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Foreign Reaction to Unification

German unification upset the political equilibrium in many of Western and Eastern Europe's political establishments. Although French public opinion had tended to support German unity, French leaders feared that a resurgent united Germany would dominate Europe and usurp their aspirations to play a leading role on the continent. President Mitterrand's trip to the GDR in December 1989, when he cautioned the East Germans against hasty unification, illustrated this sentiment.

In Britain, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government harbored fears that German unification would accelerate European unification, quickening and deepening the gap between London and the continent. Nicholas Ridley, an official in the Thatcher government, was forced to step down in the summer of 1990 in the wake of impolitic remarks he made about European economic union's being a German design for the domination of Europe. Thatcher, for her part, initially urged Chancellor Kohl's government to be patient on unification and only with reluctance later joined the United States in its pro-unity stance.

In the former Soviet bloc, aside from the Soviet Union, Poland sheltered the greatest distrust and suspicion of developments in Germany. These anxieties accounted for the separate treaty signed between united Germany and Poland in November 1990. The treaty confirmed the border (stipulated in the Two-Plus-Four Talks) and also outlined principles for good-neighborliness and cooperation between Warsaw and Bonn.

From the United States perspective, after offering Germany support for unification, President Bush promptly sought to reshape the German-United States alliance from a relationship in which West Germany had served as a junior partner to a more equal status in which Germany would become a "partner in leadership." Germany's changing relationship with the United States was in fact already evident. For example, it was without prior consultation with Washington that Chancellor Kohl and Soviet president Gorbachev had reached their agreement on the limit of 370,000 troops for Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr (West Germany had roughly 495,000 troops under arms in 1990; the GDR, 170,000) and the exclusion of NATO troops from the territory of eastern Germany.

Postunification Developments

United Germany, a state with 80 million inhabitants and an area bordering nine countries in Central Europe, confronted a daunting array of responsibilities and expectations with regard to its international role in the early 1990s. Following unification, its government adopted a policy aimed at fully integrating the newly enlarged Federal Republic into the primary instruments of international cooperation: the EC, NATO, the WEU, and the CSCE. In a deliberate effort to further assuage the concerns of its neighbors about German dominance on the continent, Bonn worked assiduously to bolster its multilateralist image.

President von Weizsäcker, Chancellor Kohl, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Genscher all went to great lengths to stress Germany's intention to renounce the power politics of past eras in favor of a "policy of responsibility." In the German view, this meant, on the one hand, a continuation of West German foreign policy based on the use of nonmilitary instruments. On the other hand, it meant a higher international profile in economic, human rights, and environmental issues. With the end of the Cold War, economic power, in the view of many officials and policy experts in Europe, had superseded military power in terms of political influence. Germans, above all, adhered to this belief.

At times, however, German foreign policy was self-centered. Squabbling over German interest rates (both in Europe and in the United States) in the autumn of 1992 underscored what many perceived as a new tilt toward German self-absorption and unilateralism that had been established the previous winter through Germany's policy toward the Balkans. Until the summer of 1991, Germany's policy toward Yugoslavia had mirrored the thinking in Washington and European capitals, namely, that Yugoslav unity should be preserved. For a number of domestic reasons, however, Bonn began to shift away from this policy, finally deciding on unilateral recognition of Croatia and Slovenia in December 1991.

In general, united Germany's foreign policy followed the resolutely multilateral stance developed in the postwar period. The German government played an enthusiastic role in the environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, emphasizing the importance it attached to international ecological concerns in its foreign policy. In the area of international aid, Bonn established criteria for developmental assistance based on a recipient country's respect for human rights, commitment to democracy and a market economy, and responsibility in arms development and procurement.

In the first years after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Germany led the international aid effort for the former Soviet Union and for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Aid to Russia was paramount for policy makers in Bonn for a variety of reasons, including the desire to expedite the withdrawal of Soviet troops from eastern Germany and the wish to enhance Germany's security by promoting democracy and a market economy in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union's successor states.

Because of these vital concerns, the German government emerged as an important champion of aid to the former Soviet bloc. Chancellor Kohl repeatedly prodded his Western partners toward what he often termed "fair international burden-sharing" with regard to aid for the emerging democracies in the former Soviet bloc. The US$24 billion aid package of the Group of Seven (G-7--see Glossary) for Russia in April 1992 had come about to a large extent as a result of German insistence. In April 1993, the G-7 announced an additional aid package for Russia totaling approximately US$50 billion. By this time, German aid to the successor states of the Soviet Union totaled more than DM90 billion (for value of the deutsche mark--see Glossary). According to Chancellor Kohl, this amount represented more than half of all Western contributions since 1989. German aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--see Glossary) included export credit guarantees for long-term loans; sustained support for the withdrawal and reintegration of CIS troops stationed in eastern Germany; financial help to aid the CIS in its development of market institutions and infrastructure; and more than DM100 million in bilateral and multilateral aid to improve safety standards in Soviet-designed nuclear power plants.

Part of German aid to the CIS was to provide for the material well-being of the estimated 2 million ethnic Germans who still resided in former Soviet republics. This aid was designed to offer incentives for ethnic Germans to remain in Russia and in other CIS states rather than to emigrate to Germany, where they had the right to become citizens of the Federal Republic and receive significant amounts of help in becoming integrated into the homeland of their ancestors (see Immigration, ch. 3). The German government has even discussed with Russian representatives the possibility of restoring the "Volga Republic" disbanded by Joseph Stalin in 1941 as a possible area of settlement for ethnic Germans in Russia.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the subject of ethnic German minorities has played a role in German foreign policy. By the mid-1990s, German-Czech relations, for example, still had not been fully normalized, to a large extent because expellee groups in the Federal Republic continued to lobby for restitution or compensation for property owned by Germans in the former Czechoslovakia and confiscated after World War II. The German-Czech Friendship Treaty was signed in 1992, but it failed to address the question of compensation for Czech victims of Nazism.

Data as of August 1995

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