Germany (East) Joint East German-Soviet Relations with the West
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
East Germany has its own specific foreign policy goals to advance in its effort to build a long-term relationship with the industrial West. As a direct result of its diplomatic breakthrough, beginning in the 1970s and continuing in the mid1980s , East Germany also became an important partner of the Soviet Union in advancing both its own and Soviet national goals in Europe and North America. Two specific policy areas--European security and economic and technological cooperation--illuminate its role in helping to carry forward the goals of the Soviet-East German alliance system (see Appendix C).
East Germany's forward position in the Warsaw Pact--as the westernmost point of the Soviet-East European alliance system-- has made the SED particularly sensitive to East-West efforts to stabilize the military balance in Europe. Thus by actively publicizing the Soviet-sponsored Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), it advanced its own specific goals. There is also a special point of convergence between the Soviet Union and East Germany on the subject of territorial inviolability, another issue dealt with by the CSCE. The two partners sought to get the West to agree on the permanent territorial division of Europe. As Honecker stated during an address delivered at the first CSCE meeting in Helsinki in July 30, 1975, "A socialist state in the heart of Europe at the boundary line between the most powerful alliances of our time, the German Democratic Republic accords high priority to security. Only if security and the sovereignty of states are guaranteed can there be fruitful, beneficial, and mutually advantageous cooperation. The lessons of history and the current requirements of European politics make respect for, and recognition of, the principle of the inviolability of frontiers the decisive factor. Security for the European states has always meant, first and foremost, security for their frontiers." Whereas the Soviet Union has attempted to use the ongoing conference as a forum to campaign for its goal of attaining the West's acquiescence to the postwar division of the continent, East Germany has used it to ensure multilateral support in order to blunt real or alleged efforts by West Germany to change the existing boundaries that separate the two countries from each other.
In the early and mid-1980s, East Germany supported the Soviet Union in its efforts to stop the deployment of IRBMs in Europe. According to Honecker, "In an international situation perceptibly exaggerated by imperialism, especially by the most aggressive United States circles, the world once again hears from Moscow the voice of peace and reason and of the willingness and call for constructive steps on behalf of détente, the ending of the arms race and disarmament." In addition, East Berlin has resolutely followed Moscow's lead in condemning the United States Strategic Defense Initiative and West European participation in the project, as well as supporting the Soviet Union's efforts in strategic arms control.
Its exposed military position has been both an advantage and a disadvantage to East Germany in its attempts to coordinate its policy on arms control with that of the Soviet Union. East Germany clearly has an argument in its favor when it maintains that military confrontation in Europe directly threatens its political order. As a result, there is some plausibility to its assertion that East German leaders fully support multilateral efforts to reduce such tension. However, the level of military preparedness within the country, which includes an extensive network of border patrols and fortifications that exists largely to prevent escapes to the West by its citizens, might in fact undermine the effectiveness of its campaign to work with the Soviet Union in reducing tensions (see Armed Forces; Paramilitary Forces , ch. 5).
Like the Soviet Union, East Germany is very eager to expand economic and technological links with the industrial West. Following the Soviet lead, East Germany increasingly supported proposals for technical and economic-financial cooperation between Comecon and the European Economic Community (EEC). Because East Germany enjoys access to the EEC, it is able to provide technology and hard currency transfers to Comecon. The 1970s witnessed a major expansion of trade between the Soviet Union, its East European allies, and the Western industrial countries. A partial reversal of this course has occurred in the 1980s, as the Soviets have warned their East European allies about becoming economically dependent on the West. However, it is clear that the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, East Germany will require assistance from the West if they are to modernize their economies through the introduction of high technology and other labor-intensive techniques.
Data as of July 1987
NOTE: The information regarding Germany (East) on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Germany (East) Joint East German-Soviet Relations with the West information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Germany (East) Joint East German-Soviet Relations with the West should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.