AP NEWS
Related topics

Gorbachev Tells West German Chancellor Soviet Reforms Are Succeeding

October 24, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said at a state dinner Monday for West Germany’s Helmut Kohl that the Soviet Union is not an ″economic backyard″ and reforms are succeeding despite international doubts.

Lack of progress in relations with the Soviet Union ″feeds on the outdated stereotypes that the Russians will not be able to manage by themselves,″ he said. ″I want to say to all who are going to have business with us - we will manage.″

Gorbachev, who also heads the Soviet Communist Party, seemed to be replying to questions raised in the West about his ability to stay in power and install his reform program through the upheaval it is already beginning to cause.

There has been considerable controversy over the $9 billion in credits Moscow has arranged in recent months from Western banks, including some in West Germany. Some politicians oppose such lending, saying the Soviet Union should be forced to cut defense spending in order to increase the production of needed food and consumer products.

Gorbachev told Soviet television earlier that he and Chancellor Kohl had started their first meeting of the four-day official visit with cordial discussions of difficult issues and he said ″we have a real chance″ to achieve a substantial improvement in relations.

″The ice has started to move, and we hope it will start to float away,″ Gorbachev said.

Monday’s meeting was the first formal meeting between the two men since Gorbachev became the Soviet leader in 1985.

Warmer relations with West Germany would be a significant change. The Soviet Union has for decades acted as if the Nazi invasion occurred yesterday rather than almost 50 years ago.

However, Gorbachev refused to budge from Moscow’s longtime refusal to consider any move toward the unification of East and West Germany.

Kohl, in his address, called for a ″healing of old wounds.″

″It must become possible for the Germans to overcome the division of their country by peaceful means,″ the chancellor said.

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the nation split into communist East Germany, a member of the Soviet bloc, and West Germany, a strong ally of the United States and member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In a surprise comment during the dinner speech Gorbachev suggested that Europe needs a unified electrical and transportation network.

Kohl also spoke of ″transboundary challenges″ and named terrorism, drugs and epidemics as issues requiring greater cooperation. But he said the greatest obstacle to warm relations is Soviet superiority in conventional armed forces in Europe.

In a related meeting, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze suggested to West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that a summit meeting of the leaders of Europe, the United States and Canada might help produce progress in Vienna negotiations on reductions in conventional weapons and forces.

Among business deals signed between Soviet and West German enterprises Monday was an agreement by the German Siemens firm to aid Soviet organizations in the design and creation of nuclear power stations, computers and medical equipment.

Soviet-West German relations have been improving in the past year, especially since the U.S.-Soviet summit meeting in December in Washington when Gorbachev and President Reagan signed a treaty to ban medium- and shorter- range nuclear missiles in Europe.

Kohl was greeted at the Vnukovo Airport by Shevardnadze, Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov and other top officials.

He and his wife Hannelore then went to the Kremlin for a formal greeting in St. George’s Hall by Gorbachev and his wife Raisa.

AP RADIO
Update hourly