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East Germany

Chapter 5. National Security

THE NATIONAL SECURITY problem for the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is unique among all the countries of the world. From the establishment of the Soviet Zone of Occupation in the aftermath of Nazi Germany's capitulation in 1945 to the formation of the republic in 1949, its internal and external security was wholly in the hands of the Soviet occupation forces. Although the situation has changed significantly since 1949, the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) is the guarantor of East German security against external and, ultimately, internal threats. East Germany's substantial armed forces are overshadowed by the presence in their homeland of the powerful Soviet force. The GSFG is vastly superior to the East German forces in numbers and equipment, and a scenario in which the home forces might act independently is difficult to imagine. Internal security is in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of State Security, but in this area also the Soviets would very likely intervene if they determined that local forces needed assistance.

East Germany's principal external security problem during its first twenty-five years was hesitancy on the part of the rest of the world to perceive it as a legitimate, sovereign state. The principal internal threat was caused by traditional economic, cultural, familial, and historical ties with its larger and richer sister state, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

Political events of the 1970s, such as formal recognition by the United States, the signing of the Basic Treaty between the Germanies, and admission to the United Nations, indicated that the external problem had been largely resolved. The relationship with West Germany, however, has remained an issue, and new challenges emerged in the 1980s. East Germany sought to strengthen its position as the Soviets' chief ally, expand its role in the Third World, increase the militarization of all aspects of society, and cope with a rising crime rate--particularly among young people--and persistent signs of disaffection and dissent. How the East Germans successfully solved some problems and sought to deal with others is best understood by tracing the historical development of their national security.

Data as of July 1987