This paper evaluates the interaction, which developed during the 1960s and early 1970s, between U.S. and British policies towards the Federal Republic of Germany’s (FRG) Neue Ostpolitik and the impact that West German initiatives had on the special relationship in the context of deepening Anglo-American discrepancies over Vietnam and the UK’s East of Suez withdrawal. In the early 1950s the FRG’s integration into NATO had been a joint Anglo-American priority but the U.S. attitude on how to deal with Soviet concerns about Germany was regarded in London as too rigid. Both Conservative and Labour governments long advocated more flexibility in dealing with the East. However, Whitehall’s attempts to foster dialogue with Moscow, such as Winston Churchill’s 1953 Eastern Locarno proposal for great power guarantees of peace and the status quo in Europe, were resisted by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Secretary of State John F. Dulles. It was only in the early 1960s that the White House and the State Department gradually reversed the American view that détente would not be possible without progress on the German question. Building upon the legacy of President Kennedy’s 1963 ‘strategy of peace’ speech, between 1964 and 1968 Johnson’s policy of ‘bridge-building’ replaced the static notion of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with a broader vision of progressive engagement. Now Washington took a more flexible approach and encouraged the FRG to open up its own channels towards the Soviet bloc countries. The change in the American attitude was important also for U.S.-UK relations, as it brought it more into line with Britain’s views at a time when, as American involvement in Vietnam grew deeper, Washington exerted significant economic and political pressure on London to retain its East of Suez commitments. However, for the Americans it was equally important that the FRG’s overtures to the Soviet bloc states did not endanger Western cohesion and transatlantic unity. After Nixon’s victory in the 1968 Presidential election, the White House began to worry about the implications of some of the FRG’s initiatives. U.S. apprehensions were now partly shared in London, although new conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, like Wilson, continued to pursue cooperation with the FRG, seeking to ease the UK’s admission into the European Economic Community (EEC).
Ratti, L. (2020). The Anglo-American Special Relationship and West Germany’s Eastern Policy from ‘Bridge-Building’ and Vietnam to Ostpolitik. THE INTERNATIONAL HISTORY REVIEW, 1-24 [10.1080/07075332.2020.1791224].