18 MAY 1962, Page 5

The Grip Weakens


THE alarums and excursions between Bonn and Washington, Bonn and London in the last ten days were strongly reminiscent of the early summer of 1958—no, it was 1959—it is easy to lose count, for time passes so quickly and events seem to come round again with a dizzying feeling of deft) vu. Not that this has actually happened before; in those days it was the question of proposing Chancellor Adenauer, and that meant electing him, as President of Federal Germany. The likeness lies in the same outbreak of frantic, almost hysterical activity on the part of the Chancellor when he sees any diminution, or any chance of a diminution, in his personal authority. Then he behaved with an irrationality more like that of a woman whose lover shows signs of leaving her than a practised old puller of wires; perhaps it is a German characteristic (much as one dislikes inventing national characteristics), for Bismarck appears to have behaved in just this way too. Now we have it again, the comedy show of improbable statements, the suspicion and alarm abroad, the injured innocence and the cries of having been misunderstood. As to the remarks in Berlin over a possible international control commission for traffic to and from West Berlin, several details have to be borne in mind. First, Adenauer is not popular in Berlin and he knows it; he chose a tone there that he knew would secretly amuse the Ber- liners themselves, with its ironical contempt, its bluntness and its scornful denigration of good intentions. The tone was well adapted, too, to his immediate audience, in its hardly concealed contempt for all men, including his hearers, and its cynicism, knowing he was speaking to what must be as cynical a group of people as can be found in a cynical world. Then, his remarks were answers to questions designed to get just such answers; they cannot be given the weight accorded to considered judgments, though they have been given that weight. Again, Adenauer was concerned to show what he had been re- peatedly challenged during his long holiday to show on his return : that he had the reins of power firmly in his hands. Under the show are the two stern facts the Chancellor was con- cerned to obscure. His eastern policy is an almost total failure in its inelasticity and its reliance on an attitude of mind long since in the grave with the man who made it, John Foster Dulles, and with the unquestioned nuclear superiority it reflected. And the reins Of party and internal power inside Federal Germany are being taken gently and slowly from him. With a consideration for the old man that he would never have shown an opponent, his party colleagues are easing him gradually off the stage.

Adenauer's concern with the West Berlin negotiations was to make it quite clear that it was all not his doing; it was being done by the Americans and nothing to do with him. And, ir.decd, that is the present fact of the matter; what Adenauer wants to cover is that but for the Adenauer-Brentano-Dulles policy it might have been done under easier circumstances and with a better chance of long-term-success. The point of no return in Berlin was not August 13, 1961, it was even before the Dulles era, in November, 1949, when the allies, in the flush of their signal victory in the Berlin blockade, could have insisted on the capital of the then new East German regime being somewhere other than East Berlin. The mistake that was made then was never corrected, no attempt was really made to correct it and after that the Trojan horse inside the four-power city changed the city's status bit by bit while a stony calm of self-satisfaction gripped those who claimed to be containing just that Trojan horse.

Internally, the reorganisation of party govern- ment inside the CDU cuts Dr. Adenauer's hold over party affairs with the appointing of a busi- ness manager who can call the party executive together on his own initiative, and with the ap- pointing for the first time of Professor Erhard to the party executive. While the party looks to its internal organisation, Foreign Minister Gerhard Schroeder has begun unmistakably to run the Foreign Office himself, and even to make foreign policy. He neither echoes the Chancellor nor relies on backstairs intrigue to get things done; he is much younger than the Chancellor, em- pirical in his thinking, and he gets on with people, not least the Americans. His public face is clearer and his dealing plainer than used to be the case when von Brentano was little more than the Chancellor's front-man.

The Chancellor may or may not have said to a group of his party in Berlin that he did not expect, or even that he did not wish, Britain to become a full member of the EEC; it will prob- ably never be known certainly what he said or what he meant by it. Whatever it was, it was another example of frenetic activity motivated by the threat of a loss of authority. But the important thing is that the Chancellor can no longer throw the wheel of policy over at his own arbitrary wish—or pique. He may well have wished; in his tricky way, to show the Americans and the British that Federal Germany and France together were a force to be reckoned with and to assure President de Gaulle of his loyalty at the same time. In that connection it must be remembered that from Bonn the readiness of the State Department to negotiate with Russia does not look like a brand-new policy, but like the take-over of an old British policy. Adenauer may think that to force on political federation inside the Six will cause difficulties for Britain and America; that will not alter the attitude of the Belgians and the Dutch inside the EEC (in- deed, it may well toughen them); nor will it alter the policies of the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Economics towards Britain as a change of attitude on the Chancellor's part would have done five years ago. The realities in Brussels, Paris and Bonn remain as they were before Adenauer went to Berlin. The newest of these realities is that the Chancellor no longer has the only say in Bonn.