Why Western Society is Cold in Relationships

Germany archive

Gerhard Wettig

The author

Dr. phil., former head of the research area foreign and security policy at the Federal Institute for Eastern and International Studies in Cologne, Coming.

Soviet interest politics in Germany during the post-war period and international politics as well as the social transformation towards the end of the Cold War are focusing on new source and essay publications.

Collective review on:
  • Jan Foitzik (ed.): Soviet Interest Policy in Germany 1944–1954. Documents (texts and materials on contemporary history; 18), Munich: Oldenbourg 2012, 629 p., € 74.80, ISBN: 9783486714524.
  • Matthias Peter, Hermann Wentker (ed.): The CSCE in the East-West conflict. International politics and social transformation 1975–1990 (series of the quarterly books for contemporary history; special no.), Munich: Oldenbourg 2012, 344 p., € 49.80, ISBN: 9783486716931.

Soviet interest politics in Germany

Jan Foitzik (ed.), Soviet Interest Policy in Germany 1944–1954 (& copy Oldenbourg)
After there were already a large number of source editions on the German policy of the USSR in the early period before the constitution of the two German states [1], at the height of the Cold War in 1952 [2] and in connection with June 17, 1953 [3] there, the volume by Jan Foitzik with Soviet documents mainly from Moscow archives focuses on the materially relevant regulations of the Eastern occupying power. What kind of these were is largely known, but hardly any documents have been published to date. It is therefore an important addition that the present volume brings a lot about reparations, dismantling, confiscations, occupation costs and the taking over of scientific and technical know-how. Numerous materials also concern the question of the German level of industry, operational and economic decisions in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ), trade and border controls with regard to western Germany and the central economic planning that began in 1946. Even if the selection of documents is often rather random on the Russian side, depending on the state of affairs, there are worthwhile insights.

The political orientation and reorganization of the Soviet Zone only affect a few documents that confirm the previous picture and add new details. The supreme Soviet goal was for Germany to continue to exist as a unified state, following the Moscow idea of ​​a "democratic and peace-loving" order. This resulted in decisions that, despite all efforts, the longer, the less it could be concealed that they were directed against Western democracy. The initially latent divergence in East and West led to open conflict when Stalin saw the American offer of Marshall Plan aid in 1947 as a political declaration of war by the USA on the USSR. This immediately tightened its course. In the Soviet Zone, for example, increased "vigilance" towards Western agents was decreed, and in the instructions that the Soviet delegation received for the Foreign Ministers' Conference of the Four Powers in late autumn, the aim was expressly to "expose" the Western negotiating partners. It is also revealing how far the internal political regulations of the Kremlin extended in the context of the founding of the GDR in 1949 and how the steps that led to the Stalin Note of March 1952 were planned and initiated. There are also some interesting details regarding the response of the USSR to the crisis that developed over the next year.

The CSCE in the East-West Conflict

Matthias Peter, Hermann Wentker (eds.), The CSCE in the East-West Conflict (& copy Oldenbourg)
As editors of the essay volume on the effects of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in the following decade and a half, Matthias Peter and Hermann Wentker state that the tendency towards confrontation between East and West, which began in 1975 when the Final Act of Helsinki was palpable and which then intensified further, thwarted by the "internal dynamics of the conference system". Although the agreements had the character of voluntary commitments without legally binding force, they were of great political weight. The participants had spoken to the whole world and decided to continue the cooperation through follow-up and expert meetings at which the implementation was to be checked and further measures discussed. The interpretation of the laboriously negotiated provisions was often controversial, but the continued exchange of views made the differences public and exposed them and the arguments used to public judgment. The growing interest of the USSR in countering the economic overload caused by armaments and the deficit in weapons technology through agreements with NATO and the USA further contributed to the fact that the Kremlin did not break off the negotiations, despite all anti-Western motivations, but as an additional one Relationship level maintained. The mutual relationship, therefore, before Mikhail Gorbachev gave it a positive turn, was determined by violent ambivalence.

The beginning of the interaction after the conclusion of the CSCE was of course predominantly confrontational. The human rights campaign of President Jimmy Carter in the USA and the actions of the Soviet leadership to liquidate the opposition in the USSR, which had been encouraged by the publication of the Final Act, led to a political exchange of blows at the first follow-up meeting in Belgrade in 1977/78, but an agreement was reached in the end, to resume negotiations later. The next meeting in Madrid from 1980 to 1983 took place at the height of what has been called the "second Cold War" (after relaxation), but from the beginning it was under more favorable omens. The USA and the USSR had signed the second treaty on strategic arms limitation (SALT II) last year, which, although it never came into force because of the American protests against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and because of the clashes over Poland, was nevertheless a certain one Created a feeling of consensus. In addition, the Kremlin hoped that a conference on disarmament in Europe would reduce the armaments burden. And finally, after much back and forth, there was a positive result. Paradoxically, the intentions were exactly the opposite. As Douglas Selvage explains in his contribution, the USSR believed that, through its readiness to accept the required improvements in contact, the stationing of American counter-missiles (Pershing II) with the Soviet medium-range weapons of the SS-20 type in Western Europe could be countered by advancing the peace movement in the West especially in the Federal Republic of Germany in their fight against NATO rearmament. The North Atlantic states, on the other hand, calculated that an understanding with the other side on this question, which is particularly important for the West Germans, would reduce the domestic political difficulties that could be expected when deploying the missiles.

On the basis of previous publications [4], Anja Hanisch presents the problems with which the SED regime was confronted by the CSCE. At the beginning, the latter was satisfied that it had been internationally recognized as a participating state with equal rights, but soon - after the final act, as agreed, was also published in the GDR and thus made known - it was faced with a threateningly growing emigration movement, which was itself was even encouraged by the fruitless follow-up meeting in Belgrade because the cooperation with the West was not terminated. The difficulties worsened during the negotiations in Madrid: The GDR was forced to obey the USSR and therefore to accept their concessions, which, among other things, concerned easier emigration.

At the follow-up meeting in Vienna from 1986 to 1989 there were initially no developments. Only in the summer of 1988 did the internal political changes in Moscow, reinforced by parallel events in Budapest and Warsaw, bring movement into the negotiations. As Walter Süß shows, the new regulations resulted in a fundamental reorientation for the GDR, which - in the two previous years due to the reliance on cooperation with the Federal Republic - increased travel to the West for people below the retirement age from 66,000 to 1, 2 million went out. This was done in the form of a grant that could be withdrawn. Even after the final act of the CSCE was passed, a law was passed that made requests to leave the country punishable as "degrading" state activities. According to the CSCE resolution, citizens were now entitled in principle to freedom of movement and freedom of movement; Any rejections had to be communicated in writing and given reasons. The SED regime was not moved to give up the position that it could freely decide on the applications, but the services of the People's Police were now constantly confronted with violent protests and with the demand for reasons if they did not want to accept applications. This prompted Erich Honecker to instruct him to authorize large amounts of travel. It became increasingly difficult for the state security organs to maintain control.

In addition to the questions that are directly important for the German situation, the anthology deals with numerous other aspects of the CSCE process: the policy of the Western European countries towards Eastern Europe, the question of the scope for action of various adherent states of the USSR, the role of the neutral actors Austria, Switzerland and Sweden, and repression the Solidarność opposition in Poland in the CSCE context as well as the civil rights and nationality movements in the Soviet Union. The course of events was primarily determined by the course of the east-west disputes over the military balance of power, which culminated in the dispute over the NATO missile project and then set a development in motion that ended the Cold War, but the negotiations were carried out within the framework The CSCE was instrumental in ensuring that the interaction was maintained, although tensions rose, and that the situation was kept under control. The easily legible essays in this volume, based on reliable research, offer a broad, multifaceted picture of important international and domestic developments in Europe from the second half of the 1970s to the threshold of the period of upheaval initiated by Gorbachev. Reading is therefore highly recommended.