Secretary of State George P. Shultz said today that U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe is aimed not at changing the postwar borders of the region, but at achieving greater movement of people and ideas between the two halves of the European continent.
Shultz, who is midway through a visit to three East European nations, was asked at a news conference tonight about a speech he made Saturday in West Berlin. At that time, the secretary said the United States does "not accept incorporation of Eastern Europe . . . into a Soviet sphere of influence."
Hungary and Romania, which Shultz visited Sunday, are members of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance. While both nations pursue some policies independent of Moscow, they are regarded as part of the Soviet bloc and, in most matters, are careful not to stray far from the Soviet line.
The Reagan administration has followed a policy of differentiating between those bloc governments that seek some independence and those that unfailingly take their cues from Moscow. The United States has given special attention and benefits such as most-favored-nation trade status to Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia, an independent communist state that Shultz will visit Tuesday.
"Let me say what I don't mean," Shultz said in clarifying his earlier remarks.
"I don't mean anything about how the lines are drawn on the map," he said. "The lines are there.
"What I do mean," he added, "is that it seems to me unnatural that there is not free movement of people."
Shultz cited the Berlin Wall as an example of this "unnatural division." He said "it's the same in many other countries" where people are prevented from traveling or having free access to cultural and intellectual ideas from the west.
Shultz praised the Hungarian government for adopting more liberal travel and exchange policies than other bloc countries. Shultz's visit here appeared markedly more friendly and tension-free than his stop in Romania, where President Nicolae Ceausescu's government has been criticized by the United States because of alleged human rights violations, including persecution of some Christian groups.
Shultz had especially warm praise for Janos Kadar, secretary general of the Communist Party, who has controlled this country since 1956 when Soviet tanks brutally suppressed the Hungarian rebellion. Although originally denounced as a Moscow puppet, Kadar has gained a more favorable image in recent years through his liberal economic policies and relative flexibility on internal freedoms.
"I did a lot of listening, and I felt he had a great deal of wisdom," Shultz said of his 2 1/2-hour meeting with Kadar. "I'm in a position to say to everyone in Washington that Mr. Kadar is a very interesting interlocutor and well worth listening to."
U.S. officials accompanying Shultz declined to discuss specifics of the Kadar meeting, but one said, "The message that we're hearing is that the Geneva summit produced a different atmosphere in U.S.-Soviet relations and that the East Europeans hope the United States will take advantage of it to seek further areas of improvement."
Some Hungarian journalists at Shultz's news conference complained that U.S. law requiring annual renewal of Hungary's most-favored-nation status is a barrier to increasing Hungary's limited trade with the United States. Shultz said it was unlikely that Congress will change the law soon.
U.S. officials said Hungarian leaders made no specific requests to improve their nation's trade status.