60 years of NATO membership
60 years ago the Paris Agreements made it possible for Germany to join NATO – a historic event with far-reaching consequences.
When the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl travelled to see the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to hold negotiations on German unification in the summer of 1990, Germany’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was the big hurdle. Although Gorbachev had indicated that he could agree to unification in principle, he initially “absolutely excluded” the idea of the united country being a member of NATO. Two irreconcilable military alliances had faced each other during the Cold War: NATO in the west and the Warsaw Pact in the east.
The Federal Republic of Germany became a member of NATO on 6 May 1955. The German Democratic Republic, the socialist state that emerged from the division of Germany after the Second World War, joined the Warsaw Pact shortly afterwards. The spheres of interest were thus defined.
Adenauer’s pro-Western government
Earlier, the Paris Agreements meant that Konrad Adenauer’s government had chosen a pro-Western orientation for the Federal Republic of Germany. The treaties with the Western Allies came into force on 5 May 1955 – after they had been ratified by the Bundestag (German parliament). This made it possible for the Federal Republic to join the Western European Union (WEU) and NATO. At the time Chancellor Adenauer said: “It is impossible to defend Europe against the Soviet Union without America.” The signing of the Paris Agreements was controversial. Above all, the opposition party SPD and Church groups felt that peace was being threatened, and they feared any rearmament of Germany. In the end, the Federal Government prevailed with its pro-Western policy.
The Paris Agreements remained in force until after reunification. Germany did not regain full sovereignty until the Two Plus Four Agreement was signed on 15 March 1991. The united country remained a member of NATO.