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Britain, Ost- and Deutschlandpolitik, and the CSCE (1955-1975)

Luca Ratti

Based on new and existing archival documentation, this book provides a detailed analysis of the British attitude to Bonn’s Eastern and inner-German policies during the period of détente and the CSCE. Each chapter analyses the evolution of British policy on a particular issue area, making detailed comparisons of British and West German archival sources and outlining the main aspects of the British view of West Germany’s relations with the Soviet bloc states and the German Democratic Republic. Drawing upon the archives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of the West German foreign ministry, this book sheds new light on some of the more occult aspects of the British attitude to the German question and reveals the problems faced by British decision-makers in seeking to maintain Britain’s close ties with Bonn, while being hardly enthusiastic about the long-term prospect of German reunification. This volume addresses issues of East-West and Anglo-German relations, the role of NATO, and the debate among the Western allies on relations between the two German states during the period of détente.

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Preface 11

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11 Preface By the early 1970s the West’s leading politicians agreed that the Cold War years were over. Britain’s Prime Minister Edward Heath observed that ‘détente’ had succeeded the ‘Cold War’, U.S. President Richard Nixon declared the Cold War being ‘over’ and an ‘era of negotiations’ to be ahead, his national security adviser Henry A. Kissinger referred to ‘modern methods’ with which the conflict of systems could be civilised and perpetuated, and in Bonn Helmut Schmidt simply noted the ad- vent of ‘a new era’ in East-West relations. The early 1970s were clearly perceived as a watershed in the ongo- ing East-West conflict. The rather volatile nuclear stalemate was stabi- lised through direct communication and a growing degree of selective cooperation between the opposing parties. This did not mean that the conflict of systems and ideologies was over, far from. Instead, antago- nistic cooperation helped to change (‘to civilise’) the code of conduct within this conflict, thereby introducing more effective safeguards against a potential military or even nuclear confrontation, in a way refocusing the conflict to its social, economic and ideological essentials. For the observers in the early 1970s the question was therefore not if détente or – to borrow a term by Lyndon B. Johnson – ‘bridge build- ing’ had succeeded the military Cold War of the 1950s and early 1960s, but what ‘détente’ actually meant. Was it, as Nixon and Kissinger in- sisted, a defensive strategy for guaranteeing the existing status quo in Europe against an apparently...

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