BONN, SEPT. 14 -- When Secretary of State James A. Baker III sits down with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Saturday, it's not clear whose rhetoric will be tougher on the German failure to support the U.S. effort in the Persian Gulf.
But while Kohl will offer civilian ships and aircraft to transport U.S. forces to the gulf, the West Germans will neither join other allies in sending troops nor provide the direct financial support the Americans want, government sources said today.
To the consternation of many Washington officials, West Germany, the United States' richest ally, has contributed less to the international effort in the gulf than Portugal, one of Europe's poorest countries.
But Kohl will not plead that Germany is obsessed with its impending reunification, the sources said, nor will he argue that the unexpectedly high cost of unity has depleted the famous German cash surplus. When Baker tells Kohl that there's more to international solidarity than lofty statements, the chancellor is prepared to match him in his criticism of the German position on Iraq.
Kohl this week called it "unacceptable that West Germany is there everywhere in the world where profits are to be made from exports, but that when it comes to bearing responsibility we cannot be present."
"I consider it impossible that a united Germany can maintain such a policy," Kohl told a business convention.
Baker is to arrive in Bonn with a wish list valued at $650 million, sources said. Washington wants the Germans to deploy troops in the gulf, transport U.S. forces there and provide financial support to countries affected by the U.N. economic embargo against Iraq, according to a letter the Americans sent to the Bonn government.
Kohl reportedly plans to respond with a combination of new measures and old promises. With U.S. congressmen complaining that Bonn found $8 billion to support Soviet troops in East Germany but has provided nothing for the U.S. operation in the gulf, Kohl is expected to offer an unknown number of civilian aircraft and at least 77 commercial ships to help transport U.S. tanks, troops and supplies to the gulf.
In addition, government sources said, Kohl will pledge $265 million to ease the impact of the embargo on Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt. The West Germans are also expected to offer about $65 million in technical aid to U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. deployment in the gulf is estimated to cost at least $1 billion a month.
Finally, Kohl will reiterate his promise to push through a constitutional amendment expressly allowing German troops to participate in U.N.-sponsored military actions -- something he contends is forbidden by the West German Basic Law, or constitution.
Aides contend that Kohl is frustrated by his inability to send troops to the gulf and say he is caught in a policy dispute with Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who is said to believe that Germany must concentrate on its unification in the coming weeks.
But Kohl's desire to show his gratitude to the Bush administration for its early and steadfast support of German unification is balanced by two decades of broad public opposition to German participation in military efforts such as that in the gulf .
A survey by the highly respected Allensbach Poll this week showed that 54 percent of West Germans oppose sending troops to the gulf; only 33 percent favored such a move. The poll found the same result when Germans were asked if they favor a constitutional change to allow German participation in international military efforts: 53 percent opposed, 32 percent in favor.
Some of the opposition stems from widespread fear that German unification will be far more expensive than the Kohl government has admitted. The Bonn Finance Ministry estimates that the country will have to borrow $90 billion to pay for the resurrection of the East German economy. Opposition leader Oskar Lafontaine, visiting President Bush in Washington this week, said the United States should consider that German unity will cost at least $65 billion a year in the coming few years.
"Many in the world are now asking, 'What are you doing, Germans?' " Kohl admitted in a radio interview this week. The criticism has come from the U.S. Congress; from NATO's supreme commander, U.S. Gen. John Galvin, who said, "Of course Bonn could have done more"; and from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who said the Germans are not pulling their weight in the gulf.
One of Kohl's most loyal supporters, the conservative newspaper Die Welt, chastised the Bonn government, saying its standard response to danger is "to stand back and leave the action to others."
Kohl said this week that he will not seek the constitutional change until after all-German elections are held Dec. 2.
"This is a very important change in the nature of this country and therefore it should not be made before an all-German parliament can consider it," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Even if the proposed amendment passes, West Germany's army -- called the Bundeswehr, it is the largest military force in Western Europe -- would not be permitted to take part in the current gulf force because the deployment of troops there is not a United Nations effort.
Although the Bonn government maintains that it is limited by its constitution, some West German constitutional scholars argue that there are no such constraits. Rather, they say, the constitution prohibits German participation in offensive actions but specifically allows membership in collective security alliances such as NATO, implying a right to participate in those alliances' military actions.
Members of Bonn's major opposition party, the Social Democrats, are wary of broadening the role of the German military, which has operated under tight restrictions since the occupying World War II Allies allowed West Germany to have its own forces 10 years after the defeat of the Nazis.
Until now, West Germany's response Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait has been limited to expressions of support, the dispatch of minesweepers to replace U.S. ships in the Mediterranean, and permission for U.S. use of bases in West Germany as transit points for Operation Desert Shield, as the Middle East deployment is called.
The Germans have contributed neither the troops nor the money that other European nations -- notably Britain and France, whose combined deployment has totaled 6,000 troops and naval personnel -- have sent. Japan, which faced similar criticism for its relative inaction, today doubled its pledge of aid to the U.S.-led forces to $2 billion, offered another $2 billion to Middle Eastern nations hit hardest by the embargo and pledged to send a large nonmilitary force to the region.