Germany Looks at Eastern Europe

German Panzer I tanks near the city of Bydgoszcz, during the Invasion of Poland, September 1939.

It was only a few years ago that the East European countries moved back into the field of vision of Western policy. For a decade they were kept outside the scope of our active policy, though not out of our thoughts. Most of the paths we trod toward the East led through a frosty and monotonous political landscape, past a hundred million East Europeans and their capital cities directly to Moscow. These peoples and, as we can now see, their governments, did not voluntarily remain in the background nor renounce their right to shape their own future and their relations with the rest of the world. But as long as only the voice of Moscow was heard in reply to questions asked of them, the countries of the West had no choice but to speak with those whose voice alone mattered.

Today this situation is changed. Beginning with the events in Poland and the uprising in Hungary in 1956, important and perhaps decisive things happened in the East European countries which increasingly influenced their relationship with the Soviet Union, with each other and with the Western world. Their individuality again became noticeable. We saw that national interests were a more permanent political force than ideological maxims, and that even the long practice of "proletarian internationalism" had not suppressed the desire for international relations as we understand them. Hence it made sense to regard the East European countries once again as active participants in international politics.

Occasionally the accusation has been leveled against German policy that it was slow to recognize these developments and then hesitated to draw the necessary conclusions and make decisions based on them. I feel that this charge is unjustified. In 1960 and 1961, a parliamentary subcommittee examined thoroughly the prerequisites for, and the possibilities of, Germany's pursuing an East European policy. In the course of its inquiries, it sought the advice of scientific and political experts as well as recommendations from the various ministries. Although at that time the tendencies

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