How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
Our foreign policy toward Eastern Europe is concerned with two closely linked areas: the Soviet Union, and the European states to the east and southeast of Germany which are connected with the Soviet Union in many ways. Although our foreign policy toward these states is called "East European policy," this term is relative. Countries like Poland or Czechoslovakia may lie east of Germany, but they have perfectly good geographical, historical and cultural reasons for regarding themselves as part and parcel of Central Europe.
A third area indissolubly linked with this East European policy is the other part of Germany. This does not involve foreign policy in the exact sense of the word, for neither part of Germany is a foreign country to the other. However, the East German régime is so completely interlocked with the group of states led by the Soviet Union that any East European policy disregarding the German problem would be unrealistic.
In all three areas our goal is one and the same: to safeguard peace, reduce tensions, improve relations and contribute to a system of peaceful order in Europe. Particularly since the two great democratic parties formed a coalition government, several changes have occurred in Bonn with regard to how these aims may be better realized; and these changes are not merely ones of form or degree.
This is not acknowledged in the East. It is claimed there that our policy is a smokescreen behind which we cling all the more relentlessly to a "denial of realities," a "policy of strength" and a striving for nuclear weapons and continuation of the cold war. This is mistaken. Naturally, there are certain basic features in our policy-as in those of any state- which cannot be altered. Anyone who thinks of foreign policy in terms of a swinging pendulum fails to comprehend its underlying laws. Even in Germany's present situation, our policy is grounded in a set of facts and requirements which cannot be forfeited. We will persevere in our demands- not only for our own sake but for the sake of our allies and friends and in the interest of international order. The reproaches leveled at us by Eastern propagandists have nothing to do with our real purposes.
One reality with which we must come to terms is the division of Europe and the attachment of its parts to one of the heavily armed power blocs. The split runs right down the middle of the continent and divides Germany in a way that is dangerous, artificial and unjust, for it prevents a people from living as a nation according to its own will. We know, however, that this division will not vanish overnight and that, as far as one can tell, it will be overcome only in conjunction with a general improvement in East- West relations in Europe. Thus, we not only have to take this time element into account politically, but we also have to make a greater effort to find rules by which the two parts of Germany can live side by side.
At the same time, we reject any German policy that lessens the solidarity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or limits the decisive participation of the United States in safeguarding freedom in Europe. On the contrary, we are convinced that we will improve our relations with our allies by facing up to the realities without illusions and by avoiding any shade of ambiguity. Without a balance of power provided by the presence and active participation of the other world power-the United States-a solid and lasting détente with the Soviet Union is impossible. The American commitment is indispensable to any system of peaceful order in Europe.
A reduction in the overheated temperature of East-West relations has been noted in recent years, though it applies primarily to Europe. To believe that it is worldwide would be wishful thinking. Yet we can take note of the American assessment that, despite the current problems burdening American- Soviet relations-and not just in Southeast Asia-it still is necessary to work toward a détente. We can now assume that Europe is no longer in a cold war that could turn into a hot one at any moment. Of course, there is no such thing as a guarantee against setbacks. But it appears justified to count at least partially on a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the world powers. As a result, Europe's fear of falling victim overnight to a violent conflict has receded into the background.
In both the Eastern and Western camps, this has had consequences for the relations of allies to one another and between the two major alliances. The consequences are by no means all positive, but at least a process of progressive economic, cultural, political and human relations has begun. Neither nationalistic aspirations nor claims to hegemony have halted the expansion of this process. Europe-which is to say Europe as a whole-is moving toward a transformation of historic dimensions in the course of which old kinships will be rediscovered and new ones found. Peoples are talking to one another again. Technical, economic, scientific and intellectual communications are leading to a fruitful exchange and increasing understanding of the situation and of each other's interests. More and more, dialogue is being mixed into the monologues of political propaganda. People are listening to each other.
German policy does not intend to be an obstacle to this development; indeed we want to further it. We have realized that professing peaceful intentions is not enough: we must make an active effort to organize peace. This includes a renunciation of the use or threat of force in any form, not only because war must never again emanate from German soil, but because it is in our own vital interest. The Federal Republic would automatically be drawn into any major military struggle between East and West. It would inescapably be the first victim. Our people would cease to exist, for the number of troops, war materiel and means of nuclear destruction amassed in the narrow area comprised by the two halves of Germany is unique in world history. As a result, the Federal Republic has a special interest as well as a special duty to persevere-but without wishful thinking-in reducing mistrust and tensions. This process cannot advance without the active coöperation of both world powers, the European states both East and West, and both parts of Germany. Within this process, we have a particular responsibility toward the other part of Germany.
During the past two decades, the Federal Republic has offered a great deal of evidence of her reliability. She has allied herself so closely with a group of European states that an irreversible process of integration and of creating supranational institutions has been set in motion. We have followed this path consciously and resolutely, not in an effort to undo what had been done-for that was impossible-but because we wanted to start afresh in awareness of what had happened and of our ensuing responsibility. In doing so, we sloughed off many things which had previously seemed-and are still considered by many to be-essential to a traditional nation-state and to national policy. Thus, as everyone knows, we renounced having troops under our own national command.
In domestic affairs, we have developed a democratic system that has grown strong enough to cope fairly and firmly with extremist political groups. Nationalist fringe groups exist in the Federal Republic as in any nation with freedom of political expression. We do not underestimate this phenomenon. In the light of the past, the foreign distrust that it arouses is understandable. Nevertheless, I am certain that nationalistic groups will never again grow into a danger in my country as they did in the twenties and thirties. The overwhelming majority of Germans, and especially German youth, can no longer be taken in by such false doctrines or be impressed by emotionally hazy ideologies with obsolete vocabularies. Furthermore, the responsible democratic forces in Germany can, in all good conscience, give their word that they are determined to prevent political adventurers from becoming a danger to Germany or her neighbors. We have learned from the past.
We want to prove that we are a modern, reliable, trustworthy state. Starting from this conviction, the opinion has been rapidly gaining ground since the grand coalition took shape that the Federal Republic bears a particular responsibility in the present world situation. This is consistent with the interests of our friends and allies. It corresponds to the frequently expressed desire of the leading power of the Atlantic Alliance as well as to the ideas of our European allies. German policy has become more independent, but we are not thinking of going it alone, of doing a "Rapallo," as that catchword has come to be understood. It is a moot question whether "Rapallo" ever encompassed the political facts commonly associated with that term. In any case, there will be no seesawing or doing a balancing act between East and West or exploiting tensions. Political conditions, historical facts and the involvement of new forces relegate such possibilities to the realm of phantasy. Our policy includes close consultation with our allies and is grounded in the realization that we do not have authority over matters that involve the Atlantic Alliance and the European Community as a whole.
Our political goal has changed in one fundamental point. Previously, we and our allies assumed that an arrangement with the Soviet Union and a bridging of political power conflicts in Central Europe were unthinkable unless the problem of Germany's division was solved first. The result was a demand that every step taken by the major powers toward one another, at least as it concerned Europe, had to be simultaneously a step toward the elimination of the division of Germany. This demand was meant to prevent a sanctioning of the division and to avoid leaving Europe's main unresolved problem at a standstill. This idea has remained correct in its essence, but not in its exaggerated form of demanding priority for the reunification of Germany.
Today, our policy is based more strongly on the interrelatedness of the German problem and European development generally. It concentrates on the improvement of the present climate of distrust, tension and conflict. This means that a long and arduous road lies ahead of us, for many stretches along the way are blocked by debris that will have to be cleared away by patience and good will on both sides. Preconditions should not be put in the way. The less either side is prepared to meet the other on this road, the longer will be the process of achieving détente, a true reconciliation of interests and the establishment of a peaceful order in Europe.
Of central importance is our relationship to the leading power in the group of socialist states, the Soviet Union. This is self-evident from an assessment of the facts of world affairs, the power relationships and the pattern of interests in Eastern Europe. It is not our goal nor even a peripheral intention of our new Eastern policy to isolate the G.D.R., nor do we intend to create or exploit differences between the Soviet Union and her allies-often as this is claimed in Eastern propaganda.
One of the most important realities of the current political situation is the fact that the Soviet Union has grown into a modern world power-that is, a power whose interests and influence are worldwide. The power of the Soviet Union is especially perceptible in Europe; no one would wish to deny it. Our relations with the U.S.S.R. are far from being as good as we would like them to be. In a continuing effort to improve them, we are trying to start talks in those areas in which some sort of agreement might now be possible-those involving bilateral relations. But initial approaches have also been made for discussing more difficult questions. One day, in a pre- coördinated policy of trust with the United States and our European allies, we hope to discuss openly all problems existing between our countries so that we can take the first steps toward solving them. It is our hope that reason and objectivity will some day prevail. We have the necessary patience.
Another important reality is the fact that the Soviet Union and a number of other countries are attached to one another by manifold ties of a political, ideological and economic nature and that the other part of Germany, the G.D.R., is tightly held in this "field of forces." We would be ignoring this if we disregarded East Germany in our policy of détente-if we neglected this important area in which we Germans have a special responsibility and in which something is expected of us. Such neglect would be detrimental to the very détente we are striving for. The struggle for a secure peace in Europe cannot be handled in a piecemeal fashion-as can be seen in other parts of the world where we ourselves are not engaged.
The other part of Germany is also a reality-one involving us in particular duties and possibilities. Our new policy means that we are prepared to arrange our relationship with the other part of Germany in a different way than has been the case hitherto. We have, however, made it clear that international legal recognition of that part of Germany, in which one- quarter of the German nation lives, is impossible precisely because of this special relationship. We are convinced that no other people who had met with a similar fate would act any differently. This will of the large majority of a whole nation is also a political reality and one which is realized even by the G.D.R. If we speak out in favor of the whole German nation, if we express the desire of the overwhelming majority of the Germans in both the Western and Eastern parts of our country-as we know we do-we are not trying to impose a majority claim, but merely expressing a common desire to reunite.
German policy today is based on the assumption that overcoming the division of Germany will be a long process whose duration no one can predict. For the time being, we have to do whatever is possible; otherwise we shall fall prey to wishful thinking or resignation, neither of which can be justified. Nor can we take the path of least resistance by granting to the G.D.R. régime a democratic legitimacy which it does not have. Our most immediate task is to strive for an orderly way for both parts of Germany to live side by side. We want to reduce the tragic consequences of the division under which so many Germans are suffering bitterly. We want to preserve and strengthen the feeling of belonging together.
So far, these efforts have remained mostly one-sided. East Germany has actually tried to evade coöperation in reducing the present absurdities. Instead, it has made new demands and stipulated that they must be met as a precondition for starting discussions. One may regard this as an attempt to acquire a better negotiating position. However, judging from experience-for example, the reaction to Chancellor Kiesinger's letters of June and September 1967 to Herr Stoph, chairman of the East Berlin Council of Ministers-we have reason to assume that the decisive group of East German leaders are trying to avoid discussions, even if we refrain from setting any preconditions. We must conclude that they are not really interested in a détente and do not see the larger issues that are so important to Europe today and even more so tomorrow. The G.D.R. is holding fast to conceptions which-if they were ever valid-now belong to the past. This inflexibility is leading East Germany more and more into a situation so inconsistent with reality that it is encountering greater and greater difficulties. Over and over again, it has to evoke the solidarity of its allies, striving for their support in a policy that does not always work to their benefit.
A rigid policy of this sort may not only lead to East Germany's becoming an island of obsolete cold-war ideas within the current of European change; one day it will simply become too costly to keep a big nation in the middle of Europe under the tension of an unnatural separation against its will. This holds true not only for that other part of Germany but also for its allies. Everyone affects everyone else, and no one can forever act in disregard of the limitations imposed by his real interests and capabilities.
Even the Soviet Union, which must think as a world power and a power with responsibility for Germany, will have to reflect coolly on its real interests in this matter. It will not be able to evade this, and perhaps has already embarked upon such a process without admitting it. In any event, during the fifty years of its history, the Soviet Union has more than once reconsidered important aspects of its foreign policies.
If the G.D.R. complains that we are trying to isolate it, I can only assert that such is not our intention. On the contrary we are convinced that isolation, whether imposed by others or self-inflicted, can only slow down and hamper the entire process of reaching a détente in Europe. We desire to turn the confrontation into an orderly process of living side by side, safeguarded by a mutual renunciation of force. Only under these conditions can we conceive of living together in future within an all-European system. But so far the G.D.R. has been placing obstacles in our path. It is not we who are isolating East Germany; rather it is East Germany which is isolating itself.
Moreover, our efforts to establish normal diplomatic relations with the countries of East and Southeast Europe have been obstructed primarily by East Germany. In spite of this, we have made progress and it should not be underrated. We have normalized our relations with Rumania, placed our relations with Czechoslovakia on a new basis and resumed diplomatic relations with Jugoslavia. And we have reason to hope that the possibilities are not yet exhausted. Political, economic and cultural relations are also developing with other East European countries, to our mutual benefit.
Last year, three conditions were set forth which we were required to meet if the signatory powers of the Warsaw Pact were to normalize their relations with the Federal Republic of Germany: (1) Bonn would have to recognize the German Democratic Republic as a state; (2) Bonn would have to recognize the demarcation line between the two parts of Germany and the Oder-Neisse Line as national borders; (3) Bonn would have to renounce its alleged ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. A further demand was made: Bonn would have to acknowledge that West Berlin is an autonomous political entity in the territory of the G.D.R.
What can be said about these demands? The policy of the Federal Republic is such as to permit constructive replies to all these conditions. With good will, and with a realistic evaluation of the existing realities and the significance of détente for all concerned, they need not be obstacles on the road to establishing a security system and peaceful order in Europe. However, if such conditions are set in order to avoid talks, then they may be dressed up as insurmountable-the sort of concessions that could not be made in advance.
(1) The G.D.R. knows that we are prepared to issue mutually corresponding, reciprocal or multilateral declarations renouncing the use of force. We have thus gone further than the previous Federal Government's "peace note" of March 1966. Our proposal for the renunciation of force in the Government's statement of December 13, 1966, refers explicitly to the problem of the division of Germany. Such a renunciation means that each side gives assurances that it will not infringe by force upon the integrity of the other, either from outside or inside.
(2) The Western border of the Polish state is included in our offer to refrain from any sort of aggression against anyone. We place great importance on good relations with Poland. This is a cornerstone of our policy in the East, just as is our good relationship with France in the West. Our position toward Poland is also guided by the realization that this nation, with its proud tradition in European history, has suffered greatly under forces of aggression. We understand her desire to live at last within guaranteed borders, and not be a "state on wheels." A reconciliation with Poland is our moral and political duty. This reconciliation implies not only that through our efforts every thought of force must be banished; we must also make sure that no seed of future conflict is planted.
A concordance of interests between the German and the Polish people is perceptible in many areas, if we think about it soberly and in terms of the future. Trade, technology and science are among them, as well as armament limitations, with a simultaneous and equal reduction of armaments in Central Europe as the goal. We believe we can sense, despite all the polemics, that in Warsaw, too, this question is given serious attention. We will study with great care all Polish comments on these topics. The earlier impression that this has not always been the case can be corrected.
The drawing of borderlines should not impede the establishment of a peaceful order in Europe. If forces in Europe are strong enough to create a system of security and ultimately a stable and equitable order, they will not be held up by border questions of the past. Perhaps the declarations we have offered regarding the renunciation of force can be formulated and safeguarded in such a way that the present borders of Poland can be recognized for the period for which the Federal Republic can commit itself, i.e. until a peace settlement. Thus, in the interest of both nations, the border question would no longer stand in the way of a détente or of a European security system. At the same time, this would prevent this question from being used any longer as a pretext for those who oppose a German-Polish settlement.
(3) The Federal Republic is unique in having renounced in 1954 the production of nuclear weapons of any kind. Furthermore, she has agreed to submit her entire atomic industry to international controls. And if an acceptable worldwide nonproliferation treaty, which would allay humanity's fear of an atomic conflict, could be brought about in the near future, she would welcome it. Such a treaty ought to be the first step toward the ultimate elimination of all nuclear arms and comprehensive disarmament.
Even the fourth condition can be surmounted. The Federal Republic has always respected the fact that in 1945 Berlin as a whole acquired a special status-the four-power status-based on international agreements. As things developed, the three Western powers were left with a special responsibility for West Berlin, but this does not imply that the four-power status of the entire city has ceased to exist. However, it does mean, among other things, that the Soviet Union cannot claim more rights regarding West Berlin than the three Western powers can in regard to East Berlin.
Different opinions on details of this status have been expressed in East and West. This became particularly clear when the Wall was built in 1961. However, there is no reason why, with good will, practical solutions and improvements cannot be achieved. We, at any rate, are doing our best to prevent Berlin from becoming a hotbed of dangerous tensions. This is why we have not infringed on the status of West Berlin and have remained in full agreement with the three Western powers protecting the city. The Soviet Union also has repeatedly expressed its interest in Berlin, recognizing-in principle at any rate-that East Berlin, too, has a special status. This shows that on this point there need not be such profound antagonisms as to prevent a détente. If, nevertheless, the most rigid elements in the leadership of the G.D.R. were to try unilaterally to alter the status of Berlin, they would endanger the whole effort toward peace in Europe. The Western powers would have to act in accordance with their rights in Berlin and their obligations toward the people of Berlin. This would ruin all efforts toward a lasting détente. No one ought to take such a responsibility upon himself.
Here, as in the entire German question, our policy aims at practical solutions, which-without encroaching upon the special status-would make life easier for the Berliners, who through no fault of their own have been involved in the fate of this city, a living organism, never before divided. This is a specifically German responsibility and the Soviet Union is aware of it. It realizes, too, that we have no intention of negotiating in lieu of the Western powers.
In all three areas, then-Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and the G.D.R.-we have taken the initial steps toward a new Eastern policy. The road hereafter will be arduous. We think that it will ultimately lead from an agreed renunciation of force via a guaranteed and balanced European security system, with the participation of both world powers, to a durable and just order in which can be found a solution of the German question, in full accord with the Germans themselves and their neighbors.
I am not trying to draft a vision of the future. Yet today we can already affirm that what I have outlined is the only way in which Europe can find peace and quiet; and the destiny of the world is inseparable from Europe's destiny. Time is pressing, for we can already perceive the social and economic tensions which are increasing in large parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America and the effects of which are also felt outside those areas. A catastrophe can be forestalled only if all the industrial nations-from North America all the way across Europe to Japan-can combine their energy to serve this great task rather than fritter away their strength in fruitless and dangerous confrontation. These are the truly great and creative tasks of our time. This final third of the twentieth century will decide whether the nations of the world are so caught up in the past that they will forfeit the future or whether they have the vision to master that future.