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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.

Read the early access online version here.


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.

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