East Germany Table of Contents
The interdependence between the Soviet Union and East Germany is based, first and foremost, on a shared interpretation of geopolitical power politics. Furthermore, the role of the Soviet Union in East German ideological and political development is a dominant one; the Soviet Union was responsible for the creation of East Germany and has given East Germany the opportunity to play an important role in world affairs. In return for this opportunity, East Germany promotes Soviet interests in Europe and the Third World.
The East German and Soviet leadership have developed a pattern of cooperation that in large measure works to the mutual advantage of both systems. In general terms, they share a common ideological and political orientation toward major issues that confront the Soviet-East European alliance system as a whole. From Eurocommunism to the conduct of proletarian internationalism in the developing areas of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the two partners take common positions and adapt their foreign policy strategies to the needs of the other. Not only has the Soviet Union been the decisive factor in helping East Germany become an internationally recognized power since the beginning of the 1970s, but it also has consistently supported the SED leadership in domestic conflicts. From this vantage point, the approximately 400,000 Soviet troops stationed in East Germany represent the final deterrent available in the event the regime's survival is threatened. As a result of the close ideological and political cooperation between the two countries, East Germany has taken the leading role in helping to establish the hegemony of Soviet-style Marxism in East Europe.
East Germany demonstrated its value to the Soviet Union at the much-heralded meeting of the communist and worker parties of Europe, held in East Berlin on June 29-30, 1976, in the immediate aftermath of the Ninth Party Congress. East Germany's role at the meeting was pronounced. The SED, which had begun preparing the agenda for the meeting twenty months in advance, attempted to portray East Germany as a model of advanced socialism that could provide the West European comrades with important lessons in how to organize a complex industrial society along orthodox MarxistLeninist lines. Until the mid-1980s, East Germany also had been a prominent proponent of closer coordination of the economies of East European Comecon members with that of the Soviet Union. In addition, the Soviets may have used Honecker's visit to China in 1986 to signal their desire for Sino-Soviet rapprochement. In the mid-1980s, East Germany strongly supported the Soviet Union's efforts to have the United States Pershing II missiles removed from West German soil (at the same time, however, the Honecker regime attempted to insulate inter-German relations from the impact of this issue). Finally, in the words of one Western analyst, East Germany "is the prime developer of the political, social, and economic infrastructure of the Soviet Union's allies in the Third World."
Ideological and political collaboration between East Germany and the Soviet Union is of special importance within Eastern Europe, where the SED was particularly active in advancing Soviet positions toward Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in Poland in 1980-81. In the Czechoslovak case, East Germany was probably the most influential East European voice urging the Soviet Union to put an end to the reform program of Alexander Dubcek in August 1968. In 1980-81 the East Germans also urged the Soviet Union to take action against the Solidarity movement and the reform policies of the Polish United Workers Party. In each case, the East Germans tried to persuade the Soviet leadership that events in Czechoslovakia and Poland constituted a danger to the ideological cohesion of the Warsaw Pact alliance system. Of particular concern to the East German regime were the threats to its own stability posed by the reform movements in Czechoslovakia and Poland; consequently, it became a strong advocate of intervention.
Data as of July 1987
East Germany Table of Contents