German Perceptions of the United States at Unification

by Ronald D. Asmus


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This report analyzes data on East and West German attitudes toward the United States, NATO, and the American troop presence from a survey taken at the time of German unification. The data collected suggest that (1) East Germans have an ambivalent and frequently negative image of American society; (2) East Germans recognize the positive U.S. role in the political and economic reconstruction of the Federal Republic, but they do not necessarily support a future U.S. military presence in Germany or for NATO; (3) East German skepticism and ambivalence toward the United States also arise from the fundamentally different relationship of the United States with this part of Germany. These findings have certain implications for U.S. policy: (1) U.S. policymakers should not assume that the early postwar experience with West Germany will automatically be recreated in East Germany; (2) U.S. policymakers must act jointly with the German government to address this potential problem — the United States can and should rely on West Germany to bring East Germans into the Western community; and (3) the United States must construct a relationship with the eastern part of Germany at a time when American influence will be less than it was in the 1950s and 1960s and may be declining further.

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