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East Germany

Relations with the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union's relationship with East Germany is unique among Soviet relationships with East European states because of the substantial degree of East German dependence on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union created the East German state; hence, the latter owes its existence entirely to Moscow. East Germany has traditionally served three main functions for the Soviet Union. Strategically, it is the most important buffer state, the politico-military bulwark guaranteeing the Soviet security system in Eastern Europe. Second, East Germany is a vital source of economic assistance to the Soviet Union and provides advanced technology and manufactured goods unavailable in other East European countries. Third, East Germany is one of the most loyal replicas of the Soviet political system and offers both ideological and institutional legitimacy for the Soviet-Marxist model.

In the beginning of the 1970s, East Germany became increasingly significant in advancing Soviet foreign policy goals toward other members of the "socialist state community," the North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) countries (particularly West Germany), and the Third World. In each case, East Germany supported and refined Soviet policy and long-term strategy toward these different arenas. It is also necessary to stress that although the activities of East Germany in international politics could not be undertaken without Soviet support, it is wrong to assume that subordination to Soviet direction reflects disinterest on the part of the East German regime. By working closely with the Soviet Union, East German leaders have been able to advance their own goal of promoting international recognition for their regime.

In the 1980s, however, a change of attitude has taken place in East Germany's relations with the Soviet Union. In the mid1980s , the Soviet Union disagreed with Honecker's attempts to pursue relations with West Germany despite the fact that the latter had accepted United States Pershing missiles on its soil. Although Moscow's leadership remains unquestioned, East German officials now argue that their state is at a different stage of development and therefore must search for solutions that correspond to local (national) conditions. This view has resulted in a creeping diversity within the bloc that is well illustrated in Soviet-East German relations. In recent years, a trend toward greater autonomy also has become discernible in East German domestic policy; although East Germany professes enthusiasm about Gorbachev's attempts to reform the Soviet economy, it does not view the changes as a model for its own problems.

Data as of July 1987