Towards the end of the Cold War: NATO rearmament and

In document From Guilt to Responsibility and Beyond? : Change in German Strategic Culture after the End of the Cold War (Page 102-107)

Even though the new Ostpolitik and the CSCE had established a political modus vivendi with the Warsaw Pact states, the strategically important ques- tion of nuclear weapons and disarmament were not part of the CSCE agenda. As Readman has argued, the CSCE had little effect on hard security in Eu- rope because the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) excluded non- strategic nuclear weapons and the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks (MBFR) did not concern nuclear weapons at all and were making hardly any progress.231 After the CSCE, the Soviet Union began replacing its old nu-

clear weapons systems with new SS-20 mid-range nuclear missiles. The pur- pose of these missiles was to pose a direct threat to European NATO mem- bers by enabling a massive first strike capability, which would make the US nuclear shield obsolete. This threat was considered a severe blow to the poli- tics of détente but also for the security of Western Europe. German Chancel- lor Helmut Schmidt (SPD) was the first European leader to raise concerns about the Soviet rearmament and argued for the importance of NATO re- armament in the area of mid-range nuclear missiles. This was a necessary evil in order to save the détente.232 Schmidt was very vocal in his criticism

towards Russian deployment plans and made several unsuccessful diplomat- ic attempts to deter Russians from further nuclear deployments in Europe. After the US had decided to deploy the neutron bomb in 1978, the negotia- tions over a NATO response quickly followed. The NATO members agreed at Guadeloupe in 1979 that they would adopt a double-track strategy: firstly, they would demand that the Russians withdraw from the SS-20 deployment

231 Readman, Kristina S. 2011, µConflict and Cooperation in Intra-Alliance Nuclear Politics: Western

Europe, the United States, and the Genesis of NATO's Dual-Track Decision, 1977–1979’, Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 13, no.2, Spring 2011, p. 45.

232 Unterseher, Lutz 2015, Das Dilemma militärischer Sicherheit. Kritische Berichte aus den Jahr-

and in case the Soviet Union would not budge, NATO would proceed with its own counter nuclear deployment. As Wettig has observed, even though the German government agreed to Jimmy Carter’s plan at Guadeloupe, it did it unwillingly, as Russian refusal to withdraw the missiles would have meant nuclear deployment on German soil, a thing which was politically sensitive and very unpopular in Germany, especially for the governing parties.233

The Soviet Union condemned the ‘double-track’ decision and warned the West against a new rearmament race. Russian Foreign Minister Gromyko had advised Schmidt during his visit in Bonn in late 1979 to review the link between Germany’s support to the double-track decision and the German pledge to the maxim that never again should war emanate from German soil. At the concluding press conference, Gromyko warned that the double-track decision would spiral a new arms race in and beyond Europe.234 The Soviets

were particularly concerned about Germany’s Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher’s activism around the double-track decision. Russian newspaper Pravda wrote before Gromyko’s visit to Bonn that Genscher was ‘actively spreading anti-Soviet lies’ and was functioning as ‘advocate of the Pentagon’.235

The 1980s marked an intensification of the Cold War tensions as conflicts broke out in Africa, Middle-East and Afghanistan. In Germany, the ac- ceptance of the NATO-dual track decision in 1983 to deploy Pershing mid- range nuclear missiles to West Germany to respond to Soviet rearmament created both fear of Germany becoming a nuclear battlefield and skepticism towards US policies. This also reflected Schmidt’s personal attitude towards ‘strategy’ – in an interview with the Economist in late 1979 the Chancellor had argued that “it's wrong to use the word ‘strategic’ only in the context of intercontinental nuclear weaponry. It's a wrong perception of strategy. I use the word ‘strategy’ in the sense of the late Captain Liddel Hart's grand strate- gy which embraces not only all the military fields but of course also the polit- ical, the psychological, the economic fields.”236 These fears in West Germany

were also shared by the GDR because of Soviet belligerence and the first war in Afghanistan. The dual-track decision was supported strongly by Chancel- lor Helmut Schmidt – support which ultimately led SPD to lose power over the chancellorship in the 1982 elections characterized by mass peace protests and fears of nuclear war. Over 350 000 Germans took part in peace demon- strations during US President Reagan’s visit to Bonn in June 1982. Schmidt’s coalition fell apart in September 1982 and in the 1983 elections a new gov- ernment was formed under Helmut Kohl. Kohl was a strong supporter of the

233 Wettig, Gerhard 2009, ‘The last Soviet offensive in the Cold War: emergence and development of

the campaign against NATO euromissiles, 1979–1983’, Cold War History, vol. 9, Issue 1, 2009, p. 220- 221.

234 Press-konferentsiia A.A. Gromyko v Bonne, 23 November 1979, Izvestiia, 25 November 1979. 235 ÃAbrüstung: Fronten in Bewegungµ, Der Spiegel, 12.11.1979, Nr.46/1979.

dual-track decision and after months of Bundestag debates the decision was approved by the German Bundestag in November 1983.

The period from 1974 to 1992 in German foreign and security policy is of- ten referred to as an era of ‘Genscherism’, a term associated with the record long-time West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FDP) whose political career had started during the Brandt government in the mid- 1960s as the minister for the interior from 1969. Genscher was in office for almost 18 years and served in the Brandt, Schmidt and Kohl governments as foreign minister. Emil Kirchner has termed ‘Genscherism’ as follows: “a) elimination of hostility from international relations; b) demilitarizing and de- ideologizing East-West Relations and c) development of new peace struc- tures.”237 It could be argued that these three ideas epitomized the ideational

core behind German strategic behaviour, which had been launched by Brandt’s new Ostpolitik; a policy which for its part made these later com- mitments possible. In the international press at the time, the term ‘Genscherism’ was often used as an equivalent to an overtly uncritical stance towards the success of Gorbatschov’s perestroika and glasnost and the mis- placed belief that the changes in the USSR were substantial and long-lasting. Also, Genscher’s persisting idea of Germany functioning as a bridge between the East and West was not welcome across the Atlantic at the time when the US expected Germany to be a reliable ally.238 Genscher was also often ac-

cused of being the ‘dove’ in times of great superpower tensions, most notably because of his insistence on the discussions over short range nuclear missiles with the Warsaw Pact in 1989 but he also received a lot of credit after the end of the Cold War for his efforts towards European integration and German re- unification.239 Genscher, like Chancellor Kohl, was a strong supporter of Eu-

ropean integration and the détente with the Eastern Europe and the USSR. His views were strongly influenced by the positive results of the CSCE in Hel- sinki 1975 where he made his international debut as the German foreign min- ister.

‘Genscherism’ was very popular among the German populace since it di- rectly referred to German sentiments and skepticism about the continuing nuclear race between the superpowers and Germany becoming a pawn in the struggle between the rivalling ideologies and political systems, an issue which clearly posed one of the biggest threats to German security throughout the Cold War. Essentially, even though both Kohl and Genscher supported the NATO dual-track decision, the German leaders’ stance differed from that of their NATO-partners in two crucial respects: the German question and the

237 Kirchner, Emil J. 1990, µGenscher and what lies behind Genscherism’, West European Politics, vol.

13, issue 2, 1990, p. 164

238 µThe Triumphs and harrumphs of Genscherism¶, The Economist, 16.1.1988; ‘Genscher at the Eye


239 Von Weizsäcker, Richard 2015, µPraktizierte Verantwortungspolitik¶ Brauckhoff-Schwaetzer (ed.),

de-nuclearization policies. Genscher himself talked about the ‘policy of re- sponsibility’ (Verantwortungspolitik) instead of power politics. The policy of responsibility was an aversion of traditional power politics (Machtpolitik) and consisted of military restraint, human rights advocacy and multilateral co-operation240 and could hence be interpreted as an incarnation of both of

the post-war lessons, ‘never again war’ and ‘never again alone’. Even though both German leaders acknowledged that the reduced threat from the Soviet Union due to its leadership change by no means equated with a relaxation of conventional defence policies, they also insisted that the deployment of nu- clear weapons in Germany further served to cement the division of Europe, and therefore also the division of the two German states.241

In summary, especially the early Cold War years marked a formative peri- od for the emerging strategic culture for West Germany. This formative peri- od meant, first and foremost, forming a sense of ‘Self’ within the internation- al community which in a first step meant a strong institutionalization, dena- zification, demilitarization and Westernization of German society and poli- tics. As Kelly Longhurst has illustrated at length in her studies, domestically the reformation of civic-military relations on the basis of Innere Führung and Bürger in Uniform was inevitable in order to re-establish and justify the reformation of a new German armed force.242

Second, the Cold War years were an enormously difficult period for Ger- mans in the sense that there existed two German states under one German nation – the GDR never managed to consolidate a sense of another German nation, but explicitly referred to the common German cultural tradition. As Schoch has observed, “(t)he [Socialist Unity Party of Germany] SED repeated its vindication of German militarism and Nazism on the soil of the GDR like a mantra. With a good conscience, the SED spread this message throughout the whole country beyond the confines of the party itself and could, there- fore, blatantly refer to a national tradition” and that “(t)he SED employed a national terminology in its discussions on peace and détente during the 1980s […] Already in the beginning of the 1950s the Marxist-Leninist histori- cal nationalism embraced old Prussian heroes such as Stein, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Clausewitz, Heinrich von Kleist, Fichte, Arndt and Turnvater Jahn in its own ancestral gallery.”243

240 Baumann, Rainer 2005, µDer Wandel des deutschen Multilateralismus. Verschiebungen im außen-

politischen Diskurs in den 1990ger Jahren¶ Ulbert, Cornelia & Weller, Christoph (eds.),.RQVWUXNWL viVtische Analysen der Internationalen Politik, VS. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2005, p.118

241 See Wittmann, Klaus 2015, ’Genscher und der NATO-Doppelbeschluss‘, Brauckhoff, Kerstin &

Schwaetzer, Irmgard (eds.) Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s Aussenpolitik, Akteure der Aussenpolitik. Sprin- ger Verlag, 2015, pp. 141-165.

242 See Longhurst 2004.

243 Schoch, Bruno 1992, Deutschlands Einheit und Europa’s Zukunft, Friedensanalysen 26, Suhrkamp

Hence, beyond the fact that both German states faced similar military threats (nuclear war; Germany becoming a battlefield) and that both coun- tries’ security political agency was very limited, the same principal founda- tion of ‘never again war’ united all Germans on both sides of Checkpoint Charlie. This was also a factor which strongly underlined the continuity in the immediate post-Cold War German strategic culture. However, some dif- ferences seem to have persisted. According to Maull, even though there has been a considerable evolution in the views of the German electorate concern- ing the use of military force for other than solely defensive purposes, the former East Germans have remained much more skeptical towards NATO and the Bundeswehr deployments than their former Western counterparts after the end of the Cold War.244

Third, the German question was the underlying impetus for German stra- tegic behaviour ever since the rearmament debates in the 1950s and the poli- cies of Westbindung. Having to deal with the illusive long-term objective of reunification, besides the omnipresent fear of a worldwide nuclear war, was one of the biggest threat images during the long Cold War decades, because the advocacy of such a policy was anything but a risk-free enterprise in stra- tegic sense. This of course did not mean that every German wholeheartedly supported the reforming of a new German state under one banner. In addi- tion to a number of politicians, there were strong dissenting voices among prominent philosophers and intellectuals alike who were either strongly op- posed to or very critical of a possible German reunification towards the end of the Cold War, including Jürgen Habermas.245

Finally, the superpower relations largely dictated the political room for manoeuvre for Germany (and the rest of Europe), even after it was formally recognized as a sovereign state (1949) and after it had joined NATO (1955). Given the international and domestic restraints on the development of Ger- man military capabilities, Germany’s post World War II self-conceptualiza- tion as an emerging civilian power, and the subsequent redefinition of Ger- man national interests as striving towards world peace instead of world dom- ination, meant that during the Cold War, the actual German influence on in- ternational security policy making was fairly limited and therefore the future

244 Maull, Hanns 2000, ‘Germany and the use of force: Still a Civilian Power?’, Survival: Global


245 Philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the central figure in the German Historikerstreit, saw that the Ger-

man Westernization had been a big intellectual accomplishment which also meant a denunciation of all ideas concerning a great power status for Germany or even sovereignty. Even after the process of re- unification had been long ongoing, Habermas never abandoned this position, which saw the nation as µovercome¶. However, many critics rightly noted that the Habermasian concept of ‘Constitutional Pat- riotism’ was unreal in the sense that there could not be patriotism without Patria, the Fatherland. Cf. Weissmann, Karlheinz 1992, ‘Der „Westen“ in the German historiography after 1945¶, Zitelmann, Rainer (ed.), Westbindung: Chancen und Risiken für Deutschland, Frankfurt a.M Propyläen 1993, pp. 343-364.

of the German strategic culture seemed to be determined first and foremost by foreign powers and the international relations of the superpowers – at least as long as the prospect of a reunified Germany seemed unrealistic. Overall, German security policy was a reaction to unfolding events rather than proactive policy making or substantial strategic planning that had a lot to do with the structural imposition of a permanent agency vacuum that Germany was occupying during the Cold War (notwithstanding Adenauer’s Policy of Strength and Brandt’s Ostpolitik). Germany was cultivating the im- age of a civilian power which served German strategic interests and the ulti- mate goal of German reunification but it was at odds with the prevailing logic of bipolarity and balance of power.246 This would all begin to change on 19

October 1989 as the fall of the Berlin wall marked the prelude to the end of the long Cold War years and symbolized the reforging of a new Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the bipolar world order enabling the re-emergence of a unified Germany at the heart of Europe.


In document From Guilt to Responsibility and Beyond? : Change in German Strategic Culture after the End of the Cold War (Page 102-107)