【PART 4】 The Mystery of Security Treaty Village (2): The UN Charter and the Postwar World
【24】 History of Germany’s path towards “independence”
As La Charte des Nations Unies: Commentaire article par article mentioned, Germany adopted Ostpolitik after World War II. This meant allowing the cession of its immense territory to Poland and France, nationally adopting “apology diplomacy,” and desperately trying to “overcome its past” in order to cement its central status in “new Europe.”
The glorious result of such endeavors is today’s European Union [EU]. As you are all aware, Germany is at the very center of this union, forming a powerful regional community with 27 other European nations. No one would call Germany today a “vassal state” of the U.S., or an “enemy state” as defined in the UN Charter. This “independence” was accomplished by no more than six Chancellors. Let me briefly explain the history leading up to it.
At first, West Germany’s first postwar Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (in office for 14 years from 1949, leader of the Christian Democratic Union) was forced to adopt the policy of absolute obedience to the U.S., just like Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida. Despite this, he never changed his clear, consistent national policy, which is embodied in his words, “New Germans shall resolutely be Europeans. That’s the only way Germany will be ensured peace from the world.” (Memoir of Adenauer, translated into Japanese by Masamori Sase, published by Kawade world books) The U.S.’s plan to make Frankfurt the capital of West Germany and surround it by U.S. bases was rejected at the last minute, as I mentioned, but this was also thanks to Adenauer.
Three Chancellors after that, Willy Brandt became the fourth Chancellor due to a change of government to the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Brandt took some big steps, such as the “de facto recognition of East Germany” and complete abandonment of “the Hallstein Doctrine” (the basic policy not to establish diplomatic relations with any states that recognized East Germany), which had not been accomplished until then.
Moreover, regarding the border between Germany (East Germany) and Poland, he agreed to a major compromise (recognition of the Oder–Neisse line, diagram below), putting an end to territorial issues. In 1970, he famously kneeled down at the memorial of the Jewish ghetto in Warshaw, the capital of Poland, to deeply apologize for the Holocaust by the Nazis.
The bold line that runs from top to bottom in the left side of the map is the Oder-Neisse Line, i.e., the border between Germany and Poland. The areas highlighted gray are the former territory of Germany that was lost to Poland, while the area shaded by horizontal lines is the former Polish territory that was lost to the Soviet Union. As a result of this change in the borders, Germany was deprived of most of the territory of the former Kingdom of Prussia, which used to constitute the central portion of the German empire. Approximately 12 million Germans who became refugees “returned home” to Germany crossing the Oder-Neisse Line.
Helmut Schmidt, who became Chancellor following Brandt, also adopted a conciliatory policy with surrounding countries. He was a central member of the G7 forums, called often summits, during their golden era in the 1970s. He’s a well-known politician in Japan as well. When asked about Japan’s diplomatic issues, he replied courteously yet clearly, “Japan has no surrounding friends. There are no countries on good terms with Japan in East Asia. That is the problem.” I remember him quite well because he also attended the Tokyo summit held in 1979. Now, thirty or so years later, I understand how important his piece of advice was. He had been giving us earnest advice from a fellow defeated country’s point of view.
Due to such various efforts, Germany succeeded in practically getting rid of the condition of being an “enemy state” as early as the 1970s, as it was written in La Charte des Nations Unies: Commentaire article par article. Thanks to such previous Chancellors’ efforts, the 6th Chancellor Helmut Kohl (Christian Democratic Union) was able to sign the “Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany” (more often called the Two Plus Four Treaty) between East and West Germany and the four victorious countries (U.S., U.K., France and Soviet Union), at the end of the Cold War on September 12, 1990. This was more or less a peace treaty between these countries, and it cleared all traces of Germany’s position as a defeated country. Subsequently, he accomplished the reunification of Germany a month later, on October 3, and the establishment of the EU on January 1st, 1993.
Based on the Two Plus Four Treaty signed in 1990, the U.S., U.K., France and Soviet Union all withdrew their occupation forces by 1994. The U.S. Forces that currently remain in Germany are mainly stationed as a NATO military force, and German domestic laws are applied to their actions in Germany.
This is how Germany, which was a defeated country in World War II just like Japan, came to truly regain its independence 49 years after the war, through the long, rough years of strategic efforts in diplomacy.