the document in different resolutions

From the collection of the Deutsches Historisches Museum:

First Printing in German of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, July 4, 1776


Michael Stürmer *

German-American Relations


In September 1994, according to the "two-plus four" agreement from the miracle year 1990, the American soldiers will leave the city of Berlin. With their departure, an epoch comes to a close, which was not only post-war-time and Cold War, but brought also Germany's reconciliation with the West and made the New World a Part, indeed the stabilizer of the Old One in strategic and moral terms. What is to follow? A new world order is, notwithstanding its proclamation, not in sight. Most of the parts of the old world order are in disrepair. Whether global change since 1989 will produce an era of anxiety and pessimism, or a system of stable centers, of a prosperous world economy and increasing stability, depends, among other factors, on how the last of the superpowers and the largest of the European powers, approach their relationship with each other and with the rest of the world. Neither can still go it alone. If they try nevertheless, an essential achievement of the post war period will be lost: Germany's integration in the American maritime alliance.

Future relations will not grow unless they are carefully protected, cultivated and, before all national idiosyncrasies, seen as a vital interest. Summit communiqués may spread universal harmony, politicians may be on a first name basis with each other, they may sup together and use red telephones: All this cannot gloss over the fact that national interests point into different directions. The alliance will have to be put first, perhaps to a degree that can be described as a variation of a well-known phrase: right or wrong my alliance.

Tradition and mentalities are not the same and geopolitical factors pull the Atlantic partners in various directions. Statecraft will have to overcome national divergences, and remember among other things, some basic history lessons. The two world wars that Germany lost were the two world wars that the United States decided. In 1914, nobody could have stopped the erstwhile German Reich, as long as it remained peaceful, from becoming dominant in Europe - except the Germans themselves. And in 1939 Germany, if she had kept her distance against state crime and war, was, once again, on the road to European leadership. Each time it was the United States who forced the scales against the Power in the center of the European continent. But unlike 1919 and 1920, when the United States left Europe to its old demons - irrespective of the fact that French hegemony of Europe was only on loan from the United States and that without the United States the European post war order could not last - in 1946, the United States stopped their withdrawal, took over the old British role against Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean, created confidence by containment of "Soviet expansionist tendencies" (George F. Kennan), offered the Marshall Plan in their enlightened self-interest and for the Europeans and gave to the Europeans a grand vision: the Atlantic Community. Thus the United States called into being a New World Order. "Present at the Creation" was the title Secretary of State; Dean Acheson gave to his memoirs. At that time there was leadership by "The Wise Men", to quote the book by E. Thomas and W lsaacson. Moreover, there was an unremitting necessity for the Europeans to display reason, discipline and common sense. Above all, there was this great American idealism not to allow revenge, cynicism and the Communists to take over. In this situation the Federal Republic of Germany was created in 1948/1949, not a state in search of a foreign policy but the by-product of American foreign policy in search of a state. In the 1950's, if looking at the pages of the "National Geographic", it looked as if Germany were a piece of America in the middle of Europe, and not America the brainchild of Europe at the time of the Enlightenment.

The European Recovery Program for Europe was the genuine expression of economic stabilization. But it would have been lost without the strategic engagement of the Americans, cast in the form of the North Atlantic Treaty, which then gave rise to NATO. This was to guarantee that America would not wait until Europe was on fire again but would be present right from the start to prevent another fire. This was in fact, in spite of all the strategic traditions of Americans since the early days of their history, nothing less than a revolution of thought and action. This revolution was based on a concept of global order. Never had this concept been pronounced more forcefully than during the Foreign Minister's Conference in the White House on the eve of the signing ceremony of the North Atlantic Treaty: 4th April 1949. Truman and Acheson turned this into a lesson in Realpolitik. Deterrence of the Soviet Union and the Integration of the Germans were on the agenda.

President Truman explained the concept of containment of world communism: The United States were engaged in a worldwide contest with Stalin's Soviet Union of a bitterness and, at that time, almost unpredictable wildness that the present generation finds difficult to understand and unenlightened to appreciate. Truman and Acheson explained to the Foreign Ministers, having come from Ottawa and many European capitals, assembled in the White House - no German of course being present for want of a German government - that it was essential to make Germany and Japan, both down but not out, part of the West. If not, so the voice of Realpolitik reminded the assembled worthies, the Soviet Union would make them an offer impossible to refuse in order to secure its predominance to the end of times. Neutralization of Germany, according to the French- An invitation for German games between East and West. Socialism along British lines? The United States' taxpayer would refuse to subsidize any such adventure.

While the United States' protectorate was seminal for Germany's post war emergence, it also gave a framework to European integration. This, however, was done at a price and the price was -and still is - that Western Europe, a giant in economic terms, remains a dwarf, to this day, in foreign policy and security affairs. Even when German unification was negotiated in 1990 - the strange mathematics of two plus four" was one thing, political reality being another one - the overall result was due to decisive American leadership. But ever since the question is whether the West can survive the disintegration of the East, NATO its peaceful triumph, and American leadership the accomplishment of the post 1945 mission. Without US vision, leadership and a concept of world order the disintegration of the West is bound to continue.

Further down the road the Europeans will realize, much earlier than they like, that the US involvement may just have been an episode in 200 years of US history and quite out of tune with powerful traditions of American strategy and political thought. Meanwhile, the continental nation protected by three oceans will remember that it is still the world's largest Island, and also its safest. Whatever happens, the United States will defend American interests, not European ones - or only if they are close to American ones. At the Same time the Europeans will realize that Russia, to apply Dean Acheson's remark about Britain at another time and Occasion, lost an empire but has not yet found a rote, and that it is up to the US to provide a counterpart and balance. In geographic terms, the Atlantic Ocean will be the same. In political and strategic ones, it will be uncharted waters.

The Clinton Presidency started with a pledge to rebuild America's power from within. But it works under the imperative to wield US power in the outside world. There will be no world Order, new or old, if the United States dodges the challenge. European Union or no, Europeans can do no more than contribute: without the United States, world order - in particular non-proliferation and other assorted strategic interests - would be lost. It takes a superpower to create global order. Relying on UN-mandates will not suffice.

For clients and friends of the United States it is never boring to study the chemistry of moral principles and national interests behind US foreign policy making, but it is also impossible to predict. Their insular position allows Americans to stay away from "foreign entanglements" - or so they tend to believe. At the same time there is a zeal, with many variations upon the same theme, "to make the world safe for democracy". The democratic constitution of the country, as Alexis de Tocqueville had reason to observe at an early stage, reinforces the tendency of the public to be inward looking. Today, the primacy of domestic affairs is undisputed between the White House, the Hill and the general public. But it is also challenged through the grim international environment in which the world's sole superpower finds itself. You may not always find an island convenient to conquer, a shore easy to invade, or a dictator begging to be crushed. The challenge of European order, let alone world order, cannot be met without a long-term concept of hegemony and balance, and a willingness to commit American power not only for expeditions, high noon shoot outs and the occasional removal of the bad guy, but as a force in being and as the sole guarantor of a minimum of world order.

The Europeans in general, Germany in particular will continue to need a strong US role. While the Europeans share with Russia a continent, they share with the United States nothing but the Atlantic Alliance - no more, but no less either. Meanwhile, US interests are not defined in European terms. They are those of a maritime power. They extend to the former Soviet Empire only insofar, as Russia is the sole power that could, now or in the future, destroy the continental US through nuclear weapons. At Europe post-Cold War America looks not in terms of balance, internal among the Europeans or external against Russia, but in terms of securing the coastline opposite the Eastern Seaboard. That leaves Central Europe in a conceptual no man's land and gives reason to worry. That is also, incidentally, what led the US to "Partnership for Peace": opening NATO Yes, extending it beyond the Oder- Neisse No.

In this situation, the Europeans will have to ask themselves some painful questions. What is at stake is not only the future of Eastern Central Europe in geostrategic terms, from the bitterness of the Baltic across to the uncertainties of Ukraine and Russia's claim to protect her "Near Abroad" in the South. The new situation also forces the Europeans, so comfortable in the process management of the past, to define and assert their common interest and translate it into something more than the vagueness of the "common foreign and security policy" written in to the Maastricht treaty-on a piece of paper of particularly patient character. The European situation also begs the question of who, after the reasonableness is gone, protects the Europeans against the demons of the East, not only in ex-Yugoslavia but also closer to the center, and certainly in the East.

The Atlantic nations go through a defining moment, but most of them have so far failed to define themselves, Germany's growing-up pains providing a striking example. As the RAND Corporation remarked in a recent study for the Pentagon: the great victor of the cold war, Germany, may well become the great looser of the time after.

In 1949, the Germans were invited to join the Western Club, provided they would make themselves agreeable. The Soviet threat added more persuasive Power to the American offer. NATO and EEC made the Germans clubbable. Under Adenauer German foreign policy cooperated within this framework while trying to widen it. So did Willy Brandt when Neue Ostpolitik became the German variation upon the theme of East-West détente. While Germany's foreign policy was more or less designed to fit into the mould of Western interests - with the nuclear Option open for France and Great Britain while denied to Germany - the SPD in the first decade developed a national Option that would not fly and repeated the Performance after NATO's dual track decision of 1979, exploding on the way Helmut Schmidt's lib-lab coalition. Unification found the Germans unprepared, on the left in parts even unwilling. The East Germans, unenthusiastic about NATO and European Integration, added to the resulting bewilderment. After the cold war and nuclear angst, the new relationship of diplomacy and strategy has yet to find an adequate expression in the future German contribution towards world Order.

For a long time, Germany paid reparations for the past and initiation fees for the future. By now the country has to steer its course in the uncharted waters of the new world disorder, finding itself between the Eastern arc of crisis and the Islamic one, worried about missile and nuclear Proliferation, while migrating masses are knocking at the door. After the world lost its twin organizing principle, the Soviet threat and the US protectorate, no country has gained more from the change and lost more of its innocence than Germany.

In this situation, the paradox is that Germany, because of its location, size, weight and past, needs the US alliance more than any other country in Europe: not only because of Russia's ambiguities; not only because of the absence of credible European defense, but because Germany's inevitable East European agenda needs strong support from the West, the Europeans need reassurance, the world needs leadership. Meanwhile, the West European agenda, as far as Germany is concerned, will require vision and finesse for variable geometry and for the careful handling of precarious balances. In all this, Germany's difficult role would be made even more difficult if left alone, with the US seeing the destinies of Europe as nothing but a spectator sport.

The United States has intervened three times in Europe: in 1918 and 1945 they decided the scales of war against Germany. But in 1949 they built stability in Europe around the German centerpiece. The future would be less uncertain, indeed less threatening if on both sides of the Great Water this lesson were better understood. The second Atlantic Alliance will be different, but no less a challenge than the first one.




* professor of history at Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany and Director of Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Germany.



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