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Canadian International Council

Towards a new political order: German "Ostpolitik" and the East-West realignment Author(s): WOLFGANG WAGNER Source: International Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1, THE NEW EUROPE (WINTER 1971/1972), pp. 1831 Published by: Canadian International Council Stable URL: . Accessed: 18/04/2013 21:24
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political order: German Ostpolitik and the East-West realignment Towards

a new

in international politics is final; but some things are more Nothing final than others. For almost two decades East and West have to keep the postwar European situation open, in order attempted to allow change in one direction or the other. In the end both to have come to accept the view that the balance of sides appear such changes for the foreseeable future. In earlier a peace such circumstances, have treaty would to set the seal on the existing order. But peace been concluded of war, have gone out of fashion, and treaties, like declarations power precludes centuries, under both sides have The contented themselves with a series of bilateral or multilateral in essence, recognized the status agreements, which, new order of will which has resulted quo. political Europe not be as final as the created by the Congress of Vienna Europe more but is final than the which situation pre certainly (1815), vailed before the agreements.

It lay in the nature of things that the modus vivendi which was successive steps by the Soviet Union and the sought required Federal to For neither of these states had been willing Republic. saw to itself in the situation Moscow resign prevailing Europe: its advance post, the German Democratic endangered, Republic, so long asWest Berlin remained a thorn in its side, and sought to

alter the status quo in Berlin to its advantage; the Federal Republic, for its part, had been created in 1949 with the task of overcoming the division
Publisher, Zeitung Partition Aufbruch

of Germany

and believed

that the existence

of two

and editor-in-chief, Hannoversche Europa-Archiv, Allgemeine ; author of a number of books including Die Teilung Europas (The Zwischen editions, of Europe) (German and English 1959) and Europa und Restauration (1968).

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indefinitely. It is thus hardly should in the first in of that the realignment Europe surprising stance be a matter between Moscow and Bonn. Earlier Soviet at tempts to win

states could not be tolerated

of the existing situation by working recognition states ? firstGreat Britain, then France ? through other European were doomed to failure; could only be con the major bargain cluded Federal to make with Bonn. This situation the opportunity, Republic contribution the decisive of the the government through its "new Ostpolitik" gave

But just as policy Europe. so too was a considerable condition of agreement, change in the of the towards western Europe. The miracle attitude of Moscow ? is that it coincided German Ostpolitik ? if there is indeed one in time with a new Soviet Westpolitik. GERMAN MOTIVATION This the new Ostpolitik startling because of the Brandt government was motivated primarily by domestic and his Brandt Chancellor Willy considerations. When political a new Walter Scheel, inaugurated policy vis-a Foreign Minister, coincidence is the more vis the East late in

to fixing the new order in an were essential pre shifts in Bonn

immediately after the formation of their government of Soviet policy and of the eastern 1969, an evaluation situation did not play a significant role in the decision. European an acute international crisis at this time could have prevented Only an initiative towards the Soviet Union and other eastern states. In power in Bonn for the first time, both parties ? the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats mediate and from their respective from the new government. Accordingly, action climate was the East. The in the coalition ? im expected and Brandt Scheel, leaders,

ther the international a settlement with

not ask whe they did or for unpropitious propitious feeling, which had grown up dur

rule, that the previous ing two decades of Christian Democratic con eastern its with of Federal the relations neighbours Republic a change of stituted a chain of neglected required opportunities was sufficient course without delay. The force of this sentiment to thrust aside the hitherto accepted axiom that agreement with

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the East


parliamentary majority of twelve (later of only six) seats. He undertook the task deliberately, although he realized from like other the start that success was far from certain. Politicians, mortals, does for their actions. This usually have many motives to them of even more motives not prevent the imputation than is not a means eyes the Ostpolitik they actually have. In Brandt's to achieve a dominant in Europe. for the Federal Republic position It is also not

a very broad only be sought by a government with to course set base. Brandt had for Moscow with a


It is by no means the first step on a long road that out of the western would lead the Federal Republic camp into or even eastern into Of social the all camp. neutrality, European it is those ofWest Germany, who, with few exceptions, democrats, eastern market. have to the greatest extent made their peace with can be no doubt of their democratic and western same goes for the Free Democrats. cannot Brandt's real motives capitalism; convictions. there The

to be envisaged as an instrument designed to secure contest in the for the lion's share of the Germany's place

a without be explained glimpse at the past. In the early years of the Federal Republic all demo to accept for cratic politicians were agreed that it was impossible an indefinite time the division of and the Germany separation of ten million from which the territory east of the Oder and Neisse Germans who with or moved expelled at that time declared that the Germans had either been was out. Every politician must come to terms

reality munists were Bundestag.

swept away; in the elections of 1953 the Com to the eliminated and have never since returned

of the German Democratic Re non-recognition and an of the Oder-Neisse line became unshakeable public (gdr) basis of West German so into the and remained foreign policy, The battled with all their long as the Social Democrats the of Konrad their chief Adenauer, strength against foreign policy did not do enough for the reunifica argument was that Adenauer 1960s. (So tion of Germany, and that this goal was endangered by the entry inta nato and the participation in the movement toward integra tion in western Europe.) An essential ground for this policy was

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the anxiety that one day democratic politicians would be the target of the same reproaches by right-wing nationalists that the men who in Ger the of Versailles had endured; signed Treaty democracy should not once again be endangered many by the charge that democratic politicians had failed in the end to defend the national Erhard and Kurt Georg Ludwig as sure felt themselves they carried on a Kiesinger, ground towards all political doctrines, disinclined policy which Adenauer, had perhaps himself abandoned earlier. interest. Adenauer's successors, on Thus successive Federal the recognition of existing success of German foreign policy which were linked with the entry of the Federal nato, the three western of a reunified Germany Polish border question governments facts. And itwas resisted unwearyingly considered the greatest that in the treaties of 1954-5,

dignantly rejected. Even the firststepsof theFederal Republic in

the East, Union relations with the Soviet such as the opening of diplomatic in 1955 and the setting up ofWest German trade missions in several eastern European countries (from 1963), could only be

only be settled finally in a peace Each divergence from this line, treaty with a reunited Germany. as such de Gaulle's border, was in support for the Oder-Neisse could

into Republic for the themselves powers accepted goal and supported the view that the German

taken after quelling the 1960s, however,

was sterile that the policy of non-recognition A major part of the Federal Republic's develop states from recogniz ment aid was used to deter African and Asian were incessantly ing the gdr; West German diplomats preoccupied and burdensome. with the gdr from making inroads into developing preventing in international The countries and participating organizations. saw itself constantly reproached Republic a revanchist and revisionist policy and following of Meanwhile the peaceful development Europe. Wall tion of the unbroken mass in Berlin

as in the public ? the feeling public

in strong internal opposition. Increasingly ? in German there developed public opinion of countries friendly to the Federal Re opinion


by the East for thus preventing the construc

in 1961 had stemmed the hitherto almost the gdr could consolidate itself flight to theWest;

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and, with

a viable an astonishing economic advance, demonstrate and powerful state structure. Willy Brandt and his friends drew from all this the conclusion if the prevail that time was working against the Federal Republic a growing ing policy were continued. Impressed by the reports of at the chi concerned of the East German alienation population, caneries to undermine

can be resolved, and reason the most difficult problems goodwill a new course. away from this policy and charted they moved new would become its the Federal Republic Through Ostpolitik a "normal" state, free from the burden of domestic relations which territorial placed on the conduct its eastern

of the gdr against West Berlin which threatened gradually in the future of their city, the confidence of Berliners faith that with and encouraged by the universal Social Democratic


good also with

or at least ordered

neighbours. and the other in relations with the Soviet Union improvement eastern European if the border states, the gdr would be outflanked: the two states could from the West not be overcome induced in the foreseeable its absolute future, the gdr could at least be to abandon

and external policies and with not only with its western but At the same time, through an



tion), so that not all the links between of Germany would be broken. soviet Despite doomed interests all

(of which

trade represents an excep the peoples of the two parts

on the German was the goodwill side, the Ostpolitik to failure if the Soviet at had not resolved leadership a new attitude on a new same the time practically Westpolitik, towards western Europe. In the light of the disappointment which had so often followed lofty hopes for an alteration

in Soviet policy the the doubts among sceptics twenty-five years, during previous that Moscow But has really altered its course are understandable. in the interval in Soviet ing the Federal several facts have views, above signalled at least a certain change all the Soviet abstention both from defam in the interests of maintaining Soviet


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In part, one is driven to guesswork. Nevertheless, several factors some be mentioned with Soviet may certainty. policy was probably influenced in the 1960s by three developments: the successful de fence ofWest 1962; Czechoslovakia Berlin in the face of the Soviet the course of the Cuba

from using the isolated situation ofWest Berlin as a lever against theWest. The led to this change are grounds on the Soviet side which more difficult to delineate than the origins of German Ostpolitik. and Czechoslovakia and

Tule over Poland

in 1968. The to force the western powers out of Berlin were worse

threat from 1958 to of crisis of 1962; and the experience of Khrushchev's consequences attempt than a failure:

to the conclusion productive must have led the Soviet leadership that it was profitless to place the western powers under pressure. In the Cuba crisis Moscow the same lesson (even de perceived stood behind the United that States) and learned moreover was too a with fire for dangerous grown-up powers. playing pastime course of events in Czechoslovakia The the Soviet showed finally Gaulle leadership maintained the hope in eastern Europe their empire could only be by force, unless they could offer the peoples of this area for political change and a way of life sufficiently satis doubts from developing into rebellion against that

it led to a strengthening of the western position through an increase in the American and through the resolute drawing engagement nato. was counter of That this together thereby proved policy

factory to prevent Soviet domination. All leaders

there are still today forces in Moscow who regard the new as an error. But in any event, the reached a Westpolitik majority on decision founded those of certain Ameri arguments resembling possibly can senators: the Soviet Union is threatened with overcommitment, as simultaneously it pursues offensive policies in Europe, the Mid it must strengthen its de dle East, and other parts of the world; fences against China and keep a tight rein on the states of eastern

seem to have these experiences to the Soviet suggested a western of attitude toward change Europe. Probably were not over new at all course united the the and they beginning,

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Europe while maintaining it must also seek to raise world. could proved Union would It must therefore best be done to alter

and forces in Europe; strong military in the communist the living standard and this limit its objectives somewhere, it had been here because Europe,

in western

that the use of pressure was ineffectual. Were the Soviet its stance vis-a-vis the western European states, it at the same time have the its own opportunity of enhancing with these states states anyhow) technology of theWest. (a and


goal of gaining As,

through co-operation development eastern European the other by pursued access to the most communist recent however, states must

plan well in advance be cause of their clumsy such a policy required apparatus, planning the elimination of the danger that co-operation with western could suddenly be disturbed again. Tensions which under Europe certain circumstances fore to be removed had to come could be the cause of disturbances This meant had there beforehand. that the Soviet Union

to an agreement with the Federal Republic, and had also to agree to a modus vivendi for Berlin, even at the expense of the gdr which would have preferred, today as in the past, to cut the lifelines of West Berlin.
treaties and a berlin agreement


In this way (though fromdiffering motives) the Soviet Union and

the Federal time was moved towards a modus vivendi, but for a Republic on it seemed doubtful that agreement the concrete details

to abandon to every thought of bringing Republic and to acknowledge this gether the divided parts of Germany, a gdr. formal of But the the Federal govern through recognition ment was not able (with its slim to take this base) parliamentary the Federal to do so. The German Social Democrats step; nor was it prepared are no less and they know the dangers patriots than other Germans, too well to lay themselves open to attack in such a of nationalism In addition the Soviet leadership, like the Federal govern

old clashes of interests continued. The Soviet possible. The to secure from Bonn Union wanted (and from western Europe) a area of its of this would have required domination; recognition


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for its part wanted their allies. Moscow the process of detente firmly in its own hands (and thus to open negotiations with could not allow the Federal Republic Poland or the gdr, so long as Bonn was not simultaneously negotiat had difficulties with to hold but had also to consider the leadership of the ing with Moscow), more gdr, whose important than loyalty is, for the Soviet Union, Federal of the communist that of any other member camp. The

Republic, agreement To

of the negotiations, which were opened at the beginning of 1970, consist of two treaties (that and the Federal Republic the Soviet Union of 12 August between date achievements 1970; and December Poland and the Federal Republic of 7 over the Berlin four-power agreement 1970) (3 are of these of The details agreements 1971). secondary September interest. The key element in them is the recognition of the status and the three western quo by all the partners: the Federal Republic that between and even powers no longer deny the existence of the gdr, and Bonn as two to as states of the the German far into entry goes envisage the United the other special and West Nations. Similarly the Federal Republic line as the German-Polish itself to the Oder-Neisse side, the Soviet Union have Berlin ties which has reconciled frontier. On

the concrete

for its part, had to reckon that every attempt to reach the extremely pale but with Moscow would reawaken

that destruction of the recognizes between the Federal Republic developed would for survival and end the city's chances

for together with the western powers has assumed responsibility access from West to Berlin. of free the maintenance Germany Neither given side has abandoned up. It is only anything which had not already been that the realities have received the halo of or semantic. Thus on the occasion of

legitimacy. All the rest is ornamental

in which the German nation work for a state of peace in Europe in freedom." The will recover its unity through self-determination

with the political aim of the Federal Republic not conflict

addressed the signing of the Moscow treaty the Federal Republic a letter to the Soviet government which stated that the treaty did


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a later reunifica to keep open the possibility of ever tion of Germany; the Soviet Union could accept it because own since Lenin of "self-deter have their concept they developed mination in freedom." On the occasion of the signing of the Polish letter is intended informed the three western powers treaty the Federal government that the treaty did not affect the rights and of the responsibilities four victor powers in Germany, and that itwas acting only for the In other words, Federal Republic of Germany. in the provision agreement that the eventual resolution of the German could only follow from a peace treaty with an all German is? and for government was formally re-stated; Poland ? not disturbed by this. good reason art bedecked The finest flowers of the diplomatic the Berlin Polish border As there was the Potsdam

no agreement as to whether the instru to deal with all Berlin or only West it speaks Berlin, can of "the relevant area"; under this formula each side under only stand what itwishes. It was used by the gdr to proclaim triumphant that East Berlin ly that the western powers had also now recognized was a part of the gdr ? of the agree something that the wording ment does not say but yet which contains a substantial kernel of agreement. ment was truth. The

to Soviet Union, which as early as 1955 had assigned access to routes the gdr responsibility for the West Berlin, had to remove from that state a few aspects of its in this connection very inventive in puzzling out formulae to

sovereignty, but itwas conceal this fact.





the two treaties and

the Berlin





that only a short time before had been deemed insur But much mountable. remains to be done to complete the new and the political order in Europe. First of all the Federal Republic gdr on the one hand, and the gdr and the Senate ofWest Berlin ar can has the agree on the concrete details of the Berlin in the four-power agreement before it rangement envisaged become effective. In the first round of negotiations the gdr to some eliminate of the forward steps which already sought the other, must on


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four powers had recorded. For example, to negotiate it wanted with the Federal government only over the access ofWest Germans to West Berlin, while negotiating with theWest Berlin Senate over access of Berliners toWest Germany ? in direct opposition to the in the of the agreement, right, clearly recognized four-power to represent West Berlin in its external relations. Republic In view of the apparent Soviet interest in the achievement of a that eventually East Ger Berlin arrangement, it can be assumed Federal an agreement many will yield sufficiently to make possible. Thereafter the Federal government will bring both the Moscow and the Warsaw treaties to the Bundestag for ratification. The Christian Democratic treaties, theMoscow will opposition presumably one with all its power, the Warsaw parliamentary it is so narrow the oppose one perhaps is ade majority

less resolutely. The government's to secure but ratification; quate ment's

that the govern success cannot be beyond doubt. The Bundestag could pro one whose vide an unpleasant surprise for Brandt and Brezhnev, no seems one to lest to contem have contemplated, consequences plate might be to invoke. With ratification the coming into force of the Berlin agreement and the of the two treaties the way would probably be clear for

and the the European sought by Moscow security conference eastern states for several years. In the Soviet view such a conference should serve to advance further the realignment of Europe, and on to seems this between Moscow, Paris, agreement goal prevail and Bonn. sides Warsaw are The only question identical or merely states have is whether similar. of both the conceptions the last few years the to the western and neutral In



states several papers in for a conference. At first glance preparation a they contain nothing other than repetition of the worthy prin ciples of the United Nations Charter and other international docu ments. But closer examination the destruction reveals at a recognition and participants of the Brezhnev several passages which aim doctrine by all the conference Com adopt to envisage

It is hardly conceivable munity. either of the eastern proposals;

of the European Economic that the conference would it is almost impossible

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that a conference interests would banalities. towards The could make

with agree

some on

thirty-five participants resolutions which went



single important decision would be to create a permanent to work commission concrete co bilateral agreements. The predominantly

beyond mere that such a conference

between West and East could perhaps in the long run operation be expanded agreements, through multilateral though it remains an open areas far how the diverse of conceivable question co-opera Only method would co-operation. specialized important field is the multilateral in the negotiations of mutual and balanced preferable: to force reduction sure in which be the European neutrals (mbfr) in one but again play the role of onlookers. So far as concrete treaty arrangements, tion are better suited tomultilateral than to bilateral

rather than a general of the are concerned the bilateral climate, improvement political road remains the more promising. Still to come is a treaty between the Federal Republic to annul and Czechoslovakia the Munich the two states have been agreed agreement of 1938. In principle on this ever since Chancellor Erhard explained that point Ludwig the Federal did not derive any territorial claims on government Czechoslovakia from this agreement because it had been concluded under pressure. But the attempts to reach a treaty have so far failed, as the Czech government that the agreement be declared requires and void to accord with only from the beginning (ex tune). This the historical facts that the Munich but also demand seems treaty led not to the destruction of


to the loss of the Sudetenland

to today's Czech leaders it therefore appears es sential to erase the treaty from the pages of so as far history possible. In the view of the Federal government this demand is nevertheless to accede to it would because unrealizable, to thereby do violence fundamental one can if be declared null and legal principles; treaty void ex tune, so can others ? the conclusion of international treaties under pressure of greater or lesser an is historical degree hardly Czechoslovakia; rarity. The be a a between West and East would keystone of rapprochement the two German states. Since Chancellor treaty between

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two meetings with the chairman of the Council of Minis ters of the gdr, Willi one to such an obstacle Stoph, important ? Bonn's refusal to level ? agreement negotiate on a government has been removed. But it has subsequently been shown that there are other no less effective obstacles in the way. Since the Federal the gdr has responded which is officially de

scribed as the policy of A bgrenzung [a word perhaps best rendered into English by "walling off,,, "insulating from,,, or "keeping apart" ? the common elements which still trans.]. Instead of emphasizing link the two states, the gdr places the greatest emphasis on whatever it is now as ever beset their differences. Apparently, can be infected by gdr the of that the the by anxiety population western ideas. The not only attempts by the Federal government to maintain but also to strengthen links between the inhabitants accentuates come up against the resolute opposi of the two parts of Germany tion of the communist regime. Apart from the hope that Moscow intervene to some

its new Ostpolitik, Republic inaugurated with a new policy vis-a-vis West Germany

extent in the interest of its relationship gdr with Bonn, and that the might consider that the abandonment of the opposition to the entry of both German states into the United Nations was worth the price, Bonn can only resign itself to this situation. But the Federal government expects that the East Berlin will cannot leadership towards detente. risks for both indefinitely remain aloof from the general trend


For many years the situation in Europe resembled the trench war fare of the first world war. Both sides had dug in, neither attempted a no major offensive, and so long as one stayed in the dug-out, and one stuck his head out over the parapet, all were to some extent safe. The in European growing reverse of politics essentially friendly, developments of risks by both sides. is the acceptance the new,

of detente may lead to a neglect of military euphoria acute arc The less the danger appears, the less politicians security. from their electorates high expenditures for arms ready to demand

For the West the risk lies above all in the possibility that the

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costs (social security, environ especially when other ever heavier claims on budgets. mental control) make pressing and on its to limit the demands a nato had has For number of years and armies, member-states, most ever, and an end consequential follow from a massive to this process is not yet in sight. The how in western defences would, weakening withdrawal of American

a similar if it were not balanced by pecially of the existing troop One can of course argue that the maintenance levels in a period of general detente is no longer necessary. But this assumes that the Soviet Union

troops, es Soviet withdrawal.

not only seeks temporary detente, to pursue detente over the long run and even to but is resolved of theWest which might from abstain making use of any weakness in the western defence effort. result from a reduction Much is said about the risks to theWest involved in the new

less about the risks for the Soviet Union. Yet the more Ostpolitik, it opens the door to co-operation between itself and western Europe, states to do the same. It the more itmust allow other communist a revanchist the bogeyman has already had to renounce image of Germany with which the Poles and Czechs have been intimidated. When more

scientific, and cultural contacts are intensified, commercial, ideas can no longer be halted at the border. The more contact, the contagion. With accepted lies an enigma Here its new Westpolitik, the Soviet Union the risk of increased unrest in its area of for which there

consciously dominance.

in Soviet policy, is as yet no satisfactory explanation. By and large Soviet Union appears greater than for the West, means the possesses swiftly to quell any challenge continuing The struggle sides indicate that the new

the risk for the even though it to its authority.

risks on both

not rest on the rules of the Salvation Army but rather Europe will of the previous will involve a continuation struggle between East and West on another level. Even if there were no other cause, states, which the no differences between continuing can would suffice to maintain eliminate, treaty tension. This tension will involve less danger the two German




a certain degree of of military entangle

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ment and The

than in the past, but the confrontation between a democratic a communist Germany will increase in bitterness, now that world will

both have

left the trenches and are face to face in the open field. this when both sides come to enter the experience forum of the United Nations. In the longer view the degree to which both West and East suc

greatest significance for the course of this struggle. Here, through the development of the European theWest has, in Communities, a lead over the East, where today's comecon the economic sphere, a eec. As for as appears only pale imitation of the political organi zation, western East, also behind is much has as yet accomplished Europe common the screen of numerous little, but resolutions, in the there

ceed in organizing theirrespectiveparts of Europe will be of the

in the military Only disagreement. sphere has the side an advantage vis-a-vis western Europe, which has made a weak start at and that only only European military co-operation, within nato it is Hence of the greatest importance (Eurogroup). eastern that in the face of the new Ostpolitik, "Westpolitik," particularly the western policy of the Federal Republic, should not be neglected. a model of peace and Only when western Europe becomes harmony, with all its peoples living together in prosperity and unity, can Europe face the future with confidence.



in Journal


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