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Scope of the project


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Scope of the project

The study aims to analyse the developing policies and goals of the Federal Republic of Germany in connection with those of its major Western allies during the years of détente, 1966-1975. The origins, politics and ultimate goals of the Neue Ostpolitik devised by Brandt and Bahr are the focus of all research conducted within the framework of the project. "National interest" and "growing up" remained key terms in the public debate of the 1970s, signalling a new phase in West German history and a deep desire for more independence in international affairs than had hitherto been possible. Bonn acquired a greater influence within the Western alliance, and greater room for manoeuvre towards the Eastern bloc and vis-à-vis the so-called Third-World. The controversy over the nature and significance of German national interest in 1989/90 all but neglected the results and definitions arrived at almost two decades earlier. It is within this context that the project aims to analyse the relations between the FRG and its major Western allies (the United States, France and Britain), as well as considering the overall context of European integration and East-West détente.

Research focus:

There are three major questions the project attends to.

1. The origins of détente and Ostpolitik
Brandt's Ostpolitik constitutes the second major phase in the formation of the foreign policy of the Federal Republic of Germany. It brought together strains of thought developed in Washington and Paris and combined them in an effort to serve the ultimate goal of West German policy of the time: unification. Brandt and Bahr had thought about new ways of pursuing this goal at least since the building of the Wall in 1961. But it was only when they took over the Foreign Office during the Grand Coalition that these ideas were cast into an overall – and very secretive – policy.

2. Western perceptions of Germany, détente and Ostpolitik
Research on these questions has to go well beyond the classic scope of bilateral relations. Multilateral networking became the basis of the Ostpolitik of the Western nations. It accommodated, and safeguarded, the ever-increasing influence of Western Germany in Europe, NATO and East-West relations in the 1960s and 1970s. A key question to be answered is the relationship between the self-perception of the West German actors and the perception and understanding of their personalities and goals in Washington, London and Paris – some if not all of which still saw themselves in the role of victorious powers with a decisive voice in German affairs.

3. Ostpolitik and peaceful change in the post-war order
In the late 1960s, Bonn's German and Eastern policies rapidly – and largely successfully – adapted to the overall framework of détente. The Federal Republic’s subsequent initiatives, which put Brandt's Ostpolitik at the forefront of the movement towards détente in the early 1970s, were clear evidence of an enhanced self-consciousness and independence in Bonn. The Federal Republic's foreign policy aimed at stability in Europe. Yet it also aimed at utilising its increasing communication and contacts with the East (politics, business, culture, science etc.) for a peaceful change to the long-term advantage of the West. This, according to their secret calculation, would lead to a situation in which even the solution of the so-called German question appeared feasible.

Archival research:

Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, Berlin
Archiv der sozialen Demokratie, Bonn
Bundesarchiv Koblenz
Bundesarchiv Berlin/SAPMO
Archiv des Deutschen Liberalismus, Gummersbach
Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik, St. Augustin
Public Record Office, London
Labour Party Archives, Archive Centre, Manchester
Conservative Party Archives, Bodleian Library, Oxford
Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, Texas
National Archives, Washington, D.C.
John F. Kennedy Library, Boston
Archives Nationales, Paris
Archives du Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris