The Years 1970–1972 and 1989–1990 in Soviet-German Relations: A Comparative Analysis

Filitov A.M.


The article attempts to revise the conventional view of the total difference between the processes and results of European détente in 1970 s and those of German unification in 1989–1990. It is argued that some elements of the status quo codified in Federal Republic’s «Eastern Treaties» were incorporated in the new international system that emerged after the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold war. Conversely, the status quo of the détente settlements was not absolute, allowing for some changes, including the prospects for the unification. The delicate balance between the principle of the fixation of European (and the German-German in particular) borders and that of the selfdetermination was elaborated by the complicated web of diplomatic exchanges, where Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko assisted by Valentin Falin on the Soviet side and Egon Bahr on the West German side played the major role. The quest for a compromise was not uncontested, however; a part of the Soviet diplomatic community and most of the GDR leaders opposed the excessive, in their views, concessions to the FRG, which sometimes slowed down the trend towards rapprochement. The events of 1989–1990 on the German scene demonstrated another pattern: the post-Honecker leadership of the GDR took bold initiative aimed at closer ties with West Germany, which could open the prospects of overcoming the division of the country, while the Soviet side responded with a chain of uncoordinated and controversial actions, which weakened its bargaining positions vis-à-vis the expansionist policies of the West. Thus, viable opportunities for a more enduring security architecture in Europe (a ban on NATO expansion to the East primarily) were missed.


détente; Eastern Treaties; German unification; Andrei Gromyko; Valentin Falin; Egon Bahr; Walter Ulbricht.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2023.01.09

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