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Following the changes that took place in Europe in 1989 and 1990, Germany has more international influence and strategic leeway than at any time since the end of World War II. How important the United States remains for Germany will depend on how Germans define their national interests and which relationships and institutions they will find most conducive to pursuing these interests. The future of the German-American relationship will hinge upon how the two countries address questions concerning future political, economic and military strategy in Europe and beyond. This study, reprinted from Survival, identifies and discusses four areas where German and American national interests overlap, and that can form the foundation for a continuing U.S.-German partnership: European security, Western European economic integration, reconstruction in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and out-of-area concerns. The author concludes that an active American role in Europe means that the United States must have a stake in both Eastern and Western Europe. A new German-American partnership, however, cannot be limited to Europe. A viable partnership therefore ultimately depends on Germany moving beyond its traditional focus on the Central Front. A stable European peace structure and German-American relationship cannot be built if Germany is inclined towards pacifism, is reluctant to acknowledge geopolitical realities, or is unwilling to share the burdens of international security. The greatest challenge in the German-American relationship is to avoid a de facto division of labor, where Germany deals with the East and the U.S. concentrates on crises in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. This arrangement would progressively marginalize the United States in Europe and would erode American support for continued engagement in Europe.

Originally published in: Survival, v. 33, no. 6, November/December 1991, pp. 546-566.

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