Full Citation

  • Title Wait on the Rhine
  • Publication Title The Economist
  • Collection The Economist
  • Date Saturday,  Nov. 30, 1985
  • Volume 297
  • Issue Number 7422
  • Page Number 66
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The Economist Newspaper Limited
  • Copyright Statement © The Economist Newspaper Limited.
Wait on the Rhine FROM OUR BONN CORRESPONDENT Has East Germany taken a cue from the summit smiles The day after President Reagan and Mr Gorbachev left Geneva. a reshuffle of the politburo in East Berlin ousted one of the country's leading hard- liners. Mr Konrad Naumann. The West Germans hope this could improve the chances of a visit to the West soon by the East German leader. Mr Erich Honecker. The official reason given for the resig- nation of Mr Naumann and the politbu- ro's expert on West Germany. Mr Her- bert Haber. was bad health. In Mr Haber's case. this appears to be the truth. But Mr Naumann's problems were not medical. He has been a sharp critic of what he regards as the party leadership's kid-glove handling of awkward artists and churchmen. Mr Naumann is also suspicious about his country's growing links with West Germany. He fears that accepting loans from the West could put East Germany too much in capitalism's debt. Mr Naumann's fall removes a thorn from Mr Honecker's side.The main ben- eficiary may be Mr Egon Krenz. the politburo's defence and security expert. Mr Krenz. 54. is widely regarded as the most likely successor to the 73-year-old Mr Honecker. and he will be happy not to have Mr Naumann pricking at him in the name of ideological purity. The politburo reshuffle. which pro- moted lesser-known figures to replace Mr Naumann and Mr H5ber. came amid one of the periodic weedings-out of un- suitable members of the 2.2m-strong communist party in preparation for its congress next spring. In October. the party announced that 3.787 members had been expelled and that another 1.000 had recently resigned. The suit- ability of 3.000 more is under review. The West German government would like Mr Honecker to visit Bonn and his native region of the Saarland around the turn of the year. The visit was originally scheduled for the autumn of 1984. but the Russians told Mr Honecker not to go because of the deployment of the new American missiles in West Germany. Now. since Mr Gorbachev has decided to keep talking to Mr Reagan. the lead- ers of the two Germanies may be al- lowed to meet. This would be a special bonus for the West German chancellor. Mr Helmut Kohl. since the opposition Social Demo- crats have made most of the running in high-level contacts with East Germany this year. (They are talking about a nuclear weapons-free zone with the East German party.) To avoid offending the Russians. the government in Bonn may wait until Mr Honecker has come and gone before formally signing any agree- ment to participate in research for Presi- dent Reagan's Strategic Defence Initiative. Honecker practises saying hello