BONN, Germany -- Declaring that "an epoch of confrontation has been closed," Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev signed a wide-ranging 20-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl yesterday, exactly a year after the opening of the Berlin Wall opened the way for German unity.
While Germany pledged no new money for the economic reconstruction of the Soviet Union during this visit, it already has promised the Soviet Union about $20 billion in subsidies and credits over the last year, making Germany the Soviet Union's major Western partner as it leaves the Cold War era behind.
"A new vision of the world is triumphing, the epoch of confrontation has been closed, the face of Europe and the world is changing," Mr. Gorbachev told his German hosts.
"The message codified today is this: German-Soviet relations have a new, forward-looking quality extending far into the next century," Mr. Kohl said. "This visit is of very high symbolic value to us."
Mr. Gorbachev's visit, which began yesterday, is the first by a foreign leader since East and West Germany became one nation Oct. 3. Yesterday's treaties were the first signed by the newly united country with a foreign power.
Just 10 days before the milestone Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe will formally herald new links between former East-West enemies, Germany promised the Soviet Union vast assistance with its economy, industry, science and technology.
The two countries recognized the inviolability of existing borders in Europe -- to the displeasure of the independence-seeking Soviet Baltic republics. They also pledged never to go to war against each other and not to assist any aggressor state attacking the Soviet Union or Germany -- a promise French President Francois Mitterrand denied his Soviet host at their summit last month amid fears that such a clause could theoretically weaken the Atlantic alliance.
"The Germans and Russia, Germany and the Soviet Union, now are no longer potential military adversaries," Mr. Gorbachev said at a state dinner with Mr. Kohl last night. "They have no thinkable adversary in Europe anymore."
At the dinner, Mr. Gorbachev also reminded Germans of the opening of the Berlin Wall last year and the rapid pace of German unification since then, which he said was partly due to "a whole new political category in international affairs . . . namely, trust."
But it was not just trust that won Germany back it independence. The Germans also paid heavy financial costs to win Soviet agreement to surrendering control over German sovereignty.
With the Soviet Union on the verge of economic collapse and with the Baltic and Asian republics eager to split off, Bonn is betting on Mr. Gorbachev to stave off the kind of instability that could bring droves of Soviet refugees to Germany.
"We want this treaty . . . not to be a dead letter, but filled wit life," Mr. Kohl said at a news conference. "We want the policy linked with the name of Mikhail Gorbachev to be a successful one."
German companies, however, have been hedging their bets an beginning to develop contacts with individual Soviet republics, rather than with the central government.