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Capsule Review

The Global Chancellor: Helmut Schmidt and the Reshaping of the International Order

In This Review

The Global Chancellor: Helmut Schmidt and the Reshaping of the International Order
The Global Chancellor: Helmut Schmidt and the Reshaping of the International Order
By Kristina Spohr
Oxford University Press, 2016, 240 pp. Purchase

Helmut Schmidt served as chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982. He earned near-universal respect for his unique combination of working-class directness, practical intelligence, and artistic ability. (He was a talented pianist who once performed and recorded a Mozart concerto.) Yet he is not generally considered a successful politician. Schmidt lacked the personal charisma of his predecessor, Willy Brandt, and never enjoyed the comfortable parliamentary majorities and unique diplomatic opportunities that later benefited his successor, Helmut Kohl. But Spohr makes the case that Schmidt’s chancellorship was defined by foreign policy successes. Schmidt was a pragmatist who joined French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in creating the European Monetary System and helped implement NATO’s “dual-track decision,” which combined an increased deployment of ballistic missiles to Europe and an offer to negotiate with the Soviet Union. The Soviets saw the deployment as a provocation and rejected the offer, bringing down Schmidt’s government and ushering in the end of détente—but probably hastening the Soviet collapse, as well. Although Spohr sometimes exaggerates the impact of Schmidt’s achievements, she has done readers a service by crafting a well-documented English-language treatment of this leading twentieth-century statesman.

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