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Old 06-07-2021, 08:56 AM
Ursus Maior Ursus Maior is offline
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Default On V.1 Background: Germany and the Bundeswehr in the Eighties

In another thread, Raellus and I have started a discussion on how Germany behaved politically in terms of foreign and security politics, and consequently if or under which circumstances (elements of) the Bundeswehr would have exploited the perceived weakness of its neighbors to start a war of agression and revise then-current borders.

In other terms: How likely was the flashpoint or casus belli first edition gave in its narrated history?

I did not want to derail Raellus' thread any further, but felt, I had several comments on his last contribution. So I opened up a new one here.

I will start from the end, because it's a more specific item and then work my way to the more complex question in the beginning of the comment, which is actually not any question, but The German Question.

Originally Posted by Raellus View Post
Likewise, a constitution is a piece of paper. It can be rewritten or simply ignored (sadly, this happens rather frequently in the developing world). I don't mean to be glib, but there's precedent for ignoring/rewriting a constitution in 20th century German history. In 1995 (v1 timeline), the W. German constitution was barely 40 years old. Just because it restricted the Bundeswehr from conducting offensive operations against a neighbor, doesn't mean that the Bundeswehr would sit on its hands given the geo-political situation of the timeline.
I think it's a misconception that laws are merely pieces of paper and texts like a constitution could be dismissed so easily in such central points. A constitution is always a common denominator, even if it's probably the least. If one takes a look at the general discourse of changing or amending the US constitution for whatever purpose and how volatile these discourses can become, then "piece of paper" does not grasp the importance of a constitution, especially for democratic societies.

Speaking of that, the idea of 'never again' being the aggressor in a war is so deep-rooted in German culture - both civilian and military - that Germany did not participate in Desert Storm. In fact, military operations outside of NATO's area were deemed unconstitutional until the Federal Constitutional Court ruled otherwise in 1994 and even then the Kosovo War only saw Germany participating militarily, since the 'never again' of looming genocide trumped the 'never again' of military aggression. Participating in the war nonetheless almost tore apart the ruling parties of Social-Democrats and Green party.

In light of this major cultural focus of being non-aggressive and honoring the United Nations Charta of fostering peaceful coexistence between nations, imagining a cabal of German officers planning and conducting an annexation of the GDR, even more since the army of the GDR (the NVA) supposedly stood by doing nothing. Not only would all leadership personnel be in breach of the constitution, but the German penal code has an explicit name for the crime they would be committing: preparation of a war of aggression (§ 80 StGB) and before that incision of a war of aggression (§80a StGB as amended 1975), quite likely that would also qualify as high treason. So everyone would face up to ten years of imprisonment and even lower ranks would face up to five years for just rallying subordinates to the cause.

Additionally, all orders that clearly aid these purposes would be illegal to follow and since such an invasion could very well be perceived as an attempt to alter the constitution of Germany, under Article 20 of the German constitution every German citizen would have the right to resist (including active resistance), as soon as it becomes evident that the authorities do not want to or cannot control the officer's cabal and their force of invasion. Given that Germany at that time had a quite active extremist left that was already conducting 'direct actions' against military and police forces (google 'RAF'), even a sign of military forces behaving unconstitutional would have had huge consequences for Germany. I would say that left-wing terrorist groups would have swollen in ranks and had a field day conducting urban guerilla actions against all kinds of government installations.

This is in addition to internal strife the Bundeswehr would have had to endure. Since the Bundeswehr was a force mainly relying on conscripts, and these conscripts come from all parts of the society - to which they returned each Friday afternoon - keeping secrets was difficult. Since the 1980s there was also a very left-leaning military watchdog group (Darmstädter Signal) that would have blown the whistle on any action remotely looking like an act of aggression. Their work was at least directly supported by the union of soldiers of the Bundeswehr, so strong-arming or silencing such a group would not have been easy. That's getting pretty big picture now, which is why I will switch to the other item.

Originally Posted by Raellus View Post
Your location tag says Germany. If you are indeed a German citizen, then I defer to your first-hand knowledge of German culture and national sentiment. I had no idea that West Germans were glad to be rid of their East German counterparts after the forced partition. When I was a kid watching the Berlin Wall come down on my TV screen, it sure looked like the folks on the west side of the wall were happy to welcome their neighbors from the east side. If most West Germans were happy to be separated from the East, why reunify at all? Why not remain two Germanies (albeit both democratic and more or less capitalistic)? Surely, there's more to it than that.
Yes, I am German and this is not making the discussion any easier for me, since I need to balance between my personal experience - I was kid like you, when the Wall came down, but we lived in the Southwest of Germany - my experience as a soldier in the Bundeswehr - I would have certainly served during Operation Reset - and my knowledge as a historian on that topic. Let me give it a try, but bear in mind that this is a topic to fill books and hours of lecture at universities.

Germany works differently from its more centralized neighbors in Europe. Until 1871 Germany was not a unified nation, but a collection of principalities and kingdoms. Borders mattered a lot to people, because they were everywhere. That did not change in the 20th century, though the borders did. The German main population centers were always in Western Germany, except for Berlin, and all large cities were here too, except for Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig. In fact, except for Munich and Hamburg (plus the smaller Hannover and Bremen) all large cities were actually located along the Rhine and its tributaries. This made post-war Western Germany with its width of usually around 200 km a very cozy place. Of course, until 1945 there were also Königsberg and Danzig (Gdansk), plus Silesian Kattowice (then: Kattowitz), but they were 1,000 km away from the Rhine and everyone was of the opinion that loosing these territories was the logical, usually also fair price for loosing the war and having committed the holocaust and other atrocities. Also, even before 1945 had hardly anyone rooted for Eastern Prussia. It was basically synonymous with being underdeveloped, uncivilized and illiberal, plus - as racism was prevalent - full of non-Germans.

Being German was always something that was more a label against outsiders, who were not German, than it was something marking identification inwardly. Within Germany, people were Bavarian, Rhinelanders, Westphalians, Hanseats or Frisian, but not German, thanks to centuries of particularized principalities. So, when in 1946 the Iron Curtain dropped, two very different German identities began to emerge. Yes, certainly, East Germans were Germans, too, but they were living in the less populous, less economically developed and less ancient parts of Germany and so the 15 million citizens of the GDR were always more belittled by their 60+ million West German relatives than actually missed.

So, when the Wall dropped, certainly there were pictures of West Germans that were waving flags as East Germans crossed the border. But that was at the border and this euphoria depleted quickly. Where I was living, near the French border, I guarantee you that I did see not a single flag being waved, but a lot of people were asking how to pay for closing the gap everyone knew existed. And when the East Germans came in masses and stayed looking for work, instead of leaving the next day, returning to the East, they were not greeted any longer. Instead there were articles in (large) newspapers and magazines how 'they' would take our jobs and cost us billions.

So, why then was there a reunification? Because of probably three factors. First, the German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl seized the opportunity, he saw dawning in 1989. In 1988 the economic crisis hit Germany hard and his reelection in 1990 was dubious at best. When the USSR started to implode and the GDR faced huge weekly demonstrations by civil rights groups, he took the opportunity, once he realized that it was there and it was not opposed by the reformed socialist government.

Second, the people of East Germany at first talked about reforming their nation, not reuniting with the West. But at some point Chancellor Kohl published a Ten Point Plan, talking about "structures of a confederation" between the two German states. However, a confederation would not have given East Germany the economical or fiscal means to reform itself. East Germany would have faced a fate more like the other Eastern European states with years or decades or hardship and little means to close the gap. But while people from other nations were largely not eligible to immigrate into Germany, East Germans would have been able to immigrate into the West German part of that confederation, since they were - under the law of both German states - Germans and thus could not be denied citizenship.

So reunification put an end to the mass-exodus from East Germany, which was eviscerating the already failing economy, while costing West-Germany money, since there were not enough jobs in the West to employ all Germans equally. Jobs were not only scarce because of the economical crisis of 1988, but also because in West Germany industrialization had already begun in the same way the US Steel Belt became the Rust Belt: the economies of the world were integrating rapidly and it was now cheaper to produce iron, steel, copper or cloths in India and ship them around the globe than pay high wages in Europe. To put it simple: Reunification stopped East German unemployment to become a West German problem and thus saved Chancellor Kohl the next two elections, because he could declare the Reconstruction of East Germany a national project that was so large that "everyone will have to tighten their belts", but it could be done.

And the third point is "euphoria". Emotions are a huge deal in politics and can influence elections a lot. Chancellor Kohl was inciting euphoria and his program for the elections of 1990 was simple: I brought you reunification and ended us being a state half occupied by the USSR and half way into nuclear war. His political opponent, a Social Democrat, was unfortunate not to be in this good a position and dumb enough to oppose reunification openly. You see, while West Germans cared little for East Germans and often belittled them, Germans on both sides enjoyed the premise to again "be a nation". This sentiment of "we're back" and being recognized again as one nation under equals was a huge deal on an emotional level, at least for the generation that was in power, who were born in the 1930s and 1940s.

Chancellor Kohl took advantage of these emotions and sentiments, while also taking advantage of the East Germans: It was with their votes that he won the election and they voted for him, because he promised them "blossoming landscapes" within a few years, but instead he was condemning them to years of living in a second-class economy with severely smaller paychecks federally decreed. Though then, what would have been the alternative? Letting East Germany slip into an economical abyss, from which everyone who could walk would have escaped into the West, where no jobs were available? Reunification was not so much a solution as a deferral of the problem what to do with 15 million people, who - economically speaking - were basically "left over" and whose work was of no value to the free market system of Western Nations, but keeping them working in the East was better than having them being unemployed in the West. Of course the economical problem was never properly solved, euphoric sentiments began to turn sour and reconciliation was never properly achieved, also owing to East Germany still being treated differently in many ways.

In yesterday's election in one of East Germany's state legislators, the largest German right-extremist and neo-fascist party barely missed what at the polls for a long time looked like their first possible victory of achieving state government. Among the ranks of this party are also former Bundeswehr soldiers, including at least one general, and other security sensitive personnel. So, for 2035, I would not rule out a scenario like GDW described in 1984 as much as I would for the context of v.1.
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Last edited by Ursus Maior; 06-08-2021 at 01:40 AM. Reason: I missed closing a dash ("-"), my apologies.
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Old 06-07-2021, 05:22 PM
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I don't have any intelligent input on the discussion, but I want to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. This is an exceptionally well-written and well-considered post.

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Old 06-08-2021, 02:14 PM
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Before Brandt's Ostpolitik of the 1970s, West German maps did show the 1937 borders though and Kohl did briefly mention the idea of compensation for the expulsion of Germans from east of Oder-Neisse in 1990 before being told very firmly to drop the matter if he wanted reunification.
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Old 06-09-2021, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Raellus: View Post
"If most West Germans were happy to be separated from the East, why reunify at all? Why not remain two Germanies (albeit both democratic and more or less capitalistic)?"

The German constitution (Grundgesetz) includes a preamble. Here it says, that at the time of its legal validity (1949), part of the German people had no possibility to take part in certain decisions. The whole Grundgesetz is labelled as temporary. The idea was, that the general public in Western Germany should try to act in the intents of all Germans. It included the sentence:

"Das gesamte Deutsche Volk bleibt aufgefordert, in freier Selbstbestimmung die Einheit und Freiheit Deutschlands zu vollenden." (The entire German people are called upon to complete the unity and freedom of Germany through free self-determination. Translated with Google.)
This was read as some kind of general aim or goal for the future and included the idea, that Germany should be united at one point in the future. I'm not a lawyer, but we were told in school, that this was something, that could be labeled as part of the West German reason of state.

The society in Western Germany in the eighties differed a lot from our time. To add something to Ursus Maior's post, there are two aspects, that should be kept in mind:
1. The peace movement in the FRG/BRD was very strong. The annual easter marches in Western Germany had massive support, in 1983 approximately 700,000 people took part in demonstrations, campaigns and activities of the peace movement. The civilian society was much more aware of what happened in the Bundeswehr. Although the peace movement had its origins in the pacifistic movement, it was not entirely made up of hard core pacifists.
2. The Bundeswehr was a conscript army. And that meant, that the public was more informed and concerned with the military. In most families someone had to do with the military: the older brother, who had returned from his reserve duties, the younger brother, who knew he would be drafted in October. And in many regions the soldiers and vehicles (more vans and trucks, not tracks in most regions) were a common sight. And even in the larger cities in the Rhine-Ruhr-Region soldiers, who served in HQ units, could be seen, taking a break at the local bakery.

From my own memory I can tell you, the majority of the conscripts in my unit (Integral Jäger company in a Panzergrenadier bataillon in 1985/1986) were not entirely committed. About the half of us had tried to avoid the draft and instead conduct civilian service instead. The civilian service was longer than the regular time of service in the German forces. You had to declare your intent in front of a local agency. Most of us did not succeed.
On the other hand, the idea of a citizen army ("Staatsbürger in Uniform") was strong. I cannot imagine, that any rightwing group in the Bundeswehr had the chances to plan anything "evil", without being reported by soldiers, who fully supported the ideas of the democratic Grundgesetz.
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Old 06-09-2021, 01:26 PM
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To our German members, do you see any circumstances at all in which the Bundeswehr launches a pre-emptive attack to liberate the DDR?

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Old 06-09-2021, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Raellus View Post
To our German members, do you see any circumstances at all in which the Bundeswehr launches a pre-emptive attack to liberate the DDR?

Please let one of these circumstances include Falco, please let one of these circumstances include Falco... repeats mantra 27 times...
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Old 06-10-2021, 02:26 AM
Ursus Maior Ursus Maior is offline
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Originally Posted by Raellus View Post
To our German members, do you see any circumstances at all in which the Bundeswehr launches a pre-emptive attack to liberate the DDR?
That's complex question with many parts: "The Bundeswehr" as the main agent? No, certainly not.

"Pre-emptive" in the true sense of "without direct cause"? No, absolutely not. That probably the hardest part to heal, because pre-emptive strikes without a direct cause are almost always legally "wars of agression". Someone would need to prove an imminent attack or something along that line. That's hard to argue consistently.

Don't forget that West Germany was always branded by the the USSR and the GDR as successor state to Nazi Germany. Since Germany started the attack on Poland as a pre-emptive strike after Poland allegedly had attacked a German radio station in the border town of Gleiwitz (today 'Gliwice': https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleiwitz_incident) and other similar incidents. These incidents were in fact false flag operations enacted by the SS. So any strike against East Germany by the FRG would have needed credible evidence. Also, West Germany was not a fully sovereign state before the reunification. Although occupation had ended in 1949, certain rights an decisions remained with the Western Allies.

"Attack to liberate the DDR"? Liberation is not an issue here as the GDR (DDR) was a free state in the same sense as the FRG itself. De jure the USSR was not an occupational force since 1949 and the FRG had accepted the existence of the GDR in 1972. The forces of the USSR thus had every legal right to be there: 1) They had come as force of occupation and denying this would have meant denying the cause for the occupation (i. e. Germany had started the World War Two and lost it). 2) The GDR had invited the USSR to help protecting it as much as the FRG had invited the USA, UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada.

The last point is that NATO was a defensive army and all its posture was about not getting overrun by Warsaw Pact forces. There probably were plans for counterattacks, once the initial Soviet assault had been beaten back and then a "liberation" of East Germany and probably the ČSSR would have been on the horizon, but these scenarios were highly unlikely. I am not aware of any concrete plans for that.

This defensive posture would make it very hard for offensive operations of that scale to take place. You need to rearrange basically all gear differently to accomplish that, i. e. bridge engineers need to take part in the assault, covering forces need to be present, long-range artillery in the staging areas etc. This is easily spotted by recon and intelligence units, on both sides. NATO would know the Germans are gearing up for attack, especially since all troop movement in Germany is either ordered by NATO or its commands receive at least a carbon copy. You cannot even fuel up tanks without NATO knowing, because gasoline reserves are a a strategic issue and filling up a battalion of tanks means the brigade has to pay and resupply, meaning the division has to sign off, meaning the corps will get a copy, meaning it will ask who signed off the exercise. You can do snap exercises, sure, but everything beyond a brigade will need complicated planning.

The only way circumventing NATO is using the Territorial Army, but that means calling up reservists and using gear that's even unfit for your second line troops. You don't start a war, not even one disguised as a peace operation, with a superpower. In fact, the last war showed, you don't attack the USSR at all. Period.

So, if one wants "Germany" crossing the border first, one needs to make this a NATO operation. And that needs a really good cause. Because, if NATO gears up, so does the Warsaw Pact or at least the USSR. Maybe, in 1989/1990, when everything turned volatile, and the USSR would have take the big stick and started beating down on Poland, ČSSR and the GDR, NATO would have acted differently than in 1968. Maybe, the GDR leader, Erich Honecker, would have geared into overdrive, going full Tiananmen on his own people (he wanted to AFAIK) in fear he would be disposed by Moscow, if he did not. So, maybe NATO decides they will not have it this time, maybe under pressure from the German chancellor, and they signal Moscow: "That's enough. You can brutalize Poland and the ČSSR, but Germans were demonstrating peacefully and just voted in a new government and it's even nominally by your favorite pet-party, so either accept that or we'll do that for you."

And maybe Moscow tells Honecker to take a trip to a nice house on Crimea and he refuses and calls the current leader in Moscow a softy on television, shooting another group of "imperialist insurgents". And maybe the USSR helps him, but isn't super happy about it and there is some talk to the US. And maybe then NATO decides they were hearing "the Berlin Brigade should enforce law and order in collaboration with their Soviet allies" and moves to apprehend Honecker. And maybe the Soviet detachments in Berlin don't listen or the order didn't come through or it's all a big misunderstanding and Berlin becomes a battlefield. Then the Germans, having geared up already, because they were told to, start being helpful and start talking to the rest of the newly elected GDR-government, where maybe a two disgruntled East German NVA colonels were designated as new ministers of defense and interior security and these colonels say they want law and order and would not take up arms against a stabilization and peace force. Maybe one even says the word "liberation". Word gets back to NATO and since Western forces in Berlin desperately need help, the US signal the USSR: We're going in, don't stand in our way. This is about Germany only. The US step down readiness in Bavaria, so the ČSSR doesn't feel as threatened and NATO goes into the GDR. German Bundeswehr first, just for the effect, followed by UK and USA. The rest remains put, because a lot of NATO countries think the idea is stupid.

The whole thing is as much about relieving Berlin as it is about ending Honecker's rule over East Germany. It's also not well planned, very fluid and a logistical mess. So troop strength at first is around 25 % in the Bundeswehr units and slightly higher in US and UK forces.

The designated defense minister of the GDR gives his orders, but since he's just designated and the real minister won't have it, telephone calls to East German units are really conflicting each other. In the end half of the NVA remains put and the other half, mostly around Berlin and the Eastern parts of the GDR gear up to defend against the "imperialist invasion". Some units are split right in the middle in their loyalties and reports of blue on blue action come up, when gunfire erupts in several NVA barracks.

The GDR completely goes down in flames now. Civilian demonstrators, armed Stasi, NVA forces loyal to Honecker, rebel forces, they all start shooting each other. The Bundeswehr gets into fights with loyalist NVA units. UK and US forces start shooting and somewhere down the road to Berlin the whole show changes its pace when small detachments of Soviet troops side with loyalist NVA forces, some retreat into Poland and the ČSSR and some of all these three get shot up by NATO forces. About at the same time, the leadership in Moscow get's overthrown by hardliners for being to soft and letting this all get out of hand. Then the USSR declares full mobilization and states its intent to return to a status quo ante. Unfortunately the first step to do so is bombing West German NATO airbases and crossing the border between ČSSR and Bavaria to encircle NATO forces fighting in Thuringia. Now, NATO mobilizes fully and the Cold War goes fully hot.

That's a quick write up how I think it could go down. Still extremely unlikely, because NATO crossing the GDR border would be crossing a line that - historically - was uncrossable to NATO, unless war had already broken out. But other than a really big diplomatic screw up in communications and too many people with good intentions, but little sense of the situation, I just don't see it happen.
Liber et infractus
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