Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Germany after World War II

Germany
By the late 1960s, West Germany had become a major economic power in Western Europe. Even so, the country still faced certain political problems. Access to West Berlin and relations with East Germany, the Soviet Union, and other communist countries posed difficult foreign policy challenges.

Ostpolitik. After his election in 1969, Chancellor Willy Brandt, a member of the liberal Social Democratic Party, tried to meet these challenges. Brandt believed that West Germany had to remain firmly allied with the rest of Western Europe and the United States. At the same time, however, he concluded that tensions between his country and the communist countries of Eastern Europe had to be reduced. Brandt’s effort to improve relations between East and West, known as Ostpolitik (German for “Eastern Policy”) resulted in West German treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland in 1970. Ostpolitik eventually led to the mutual recognition ot East and West Germany in 1973, and ultimately to the Helsinki Accords in 1975 (see page 609).

In 1974, Helmut Schmidt became chancellor of West Germany after Brandt resigned following the revelation that a member of his staff was an East German spy. Schmidt admired and continued Brandt’s Ostpolitik. He also pursued closer economic and political cooperation with Western Europe. In the early 1980s, however, recession hit the West German economy. For the first time since the early postwar period,
West Germans faced the prospect ot rising unemployment coupled with widespread inflation.

Helmut Kohl. As in both Britain and France, economic troubles led to political change in the early 1980s. In 1982 the Christian Democrats regained control of the government after more than a dozen years out of power. Helmut Kohl, the new chancellor, charged that Schmidt and the Social Democrats had brought on the recession through high levels of government spending. The conservative Kohl promised to return the country to prosperity through policies similar to those of Prime Minister Thatcher in Britain and President Reagan in the United States.

Chancellor Kohl also made changes in West German foreign policy. He strongly reaffirmed West Germany’s commitment to the NATO alliance, though he criticized the deployment of American intermediate-range nuclear missiles in West Germany. Kohl worked to improve relations between West Germany and the United States. This relationship remained generally strong into the 1990s, although the reunification of Germany early in the decade created new anxieties among some of Germany’s neighbors in Europe.

Reunification. The reunification of Germany was perhaps Kohl’s greatest challenge. The process of reunification began almost immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Talks involving the two Germanies and the four victorious Allies of World War 11 Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States set October 1990 as the date tor reunification. Two months later Helmut Kohl, benefiting from the goodwill created hy this great change, was elected as chancellor of a reunified Germany.

Although initially seen as a hero, Kohl soon began to lose popularity. By the summer of 1991, unemployment was widespread in the former East Germany, and much of the promised investment and reindustrialization was yet to be seen. Germans in the western part of the country also became disillusioned as the enormous costs of reunification became apparent. The reintegration of East Germany became an increasing burden on the German economy through the mid-1990s. Helmut Kohl, however, remained in office until 1998, when he was defeated in September by Gerhard Schroeder and his Social Democratic Party. Schroeder pledged to reduce unemployment and stimulate the economy.

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