Archiv für Sozialgeschichte
Band XLIII/ 2003 - Summaries

Frank Fischer,

From the "Government of Internal Reforms" to "Crisis Management". The Relationship between Domestic and Foreign Policy in the Social-Liberal Era, 1969-1982

The essay examines the classical question of the relationship between internal and foreign policy, using the example of the social-liberal era from 1969 to 1982. In this context, the author first discusses the main internal and external political emphases, on which the desires and actions of the coalition's most important political actors - above all the Social Democratic Chancellors Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt - were based. Secondly, the essay investigates to which degree Brandt and Schmidt were successful in pursuing these goals against the dominating background of the East-West conflict. Willy Brandt's self-chosen credo to be a "Chancellor of internal reforms" collided - after the successful conclusion of the bilateral treaties with Germany's eastern neighbours and the onset of the first Oil Crisis in 1973/74 - with serious exterior crises, which eroded the foundation of further internal reforms and which ultimately led to Brandt's resignation. The government of his successor, Helmut Schmidt, from the very beginning had to face "globally mounting problems" - in monetary and financial policy, in economic and energy policy and, especially, in foreign and security policy: The Soviets' upgrading of their intermediate-range missiles for Schmidt constituted an unacceptable threat to the balance of nuclear power, it increased the danger of political coercion and made an appropriate western response unavoidable, which then came in the form of NATO's twin-track policy. The domestic political reverberations - within government, but above all within the SPD - of this decision, which had been pushed ahead primarily by Schmidt, in their turn undermined the foundations of the social-liberal coalition and played their part in the fall of the second Social Democratic Chancellor in October 1982. All in all, it can be concluded that, throughout the social-liberal era, the governments' domestic political scope of action was restricted by the foreign political realities of the day, or at least that foreign policy had a greater impact on domestic affairs than could be the case vice versa.


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