New Ostpolitk under Willy Brandt
The Treaty of Moscow
Willy Brandt’s Liberal Peace Concept
On the 12th of August 1970, a hallmark of Soviet-West German rapprochement was concluded: the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Willy Brandt, alongside the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev, signed the Treaty of Moscow. “Anxious to contribute to strengthening peace and security in Europe and the world”, the agreement set out the intention of both states to increase cooperation with each other and secured the commitment of both to resolve future points of conflict peacefully in order to facilitate détente in Europe. 1 Correspondingly, the treaty was seen a first real materialization of the new Ostpolitik, which had been put on the external policy agenda of the FRG since the beginning of the Social Democratic-Free Democratic coalition in 1969.2 Amongst others, the new policy directive towards Eastern Europe included the abandonment of the Hallstein Doctrine, which from 1955 onwards had aimed at preventing the recognition of the German Democratic Republic as a separate state and limiting West German contact with the East.3 By signing the treaty Brandt officially declared the acknowledgement of the post-war frontiers in Europe, the recognition of the Oder-Neisse line as a border and for the first time officially mentioned the existence of the GDR by the FRG.4 This declaration led to an outrage in German society and was seen as an exhibition of the waiver policy of West Germany towards the USSR.5
The main aim of this paper is to analyze the aims of the FRG in conducting the Treaty of Moscow as the core of “Ostpolitik” and assess the role of the pursuit of German reunification behind increased cooperation of the FRG with the USSR. In order to answer these questions, I will focus on the main aims desired by concluding the Soviet-German treaty and the origins of Ostpolitik.
The paper will be divided into three main parts. Firstly, I will give a brief introduction on the “Neue Ostpolitk” under Brandt and construe the Treaty of Moscow as core agreement of this policy, as it was the first official agreement, which adhered to the will of improved relations with the USSR. In the second part I will further examine the underlying vision of Willy Brandt in pursuing Ostpolitik and how he presented this vision. In 1971, Brandt was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for his attempt to reconcile tensions between East and West.6 With regard to this accomplishment, I will analyze and interpret a speech held by the chancellor on the occasion of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize to disclose on how Brandt used the narrative of European stability to promote his pursuit of German reunification. Ultimately, I will coalesce my findings and try to answer whether the treaty, as core agreement of Ostpolitik, can be seen as just an atmospheric success7, a materialization of nationalist aims8 or as decisive step in the process of reconciling tensions within Europe and advancing détente in Europe.9
New Ostpolitk under Willy Brandt
The policy of Ostpolitik was initiated under former German chancellor Georg Kiesinger when he came to power in 1966 and was bolstered by then-foreign minister Willy Brandt.10 It represented a transformation in German foreign policy, as it entailed the aim to anew relationships to the Eastern half of Europe, thereby abandoning the Hallstein Doctrine.11 After the parliamentary elections in 1969 in which Brandt was elected chancellor, the policy was followed more actively, conducting a campaign of reconciliation with the Eastern parts of Europe.12 This ambition was revolutionary in the sense that it attempted to end the hostile relationship towards the Soviet Union and its satellite states through the signing of several agreements. Subsequently, these agreements adhered to the will of the FRG and members of the Warsaw Pact to renounce the use and threat of force, recognize de facto borders and encourage trade and cooperation in technology, economy and cultural affairs and were seen as major component of European détente in the 1970’s. However, they were not unanimously praised: whereas Western observers apprehended a neutralization of the FRG through increased cooperation with the USSR – compromising Western alliance – Germans were concerned about potential obstruction to the pursuit for German unity through the agreements.13
Ostpolitk was inherently connected to the German question, as one of its major aims was the reunification of Germany.14 This policy had been already pursued under Adenauer, but did not succeed, as relations between East and West were deteriorating, subsequently climaxing in the Cuban Missile crisis and the erection of the Berlin Wall. These were two major factors that influenced the origin of Ostpolitik, as they both demonstrated the vulnerability of European nations in the bipolar order of the Cold War and heightened the eagerness of Europeans to return to the stage of global politics.15 This realization also provided the impetus for the will to improve relations on the continent and emancipatory pursuits from the United States, such as Charles de Gaulle’s campaign of “la grande Europe”.16 This spirit of cooperation and nationalist claims were the base for the “Neue Ostpolitik” by Chancellor Brandt, who saw this policy as a way to engage with the Soviet Union and by that, help promote German unification.17 By virtue of the increased cooperation and concessions, he hoped to encourage reform within the USSR, which would consequently loosen the iron grip on its satellite states and lead to debilitation of the psychological barriers between Eastern states and especially the FRG.18
The Treaty of Moscow
Nothing is lost with this treaty that was not gambled away long ago. 19 With these words Chancellor Brandt announced the signing of the Treaty of Moscow on August 12th 1970 in a televised address to the people of the Federal Republic of Germany, addressing contemporary criticism of the treaty. The agreement declared the will to normalize relations between the two parties through respecting the territorial integrity of European states, affirming to settle disputes peacefully and refraining from the threat or use of violence in conflicts.20
The recognition of post-war frontiers was particularly controversial in Germany, as it officially mentioned the existence of two states and was therefore castigated as going against the principle of German national interest: reunification.21 Especially from the ranks of the German conservative opposition, the treaty was castigated as selling out Germany’s most deeply held national interests without getting anything in return.22 The treaty was a milestone in the Cold War, in the sense that for the first time, the FRG formally recognized the two states of Germany and the post-war border of the Oder-Neisse as eastern boundary.23 These factors seemed to put a seal on the division and were, seemingly, a setback in the aspirations to the unification of Germany.24 However, it is important to remember that these inviolable frontiers were only acknowledged and not legally recognized through the treaty. The ratification of the treaty was still to be awaited, as its enactment was to be connected to the outcome of the Four-Powers-Agreement on the status of Berlin, which would be held in 1972.25
1 Benno Zündorf, Die Ostverträge: Die Verträge Von Moskau, Warschau, Prag, Das Berlin-Abkommen Und Die Verträge Mit Der DDR (Munich: Beck, 1979), 54.
2 Andrew J. Pierre "The Bonn-Moscow Treaty of 1970: Milestone or Mirage?"The Russian Review 30, no. 1 (1971): 17.
3 Julia Von Dannenberg, The Foundations of Ostpolitik: The Making of the Moscow Treaty between West Germany and the USSR (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 19.
4 E. H. Albert "Bonn's Moscow Treaty and Its Implications."International Affairs 47, no. 2 (1971): 316.
5 William Glenn Gray, "Paradoxes of Ostpolitik: Revisiting the Moscow and Warsaw Treaties, 1970.", Central European History 49, no. 3-4 (2016): 418.
6 John L. Hess, “Brandt Wins Nobel Prize For His Efforts for Peace.” New York Times, October 21, 1971.
7 Gray, "Paradoxes of Ostpolitik: Revisiting the Moscow and Warsaw Treaties, 1970."412.
8 Gottfried Niedhart, Visions of the End of the Cold War in Europe, 1945-1990, Studies in Contemporary European History, (New York: Berghahn Books, 2012): 154.
9 Jussi Hanhimäki, “Détente in Europe, 1962–1975”, in The Cambridge History of the Cold War, ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 217.
10 Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought, “Ostpolitik,” Roger Scruton, accessed Jun 3rd, 2019.
11 Von Dannenberg, The Foundations of Ostpolitik: The Making of the Moscow Treaty between West Germany and the USSR, 19.
12 Carsten Tessmer, “"Thinking the Unthinkable" to "Make the Impossible Possible": Ostpolitik, Intra-German Policy, and the Moscow Treaty, 1969–1970”, Supplement Bulletin of the GHI Washington, no.1, (2003): 55.
13 Jussi Hanhimäki, “Détente in Europe, 1962–1975”, in The Cambridge History of the Cold War, 203.
14 Ibid., 211.
15 Von Dannenberg, The Foundations of Ostpolitik: The Making of the Moscow Treaty between West Germany and the USSR, 23.
16 Ibid., 201.
17 Carole Fink and Bernd Schaefer, “Ostpolitik, 1969 -1974 : European and Global Responses“ ed. by Carole Fink and Bernd Schaefer, (Washington DC: German Historical Institute, 2009): 274.
18 Albert "Bonn's Moscow Treaty and Its Implications.", 321
19 Willy Brandt, "Televised address by chancellor Brandt from Moscow" (speech, Moscow, 12 August 1970), Willy Brandt Online Bibliography, https://www.willy-brandt-biografie.de/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Fernsehansprache_Willy_Brandt_Moskau_1970.pdf
20 Pierre, "The Bonn-Moscow Treaty of 1970: Milestone or Mirage?": 18.
21 Gray. "Paradoxes of Ostpolitik: Revisiting the Moscow and Warsaw Treaties, 1970.": 418.
22 Von Dannenberg, The Foundations of Ostpolitik: The Making of the Moscow Treaty between West Germany and the USSR, 1-3.
23 Albert, "Bonn's Moscow Treaty and Its Implications.": 316.
24 Von Dannenberg, The Foundations of Ostpolitik: The Making of the Moscow Treaty between West Germany and the USSR, 4.
25 Albert, "Bonn's Moscow Treaty and Its Implications.": 316-317.