A Preponderance of Stability: Henry Kissinger's Concern Over the Dynamics of Ostpolitik
DAAD Post-Doctoral Fellow Stephan Kieninger's new article will be published by the Journal of Transatlantic Studies in its forthcoming special issue on Henry Kissinger.
Drawing on American and German evidence, Stephan Kieninger’s contribution
looks into Henry Kissinger’s ambivalent relationship with Germany scrutinizing
both the parallels between Kissinger’s détente and Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik as well
as the frictions and the competition between both approaches. Richard Nixon’s and
Henry Kissinger’s priority was international stability provided by the understanding
between the USA and the Soviet Union, whereas Willy Brandt’s dynamic détente
approach was aimed at Europe’s transformation overcoming the Iron Curtain. In
Nixon’s and Kissinger’s balance of power policy, stability was essential to cement
what they perceived as an endangered status quo in Europe. Brandt and his foreign
policy advisor Egon Bahr saw détente as a way to facilitate liberalizing changes.
They envisaged stability in international relations a precondition to guarantee the
regimes behind the Iron Curtain the kind of security that would over time allow
them to open up their societies for Western influence. Finally, the overlaps between
both approaches prevailed. Examining Kissinger’s initial doubts over Ostpolitik’s
feasibility, the essay depicts his way to control the détente process in Europe through
the Quadripartite negotiations over Berlin in 1971. Eventually, Ostpolitik’s success
was a catalyst and a prerequisite for Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s own
approach to the Soviet Union despite the escalation of the Vietnam War.