East-West Arms Control: Challenges for the Western Alliance

By David Dewitt; Hans Rattinger | Go to book overview

7

The INF agreement and public opinion in West Germany

Hans Rattinger

INTRODUCTION: ALL-PARTISAN POPULAR SUPPORT FOR AN INF AGREEMENT

Public opinion on national security and arms control in the Federal Republic of Germany became severely polarized along partisan lines in the 1980s, especially so over the deployment of new American INF. 1 To a considerable extent this was a consequence of strong disagreement among the political parties on these issues. 2 Before the INF agreement was signed in Washington in December 1987, its prospect was widely hailed in West Germany, but many reservations about first the zero-option, and later the double-zero-option, were also voiced at home and abroad by German politicians and security experts, notably by conservative circles of the governing Christian Democrats (CDU-CSU). 3 This opposition did not, however, lead to a partisan polarization of mass public opinion comparable with that over the two tracks of NATO’s dual-track decision of 1979 for two reasons. First, this opposition reflected a split within the major governing party, and not a confrontation of government versus opposition parties. Second, this scepticism was directed against accomplishments of arms control, even disarmament, and the experience of this decade has shown that overwhelming majorities of the public at large favour arms control measures over considerations of military security when confronted with such choices. 4

It is therefore not at all surprising that the zero-option and the double zero-option have enjoyed, and still enjoy, wide and all-partisan support in West German public opinion. On a great variety of national security issues popular attitudes continue to be strongly polarized along partisan sympathies, CDU-CSU voters differing from adherents of the Greens by 50, 60 or more percentage points on questions like military spending, the presence of US troops, or

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