America, Germany, and the Future of Europe

America, Germany, and the Future of Europe

by Gregory F. Treverton


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This book argues that Germany is, and will remain, Europe's center, both literally and figuratively. The author emphasizes America's preoccupation with Europe and the decisive effect of U.S. foreign policy on European security and economic arrangements during the postwar years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691602134
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/14/2014
Series: Princeton Legacy Library , #213
Pages: 254
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

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America, Germany, and the Future of Europe

By Gregory F. Treverton


Copyright © 1992 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-07859-5


Dividing Germany

Just as the postwar order ended in Germany, so it also began there. It ended the day the Berlin Wall was punched open, November 9, 1989; or perhaps earlier in the summer the day communist Hungary decided it had more to gain from capitalist West Germany than it had to fear from Moscow and so let roll the "freedom trains" carrying East Germans to new lives in West Germany. In those weeks the division of Germany ended, in important psychological and political ways if not yet in all formal ones, and with it, so ended the postwar order in Europe.

Germans, East Germans in particular, were the main actors in bringing down the old order. They surprised everyone at how quickly their candlelight vigils in the streets of Berlin and Leipzig and Dresden revealed that the regime's means of control, overwhelming on paper, were in fact discredited, and almost empty. The speed left East Germany with not much by way of leaders, political structures, or visions of the future, and it left the rest of us to wonder how we could have been so misled in our assessments of the old regime's economic health and political control.

Those East Germans did owe a large debt to Mikhail Gorbachev, who made reform the order of the day in eastern Europe and, at the critical moment, told the East German regime it could not count on Soviet support—far from it, if it repressed its opponents by force as China had done at the beginning of the summer. He would condone no Tiananmen Square blood running in the streets of East Germany. Helmut Kohl's West German government finished what the East German people had begun; it supplied the vision and the leaders and the structure.

The contrast between Germans' role in ending and in shaping the postwar order in Europe could hardly be sharper. In 1980–90 Germans were in the driver's seat. In 1946–48, their country devastated and its Nazi experiment disgraced, they had been an object, not an actor in the decisions that created Europe's dependence and America's military engagement.

As soon as they could believe Germany might lose World War II, the men in London, Washington—and Moscow—set their minds to Germany's future role in Europe, Their first actions set in motion the division of Germany, even if they did not quite intend it that way or even realize it was happening. Sooner than they realized, provisional decisions created enduring facts; each hesitant, reluctant step changed the calculations of risk about the next.

The construction of the postwar order in Europe began and ended with the division of Germany. The first steps were halting and half inadvertent, intended less as decisions than as interim solutions to practical problems. Not so five years later when the division was ratified by integrating West Germany into NATO: then the decision was conscious, its implications for the European order acknowledged and accepted, including by Germans although not without second thoughts. That final step finished what was begun with the North Atlantic Treaty and the dispatch of American troops to Europe --the security order in Europe—and ratified the American military engagement on the European continent.

Planning for Postwar Germany

As the tide of battle turned toward the allies, planning for what to do with Germany circulated in Washington and London. On the American side the argument remained mostly at the working level, for President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to defer decisions about Europe's future politics while fighting its present war. And so the arguing produced confused and sometimes conflicting policy results. Yet that arguing is still of more than historical interest, for it reflected differing notions not only of why the war occurred but also of how to prevent the next one—how to structure a peaceful Europe.

How again to deal with a vanquished Germany turned on assessments of what had gone wrong after World War I. There was common ground in Washington on two points—that surrender this time around should be unconditional, not permitting a defeated Germany to bargain for its terms, and that the victors at Versailles had been deeply mistaken in pressing enormous reparations claims on Germany. If the economic effect of those claims had not been virtually to guarantee upheaval in postwar Germany—on that issue there was argument—they surely had been bound to become a lightning rod for German grievances and a poisoner of Germany's relations with its neighbors. Beyond these two points of agreement, however, assessments varied and with them, prescriptions.

For those, in the state department and elsewhere, who traced Germany's slide toward fascism and war directly to the Versailles peace treaty of 1919, the prescription for this time around was relative moderation. The 1919 treaty had explicitly contravened its own central tenet, self-determination, in the case of defeated Germany, depriving that country of a tenth of its population and a seventh of its territory—Alsace-Lorraine and the Saar in the west, Danzig and the Danzig corridor (West Prussia) in the east, cutting off East Prussia from the rest of Germany and so virtually guaranteeing that German-Polish relations would be an open sore.

Then, Germany had been excluded from the League of Nations, branded with the guilt for having caused the war, limited in its arms and armed forces, and compelled to pay enormous reparations. Moreover, the Ruhr had been demilitarized and temporarily occupied, an occupation France later used to compel German payment of reparations. This time, in the view of those who argued for a moderate peace, Germany would be demilitarized and denazified but with controls kept, in the words of a 1943 state department committee, "to the minimum in number and in severity which will be compatible with security" and intended to foster "a minimum of bitterness" from the German people.

As time passed, the more any official had come to worry by war's end about the future shadow of Soviet power in Europe, the more attractive dealing moderately with Germany became and the less was the temptation to consign Germany forever to vacuum. This argument ran intriguingly parallel to that of those among the victors who had lost the debate in 1919, like Winston Churchill, who had argued then not for punishing Germany but for quickly rehabilitating it as a bulwark against Bolshevik Russia.

By contrast, for Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Versailles had gone both too far and not far enough. He and others—a group which sometimes seemed to include the president, influenced by his schooldays in Germany and service as assistant secretary of the navy after World War I—saw Germany as by nature aggressive. Versailles had done nothing about that; worse, by compelling reparations, it had encouraged Germany to rebuild its industrial base—ostensibly for reparations but ultimately for war.

Morgenthau's plans, in various forms, called for dismantling Germany's remaining heavy industry and flooding its coal mines, making Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in nature. If the Ruhr, he put it to an aide, were "stripped of its machinery, the mines flooded—dynamited—wrecked—it would make [the Germans] impotent to wage future wars." As to the people, "why the hell should I worry about what happens to their people? ... They have asked for it." Reeducating young people was imperative, a task that might mean the need, he confided to his diary, "to transplant them out of Germany to some place in Central Africa." The plan would insure that Germany could not turn its industrial might to aggressive purposes.

It is perhaps a mark of wartime passions and the preoccupation with victory on the part of officials at the top of the American government that these strange ideas, whose implementation seems in retrospect implausible, had a running. The influence of these ideas reached a peak in September 1944 when, attending the Quebec Conference at Roosevelt's special invitation, Morgenthau managed to get the president and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to initial a document incorporating his plan.

The ensuing flap leaked to the public, and Roosevelt privately admitted to Secretary of War Henry Stimson that he had signed the document without much thought. Yet some of Morgenthau's ideas for "planned chaos" were incorporated into the original occupation directive issued to the American army as it fought across western Europe—JCS 1067. The incorporation is puzzling, for Stimson's department thus approved what he himself strongly opposed.

In 1944, however, a German collapse seemed possible, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander, urgently needed some guidance, never mind the content. To an American military that was about to have the task of running Germany, JCS 1067 probably did not seem as much Morgenthauism as it does in retrospect. Against the military's task the directive had its appeal, because it enhanced the military's authority while offering to let it avoid too deep an involvement in German civil affairs, or responsibility for restoring the German economy should a collapse occur—both prospects that filled senior officers with dread.

Dividing Germany was an obvious compromise between those who sought a generous peace and those who would have dismantled German power. For those who thought Versailles had not gone far enough, it went further; if Germany were inherently warlike, its tradition would be displaced and its power divided. For those who saw reparations claims as the villain of the interwar period, division offered a way to divide responsibility and thus diminish claims this time around. For those who feared a power vacuum in the center of Europe, several states, perhaps in loose confederation, held promise of avoiding it.

The problems with partition were, however, also evident. Division would hardly be attractive to the victors if it only gave vanquished Germany a permanent grievance and with it a permanent focal point for renewed nationalism. In that sense it risked becoming the second war's version of reparations. Creating a host of small states would prevent the revival of German military force, but would such a confederation be viable? Might a Germany divided into thirds produce three relatively strong states and so a stable structure?

Stalin had mentioned partition to Britain's foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, in 1941, along with the idea of moving both the Soviet Union's and Poland's borders westward at the expense of German territory. A variety of partition plans circulated within official Washington. One done in the state department during 1942, for instance, proposed three states, in the south, the northeast, and northwest.

If the underlying problem was German militarism, then partition was a solution more feasible than "planned chaos." A divided Germany would be two steps from aggression, reuniting and rearming, but a united Germany would be but one. On the other hand, the problem with partition as a solution was that it would create a grievance, alienating Germans from the peace settlement and estranging them from the society of peaceable nations.

President Roosevelt spoke favorably, if tentatively, of partition, and he brought up the subject with Stalin and Churchill at Teheran in 1943, there mentioning a five-part division of Germany and linking it to proposed zones of occupation. Both then and at Yalta in 1945, however, the three leaders discussed but sidestepped the issue, referring it in a formless way to the European Advisory Commission (EAC) in London—the group they had created to make recommendations about postwar issues.

At Yalta the question of division was overshadowed by the argument over reparations. Neither the United States nor Britain expected reparations, but the Soviet Union did (and occupied countries sought "restitution")—to the tune of $20 billion for Moscow, half to be delivered no matter what the course of postwar Germany's economy. Roosevelt and Churchill expressed worry over the possibility of disorder, even starvation, in the industrialized western sectors where food was scarce. The two did not accept Stalin's $20 billion claim, but Roosevelt did, over Churchill's objection, agree to use it as the basis for subsequent conversation.

Division in Fact

In the end American decisionmaking about occupation zones was haphazard. The original idea for the EAC had been Stalin's, and Roosevelt remained loathe to make postwar commitments before the end of the war; moreover, official Washington, remembering 1919, feared an isolationist backlash if the war's endgame appeared to be decided in secret in London. And so in late 1943 when the state department circulated a plan for pie-shaped zones giving all three powers access to Berlin, the U.S. military countered that occupation zones were strictly military matters, to depend on deployments at the end of the war.

Early in 1944 the British put before the EAC their own plan, much like what ensued in fact, for a Russian zone in the east, an American in the southwest and a British in the northwest, with Berlin under tripartite administration but deep inside the Soviet zone. The Soviets quickly indicated their approval. Caught off guard, the American military's Civil Affairs Division (CAD) responded with its own plan, one of wartime planning's curiosities. The plan gave the Americans a huge zone in the northwest bordering on Berlin, and the British and Soviets smaller zones to the southwest and east, respectively, the border between them not entirely defined. Moreover, the plan pushed eastward the eastern boundary of the Soviet zone, one Moscow and London had already agreed upon.

It turned out that, in a hurry, CAD had simply appropriated a map Roosevelt had casually drawn in a meeting with the joint chiefs of staff in November 1943.9 The president, tickled by the mischief he had set loose, authorized his representative to the EAC to accept the boundaries already agreed upon by Moscow and London. He still, however, did not like the assignment of the southwest to the United States, apparently with fears of his own about postwar politics, in this case a revolution in France that would cut off U.S. lines of communication.

Churchill, though, held firm, and the president was persuaded by his military advisors that existing troop deployments would make it easy to occupy the southwest. Intriguingly in light of subsequent events, the president did insist that Britain concede two enclaves in their zone, at the ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven. The American military then negotiated detailed rights of access to the U.S. zone. Ironically, though, the war department continued to resist doing the same with the Soviets for Berlin; that was a purely military matter to be worked out during the invasion.

When the allies' occupation forces moved into their agreed positions, partition became a fact, and the "big three" began to lose interest in long-range plans for making it formal. Churchill put it bluntly only six weeks after Yalta: "I hardly like to consider dismemberment until my doubts about Russia's intentions have been cleared away." The postwar struggle for Germany was beginning. At the same time, the first decisive step in dividing Germany had been taken by creating very different occupation regimes on the backs of very different occupying armies.

When Roosevelt died, Truman inherited plans and discussions but no decisions. His occupation directive, JCS 1067/8, signed in May 1945, stitched together separate departmental perspectives and so provided the military governor, General Lucius Clay, little clear guidance. The entire range of German issues—from relations among occupation zones to partition and reparations—was on the agenda when the big three reconvened in Potsdam in late July 1945, this time with Truman representing the United States.

Potsdam seemed to signify the intention to keep Germany unified but in fact laid the basis for dividing it. Again, reparations dominated the discussion. Stalin fell away from his fixed figure for reparations in return for provisional acceptance by Truman and Churchill of the Oder-Neisse line as Germany's eastern border. Instead, the final agreement spelled out a formula for the Soviet Union to take industrial goods from its zone and receive them from the western ones. The country was to "be treated as a single economic unit," with centralized agencies operating from the Allied Control Council in Berlin overseeing the exchange of reparations from the western sectors for food from the eastern.


Excerpted from America, Germany, and the Future of Europe by Gregory F. Treverton. Copyright © 1992 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

  • FrontMatter, pg. i
  • Contents, pg. v
  • Preface, pg. vii
  • Abbreviations, pg. xi
  • Introduction, pg. 1
  • CHAPTER ONE. Dividing Germany, pg. 15
  • CHAPTER TWO. Creating Dependence, pg. 38
  • CHAPTER THREE. Integrating Germany, Engaging America, pg. 64
  • CHAPTER FOUR. Economics and Security, pg. 92
  • CHAPTER FIVE. Moscow’s German Problem, pg. 119
  • CHAPTER SIX. Europe’s Past, Europe’s Future, pg. 153
  • CHAPTER SEVEN. A European Germany or a German Europe?, pg. 173
  • A Final Word, pg. 206
  • Notes, pg. 215
  • Index, pg. 231

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