BONN — Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev ended his landmark visit to West Germany on Thursday, offering the hope that the Berlin Wall will come down one day and divided Germany will be reunited.
Gorbachev also told a closing news conference that the Soviet Union sees a role for the United States in what he refers to as the "common European home," in which the divisions between East and West will fade away.
"There is an understanding both in the East and the West of the role of the United States in Europe," he told about 600 reporters here. "I can't imagine a realistic policy of the Soviet leadership that would have the objective of pushing the United States out of Europe, of hampering the interests of the United States in Europe."
In his news conference, Gorbachev appeared to be trying both to raise German hopes and calm German fears in what observers said was a very smooth performance.
Challenged about West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's charge that, with the improvement of East-West relations, the Berlin Wall is an "unacceptable symbol" of the Cold War, the Soviet leader replied:
"Nothing is eternal in this world. The Wall appeared in a certain situation and not as a result of an evil intention. . . . The Wall could disappear once the conditions that generated it disappear."
In his view, Gorbachev said, the Berlin Wall is not "the sole barrier between East and West. We must improve many situations in Europe."
Asked about German reunification, Gorbachev responded in somewhat vague terms, declaring: "The situation in Europe was shaped by our postwar realities. Everything is quite possible, but this is the world we have, and time should decide."
It appeared that he was referring to a time when East-West tensions would subside significantly.
'Share an Understanding'
As he elaborated: "We welcome the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic share an understanding that the danger of war must never again emanate from German soil."
Gorbachev's visit dramatized the profound changes that East-West relations are undergoing, in particular those between West Germany and the Soviet Union.
Of those relations, West German government spokesman Hans Klein said that Gorbachev's intensive talks with Kohl led to "significant increase in mutual trust and understanding."
And the spokesman said there was no attempt by Gorbachev, despite Western fears, to drive a wedge between West Germany and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies on the issues of nuclear arms reductions.
Klein added that West Germany is "very grateful" that Gorbachev emphasized that the "common European home" should "have room and space for our friends in the United States."
He also declared that the huge and warm welcome extended the Soviet leader by the West German people reflected "the hope he had given West Germans about the future of Europe."
"The existence of the Federal Republic of Germany is closely linked to what happened in the Soviet Union after the war and its expansionist tendencies," Klein added, recalling the formation of the Federal Republic 40 years ago as a key Western ally in containing Stalinist communism. "So when a man who supports and is in the vanguard of the policy of openness comes, Germans, who are the main group affected by the division of Europe, have hope."
Gorbachev also addressed this critical topic when, referring to his enthusiastic welcome, he said: "Everywhere, people want changes for the better. Everywhere, people are tired of war. Everywhere in the world people want our global problems resolved. We are trying to do that and that is why people receive us so warmly."
And the Soviet president said of the changing East-West climate, "I think we have moved out of the period of the Cold War and gone beyond it. But sometimes there are still frosts and cold drafts."
As for the recent NATO summit meeting in Brussels, Gorbachev said the arms reductions proposals put forward by President Bush and the accompanying Brussels Declaration represent an important step forward.
But, Gorbachev added, "it contains a lot of elements of the old philosophy, that of the Cold War."
"Sometimes there is new packaging, there is new rhetoric," he said, "but the thrust is still deterrence, nuclear deterrence. I must say we were unable to regard the Brussels Declaration as a breakthrough. We are for a reduction and then the complete elimination of nuclear weapons."
"I have to note that with some sadness," he said, his voice deepening.
Klein, the West German spokesman, said that Kohl would call President Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand to report on the results of his talks with Gorbachev.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, traveling with President Bush to Brunswick, Ga., later confirmed that Bush had received a telephone call from Kohl.