WEST BERLIN — West German President Richard von Weizsaecker declared Tuesday that his country, a bulwark of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, can no longer accept the alliance's doctrine of so-called "flexible response" in the use of nuclear weapons.
The West German leader's remarks were made in a speech at the Aspen Institute Berlin, which sponsors international seminars involving important contemporary problems.
Von Weizsaecker said he welcomes the decision by the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles world-wide. And he declared that he looks forward to further reductions in long-range strategic missiles and in the conventional forces of the two superpowers.
But Von Weizsaecker suggested that West Germany should also be rid of short-range tactical atomic weapons, which have long formed part of the NATO doctrine of flexible response.
This defense theory, which replaced massive retaliation, calls for a wide range of allied nuclear weapons, ranging from the battlefield weapon to the intercontinental missile, to match any Soviet threat with an "appropriate" response.
Von Weizsaecker said that reduction in conventional weapons by NATO and the Warsaw Pact forces will be "the crucial test" in European security.
"There cannot be a strategy of limited war with nuclear weapons," said the German president. "We Germans cannot accept a strategy of nuclear weapons which hit (only) Germany."
But Von Weizsaecker emphasized that he is against tactical weapons not so much because, in the phrase of a West German politician, "the shorter the range, the deader the Germans," but because he does not believe that the strategy would work. He said he does not believe that nuclear wars can remain "limited."
He argued that arms negotiations should involve the full range of weapons; most importantly, that "we should make sure that no broad, surprise attacks could be launched."
Von Weizsaecker said he would like to see agreement between the East and West on the "nature, deployment, and verification" of all weapons systems.
"It is a long process," he said, "but this must not stop us from entering into it."