Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 42–60 | Cite as

A preponderance of stability: Henry Kissinger’s concern over the dynamics of Ostpolitik

  • Stephan KieningerEmail author
Original Article


Drawing on American and German evidence, Stephan Kieninger’s contribution looks into Henry Kissinger’s ambivalent relationship with Germany scrutinizing both the parallels between Kissinger’s détente and Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik as well as the frictions and the competition between both approaches. Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s priority was international stability provided by the understanding between the USA and the Soviet Union, whereas Willy Brandt’s dynamic détente approach was aimed at Europe’s transformation overcoming the Iron Curtain. In Nixon’s and Kissinger’s balance of power policy, stability was essential to cement what they perceived as an endangered status quo in Europe. Brandt and his foreign policy advisor Egon Bahr saw détente as a way to facilitate liberalizing changes. They envisaged stability in international relations a precondition to guarantee the regimes behind the Iron Curtain the kind of security that would over time allow them to open up their societies for Western influence. Finally, the overlaps between both approaches prevailed. Examining Kissinger’s initial doubts over Ostpolitik’s feasibility, the essay depicts his way to control the détente process in Europe through the Quadripartite negotiations over Berlin in 1971. Eventually, Ostpolitik’s success was a catalyst and a prerequisite for Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s own approach to the Soviet Union despite the escalation of the Vietnam War.


Henry Kissinger Richard Nixon Willy Brandt Egon Bahr Ostpolitik Détente Germany 


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Copyright information

© The Editor of the Journal 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Foreign Policy Institute, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International StudiesJohns Hopkins UniversityWashingtonUSA

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