Ostpolitik

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"Ostpolitik as a source of intra-bloc tensions"
by Dr. Oliver Bange, Mannheim University (Project "Ostpolitik and Détente") [Ostpolitik caused friction on a number of different levels – it sparked tensions within Willy Brand’s party, the SPD, parliament, the coalition cabinet, tensions with the Western allies, and even within the Eastern bloc. It is the latter two that this paper is devoted, arranging documents from various national archives around nine distinct but interconnected arguments. Inevitably, such a vue d’ensemble has to start with an explanation of the goals and tactics underlying the new Eastern policy as devised during Brandt’s time as foreign minister of the “Grand Coalition” from December 1966 to September 1969, and put into practice during his chancellorship of the social-liberal coalition until 1974 and then onwards to the CSCE in Helsinki on August 1, 1975.]

One might compare the "Neue Ostpolitik" of Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr with a coin: the currency, or ultimate goal, imprinted on it is called "unification" – in order to avoid any compromise to the original borders of the vanished Reich, Brandt refused to speak about "reunification", preferring the "unification" or "Zusammenwachsen" (growing closer) of the two existing German states. The two sides of the coin represent two long-term strategies to achieve unification. Undermining Communism by exposing the people under its rule to Western values and liberties was one side of the coin. However, the eventual breakdown of Communism itself would not guarantee German unification. The other side of the coin was therefore to devise an all-European security system, taking care of the legitimate security concerns of all nations (including the United States and the Soviet Union) concerned by a prospective unification of the two German states. This, and only this it was argued at the time, could possibly ease the way to unification after an eventual collapse of the regimes in Eastern Europe. Of course, with a secret agenda like this, Brandt and Bahr had to play their cards very close to their chests. For this reason, some of the best evidence for this double-sided strategy is found not in the German archives (for obvious domestic and party political reasons) but in the archives of other Western allies, particularly in Washington and Paris, where this strategy had to be "sold" and defended, and those in Eastern Europe, where the success of the strategy – once it was recognised – became a reason for great concern. The following represents an overview and summary of the arguments deriving from the inter-archival, international research undertaken for our project on "Ostpolitik and Détente" at the University of Mannheim.12

- The "New Ostpolitik" was built upon American and French strategies that were instituted from 1960/61 onwards, and particularly on the concept of "ideological competition" first developed in the United States by Dean Rusk during the Kennedy years, then refined by the Johnson Administration from 1964

As a strategic planning game, Ostpolitik was an intelligent, early reaction to the new approaches developed under de Gaulle and Kennedy. Seen from Berlin – but not only from Berlin – these approaches offered real alternatives to the prevention-of-reunification-concept of the then Adenauer government. Within this new strategy, two aspects can be clearly distinguished: one is the search for the holy grail (i.e. a unified Germany) in a new European security system (proposed by de Gaulle as early as 1959/60, and followed up by him with concrete policies from 1961/62); the other one is the idea of an intensive ideological struggle through, above or under the Iron Curtain, conceived perhaps by Kennedy or, much more probably, by the team around his Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, back in 1961.2 The catalyst for the development and continuing refinement of that strategy appears to have been the – at least in...
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