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Foreign Policy in the 1950s

Soviet policy after the war - as distinct from Soviet propaganda - left no practical alternative to a policy of co-operation with the West. And the domestic political scene was dominated by the requirements of the "small man," who is less interested in theories than in results, who in return for honest work wants security, some comfort and his freedom. At any rate, he wants the freedom to be left alone. He controls the priceless gift of a majority at the next election. Without him neither the CDU nor the SPD can hope to attain office by themselves, a solution which both of them obviously prefer to participation in a coalition government. Their programmes show that they have carefully studied his wishes.

In the field of foreign policy, the question of reunification would claim more attention. All the political parties are agreed that unity must be achieved "in conditions of peace and freedom." In the past, unity and freedom had often been presented as alternatives to the Germans. In fact, the surrender of freedom is the price which the Soviet rulers and their East German tools hoped to extract in return for " unity." That is why the East German re'gime makes use of nationalist arguments in its propaganda, while West German nationalists quickly find themselves in Communist company. In other parts of the world, the combination of nationalism and Communism proved a most explosive mixture. In Germany the obvious connection between these two partners may turn out to be a safeguard. There the real danger might arise if aggressive nationalism could ever be made to appear again as a force in its own right. But the Germans had now been burnt more than once.

Although Adenauer was under constant attack from the Opposition, there has been no change in his foreign policy of aligning Germany with the West. The differences between what he had done and what the Opposition would do if they were in office seemed more apparent than real, "The world is changing, but not Dr. Adenauer," Herr Ollenhauer said at the annual conference of the Social Democratic party in July, 1956. He pleaded for a German approach to the four Powers so as to secure reunification. But this, he argued, would only be possible after some fundamental changes in international affairs. A European security system, with a united Germany as a member, should be the object. Like many other Germans, Herr Ollenhauer evidently assumed that, as a result of the " thaw," the Russian position on German reunification had changed and that they no longer maintained the adamant attitude which had brought failure to the Geneva Conferences.

The Social Democrats, and some other oppositional groups on their Right, saw the division of Germany as a consequence, or at least as an aspect, of the division of Europe between Russia and America. In their view, Germany can be reunited only if that division can be overcome. But the hopes they attached to the "summit" conference at Geneva in July, 1955, were doomed to be disappointed. The Soviet Government made it perfectly clear that any withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Germany would be conditional on keeping intact the apparatus of Communist penetration which they had built up in their zone of occupation. Mr. Bulganin stated that the "remilitarisation" of Germany and her membership in NATO were decisive obstacles from the Russian point of view. A united Germany would not be permitted to enter into any alliances or military obligations. His most important point, however, was that there could be no "mechanical union" between the " two Germanics," but that they should gradually draw together. His words about "mechanical union" were meant to mask his refusal of free elections. These, he said, "should be considered at the proper time" - presumably when the East German Communists had "gradually" acquired sufficient control of the administrative apparatus to ensure satisfactory results in those elections.

This point was emphasised by his further condition that there should be a security pact of all the European countries and the United States in which both the German Federal Republic (with 50 million inhabitants) and the Soviet zone regime (with a population of 17 million) would participate "on a basis of equality." This implied that in both the provisional parliament and, above all, in the provisional government responsible for "gradually drawing together" the "two Germanies," the Communists would claim half the seats, with probably the Ministry of the Interior and the control of the police forces thrown in for good measure. In addition, Mr. Bulganin related the solution of the German problem to agreements about disarmament and the ban of atomic weapons, so that the Soviet Government would always be able to stop the process of reunification, if it did not go their way, by pleading lack of agreement on related questions.

Soviet intentions became even clearer at the subsequent Foreign Ministers' Conference at Geneva in November, 1955. There the Western Powers proposed the conclusion of a European security pact concurrently with the conclusion of an agreement to reunify Germany in accordance with the "Eden Plan" put forward at the Berlin Conference in 1954. Among other things, the treaty envisaged the renunciation of the use of force, withholding support from aggressors, limitations of forces and armaments and the establishment of a zone on both sides of the lines of demarcation between a reunified Germany and the Eastern European countries. Inside this zone, levels for armed forces were to be specified and controlled so as to establish a military balance. In the Western part of the zone, a radar warning system was to be operated by the Soviet Union and the other Eastern European members of the treaty. A like system in the Eastern part was to be operated by the NATO members of the treaty.

The Soviet proposals provided for a European security treaty with the United States as a member and the People's Republic of China as an observer, the dissolution - after an interim period - of NATO, the West European Union and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. Both the Federal German Republic and the Soviet zone of Germany were to join the security pact on the basis of equal rights. The proposals contained no provision for free elections. When the question of free all-German elections was discussed, Mr. Molotov declared that the East German workers would "never permit the disappearance of their Government and its achievements." This, as Mr. Macmillan pointed out, implied that there will be no choice of their future for the German people, even if NATO and the WEU were to be destroyed. They must continue to accept the system that had been imposed on Eastern Germany, or else continue to remain divided. "The brutal fact is that, for the Soviet Government, the only acceptable guarantee for the reunification of Germany is the Bolshevisation of the whole country." The failure of the conference caused deep disappointment throughout Germany.

At that stage, even the Opposition found it difficult to see an alternative to Adenauer's foreign policy. But then came the "thaw." The Soviet leaders were talking expansively of peaceful co-existence, and the moment had not yet arrived when all the "different roads to Socialism" were found to be covered by the guns of Russian tanks. By the end of 1956, however, the Opposition had reached the conclusion that the events in Poland and Hungary would not permit the Soviet Union to resurrect its former system of domination. This crisis in the Soviet bloc was seen to be equalled by the weakening of NATO as a result of the Anglo-French intervention in Suez. The critics of Adenauer therefore argued that this presented Germany with an opportunity for an independent foreign policy which must not be missed. The Social Democrats appeared to hope for a policy of neutrality, similar to that of Austria or Sweden. They still were a little vague in their arguments and seemed inclined to overlook that Germany belongs to a different order of magnitude.

The Chancellor's critics on the Right, who also advocate an independent foreign policy, had different aims in mind which they were still too cautious to formulate very clearly. They seemed to hope that they might be able to use the European idea for the purpose of advancing German power. From a position of independence they ultimately expect Germany to emerge as the leader of Europe, of yet another "Third Force." Hence they were never particularly disappointed with Britain's aloofness in matters of European cooperation, whereas the "good" Europeans in Germany have always hoped for a more active British interest in these plans. If Britain, by associating with the Common Market, were to become more effectively linked with Western Europe, she would help to strengthen those forces in Germany which see Western unity as the best safeguard for their country's future.

However divided they were in other aspects of their policies, both the Federal Government and the Social Democratic Opposition were conscious of the fact that the idea of European unity had an imaginative appeal to German youth greater perhaps than any other post-war development. It was difficult to say how reunification would affect the balance of internal forces. A great deal would of course depend on the circumstances in which it was achieved. The view was widely held in Germany that it would bring proportionately greater gains in voting strength to the Social Democrats than to the Christian Democrats, although the latter believed that East Germans, after their experience with the Soviet variety of "Socialism," would gladly vote for the "free enterprise" policy of the CDU.

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Page last modified: 15-08-2017 16:20:10 ZULU