The Challenges Of The German Reunification Politics Essay

This paper attempts to help the reader understand the current situation in Germany today by providing an overview of the reunification of East and West Germany, the process that led to the so-called Reunification of Germany (or Deutsche Wiedervereinigung in German) during the end of 1989 and 1990. The paper begins with the situation of Germany after II World War, heading on to the “Einigungsvertrag” and the integration of the GDR into Western Germany. The International Relations section is intended to show the reader the different theories addressing this historical event.

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German reunification is a term commonly used to refer to the political process in which the German Democratic Republic (in German Deutsche Demokratische Republik) and Berlin, reunited into a single city, joined the Federal Republic of Germany. That meant for East Germany the end of political repression, censorship, and the introduction of a new capitalist economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for a private profit; decisions regarding supply, demand, price, distribution, and investments are made by private actors in the free market; profit is distributed to owners who invest in businesses, and wages are paid to workers employed by businesses and companies, leaving behind a Soviet-based economic system controlled by leading members of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die Wende (The Turning Point). The end of the unification process is officially known as German unity (Deutsche Einheit), and is celebrated on 3 October.

2. History

The II World had dramatic consequences for Germany; the death of over seven million German soldiers and civilians; large territorial losses (such as Pomerania, Silesia and East Prussia which were seized to Poland); the expulsion of about 15 million Germans from eastern areas of Germany and other countries (such as the Czech Republic, Romania and Poland); mass rape of German women; and the destruction of multiple major cities (like Frankfurt or Dresden).

After the war, under a common occupation policy contrived mainly in conferences at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945, the Allied powers assumed shared sovereign authority over Germany. American, British, Soviet, and French forces occupied different areas, and national matters came before an Allied Control Council comprising the commanders of the four occupation armies. Berlin, lying deep in the Soviet zone in eastern Germany, was similarly divided and governed. Thus, the city of Berlin, surrounded by the Soviet Zone, was partitioned into four zones. The zones occupied by the Allies lay on the west side of the city, whilst those in the east were occupied by the Soviets. West Germany and West Berlin received massive injections from the American Marshall Plan, which attracted many workers from miserable economic conditions in the East.

While this was meant to be a temporary move, the Cold War interceded and eventually the three western zones combined to form the Federal Republic of Germany (parliamentary republic member of the NATO with a “social market economy”) while the eastern zone formed the German Democratic Republic (estate politically and military controlled by the USSR member of the Warsaw Pact). Berlin, the capital was also divided. Eventually the two areas of Germany, East Germany and West Germany began to experience a deteriorating relationship and conflicts arose. The 12th of August, 1961 plans for the beginning of the Berlin Wall were instituted. Led by Erich Honecker, the plans were kept secret. A day latter, the Berlin Wall was built in order to stop East Germans from escaping to West Germany. With the pass of time it would became a symbol of the Cold War.

Tensions between East and West Germany were somewhat reduced in the early 1970s by Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, which included the de facto acceptance of Germany’s territorial losses in World War II.

During the 1980s, the post-War fabric gradually began to tear. The crisis in the Eastern bloc began in 1980, with the founding of an independent trade union, “Solidarnosc”, in Poland, followed by the imposition of martial law at the end of 1981. Three-and-a-half years later, in March 1985, Michael Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union.

The insistence of Helmut Kohl (chancellor of the GFR) and the political changes undertaken by Gorbachev’s government meant the beginning of friendlier relations between the two Germanys.

The end of the two Germanys begun to change in summer 1989, when Hungary decided to dismantle the Iron Curtain and open its borders, causing an exodus of thousands of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary and Austria. This had devastating effects on the GDR, with mass demonstrations

The East German authorities unexpectedly eased the border restrictions in November, allowing East German citizens to travel to the West. Originally intended as a pressure valve to retain East Germany as a state, the opening of the border actually led to an acceleration of the Wende Reform process in East Germany, which finally concluded with the Two Plus Four Treaty on 12th September 1990 under which the four occupying powers renounced their rights under the Instrument of Surrender, and Germany regained full sovereignty.

This historical event finally permitted German reunification on 3rd October 1990, with the accession of the five re-established states of the former GDR.

3. International Relations Approach
Which IR’s theory describes better this historical event?

The realist theory explains international relations as a self-help system in which states struggle to survive or improve their status by ballancing the military and economic power of the other actors. Many realists believe that bipolar orders are more stable and peaceful than multipolar systems in which the actors more frequently shift alliances. From this perspective the Cold War was the latest great power rivalry. Once the German dream to establish world hegemony was vanished after Word War II, the US-Soviet confrontation was inevitable, as they were the only two remaining economic and military powers. This had as a result the division of Germany in two distinct countries belonging to two different economic and political systems: the Federal German Republic (capitalist and member of NATO) and the German Democratic Republic (communist and part of the Warsaw Pact). According to Realist John Lewis Gaddis: after centuries of great power rivalries in Europe and two bloody world wars the Cold War finally established a “long peace” in Europe. The two superpower maintained stability and prevented war for more than forty years. The peace was a result of a heavily armed confrontation.

Liberal theory argues that the Soviet threat to Europe was not military power but the brutality with which Stalin imposed communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Liberals also reject that the Cold War established a “long peace” in Europe. They believe that this peace was not true, as it was guarranted by the Iron Wall, which was a symbol of the depravation of people lacking of basic human rights. Liberalists state that peace should not be confused with “lack of war”.

In reference to the German Reunification, some realists fear that the Unification of Germany might reestablish the German hegemony in Europe which might lead to a resurgence of German militarism. In contrast Liberals argue that the united Germany of the XXI century within the European Union will help to spread the liberal values of democracy and build a stronger Europe which will diminish the nationalist feelings of the European countries under a common prerogative of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Personally I believe that the Liberal Theory is far more credible than the Realist one. Germany’s reunification has been proved to be highly beneficial to Europe. Instead of becoming a military power in Europe, Unified Germany has helped to build a stronger and a more peaceful Europe. In fact Germany’s drive towards a greater European integration has been the only way in which Germany could project again its political clout on the international stage without arousing fear and hostility. Moreover, the integration of East Germany within the European Union has helped as well, to open a path to other former members of the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe to join this economic and political union.