Country Listing

East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Policy Toward the Third World

Since the 1970s, East Germany has pursued an active policy in the Third World, particularly in Africa. East Germany pursues a vigorous Third World policy both to advance its own specific interests and as part of its role as a Soviet client.

In the 1970s and 1980s, East Germany promoted two foreign policy interests in the Third World. First, in the late 1960s and 1970s, East Germany, functioning as a divided state enjoying little international status as compared with West Germany, turned to the newly independent states of the Third World to gain recognition in return for economic and technical assistance. Comparative technological and economic backwardness vis--vis West Germany was less important in the Third World arena than in the West; East Germany could still proffer much-needed assistance to these economically backward states. Second, East Berlin launched a propaganda campaign to identify West Germany as the heir to Germany's imperial past, while representing itself as a German state able to offer all the qualities usually associated with Germans, such as efficiency, without the taint of a colonial past. Indeed, these policies paid off in 1969 when Sudan recognized East Germany. In the early 1970s, recognition by a number of Arab governments followed, no doubt impelled by East German support of the Arab cause in the June 1967 War between the Arab states and Israel.

East Germany has also developed trading relationships with a number of Third World states. Algeria, for example, has become a leading supplier of oil to East Germany. The East German government hopes to tap coal reserves held by Mozambique, and in the 1980s East Germans were developing the infrastructure of the Moatize coal mining district in that country. In addition East Germany imports raw cotton, tropical fruits, coffee beans, and nuts from Africa.

East Germany also promotes Soviet interests in the Third World by extending military, economic, and medical aid to states allied with the Soviet Union in the Third World, as well as selected Third World liberation movements. East Germany has concluded treaties of friendship and cooperation with Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. These agreements call for cooperation in the fields of health, economic, scientific, political, and educational affairs. East Germany has also signed specific agreements covering much of the same ground as the treaties of friendship and cooperation with other Soviet allies in the Third World.

In the mid-1980s, East Germany had a significant military presence in the Third World. In 1981 the United States Department of Defense estimated that 2,225 East Germans were serving in the Middle East and Africa, specifically in Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mozambique, Algeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). Apparently East German troops do no fighting; they act primarily in an advisory and training capacity. The Soviet Union trains military officers in these countries, and East Germany trains the other ranks. Third World military and security personnel have also traveled to East Germany for instruction. Such personnel include members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the South- West African People's Organization (SWAPO), the African National Congress (ANC), and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU). East German military advisers in Angola, Mozambique, and Zambia also train guerrillas of SWAPO, the ANC, and ZAPU. In addition, East Germany gives food, medical, and educational assistance to these movements.

One area of East German-Third World cooperation is police training. In the 1980s, hundreds of students from Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Guinea-Bissau took instruction in internal security methods for periods ranging from three months to three years.

East Germany also has played an important role in the development of the economic infrastructure of selected Soviet allies in the Third World. East German education specialists have trained teachers, provided advice on the content of courses and books, and tendered instruction in educational administration in Benin, Mozambique, Angola, Congo, and Guinea-Bissau. In addition, East Germany has given assistance in the area of transportation; East German trucks operate in more than thirty countries, and in Angola and Mozambique the East Germans have set up centers to train indigenous personnel as mechanics and truck drivers. Finally, East German educational institutions that specialize in farm technology, health, construction, metalworking, finance, and industrial management have also trained personnel from countries such as Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau.

East Germany has encountered some frustrations in Africa. After Angola achieved its independence in 1975, East German technicians assisted in the operation of the port at Luanda. By 1981, however, Luanda had become very congested, and only a fraction of its equipment worked well. East Germany subsequently relinquished control over the port, which was turned over to a private Portuguese company. In general, in its effort to compete with West Germany throughout Africa, East Germany has been at a disadvantage because the West Germans have a considerably larger array of resources at their command, including substantial amounts of financial aid, which in the long run will probably be more important to the emerging societies than military and police expertise.

Data as of July 1987


Country Listing

East Germany Table of Contents