BONN, MAY 31 -- Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher declared today that full NATO membership for a reunified Germany should not worry the Soviet Union because the Western alliance will soon "appear in a new light" on the rapidly shifting European landscape.
The West German's statement came in response to complaints from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, on the eve of his Washington summit conference with President Bush, that the West has failed to address Soviet objections to plans for German membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's integrated military command after reunification.
Genscher, in effect, urged Gorbachev to be patient long enough for the United States and its European allies to bring NATO into line with the dramatic changes that have altered Europe's strategic map since last year, largely to Moscow's disadvantage. This is the goal of a special July NATO summit conference in London, a Foreign Ministry official said.
"We must take seriously the Soviet Union's intention to introduce a market economy and democratize the Soviet Union, and we must help in this," Genscher said in a radio interview, the text of which was distributed by the Foreign Ministry.
"And this will also create such a fundamental change in the situation in Europe that the question of Germany's military status as a member of NATO will appear in a new light for the Soviet Union," he added, "because the alliances will no longer confront one another, but both alliances will cooperate on security policy."
Genscher spoke hours after his return from talks in Paris with Foreign Minister Roland Dumas of France, a German official said. Dumas expressed concern Tuesday that Soviet resentment over German membership in NATO could produce a new surge of East-West tension and perhaps slow progress in conventional arms talks in Vienna or the Two-plus-Four talks on German reunification scheduled to resume June 11 in East Berlin.
The Soviet Union, after first suggesting German neutrality or non-alignment, has since demanded that the two Germanys remain members of their respective alliances after reunification. More recently, it suggested that a reunified Germany follow the French model by belonging to NATO's political alliance without joining the integrated military command under a U.S. general.
The United States, backed by its NATO allies, has refused to consider such arrangements, contending that full NATO membership for a reunited Germany is the best way to guarantee every nation's security, including the Soviet Union's. Recognizing the Soviet worries, however, Washington has suggested that some Soviet troops could stay in East Germany for an interim period and that NATO forces would not move into the area.
Against that background, and holding out the prospect of a NATO redefined as a more political alliance in the future, Genscher rejected Gorbachev's contention that the West has shown insufficient imagination in the search for ways to meet Soviet security needs.
"You cannot say that there is no accommodation from the West on this," Genscher declared.
Although acknowledging legitimate Soviet concerns, U.S. and allied officials have portrayed the string of recent Soviet demands as casting about to get the highest possible return on what they say is an inevitable, if reluctant, Soviet acceptance. Gorbachev has warned, however, that the Soviet Union might retain all of its 380,000 troops in East Germany if its concerns are not dealt with.
Genscher's statement, while not deviating from the Western stand, seemed designed to reassure Gorbachev that NATO's definition in the future European security structure will make German membership seem less of a strategic setback for Moscow than it does now. Along with French President Francois Mitterrand, Genscher has been an advocate of a strong role for the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in any future security structures, as proposed by Moscow.
The Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, has proposed that the conference be converted into a formal peace-keeping structure, Reuter news agency reported from Paris today. Foreign Minister Francisco Fernandez Ordonez of Spain said the suggestion, similar to those made by other European leaders and resisted by the United States, was made in a letter received Tuesday by the Spanish government.
Despite his conciliatory tone, Genscher insisted that the strength levels of the German army could not be singled out for reductions as part of the Two-plus-Four reunification talks -- in effect, rejecting another of the Soviet Union's recent demands. German troop cuts should come only in the Vienna conventional arms negotiations as part of general troop reductions decided in that forum, he asserted, in line with U.S. and NATO policy.
The West German defense minister, Gerhard Stoltenberg, said Wednesday that plans call for the army's active and reserve troops to be reduced to 950,000 from 1.34 million by 1996 in the expectation of such talks and the changed East-West military situation.