Courtesy Reuters

Germany in the Era of Negotiations

The rationale of West German foreign policy is very simple: the postwar era has ended. Its hallmarks were high hopes for Western political structures on the one hand, and high tension between East and West on the other. Now a new epoch is in the offing. In the West it is going to be characterized by less ambitious objectives and more pragmatic approaches. The achievements of the fifties and sixties will not be dismantled, but the aims for the immediate future will be lowered. Dreams of "Atlantic Union Now" or "Instant Europe" must give way to expectations more closely geared to realities: wider and deeper coöperation, without necessarily institutional perfection. Between East and West the new era could be one of diminished tension and growing détente, of more coöperation and less confrontation. Not unlike President Nixon, the Bonn government is also trying to "build agreement upon agreement" without in any way deluding itself that this could be a process easily or speedily accomplished.

There is no conflict between these policies. They are not mutually exclusive; indeed, they complement one another. The Federal Republic of Germany is firmly rooted in the West-both in the Atlantic Alliance and in such European institutions as the Western European Union and the Common Market. These Western ties are beyond question.

II

It is an undeniable fact that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has fully served its purpose during its 20 years of existence. In Europe, it has created a military balance vis-à-vis the Eastern bloc, and thus maintained the peace through grave international crises: first Korea, then Berlin and Cuba, finally Prague. And there has been more reasonable reform in recent years than many critics are willing to admit.

In the seventies as well, NATO will retain its lasting value as a safeguard against any revival of communist aggressiveness. After all, the lesson of Czechoslovakia in 1968 has been that the era of East-West crises is not yet a thing of the past.

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