Germany’s Ostpolitik, or eastern policy, was not only about trying to use trade to influence the behavior of the former Soviet Union. Germany’s political elites, whether they were the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, or the liberal Free Democrats, believed Ostpolitik was about maintaining stability during the Cold War.
That stability was based on the division of the continent; on the Kremlin occupying Eastern Europe and denying them their freedom and independence. For the architects and ideologues of Ostpolitik, this was a price worth paying.
When the independent Solidary movement in Poland tried in 1980 to question that stability by openly challenging the communist regime with nation-wide strikes and protests, it received little support from left-wing parties across Western Europe. Solidarity was challenging Western Europe’s and particularly West Germany’s conception of stability.
Even when the Berlin Wall was torn down in November 1989, Germany still clung to Ostpolitik. Even when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, Berlin’s view of stability of the European continent as being tied to Moscow did not change. Only with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago did Germany finally question this view and come to recognize that Russia itself is destabilizing Europe.
Germany’s Social Democrats as a whole have not made the leap away from Ostpolitik to a Europapolitik that would change the direction of the EU’s foreign and security policy. [Continue reading…]