The "Ostpolitik" of the social-liberal coalition

Term Paper, 2003

22 Pages, Grade: B


Table of contents

I. Introduction
I.a) Thesis Statement
I.b) Note on sources
I.c) Note on research methodology

II. Socio-political changes in the BRD: The late 1960s and early 70s
II.a) The failure of the West-German Foreign Policy
- The Berlin Wall
- Brandt in Berlin: Governing Major in the divided city
II.b) Slight change in the Foreign policies of the Federal Republic
- The creation of the Grand Coalition between CDU and SPD
- Involvement of the SPD and Willy Brand in foreign policies
II.c) Transformations in the West-German society
- The social-liberal coalition of SPD and FDP:
- Changes in the policies concerning the interior and the foreign affairs
- Visions for peaceful change in Geopolitics

III. The East Treaties of the Brandt - Scheel government, perspectives for German reunification?
III.a) Short summaries of the Treaties
- The Moscow – Treaty
- The Warsaw – Treaty
- The "Grundlagen" - Treaty between BRD and DDR
III.b) The East - Treaties in the context of an international détente
- Ostpolitik and the USA
- Ostpolitik and the UK
- Ostpolitik and France
III.c) Resistance of the CDU/CSU opposition and ratification of the treaties

IV. Conclusion
IV.a) German domestic politics
- Could "Ostpolitik" improve German - German relations and ultimately make way for unification?
IV.b) Geopolitics
- Did “Ostpolitik” have a positive influence on World Peace or was it exclusively a domestic affair of the divided Germany?

V. Bibliography

I. Introduction

Willy Brandt: Chancellor of the German Federal Republic and leader of the social-liberal coalition of SPD and FDP starting October 20th 1969 and ending 1974 with Brandt’s Resignation.

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The rising threat of a nuclear war

The conflict between the two superpowers eventually emerging after the second World War, brought the world on the verge of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile crisis 1962. During these five days between 22.-27. 10. 1962 the leaders of the two blocks realised the danger of aggressive policies and established a direct phone line between the headquarters in Washington DC and the Kremlin in Moscow.

The position of Germany during the beginning of the Cold War

Since the Cold War had its origins in the destruction of the German “Drittes Reich” (Engl.

“Third Reich”) Europe and especially Germany played a special role during the Cold War.

Immediately after the occupation of the Allies the signs of the Potsdam conference signalised a separation of Germany.

Eventually the creation of the German Federal Republic (BRD) in the Zones of France,

Britain and the USA was responded by the Soviet military administration with a socialist German state, the German Democratic Republic (DDR).

During the first years of the Cold War the gap between the two German states had widened up. The BRD became a member of NATO in 1955 while DDR was forced to join the Warsaw Pact in the same year.

The separation of Germany was brought to a climax as Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after Stalin, decided to set up a wall in Berlin on August 13th to separate the eastern part from the western part, in order to prevent East- German citizens from escaping into the West.

Relationship between the two German States

During the early years of the young German Federal Republic, a conservative majority headed by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the chancellor Konrad Adenauer had successfully worked for German integration into the western alliances. His politics had caused an alienation of the two German states and the separation of the country seemed unreversible.

Considering this fact, the German population was severely struck by the results of the Cold War since the “Iron Curtain” ran straight through the country, separating parents from their children or women from their husbands. Being faced with the increasing nuclear threat the political situation in Europe in the 1960s began to change. Question concerning the prevention of wars arose among the public and forced official politics in Germany to change fundamentally.

I.a) Thesis Statement

The paper intends to highlight the changes imposed by the social-liberal coalition led by Willy Brandt. It will also describe the methods of the new West-German government to create new perspectives for domestic-, European-, and Geopolitics by analysing the East-Treaties.

A goal of the essay is to show how Herr Brandt’s politics towards the countries in Central and Eastern Europe did not only improve the relationship between the two German States, but was also able to cause a relaxation between the two blocs of the Cold War, although the Brandt government was heavily criticised.

This will show the contribution of German “Ostpolitik” of this time to world peace.

I. b) Note on sources

Among the sources used are official texts and primary sources from the period 1969 to 1974, dealing with “Ostpolitik” and its pros and cons. One of those articles, which is titled “German policy towards the East” is written by Willy Brandt himself. In this text he outlines the basic elements of the new policy and is trying to defend his ideas against the critique of the CDU/CSU opposition. By evaluating these texts one is able to get a good impression of the current issues of that time.

My research included the official texts and the individual articles and paragraphs of the East-Treaties, signed by the SPD/FDP government within the time period between 1970 and 1972. This includes in chronological order:

- The “Moscow-Treaty” in August 1970
- The “Warsaw-Treaty” in December 1970
- The “Grundlagen-Vertrag (Basic-Treaty)” in December 1972

Since “Ostpolitik” was a policy of the “new” West-Germany, the Federal Republic, most of the sources available are in the German language, particular the ones evaluating the effectiveness of chancellor Brandt’s policy.

By using those sources and putting them in the context of this essay I hope I am able to interpret them correctly and satisfy the expectations of the reader.

I. c) Note on research methodology

My consultation of the library of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel did not bring large success for my research on this topic due to the small amount of useful books concerning the German “Ostpolitik” of the early 1970s.

I decided to consult the Internet for useful articles on this subject. This turned out to be more successful and I could find a lot of summaries of the books listed in the bibliography of this essay.

During my excursion to the public library of Frankfurt am Main/Germany, I was able to look through a couple of useful sources and references.

II. Socio-political changes in the BRD: The late 1960s and early 70s

The following section will introduce the reader to the political and social circumstances in West-Germany during the second half of the 1960s. The development described is of domestic nature. The situation in Germany was essential for the social-democratic Willy Brandt and the SPD to be elected as the strongest party in the Bundestag and hence it is vital for the implementation of “Ostpolitik” as foreign policy of the Federal Republic.

The student uprisings of Paris in 1968 set an example for their German fellows. It came to the formation of the “Außerparlamentarische Opposition (APO)” (Engl. Non-parliamentary opposition) in West-Germany of the late 1960.[1] This opposition was based on the fact, that with the creation of the Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD any possibility of an effective opposition in the Bundestag had been swept away.

The planned laws for securing public safety (“Notstandsgesetze”) and the situation on German universities brought the masses of the Students on the streets. Their intention was to force a reform of the educational system, which was in their opinion undemocratic, old and reactionary. To achieve this goal, they used all kinds of open protest, for example demonstrations, sit-ins, etc.

More generally they intended to openly express their critique on the entire political system of the BRD. The young generation of students blamed their parents for focusing on economic issues after the loss of the war, instead of taking responsibility for the appearance and existence of the Nazi-Regime. According to their critique this had resulted in a creation of a reactionary state, being largely influenced by the will of the wealthy entrepreneurs.

The implementation of the “Notstandsgesetze” on May 30th 1968 granted the federal government the right to use military force within the country and violate the security of postal mail in “times of crisis”. The students and left intellectuals saw similarities between the “Notstandsgesetze” and the “Enabling Act” of 1933, which combined the executive and legislature in the hands of Hitler.


[1] Daniel Cohn-Bendit was not only active in the uprising in Paris 1968. He was forced to move to Germany and continued his political work in Frankfurt.

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The "Ostpolitik" of the social-liberal coalition
Vrije University Brussel  (Vesalius College)
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Arne Noack (Author), 2003, The "Ostpolitik" of the social-liberal coalition, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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