Haftendorn, Helga
Security and Détente: Conflicting Priorities in German Foreign Policy

( New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985)
318 pages, UCSB:
DD258.8 .H34 1985

Book essay by Andrew Vogelbach
February 2004
For Prof. Marcuse’s upper division lecture course Germany since 1945
(course homepage)
UC Santa Barbara, Winter 2004

About the author:
I am a junior history major with a minor in German. I have an interest in Germany and European history because my father is from Germany and my mother is from the Czech Republic. I have often traveled in Europe and last summer I was studying in the Goethe Institute in Rothenberg, Germany. I chose the book because it gave a very detailed and coherent account of how West Germany’s foreign policy worked and good reasons why it worked that way.

Helga Haftendorn in Security and Détente: Conflicting Priorities in West German Foreign Policy discusses West German foreign policy, starting after the Second World War, particularly towards East Germany. She describes the often contradictory and different factors behind the policy. The split of Germany required the West to always maintain some form of Ostpolitik. Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt were two of the architects of West Germany’s Ostpolitik. Adenauer, the first chancellor, was closely associated with the West and attempted to integrate West Germany into the Western community. His policies did not acknowledge East Germany and prevented reunification. Willy Brandt started a relationship with the Soviet Union and recognized East Germany and initiated new relationships between the two countries. The author does not really have a main thesis. The book gives a detailed account on the development of West Germany’s foreign policy and seems objective. My essay shows the strong influence the West and the Soviet Union had on the two Germanies and their respective foreign policy. I also describe the contrasts between Adenauer and Brandt’s policies and how they each had their positives and negatives.


Conflicting Priorities in German Foreign Policy

The book I am reviewing is Security and Détente: Conflicting Priorities in German Foreign Policy by Helga Haftendorn. The book discusses the different and often contradictory factors and reasons behind West German foreign policy, especially towards East Germany, after World War II. The book focuses on the period after 1955 when West Germany emerged on the international scene. All West German politicians have been closely associated with the United States and Western Europe, but the split of Germany created the necessity for some form of Ostpolitik. Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor in West Germany, followed Western and American policy and attempted to integrate West Germany into the Western community. West Germany chose security and economic aid through their close relationship with the West, though it increasingly had more cooperation with the East. Willy Brandt initiated a new policy of Ostpolitik that recognized East Germany as a country and started normalization of relations between the two Germanies. Germany’s geographical location in the heart of Europe also creates unique political realities. After 1945, the world was quickly becoming divided into two opposite camps and the desperate need for security by the new adversaries further cemented the fate of the two Germanies. The economic aid provided and interdependencies created by the Allies, following the war, secured the partnership between the Federal Republic and the West.

The book was published in 1985, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, so the author doesn’t have the benefit of knowing how certain events unfolded. She often discusses the importance of the unsolved national question, and its subsequent effect on politics and society, which has since been resolved. Nonetheless, the author is able to critically discuss and explain the early history of West German foreign policy and the forces and factors behind it.

All West German politicians have supported and emphasized their Western relation and orientation, though they were also required to maintain some form of Ostpolitik because half of their country was controlled by the Soviets. The emergence of two German states, created during the power politics of the Cold War, had a strong impact on the foreign policy of the Federal Republic. Historical evidence has shown that the Allies were not planning to partition the country after the end of World War II. But, the development of hostilities between the two world superpowers made the separation inevitable. Germany’s location in the heart of Europe made it a crucial battleground for the two countries after the Second World War. The two Germanys were situated on the line of the "iron curtain," the border that divided Europe into two rival camps. It would have been impossible for Germany to remain neutral after the war. The external historical forces and processes were larger than just the German people and nation. Germany had to create strong political ties to the United States or the Soviet Union to prevent becoming the battlefield of a new world war. "The division of Germany was motivated by offensive and defensive ways of thinking: by the desire to incorporate part of Germany into their spheres of power and to deny the other side control over all of the country (Division and Détente)." The West Germans chose America at the cost of reunification to ensure the security of their people and the Federal Republic.

It seems the balance of power in Europe always depends on the situation of central Europe. Germany has historically either been too strong or weak to become a stabilizing force and usually a rise in their power precipitates war. The split of Germany after the Second World War was a consequence of the war of aggression, initiated by Hitler, waged against Europe and the United States. The allies once again felt the need for security, and with the escalating rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union; one Germany was not an option to them without the other sacrificing influence. Google marcuse 133c to find where this has been published on the web. The founding of the Federal Republic created the possibility that the reunification of Germany would have risked the progress of political and social growth that they had been experiencing. West Germany’s declaration that they were the sole representative of Germany also showed that reunification was not seen as a realistic objective. West Germany’s acceptance into NATO, while East Germany joined the Warsaw Pact, was the country’s militaristic response to their security situation and further reinforced their Western connection. The Federal Republic had a legitimate fear about attack from the east, especially following the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and this was their only way to ensure protection. The more Germany purposefully integrated itself in the West, the quicker the occupation would end and they would achieve autonomy. Edwina Moreton, in her review of the book, notes that "It was often forgotten that when Adenauer opted for military and political security in the West in the 1950s…he did so to ensure that West Germany would regain sovereignty, equality and power over its own future (International Affairs)." The democratic system allowed Germany to start gaining acceptance and recognition in the international community.

Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, the country has been strongly involved in international politics and relations. Directly following the war and while the Occupation Statute was still in effect, the German government had only nominal control over its foreign policy and had little decision making ability in its domestic affairs also. Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of the Federal Republic, strongly pushed Germany towards the West. He was the "architect of its [West Germany’s] policy of integration into the West," and made symbolic gestures of repentance and unity to the world community. The Deutschlandpolitik of Adenauer always held reunification as a principal goal and he prepared all legal precautions to leave open the possibility of reunification. But Adenauer’s policy, not recognizing East Germany and other political changes, made reunification almost impossible. The Hallstein Doctrine, in which West Germany attempted to prevent international recognition of the GDR and break diplomatic relations with anyone who recognized it, seriously damaged the two Germanies relationship. Adenauer was a shrewd politician who thought that the prosperity of Germany in the future depended on integration with the West. "Given Adenauer’s goal of restoring West German sovereignty, maintaing the economic miracle, and securing U.S. military guarantees, the Bonn-Washington axis was useful instrumentally (Germany Through American Eyes)." Adenauer was an old man at the time of his resignation and Willy Brandt, his successor, represented a new generation who pushed West German foreign policy in a new direction.

Willy Brandt was a member of the SPD, the German Socialist Party, and the Berlin mayor during the famous airlift. Willy Brandt initiated a new era of Ostpolitik. He was also closely allied with the West, yet he used different methods than Adenauer in trying to establish a relationship with East Germany. He tried to broker an agreement between the two superpowers, guaranteeing that any change of territorial status would be resolved diplomatically without force or violence. He also accepted the postwar realities of two Germanies and started diplomatic relations with East Germany. This allowed for increasing cooperation between the two countries and started the normalization of relations. "Brandt’s historical achievement consisted in having recognized the necessity of giving up what had become a hollow policy of reunification and seizing the opportunity to effect a reconciliation with the East (SD 25)." Brandt was more successful than Adenauer in creating closer ties and openness between the two countries and started the relationship that would eventually lead to reunification.

The United States, learning from the First World War, realized that an economically strong Germany was key to a peaceful Europe. The West German population and politicians vividly remembered the economic depression of the 1930s, and held economic prosperity as a cornerstone of democratic rule. The close relationship with the United States ensured that the Germans would receive help from the Marshall Plan and the GARIOA aid, the government aid and relief in occupied areas program, that helped initiate the period of stability through economic recovery and growth. The Marshall Plan furthered polarized the two German states because the Soviets did not allow East Germany or any of their other satellite countries to accept Western economic aid.

West German policy has been strongly influenced by forces and policies that are often contradictory. The Federal Republic accepted the division of Germany for increased security and economic aid from the Western powers. Konrad Adenauer and other West German politicians have always maintained the strong connection to the West, though the relationship was increasingly getting stronger with East Germany through their new Ostpolitik policies, initiated by Willy Brandt. Germany’s position in the middle of Central Europe and along the fault line of two opposing economic and political systems produced unique political consequences. The Second World War led directly to the split of Germany, and the resulting need for security by the war-ravaged countries helped cement the separation. The dependency of Germany on economic aid and protection of the West reinforced the relationship.


Haftendorn, Helga. Security and Détente: Conflicting Priorities in German Foreign Policy. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985. Total 308 pages, Bibliography page 309, Index page 319. DD258.8.H34 1985

Frey, Eric G. Division and Détente: The Germanies and their Alliances. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1987.
The book describes the complex relationship between West and East Germany. He describes and relates the split of Germany to the split of Europe in the background. He discusses the often contradictory measures each Germany has to adopt to appease its allies.

Moreton, Edwina. "Security and Détente: book review." International Affairs. vol. 63. no. 4 (1987): 682(2).

Campbell, Edwina. "Dilemmas of an Atlantic Dialogue." Germany through American Eyes: Foreign Policy and Domestic Issues Ed. Gale Mattox and John Vaughan, Jr. (London: Westview Press, 1984).
This is a collection of many authors discussing the relationship between Germany and America. They discuss the American role in forming West German foreign policy and influencing domestic issues. The authors each address a specific point or issue.

essay by Andrew Vogelbach, Feb. 2004; prepared for web by H. Marcuse, 3/11/04, 3/24/04
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