The security policy of the “West” never claimed to be that of a closed “bloc.” Rather, the allies of the USA in NATO joined their security and détente policies at different speeds according to their own goals. Under President C. de Gaulle (1959–69), France pursued its own v. a. nationally determined line, which was characterized by an independent nuclear armament and all-round defense as well as the withdrawal from the military integration of NATO, but also an early détente (detente). The Federal Republic of Germany, on the other hand, was under Federal Chancellor K. Adenauer (1949–63) endeavored to achieve strict NATO integration and at the same time endeavored to prevent the GDR from being recognized internationally. It therefore rejected all offers of détente from the Warsaw Pact states. With the Harmel Report (1967), NATO laid down a dual strategy that combined the idea of defense with that of detente; it moved away from the principle of “massive retaliation” of a possible attack with nuclear weapons in favor of the idea of a “flexible response”.
Third main phase
The reaction of the “West” to the ČSSR intervention in 1968 was mixed: public outrage in rallies and media on the one hand and diplomatic criticism of the USSR and its allies on the other confirmed the status quo of the division of areas of influence in Europe. This made it possible shortly afterwards to resume the relaxation process that had begun with the Harmel report. The Federal Republic of Germany under Federal Chancellor W. Brandt (1969–74) made an important contribution to this. As a result of the international détente since the mid-1960s, it had been forced to initiate a reorientation of relations with its communist neighbors. This Ostpolitik, which led to a contractually secured recognition of the territorial and political status quo in Central Europe, created the basis on which the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE; 1973–75) in the »Final Act of Helsinki« (1.8.1975) was able to agree the principles that would henceforth guide the relations of the states to one another.
The conclusion of the CSCE was the climax and at the same time the turning point of the phase of détente initiated in 1963, v. a. as far as relations between the USA and the USSR were concerned. The MBFR negotiations for the reduction of conventional weapons in Europe, which began in 1973, had no substantial result until the end of the 1980s. A second American-Soviet agreement on the limitation of strategic weapon systems (SALT II) was reached in 1979, but it was no longer ratified. NATO responded to the Soviet armaments policy in the field of medium-range missiles in December 1979 with the NATO double decision. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (December 1979) hardened East-West relations. The failure of the disarmament negotiations (1983) led to the deployment of medium-range missiles in the European NATO area. In addition, the USA sought to maintain its technological superiority in the arms sector with the SDI program.
The end of the East-West conflict
After M. S. Gorbachev took office as General Secretary of the CPSU (1985), the East-West relationship relaxed again. It was of great importance that in the 1980s the political weight of the world powers was relativized and the multilateral CSCE process (Madrid follow-up meeting 1980-83; Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe, KVAE, in Stockholm, 1984–86) could be continued constructively. The policy of “new thinking” and “perestroika” in the USSR made it possible, among other things. 1987 the conclusion of a treaty on the reduction of medium-range weapons (INF) and thus the first substantial disarmament treaty and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988-89. The activities of the reform-oriented forces and the strengthening of the citizens (right) movements in the 1980s (Solidarność’s role model) in the communist states of Europe, v. a. Favored by the Soviet leadership’s renunciation of the Brezhnev doctrine, in 1989/90 the communist systems of rule collapsed, first in Poland and Hungary, then in the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania and (1991) in Albania. The Soviet Union in its previous form and function dissolved with the declarations of independence of the Union Republics and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (GUS) 1991 on; In 1992, Yugoslavia fell apart.
With the restoration of the unity of Germany, based under international law on the Two-Plus-Four Treaty (September 12, 1990), one of the most important sub-conflicts of the East-West conflict ceased; With the dissolution of the economic and military-political structures of the Eastern Bloc (Comecon, Warsaw Pact) and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the foundations were removed from it.