Tuesday, December 9, 2014


By Dr Emery Barcs 1970-2-20

THE decision of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt to meet East German Premier Willi Stoph, in East Berlin, has been a shrewd move on the murky chess-board of all-German relations. For Herr Brandt has accepted the East German invitation with the proviso that the Communists set no preconditions to the beginning of the talks.

The implication of Herr Brandt's "I'm ready to go, but..." is that if the East German Ulbricht regime wants to talk to him about the normalisation of relations between the divided nation, it must stop demanding Bonn's full international recognition of the Red-ruled German Democratic Republic.

Since the formation Of the Grand Coalition at the end of 1966 between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats (which was replaced by a Social Democrat Free Democrat coalition after last year's elections). West Germany has tried hard to establish friendlier relations with the Soviet bloc.  It has suggested a treaty renouncing the use of force to alter existing frontiers and to reunite Germany. But, it has insisted that East and West Germans must remain part of one nation," although they are ruled by different governments.

So far Herr Ulbricht and his men have flatly refused to enter into any special relationship with West Germany.  They have insisted that the Federal Republic of (West) Germany must treat the German Democratic Republic as any other foreign country.

The reasons for the cramped efforts to keep Germans permanently separated are obvious.  A special relationship would probably involve the easing of contacts between the people of the two sides of the border, including the demolition of the Berlin Wall, which has prevented East Germans from fleeing to the West.

However, the Ulbricht regime cannot afford to facilitate the exodus to the Federal Republic, despite improved economic conditions in East Germany. Hence it must stick to its right to seal the frontiers as tightly as possible.

In addition, the communists rule East Germany not by popular consent -- there has never been a free election in the "Democratic" Republic -- but by the force of Soviet arms and of a Red police State.

Therefore, West German recognition of the East German Communist regime as the government of an entirely separate sovereign State would give it the legality which Herr Ulbricht has sought for more than 20 years.

Until now, the Kremlin and its Eastern European satellites have fully supported Herr Ulbricht's aspirations. They are still vocal about them -- but with a slight difference.

Recently East Germany's two staunchest supporters -- the Soviet Union and Poland -- have agreed to hold preliminary talks with Bonn about the treaty on the renunciation of force and all that this involves.

The results of the discussions which two West German Secretaries of State, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and Egon Bahr, have held in Warsaw and in Moscow are not publicly known.  But they seem to have opened the way for discussions on higher government levels between Bonn on one side and Poland and the Soviet Union on the other.

The positive response from these two governments to West German diplomatic efforts has certainly contributed to Herr Stoph's recent invitation to Herr Brandt to go to East Berlin.

Herr Stoph's letter to Brandt included passages which appeared to be unacceptable to the West Germans.  It restated East German insistance in full recognition as the precondition for talks about anything else. It emphasised that Berlin (not just East Berlin) was the capital of the Democratic Republic.

Rightly or wrongly, some German and foreign politicians and political analysts have concluded from the letter that, despite the "invitation," East Germany wanted Herr Brandt to refuse to go to East Berlin. This, in turn, gave rise to speculations about a rift between East Berlin and Moscow and Warsaw about their respective future relations with Bonn.

Personally, I think that these speculations are merely the results of wishful thinking.  I prefer the theory that the three governments have merely been assigned different roles, with the Russians and the Poles now talking softly and the East Germans remaining tough.  They have every reason to follow such well-proved tactics and to see where they lead.

Anyway, if Herr Brandt does go to East Berlin he will not take with him his Foreign Minister, Walter Scheel, to emphasise that he is not meeting members of a foreign government.

On the other hand, Herr Stoph announced in his letter that if lie meets Herr Brandt, the East German Foreign Minister, Otto Winter, will be present, just to show that the discussions are not about internal German affairs.

So the two sides will still be poles apart, even if Herr Brandt sits down with Herr Stoph at a conference table.

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