Německý problém a bezpečnost v Evropě. Překážka, nebo katalyzátor na cestě k událostem let 1989/1990?
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The German Problem and Security in Europe: Hindrance or Catalyst on the Path to 1989/90?
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In this article the author focuses on a question of very high importance for the Cold War period in Europe – the question of divided Germany and its role in maintaining the status quo in Europe, and later, in changing this very same status quo. He argues that the ‘German question’, though originally a hindrance that increased tensions between East and West, gradually evolved into one of the areas where the East-West division slowly began to crumble. The author demonstrates that in the 1950s and 1960s, especially the Soviet Union tried to keep the possibility of a unified, neutralized Germany open, despite the fact that it somewhat undermined the legitimacy of the Berlin government. This unified and neutralized Germany would provide a cordon sanitaire for the Eastern bloc, which would place an effective barrier between the East and the West while at the same time removing the need for a strong military build-up in the region and enabling the Soviet Union to focus on other pressing matters. For the West, however, such a prospect was unacceptable since a unified Germany still constituted a threat, while at the same time the ‘neutralization’ of the country would play directly into the hands of the Soviets. Thus, the Soviet efforts being unsuccessful, the Kremlin finally approved the building of the Berlin Wall and with it the lasting division of Germany into two states, a reality so much sought after by the Communist leadership in Berlin. Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik brought a significant new element into play. Now the attempts at rapprochement, and eventually unification, were coming from the two German states themselves, particularly from the Federal Republic. It was Ostpolitik, together with the structures that gradually developed within the framework of intra-German co-operation, which eventually paved the way for the reunification of the two German states. This was made possible not only by the changing international situation and the collapse of the Communist governments in Central and Eastern Europe, but also by the ability of the German politicians to convince their counterparts in the East and the West that unified Germany no longer constituted a threat. It can therefore be argued that whereas in the 1950s and 1960s the German question constituted a hindrance to the détente between East and West, in the 1980s it became a catalyst of changes in the superpower relationship and the geopolitical makeup of Europe.
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