Joint East German-Soviet Relations with the West
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;
, 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