EAST BERLIN, JUNE 22 -- Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze unveiled a surprise Soviet proposal for the future of Germany today that would require a continued presence of three to five years for the four victorious World War II powers in shaping Germany's political and military role.
But the proposal ran into immediate objections from the United States, France, Britain and West Germany on the grounds that it would undermine the sovereignty of a newly unified German state.
Shevardnadze outlined the first detailed Soviet proposal on Germany at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the four World War II powers -- Britain, France, the United States and Soviet Union -- and the two Germanys. Although the Soviet proposal appeared to create some new obstacles to an agreement that would determine Germany's future political and military alliances, the foreign ministers announced that they had decided to accelerate their efforts to resolve the differences.
In a day of intense negotiations at an 18th-century palace here, Shevardnadze and the others agreed to an ambitious timetable in which they will now seek to settle the German questions in advance of a 35-nation European summit this fall. This faster track comes as East and West Germany are moving toward full political union by year's end.
Western diplomats and senior U.S. officials said Shevardnadze's presentation may have been designed, in part, for political consumption at home to offset anticipated criticism of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at next month's Soviet Communist Party congress by hard-liners holding him responsible for the West's gains in Europe. "There's a lot of old thinking in there," said one ranking U.S. official. "It was a public document prepared as much for Moscow as for Germany."
"The train of German unification is leaving the station," said the U.S. official. "Fundamentally, the Soviets face a choice: Do they want to get on the train or isolate themselves?" The official said that Shevardnadze sent conflicting signals, seeming to offer regressive proposals that were "dead on arrival" but also committing the Soviet Union to an accelerated schedule to sort out the problems.
The United States has led efforts to dismantle the rights and responsibilities assumed by the Four Powers after the war so that a united Germany would enjoy full sovereignty after all-German elections are held, probably this December. The West has demanded that a unified Germany remain in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and has offered a list of assurances to ease Soviet security concerns. Most of these assurances would be worked out in other East-West negotiations.
But Shevardnadze took the other ministers by surprise today with a detailed paper that called on the Four Powers to remain engaged with the new Germany for at least three to five years. "I think the basic arguments regarding the external aspects of German unity must be dealt with in this framework" of the Four Powers, he told a news conference at the end of today's meetings.
According to a copy of his speech to the other ministers in their closed-door, six-hour meeting, Shevardnadze insisted that the four occupying powers "bear direct responsibility for producing a final settlement." To turn elsewhere for solutions, he said, "appears to us to be unrealistic and out of sync with the actual situation."
Shevardnadze called for a "transition period" in which the Four Powers, could help "limit the strength of Germany's armed forces" and "revamp their structure to make sure that they are rendered incapable for offensive operations." He said the Four Powers also could enforce "a ban on the resurgence of Nazi political ideology" and "the preservation of memorials commemorating those who were killed in the fight against fascism."
Secretary of State James A. Baker III rejected the Shevardnadze proposal in a news conference with the other ministers, saying that the four World War II victors should try to terminate their role at the moment that unification takes affect. The Soviet plan "would restrict German sovereignty for some years," he said, and this was unacceptable to the West. A united Germany, Baker said, should not be "singularized or discriminated against."
British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said, "We are sure it would be a mistake to try to pick out Germany and create a peculiar status for it." West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said The Soviet plan "would restrict German sovereignty for some years," and this is unacceptable to the West.
-- Secretary of State James A. Baker III
that leaving the four powers in place would put a cloud over the newly united Germany, giving it "problems which remain in abeyance, in the air."
Shevardnadze said the Soviet proposal -- distributed as a "draft" paper to the other foreign ministers -- is "not regarded by us as the final truth. We are ready to seek compromise approaches."
The Soviet foreign minister also stressed Moscow's desire to see evidence from NATO that it intends to transform itself into more of a political alliance. He said "a great deal will depend" on the outcome of the July 6-7 NATO summit in London, which is to be devoted to shifting NATO's role from a largely military organization to a more political one.
Although he did not provide more details, Shevardnadze also called today for the Four Powers to remove all of their troops from Berlin within six months after German unification. However, this would leave about 380,000 Soviet troops elsewhere in what was formerly East Germany.
Shevardnadze also called for the Four Powers to slash their troops in Germany to "token contingents" or to withdraw them completely. But Baker rejected such a Four-Power agreement, saying the issue is up to a unified Germany.
U.S. officials said that progress was made in today's talks on language that would satisfy Poland on the inviolability of its borders with the new Germany, an issue that will be taken up in the next "Two plus Four" conference in Paris July 17. The ministers also reached a consensus on dismantling the military occupation of Berlin, and began preparing language for the "final settlement" agreement that will end their postwar responsibilities.
But the most significant progress came in devising a method for coping with the issues on which they cannot agree. The ministers said they would make a list of these and ask subordinates to try and work out which ones should be settled so that a final document could be signed before a planned summit of the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This summit may be held in November, prior to the December all-German elections that are expected to consummate the process of unification.
In Bonn today, the Bundesrat, or upper house of West Germany's legislature, approved the treaty that will merge the two German economies on July 2. The Bundestag, or lower house, gave its approval on Thursday, as did East Germany's Volkskammer.
Baker met with Shevardnadze for two hours tonight to discuss issues beyond Germany. In remarks to reporters afterward, Shevardnadze repeated assurances that the Soviet Union is not planning to restrict Soviet Jewish emigration, as Gorbachev had seemed to suggest at the Washington summit.