Richard Nixon's Detente and Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik: The Politics and Economic Diplomacy of Engaging the East
Lippert, Werner D.
This work analyzes the German-American relationship during the 1960s and 1970s in light of Richard Nixon’s and Willy Brandt’s efforts at détente with the Soviet Union. It argues against the prevailing notion that Nixon’s détente and Brandt’s Ostpolitik were complimentary by analyzing newly released sources, such as the Nixon tape recordings and Henry Kissinger telephone transcripts and governmental records from both administrations, as well as incorporating media coverage, opinion polls, speeches and memoirs. This dissertation supports a more differentiated perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the Western Alliance during the Cold War. Further, it addresses the question of ideology in the Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy and discriminates between their respective visions with a particular focus on energy trade and high-tech exports. Most importantly, this work offers a revisionist interpretation of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik as an attempt to cope with the overwhelming influence of the American superpower. Nixon’s concept of détente was shaped by his suspicion of Communism as an expansive power and required a cautious approach that would preserve American superiority in global affairs. Brandt, however, disillusioned with the American response to the building of the Berlin Wall, saw extensive acts of goodwill towards the East as the only way to achieve German reunification. The incongruous nature of these détente policies becomes even more apparent in the area of economic diplomacy. As evidenced by the records from the West German Economics Ministry, the Nixon White House and leading German industrialists, the success of political détente was interrelated with Western approaches to trade with the Soviet Union. The result of these West German economic ties to the Soviet Union and the lack of the same in the U.S. precipitated West Germany’s normalization of relations with the East. It also created a rift in the transatlantic alliance that led to divisions over an increased European energy dependency on Soviet supplies and influences current U.S. and European responses to Russia’s democratization efforts.