Germany’s Pursuit of Strategy during Cold War Period
Dr. Ahmet Selami Çalışkan


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After Anglo-American alliance entered the Continental Europe under the support of a huge maritime power from the coasts of France, balances of power in Europe began to change in favor of the central powers and defeat was inevitable for German armies who retreated in every front line. On the one hand, while final preparations of war were being made; on the other hand, power groups around which new world order after war would be shaped became definite. It is accepted that the balances and parameters in international system in the 19th and 20th centuries have been determined with The Peace of Westphalia signed in 1648. (1). This peace and the order established in this context were based on the body of rules continued until World War I and largely until World War II. Its fundamental was based on noncentralized system of equal and sovereign states and this system regulated the relationship among the European states and determined the legal framework. Success of the system introduced by The Peace of Westphalia was based on the understanding that the world resources were limitless. These regions resources of which were regarded as limitless remained outside the European boundaries. Name of the organized strategy developed so as to utilize these resources by the European states was “imperialism.” Therefore, rules of The Peace of Westphalia were not valid for the regions outside Europe such as Asia and Africa. This double standard was the basic of the European order and the main dynamics of the system functioning until World War II. Briefly, the world system until 1945 was based on the division of the earth as Europe and Non-Europe and only the relationships among the European states. Fundamentals of the new world order as the product of Western civilization after World War II and how it would function began to become clear in many conferences held during the war and particularly in Yalta. Central European-based German hegemony as one of the last obstacles facing British alliance ended.(2) In this framework, after Europe withdrew as a power center from the political arena, distinctive differences occurred in international conjuncture.

We can summarize these differences under four articles:

1-Two super powers, America and Russia were dominant in the world politics after war. Both of these powers did not play a key role in international politics before. America left isolation doctrine of Monroea which was followed by America before and became a world state. Russia, which followed an isolated politics from Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 until breakout of World War II and remained outside big community of states, succeeded in becoming a first degree dominant figure in international politics thanks to its technological power after 1945 as well as active and expansionist positive politics it followed. Other states came together within the framework of these two poles.

2- New world order brought a prominent ideological doctrinal fragmentation with it. Even though this ideological polarization had dilemmas in itself, it did not produce very significant problems in terms of the fundamentals on which it was established and all problems were solved within the dimension of power balances or mostly, it used to create partial conflict zones.

3- The fact that potential conclusions of a possible third world war after two world wars became clear. As a result of the structure caused by prey characteristics of weak states available for exploitation, former colonialism ended and the interests shared through international leagues made a permanent peace unavoidable. Propaganda of the dominant states having the intention of completely possessing the whole share made this necessary. The fact that postcolonial states gained their independence caused the block of third world states to occur.

4- The most important result of the Second World War was a complete change of the system established by The Peace of Westphalia. Now that, rather than the Europeans, powers outside the continent would create a sphere of influence and interest in Europe. England, which at first remained outside the problems in Europe but after a while, got involved as a balance element as required by its political tradition, was replaced by America. Classical Prussia expansionism, which targeted expansionism within an eclectic system extending up to India by creating a dominance in the central Europe every time within the system was brought to heel and the lands within the site of life constituted the main problematic of the bipolar world system.


On 5 June 1945, allied powers announced with a notice that they took the ruling of Germany over. USA, the Soviet Union and England would freely administer the territories they occupied; and Control Committee of the Allied States would become involved in respect of the issues which were related to Germany in general. It was decided in Potsdam Conference to divide Germany into three occupation zones. After France was also regarded as the occupation force, number of occupation zones reached four. After a while, former political parties began to be established and state governments began to be created in the occupation zones. Although allied states were determined to protect the integrity of Germany in principle; after a while, they had split of opinion with the Soviet Union. Upon signature of the Peace Treaty, war indemnities and economic problems such as how the economic structuring of Germany would be as well as political problems such as joining occupation zones and transit to democracy arose. Despite the decision on protecting economic integrity of Germany at Potsdam Conference, France and Russia acted independently in their occupation zones and caused Germany to experience economic bottleneck. Although USA approved a liberal German economy which would not disturb its own interests in the Central Europe, it did not want Germany to be so powerful that it would create a significant instability in the most important centerline of Europe. However, considering the events developed, Germany emerged as a result of the idea that creating a Germany to protect the interests of both America and Russia and constitute a stopping point for each other would be more reasonable.

Considering the difference of opinions mentioned above, the fact that Germany was a central power in such a way that it could never be left in favor of the other for both super powers and must definitely be shared revealed. When it was decided to unite three west occupation zones in 1948 and establish a German government, the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin as a reaction to this decision. According to the agreement made after war, all needs of American, French and English occupation forces within the zones up to one hundred miles of Berlin under the occupation of the Soviet Union would be met by the West Germany. Based on this agreement, the Western countries succeeded in pacifying and mitigating the effect of the blockade on the Berliners by continuously supplying aids by air to Berlin. The Soviet Union lifted the blockade approximately one year later since they were unable to maintain their pressure.

In the meantime, West Germany completed the studies for constituent assembly and called elections in 1949 within the framework of new constitution. Governance of new Germany was assigned by the allied stated to the bureaucrats before the Nazis. Even if the majority was not able to be constituted, elections were won by the alliance formed by the highest rated CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and CSU (Christian Social Union) under the leadership of Adenauer who held office as the mayor in the American occupation zone. SPD (Social Democratic Party), German Party and Communist Party had deputies as well. Finally, following the coalition formed by CDU- CSU alliance with FDP and German Party, Anedauer became the prime minister. As from this date, Germany, which always pursued an independent and different policy and constituted a center of power in the European geography as from the date they determined, assigned its control to the allied states


1) Structural Problems of the Federal German Strategy
The fact that responsibilities of the 3rd Reich offences belong to hysteric German Nationalism was realized meant that the politicians were not able to mobilize powerful nationalistic feelings of the society as it was in England and France. Social dynamism of England in the case of Falkland Islands felt at the least in the Federal Germany. Italians and Spanish politicians criticized the current situation but Germans were in full confusion. The reason for such confusion was the effects of German recent history and that they lived in the first post-nation state of Europe. (3) Requirement for providing stability again in Europe by establishment of the West German state after collapse of quadruple control system broken as a result of the tension between USA and the Soviet Union led to American commitment. As a matter of fact, the West German state was a state which foreign policy of British hegemony preferred rather than its own foreign policy. It was impossible for a state established on dissolution of a structure continued since 1871 to introduce a foreign policy promising unity of Germany again. However, three basic problems formed the reference framework of the new German politics to be created.

a) Historical Heritage and Restrictions
The West German politics was influenced by its historical experience of 19th century in terms of its behavior and intentions much more than any modern state. United Germany had proven since its beginning in 1871 that its integration into international system was impossible. While German strategists were occupied with the idea of Eingreisung (surrounded), neighboring countries were afraid of Germany’s dynamic and expanding character. This tension between Germany and the other forces inside and outside the continental Europe left its mark on the period of 1871-1945 in the real sense of the word. Germans, after World War II, preferred to pursue a policy against communism and towards the west with their own wills and in line with the usual reasons. However, communism hostility created a bridge with the past. This bridge was not only the bridge laid in Nazis period. Hostility between the Polish and the Germans dates back to the Middle Age. Competition between the Germans and Russians was one of the preconditions of World War I. After 1945, most of the Germans were revisionists in terms of not accepting the division of their country and their objections were against the east in general. However, at the same time, they had to question whether it was necessary to make a stable change in an unfair cycle, which constituted important part of their relationships with the east in the past. Poland and Russia were exposed to German aggression again. Prussia played an active role in dissolution of Poland in the past and Germany ruled by Hitler aimed at destroying not only the political foundations of a nation but also, physical and cultural foundation. Although Russia was a collaborator in terms of being opposing Poland, it was exposed twice to German imperialism. Prussia played an active role in dissolution of Poland in the past and Germany ruled by Hitler aimed at destroying not only the political foundations of a nation but also, physical and cultural foundation. Although Russia was a collaborator in terms of being opposing Poland, it was exposed twice to German imperialism

The West Germans used totalitarian idea in order to remove their responsibilities in the past and present revisionist desires.(4) However, Germans had to express that the politics and ideals which expose both countries to a war for destroying them two times were wrong. Hence, it was revealed that the most important outcome of the West German politics was the obligation to prevent war. This situation was supported by the necessity of political compromise as a result of nuclear revolution and the conditions exposed by Germany.

b) Cold War and Systematic Power Competition between the West and the East
Position of Germany in Europe after World War II was determined by three important factors. The first one was the new arrangement of boundaries in the east Europe. Russia defeated Germany and became a super power after the events during and before the Nazi Germany and was in harmony with the Western powers and therefore, it was inevitable for it to desire a change of land. The second factor was related to how the new world system would protect itself against Germany. Corporate interpretation of this security need implied division of the country and annexation of the east boundaries. The third factor was the cold war prioritizing division variance. Other two parts of Germany in the west of Oder-Nisse were very important for the security of allied powers. Thus, German question was an integrated part of cold war. Politicians of the big parties of Germany understood following a certain challenge, resistance and search that accepting the status quo was a pre-condition so that cold war could remain cold in the real sense of the word.

German question was a serious problem during the cold war but it also brought a solution to it since cold war was one of the preconditions at the same time. Division of the country and integration of two separate parts in two separate camps would provide a shield against Germany and German question. Even though the controllers of both Germany largely seemed to have made an informed choice in the east and west conflict and between the political systems, they naturally found that kind of security concept problematic. Despite this, cold war provided the West Germany with fresh blood such that they even began to believe that they could avoid compensating for war and acquire their boundaries before 1937 (5). Furthermore, it could be put forward that Germany was unable to protect and defend its west boundaries against French aggression without cold war. In this sense, cold war was one of the most important factors of German revisionism implying national sovereignty. This indicated that unity between two German states was just a dream as long as hostility between them continued. For unity again, a guarantee had to be given indicating that the West German revisionism would never be a threat. This required a joint solution to the problem of east and west apart from the proposal of cold war. However, conditions imposed by cold war made this impossible. Another option for the West German revisionism was to take advantage of the cold war conditions according to its own interests. This meant acceptance of a basic change by the Soviet Union in its position against the conflict of the east and west. That kind of development was impossible to realize without a radical change that could not be observed by the international system at that time.

c) Moral Problems of Status Quo and Uncertainty of Interest
Even if the West Germany ended its special areas of conflict, all obstacles would not be eliminated in front of German foreign policy. In any event, conflict of ideologies, social systems would continue. This problem was associated with revisionism during 1950s. As long as the effect of revisionism decreased, other problems inevitably emerged. It wasn’t known how to ensure the requirement of preventing war in a Europe which was characterized with military and political structural asymmetries. The way to achieve a constant compromise with a regime deprived of a real legality according to the Western standards and a super power having to assume a kind of colonialism was not known. Since the Nazi Germany caused a great suffering to the Soviets, it was an undeniable reality for the Soviets to compensate such pains at least in a moral ground. As a matter of fact, power politics proved that they acquired such compensation. The problem was to satisfy, within the system, Russian-Soviet imperialist dreams that posed a threat to British hegemony as well as at least Germany, which provided a basis for Nazi invasion and moved it to an earlier time or followed with a direct collaboration with Nazis. Hitler-Stalin agreement resulted in many Soviet invasions several of which remained in ethnical field. Occupation areas were sovietized and so-called class opponents were eliminated.

Focusing on current problems was more difficult for Germans than for any party in the east-west conflict. Germans were not in a politically and morally good position in terms of complaining about Soviet offences and expansionism. Reference was to be made to any West German revisionism related to the demand for territory. Demand for territory for Poland being the victim of both German and Russian neighbors and not desiring to put its new territories at risk was meaningless. Thus, existence of a determined and integrated Poland in the Central Europe was the way to prevent war or to prevent German and Russian expansionism being opponent to each other from dominating the whole continent(6). Political-ideological and military differentiations affected Germany. Accepting present conditions meant acceptance of not only Soviet expansionism but also existence of communist hegemony in the East and Central Europe. Even though this hegemony was inconsistent with many basic Western faiths and values, it was also possible to prove that it was against the desires of the majority of the East Germans and Europeans. The most prominent point for social resistance events in the East and West conflict was not a permanent revolution functioning from the lower layers of the society but the counter revolution functioning from the upper layers of the society. Compromise in current conditions meant a settlement with more dominant military forces at the same time and that it not only made the East instable in terms of security concepts but also a settlement with an accusing defense understanding making it advantageous at the same time or at least, if implementation of strategy accusing of the West to status quo in terms of the responsibilities for extensive deterrence and being the first side to use nuclear power increased war risk and eliminated the chance for transformation, and if said differentiations would be perceived as weakness rather than strength, and if the Soviets and the East Europe would not normalize their relationships with their neighbors due to strategic and historical reasons unless a fundamental change was made in their political system; then, compromise on the basis of status quo would have been ethical provided that legitimacy of the Western values were appreciated. Division of Germany and weak identity of Federal Germany made interest concept already undeveloped more unclear when compared to the foreign policies of other countries. Disconnection between German nation and the West German state suddenly blocked mentioning of a national interest. Whether Federal German Republic would represent the whole German nation- at least those living within the boundaries determined in 1937- had been always discussed since 1949. Since the federal government was ruled based on free election, it was the only legitimate state and its primary duty was to act for German Unity as it was set forth in the constitution. Thus, Federal Republic continuously announced that Germans had national interests in self-determination. This concept was also supported by Hallstein Doctrine of 1955 which argued whether recognition of the East Germany would be perceived by Federal Germany as a hostile attitude or not and as a result of this argument, no country other than communist countries except for the Soviet Union recognized the East Germany (7). The fact that Federal Germany announced that it was the representative of German national interests occurred with big pressures at the end of 1960s. After the super powers turned towards détente at the beginning of 1960s, Germans had to leave their persistence that unity was more indispensable than détente and take part in a system with less polarity. Maintaining Hallstein Doctrine in the new system began to cost much. It was breached towards the end of 1960s too.


1-Military Revisionism
Military revisionist and imperialist character of National Socialism did not suddenly appear and never disappeared with Hitler’s death. Ideology laid behind Ostpolitik defined Germany as a state which expanded towards the west and would make efforts to eliminate Bolshevik movement. The reason for empowering Germany by the United States was based on this ideology. Struggle with the East and the West at the same time was a burden greater than it could bear. Apart from this, was it possible to fight against Russia as being integrated with the West under democracy flag? What was the meaning of this possibility for the West which described the objectives of founding NATO as to keep America in, Russia out, Germany down(8). Such an option did not comply with the anti-fascist opinions of the coalitions and German spirit that wanted to make a new start. Article no.26 of German constitution definitely prohibits military assault. Leaving revisionism with military methods formed the basis of integration with the world system and questionable new sovereignty. In the following agreements, Germans guaranteed that use of force would be abandoned in changing the boundaries of Germany or ensuring unity. Even all these guarantees were not able to prevent the West from being on the safe side. (9)

2- Integration with the West and Force-Centered Ostpolitik
Historical experiences, regional background and political instincts of Adenauer were always towards the west. For him, reuniting did not replace integration with the west and both were likely to make a compromise. Making a choice in favor of one of the parties of the cold war did not make division of Germany certain. Unity for the governments under the presidency of Adenaur and the political powers behind him was the same as “Anschluss” and meant uniting the Soviet occupation areas and integration with some of the states in the east of Oder-Nisse line. Such unity would no doubt occur against the demands of Russia. Successful talks on the unity for Federal Germany depended on integration with the West and support of the West and the West had to be powerful.

However, power-centered bargaining strategy was established based on three questionable basic assumptions. The first one was that the West would give full support for the demands of Germany against the Soviet Union. The second one was that the West was really more powerful than Russia and they could prove this if required. The third and the most important one was the idea that the Soviets would submit to the rules of the game. How could such politics be harmonized with the claim for peace and stability and what could the relevant basic arguments be?

It was argued that the basic reason for the tension in Europe was not German revisionism but division of Germany. If the world was really willing to establish peace and détente, division of Germany would have to be ended. German governments had supported disarmament until 1960s provided that this aided progress in German question.

However, it was understood in a short time that ground of these basic agreements was weak. Even if the fact that the United States supported the power-centered policy as a discourse, the thesis that divided Germany was the reason for tension in Europe was not true for the entire West. Support given to the West German claims in fact meant a guarantee for integration of revisionist tendencies into the West and using Germany as a shield against Russia. Integration of Federal Germany into the West and its compromise with France was the result of a political vision but cost of Adenauer’s Westpolitik was heavy. The West’s efforts for early détente and arms control were partly collapsed. Unrealistic but new tradition and old tradition based on hostility between the East Europe and Germany were supported by conservative governments. The idea argued was that Germany would put political and military pressure on the Soviets and as a result of this pressure, Russia would be removed from the Central Europe and Germany would, this time, determine its position under the super power of America and as the member of liberal democrat alliance

3- Loose Revisionism and Planned Weakness
Basic argument of Adenaur opponents was that unity was impossible without consent of the Soviets by some means or other. They argued that the Soviets would not accept a powerful united Germany in terms of the pressures and Germany’s military structure being dependent on the West. There tow alternatives of power-centered politics. The first one was developed by SPD and the other was the alternative supported by those defending a third way for Europe and Germany. After a short period of agreement with the idea that Europe and Germany was a third force, SPD administration followed the way of other big parties and turned its face clearly towards the West and took part in a position against communism. Although SPD desired to realize the unity project which would put it in a very powerful position in Germany, it came face to face with the same problem as the others. This was the stable security of Europe and the conflict created by a united Germany. Hence, a united Germany posed a potential threat to the security of central Europe.

SPD’s Ostpolitik in the earlier period was more nationalistic in many aspects despite the fact that it was contradictory similar to Adenauer’s. It ignored the realities of cold war according to its own method and put forward an understanding of vague collective security for Europe. However, SPD shifted to NATO in a very short time. Party’s ruling structure concluded that a military contribution to the Western alliance would be realistic provided that all remaining opportunities for unity are evaluated carefully. While Adenauer’s strategy was to lay the West integration down as a basic condition and start a power-centered negotiation on the unity of the Soviet occupation zones, SPD wanted to start simply a negotiation being independent of power. According to two-way policy stipulated by SPD, Federal Germany would remain outside NATO and EDC by utilizing military integration with the West as a bargain in the event that Russia waived the East Germany. This weakness policy was supposed to be successful for a while. After 1955, SPD understood gradually that negotiations would not bring an early solution to the problem of unity. Upon this, Party administration weakened the tie between unity and security and played an active role in creating Federal army. Maintaining its commitment to the idea of unity, it agreed on a full integration with the West.

However, its strategy, being different from Adenauer’s, was closer to traditional East-West approximation trend. At the same time, SPD established a relationship between peace and disarmament and German question. On the other hand, Adenauer argued that détente and disarmament would undermine power-centered policy. SPD found détente and disarmament useful for the unity. Party used to carry out many policies during 1950s. These policies placed détentedisarmament-unity and collective security problem in the same ground.

The most important problem of the revisionism regarding planned weakness was that united Germany would never be or remain powerless and if it was powerless, it would be undecided and thus, become the target of the attacks in the struggle of the east and the west: Even if such Germany was determined in itself, it would become a third power having the last word in the East-West balance. These thoughts raised doubts in the minds of former enemies of Germany and the big powers of the world system. The West and the East wanted a Germany movements of which could be estimated and which would not be out of control.

4- New definition of National Problem
Although it was understood that Adenauer’s Ostpolitik was not convenient and external conditions became worse at the beginning of 1955, conservatives avoided declaring this fact. Flexible wing of Christian Democrats and FDP tried to utilize a new combination in order to make revisionism parallel with changing conditions. West integration and revisionism plus détente. Basic assumption of this policy was based on the idea that the East European countries would be able to be persuaded that divided Germany constituting an unstable structure in the Central Europe as a result of the relationship reducing a general tension with the countries of the East Europe would not be beneficial for these countries. Finally, the fact that this policy aimed at isolating the East Germany not only from the West and Third Countries but also from the East as it happened until that time was the reason for failure. This ended up exclusion of the West Germany instead of the East Germany. That the East Germany and Oder-Nisse line were not recognized in 1960s made a progress in Ostpolitik impossible. Based on unconditional acceptance of the results of World War II, SPD-FDP coalition established in 1969 declared that they did not have any claim for change in boundaries against each other in bilateral agreements made with the Soviets, GDR and Poland. However, unity opportunity was not legally and politically lost even in those agreements. This was considered to be a temporary agreement (modus vivendi) in order to reach better conditions, bring stability to status quo and the future of the security. Agreements made with the east made American-Soviet solidarity official, which began to be shaped as from the Berlin crisis.

At this point, Federal Germany interpreted the relationship again between German Question and security. East insisted for a long time that non-acceptance of division of Germany was a threat to peace. New paradox of Federal Germany was the fact that the only condition of overcoming the outcomes of division was to accept such outcomes. Now, unity meant developing the relationships between the two countries and being under a joint responsibility.

SPD began to accept the reality of integration with the West at the end of ten years and the reality of division at the end of fifteen years. For CDU which regarded integration with the West as Raison D'etre, it took twenty five years for CDU to understand that the burden to be brought to the world system by the policies followed by CDU. Defense plus détente became the cornerstone of official perspectives of social democrat-liberal and liberal-conservative parties and the West German policy.


One advantage of dependence of the East-West relationships on the world’s division in terms of geographical, political, military and ideological aspects was that it regulated the power distribution between the super powers and ensured that German question remained insignificant. One of the potential risks of transformation of this two-way system was that German influence in the Central Europe still continued. The fact that a United Germany would be a threat to the world system was not an imaginary product of a socialist propaganda. The problem was arisen from German history and that Germany was unable to use its position and potential prudently in terms of the world system. Despite all these facts, many factors prove that Germany will be a loyal member of developing European Union. One external outcome of keeping Germany outside new power structuring and nuclear revolution and leaving German foreign policy is the indicator of the consensus in German foreign policy. Even the first revisionist powers were aware that the military administration was completely outside the game. This situation meant collapse of Prussia tradition. For example, Weimar Republic did not reject use of force against especially Poland even during their most détente periods, which was just a matter of time for most of the conservative rulers. The second important point was gradual failure in revisionist desires, which was refusal of the claims for the territories in the east of Oder-Nisse. The method followed here was just an adventure started with the slogan of 'Three-way division? Never' and ended with practical recognition of Poland-Germany boundary.(10) In addition to all these situations; now, it is true that Federal Germany embraced the West tightly. Even if the ties with the military alliance one of the basic functions of which is to keep Germany under control become weak, emergence of a special German manner seems to be a weak possibility. Integration includes the political field economically and in a rapidly increasing way rather than the military field. Despite increasing number of supra-nationalist authorities in Europe, it is true that there is not a factor which will completely block German idealism and tradition. East European countries may get ahead in the direction of Europe’s becoming German by preventing Germany’s becoming European as long as they can utilize their economic superiority in a more different perspective than the position described by Brandt as “economic giant-political dwarf and use their superiority as a weapon unlike German history and tradition.(11)


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