Multilateralism, German Foreign Policy, and Central Europe

By Claus Hofhansel | Go to book overview

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Explaining support for multilateralism

Post-World War II (West) German foreign policy was distinctive in two ways. First, Germany showed great reluctance to use force abroad. In the 1990s this antimilitarist posture partially eroded, but only partially, as German military personnel participated in a variety of missions outside of the traditional NATO area. Furthermore, even though German pilots flew missions in the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, German forces took part in a multilateral effort. This “reflexive support for an exaggerated multilateralism” is the second, and arguably most important, distinctive characteristic of German foreign policy and the focus of this book. 1 More specifically, this book will analyze German policy toward Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic and Poland in a set of case studies involving the history of diplomatic negotiations between Germany and its two eastern neighbors from the 1960s until the 1990s, disputes over the compensation of Czech and Polish victims of Nazi crimes, the rights of ethnic Germans in Poland and the Czech Republic, and the German position in the EU enlargement negotiations.

There are a number of studies on German foreign policy which have found considerable continuity in German policy across the Cold War divide, despite a radically changed international environment. 2 To some extent, though, the fact that there has been a fair amount of continuity in German foreign policy should not be so surprising since simple institutional inertia may at least partially explain why German policy makers have not given up on policies that have served Germany well for decades. Thus, German policy toward the Czech Republic and Poland is a particularly interesting case since a record of institutionalized cooperation was not (yet) in place by the early 1990s. There is also a historical basis for distinguishing between German policies toward Western and Eastern Europe. In the interwar period Weimar governments were willing to consider multilateral arrangements with Western European countries, but in the East, and Poland in particular, Germany pursued revisionist policies. 3 This study also allows me to compare German policy toward Poland with German policy toward the Czech Republic, which is significant since German-Czech reconciliation lagged behind similar efforts with Poland.

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