BONN — Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany declared Wednesday that his government is ready to seek better relations with the Soviet Union.
In his second-term inaugural speech before the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, Kohl said he welcomes the reforms initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
It was Kohl's first major address since the coalition he heads was returned to power by elections Jan. 25, although with a reduced majority in Parliament.
Likened to Goebbels
Before the election, Kohl had said in an interview with an American news magazine that Gorbachev's public relations skills were comparable to those of Josef Goebbels, the chief propagandist for Nazi Germany. Kohl later expressed regret for the remark but refused to make a formal apology, and relations between the two countries cooled markedly.
Since then, Soviet and West German officials alike have indicated that they would like to see improvement in relations.
In his speech Wednesday, Kohl said the Bonn-Moscow relationship is of considerable importance to his government and added:
"General Secretary Gorbachev talks of new ideas in international relations. We take him at his word. If his course contains opportunities for more understanding, more cooperation, and above all, concrete results for disarmament and arms control, we will take them up."
Kohl said West Germany is interested in "real detente" between the Soviet Union and the United States, and he added that his country would like to see a meeting this year between the U.S. and Soviet leaders.
The chancellor said he would welcome an arms agreement to remove intermediate-range missiles from Western and Eastern Europe. But he stressed that any arms agreement must also take short-range missiles into consideration and ensure that the West is not vulnerable to the Warsaw Pact's superior conventional forces.
"The superiority of the Warsaw Pact's conventional forces must be reduced," he said, "especially their capacity for surprise attack."
Kohl said he also wants to improve relations with East Germany, particularly in such areas as technology and environment. And he called for more freedom of movement for East Germans.
"Trade can have beneficial side effects," he said, "but such steps must serve the goal of increased freedom of movement for people wherever they may be in Germany."
Commitment on Berlin
He emphasized Bonn's commitment to the special status of Berlin, which will be in the limelight this year as Berliners celebrate the city's 750th anniversary.
"Our goal remains freedom and unity for all Germans," he said.