Democrats have become attracted to a potential breakthrough in ties between Bonn and East Berlin through recognition of a separate East German nationality in return for an easing of border restrictions and travel rights between the two Germanys.
But Kohl, while eager to improve relations with East Berlin, has firmly resisted this notion as a violation of the preamble to West Germany's constitution, which upholds the vision of an eventual reunification of the German people.
When asked if he would consider some kind of compromise that would acknowledge a distinct citizenship for East Germans, Kohl insisted in a television interview that he would not do anything that could call into question Bonn's commitment to a single German nationality.