Moscow and the German question
The unification of Germany, the external aspects of which were codified in the "two-plus-four" agreement signed by the four original occupying powers in September 1990, ends an important period in East-West relations--and in Soviet diplomacy. For the Soviet Union, the German Question--how to treat Germany--was the main problem of European politics during the postwar period. The basic Soviet objective after 1945 remained constant: to prevent the resurgence of a powerful Germany and to maintain as much control over developments in Germany as possible. This essay traces the evolution of Soviet policy toward Germany in the postwar period. In particular, it examines the various shifts in Soviet policy and the factors that prompted them. The central focus of the essay, however, is on Gorbachev's policy and its consequences for East-West relations. What were the main objectives of Gorbachev's policy toward Germany? To what degree did his policy represent a break with the past? Did he anticipate, even desire, the unification of Germany or was unification an unintended by-product of his policy? A final section looks at the implications of the collapse of the Soviet Union as an integral state for future relations with Germany.