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Willy Brandt (left) and Willi Stoph in Erfurt 1970, the first encounter of a Federal Chancellor with his East German counterpart, an early step in the de-escalation of the Cold War Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F031406-0017, Erfurt, Treffen Willy Brandt mit Willi Stoph.jpg
Willy Brandt (left) and Willi Stoph in Erfurt 1970, the first encounter of a Federal Chancellor with his East German counterpart, an early step in the de-escalation of the Cold War

Neue Ostpolitik (German for "new eastern policy"), or Ostpolitik for short, was the normalization of relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany) and Eastern Europe, particularly the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) beginning in 1969. Influenced by Egon Bahr, who proposed "change through rapprochement" in a 1963 speech at the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, the policies were implemented beginning with Willy Brandt, fourth Chancellor of the FRG from 1969 to 1974.

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany was the informal name for the Federal Republic of Germany, a country in Central Europe, in the period between its formation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War period, the western portion of Germany was part of the Western Bloc. The Federal Republic was created during the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II, established from eleven states formed in the three Allied zones of occupation held by the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Its (provisional) capital was the city of Bonn. The Cold War era West Germany is unofficially historically designated the Bonn Republic.

Egon Bahr German politician (SPD)

Egon Karl-Heinz Bahr was a German SPD politician.

In international relations, a rapprochement, which comes from the French word rapprocher, is a re-establishment of cordial relations between two countries. This may be done due to a mutual enemy, as was the case with Germany for France and the United Kingdom and their signing of the Entente Cordiale. It has also been done, particularly in the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States, in an effort to reduce tensions and the likelihood of war.


Ostpolitik was an effort to break with the policies of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which was the elected government of West Germany from 1949 until 1969. The Christian Democrats under Konrad Adenauer and his successors tried to combat the Communist regime of East Germany, while Brandt's Social Democrats tried to achieve a certain degree of cooperation with East Germany.

Konrad Adenauer German statesman, Federal Chancellor of Germany, politician (CDU)

Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman who served as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963. He was co-founder and first leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a Christian Democratic party that under his leadership became one of the most influential parties in the country.

The term Ostpolitik has since been applied to Pope Paul VI's efforts to engage Eastern European countries during the same period. The term Nordpolitik was also coined to describe similar rapprochement policies between North and South Korea beginning in the 1980s.

Pope Paul VI Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1963 to 1978

Pope Paul VI was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 21 June 1963 to his death in 1978. Succeeding John XXIII, he continued the Second Vatican Council which he closed in 1965, implementing its numerous reforms, and fostered improved ecumenical relations with Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches, which resulted in many historic meetings and agreements. Montini served in the Holy See's Secretariat of State from 1922 to 1954. While in the Secretariat of State, Montini and Domenico Tardini were considered as the closest and most influential advisors of Pius XII, who in 1954 named him Archbishop of Milan, the largest Italian diocese. Montini later became the Secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference. John XXIII elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 1958, and after the death of John XXIII, Montini was considered one of his most likely successors.

Nordpolitik was the signature foreign policy of South Korean president Roh Tae-woo. The policy guided South Korean efforts to reach out to the traditional allies of North Korea, with the goal of normalized relations with the closest allies to North Korea, China and the Soviet Union. By adopting Nordpolitik policy, South Korea abolished the doctrine of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and understood that the indirect approach was a more plausible way to engage with North Korea. The policy improved the South's economy while leaving the North more isolated and was a dramatic and historic turning point of South Korea’s diplomatic goals.

North Korea Sovereign state in East Asia

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang the capital and the largest city in the country. To the north and northwest, the country is bordered by China and by Russia along the Amnok and Tumen rivers and to the south it is bordered by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two. Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands.


Following the end of World War II in 1945, Allied-occupied Germany was split into two states: the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany). Initially, both governments claimed that they represented the entire German nation. However, the Federal Republic saw itself as the only German government with democratic legitimacy. Later, at the end of the 1960s, the communist government of the GDR claimed that there was no longer a common German nation as the GDR had established a socialist nation.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Allied-occupied Germany Post-World War II military occupation of Germany

Upon defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the victorious Allies asserted joint authority and sovereignty over 'Germany as a whole', defined as all territories of the former German Reich west of the Oder–Neisse line, having declared the destruction of Nazi Germany at the death of Adolf Hitler. The four powers divided 'Germany as a whole' into four occupation zones for administrative purposes, under the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union respectively; creating what became collectively known as Allied-occupied Germany. This division was ratified at the Potsdam Conference. The four zones were as agreed in February 1945 by the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union meeting at the Yalta Conference; setting aside an earlier division into three zones proposed by the London Protocol.

East Germany Former communist state, 1949-1990

East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic, was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990, when the eastern portion of Germany was part of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Commonly described as a communist state in English usage, it described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state." It consisted of territory that was administered and occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II — the Soviet occupation zone of the Potsdam Agreement, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The Soviet zone surrounded West Berlin but did not include it; as a result, West Berlin remained outside the jurisdiction of the GDR.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) political party dominated West German governments from 1949 to 1969. These governments refused to have any contact with the GDR government due to its undemocratic character, and the Hallstein Doctrine stipulated that the FRG would withdraw diplomatic contact from any country that established diplomatic relations with the GDR. The first application of the Hallstein Doctrine was in 1957, when the FRG withdrew recognition of Yugoslavia after it accepted a GDR ambassador. In the 1960s it became obvious that this policy would not work forever. When the Federal Republic established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1965, the Arab states countered by breaking off relations with the Federal Republic and establishing relations with the GDR.

Hallstein Doctrine One-Germany policy during the Cold War

The Hallstein Doctrine, named after Walter Hallstein, was a key principle in the foreign policy of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1955 to 1970. As usually presented, it prescribed that the Federal Republic would not establish or maintain diplomatic relations with any state that recognized the German Democratic Republic. In fact it was more nuanced. There was no public official text of the "doctrine", but its main architect, Wilhelm Grewe, explained it publicly in a radio interview. Konrad Adenauer, who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1949 to 1963, explained the outlines of the policy in a statement to the German parliament on 22 September 1955. It meant that the Federal German government would regard it as an unfriendly act if third countries were to recognize the "German Democratic Republic" or to maintain diplomatic relations with it – with the exception of the Soviet Union. The West German response to such could mean breaking off diplomatic relations, though this was not stated as an automatic response under the policy and in fact remained the ultima ratio.

Yugoslavia 1918–1992 country in Southeastern and Central Europe

Yugoslavia was a country in Southeastern and Central Europe for most of the 20th century. It came into existence after World War I in 1918 under the name of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes by the merger of the provisional State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs with the Kingdom of Serbia, and constituted the first union of the South Slavic people as a sovereign state, following centuries in which the region had been part of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary. Peter I of Serbia was its first sovereign. The kingdom gained international recognition on 13 July 1922 at the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris. The official name of the state was changed to Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 3 October 1929.

Even before his election as Chancellor, Willy Brandt, the Social Democratic mayor of West Berlin, argued for and pursued policies that would ease tensions between the two German states, generally in the interest of cross-border commerce. His proposed new Ostpolitik held that the Hallstein Doctrine did not help to undermine the communist regime or even lighten the situation of the Germans in the GDR. Brandt believed that collaboration with the communists would foster German-German encounters and trade that would undermine the communist government over the long term.

Chancellor of Germany Head of government of Germany

The title Chancellor has designated different offices in the history of Germany. It is currently used for the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, the head of government of Germany.

Social Democratic Party of Germany Social-democratic political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany.

West Berlin Political enclave that existed between 1949 and 1990

West Berlin was a political enclave which comprised the western part of Berlin during the years of the Cold War. There was no specific date on which the sectors of Berlin occupied by the Western Allies became "West Berlin", but 1949 is widely accepted as the year in which the name was adopted. West Berlin aligned itself politically with the Federal Republic of Germany and was directly or indirectly represented in its federal institutions.

Nonetheless, he stressed that his new Ostpolitik did not neglect the close ties of the Federal Republic with Western Europe and the United States or its membership in NATO. Indeed, by the late 1960s, the unwavering stance of the Hallstein Doctrine was actually considered[ by whom? ] detrimental to US interests; numerous American advisors and policymakers, most notably Henry Kissinger, urged Bonn to be more flexible. At the same time, other West European countries entered a period of more daring policy directed to the East. [1] When the Brandt government became Chancellor in 1969, the same politicians now feared a more independent German Ostpolitik, a new "Rapallo". France feared that West Germany would become more powerful after détente; Brandt ultimately resorted to pressuring the French government into endorsing his policy by holding out German financial contributions to the European Common Agricultural Policy. [2]


The easing of tensions with the East envisioned by Ostpolitik necessarily began with the Soviet Union, the only Eastern Bloc state with which the Federal Republic had formal diplomatic ties (despite the aforementioned Hallstein Doctrine). In 1970 Brandt signed the Treaty of Moscow, renouncing the use of force and recognizing the current European borders. Later that year, Brandt signed the Treaty of Warsaw, in the process formally recognizing the People's Republic of Poland. The Treaty of Warsaw essentially repeated the Moscow treaty, and in particular reiterated the Federal Republic's recognition of the Oder–Neisse line. Treaties with other Eastern European countries followed.

The most controversial agreement was the Basic Treaty of 1972 with East Germany, establishing formal relations between the two German states for the first time since partition. The situation was complicated by the Federal Republic's longstanding claim to represent the entire German nation; Chancellor Brandt sought to smooth over this point by repeating his 1969 statement that although two states exist in Germany, they cannot regard one another as foreign countries.

Brandt's successor Helmut Schmidt with East German party leader Erich Honecker, Dollnsee 1981 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-Z1212-049, Dollnsee, Erich Honecker und Helmut Schmidt.jpg
Brandt's successor Helmut Schmidt with East German party leader Erich Honecker, Döllnsee 1981

The conservative CDU opposition party in the Bundestag refused the Basic Treaty because they thought that the government gave away some Federal positions too easily. They also criticized flaws like the unintentional publishing of the Bahr-Papier, a paper in which Brandt's right hand Egon Bahr had agreed with Soviet diplomat Valentin Falin on essential issues. [3]

The Brandt government, a coalition of Social Democrats and Free Democrats, lost a number of MPs to the CDU opposition in protest over the Basic Treaty. In April 1972 it even seemed that opposition leader Rainer Barzel had enough support to become the new Chancellor, but in the parliamentary decision he came two votes short. Later emerged that the GDR had paid those two CDU deputies to vote against Barzel. [4] New general elections in November 1972 gave the Brandt government a victory, and on May 11, 1973 the Federal Parliament approved the Basic Treaty.

According to the Basic Treaty the Federal Republic and GDR accepted each other's de facto ambassadors, termed "permanent representatives" for political reasons. The mutual recognition opened the door for both states to join the United Nations, as the Federal Republic's claim to representing the entire German nation was essentially dropped by the act of recognizing its Eastern counterpart.

The CDU/CSU persuaded the FDP to defect from its coalition with the SPD in 1982, and thus CDU leader Helmut Kohl became Chancellor of West Germany. However, he did not change West German policy towards the GDR. Such was the consensus that Ostpolitik had been vindicated that Bavarian Minister-President Franz Josef Strauß, who had fiercely fought against the Basic Treaty and was Kohl's main opponent within the CDU/CSU bloc, secured the passage of a Kohl-initiated loan of 3 billion marks to the GDR in 1983.

Vatican diplomacy

Ostpolitik is also the name given to Pope Paul VI's policies towards the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellite states. Trying to improve the condition of Christians in general and Catholics in particular behind the Iron Curtain, he engaged in dialogue with Communist authorities at several levels, receiving Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and USSR head of state Nikolai Podgorny in 1966 and 1967 in the Vatican. The situation of the Church in Poland, Hungary and Romania improved somewhat during his pontificate. [5]

South Korea

South Korea's 1980s policy of Nordpolitik was named in allusion to Ostpolitik.

A similar concept is Sunshine Policy, which is the main North Korea policies of the Democratic Party of Korea.

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Taiwan's China policy of Mainlandpolitik is named in allusion to Ostpolitik.

List of treaties

These are West German treaties that have Ostpolitik as a primary or secondary policy goal:

Later agreements in the period of Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl (from 1982 through German reunification in 1990), although dealing with similar issues and having similar goals, are not considered to be Ostpolitik.

See also


  1. Helga Haftendorn: Deutsche Außenpolitik zwischen Selbstbeschränkung und Selbstbehauptung 1945–2000. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt: Stuttgart / München 2001, p. 173–174.
  2. Helga Haftendorn: Deutsche Außenpolitik zwischen Selbstbeschränkung und Selbstbehauptung 1945–2000. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt: Stuttgart / München 2001, p. 181.
  3. Helga Haftendorn: Deutsche Außenpolitik zwischen Selbstbeschränkung und Selbstbehauptung 1945–2000. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt: Stuttgart / München 2001, p. 183–184.
  4. Helga Haftendorn: Deutsche Außenpolitik zwischen Selbstbeschränkung und Selbstbehauptung 1945–2000. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt: Stuttgart / München 2001, p. 193.
  5. Franzen 427

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