On February 1, 2019, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark Cold War treaty: the agreement between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to ban intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe. One day after Trump's announcement, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would also withdraw from the treaty. Allegations of Russian violations in recent years have thus led to actions that threaten to return Europe to some of the most frightening days of the Cold War.
The Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987 ended a prolonged European missile crisis whose stakes and whose dangers, in the eyes of then French President François Mitterrand, rivaled those of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.Footnote 1 Beginning in early 1977, the Soviets deployed nearly four hundred intermediate-range SS-20 missiles before the West installed a single comparable weapon in Western Europe.Footnote 2 Capable of hitting European targets in six minutes, the SS-20s gave the Soviets an “overwhelming” nuclear advantage in the European theater, where they already enjoyed conventional military superiority.Footnote 3 With strategic nuclear parity between the superpowers having reduced the credibility of the intercontinental American nuclear guarantee, the unanswered Soviet intermediate-range deployment raised the specter of “decoupling” the non-nuclear states of Western Europe from their nuclear protector, the United States.Footnote 4 Unless America was unswervingly prepared to risk the sacrifice of one of its cities to save a German one, West Germany might be vulnerable to Soviet political blackmail.Footnote 5
In December 1979, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) responded to the Soviet deployments by announcing its “Dual-Track Decision”: NATO would begin deploying Tomahawk Cruise and Pershing II “Euromissiles” in West Germany and in at least one other country by the fall of 1983 (“track two”), if negotiations for reciprocal limits (“track one”) failed.Footnote 6 This decision came to pass largely because of an early warning from the West German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt. In a now legendary, English-language speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London on October 28, 1977, Schmidt publicly aired European concerns that strategic (i.e., intercontinental) nuclear parity had reduced the credibility of the American nuclear guarantee and magnified the need to address military imbalances within the European theater.Footnote 7 But the Dual-Track Decision also produced a formidable Western backlash: a peace movement that staged some of the largest popular protests of the entire Cold War.
Marking Schmidt's one hundredth birthday anniversary, the following essay critically examines two recent biographies of Schmidt before sampling the most recent topical literature on the chancellor and the anti-nuclear protests that took place during his administration. A new edition of journalist Michael Schwelien's bestselling 2003 biography, which was revised and reissued one month after Schmidt's death late in 2015, supplies a convenient point of entry for assessing the public memory of Schmidt and his record. Kristina Spohr's succinct but dense analysis of “the Global Chancellor's” crucial role in the crises involving energy and armaments issues helps pull together the policy strands that made Schmidt the most versatile Western leader of his epoch. A book by Andrew Tompkins turns the tables by using the issue of civilian nuclear power to explore the pushback against technocratic excess, as seen from the bottom up. Two edited anthologies, featuring an international group of nearly fifty experts, delve into various aspects of the missile crisis from above and below. The first one (henceforth referred to as Euromissiles) offers three focal points: the national and transnational deliberations that led to NATO's Dual-Track Decision; the motives behind the Soviets’ unilateral SS-20 deployments; and international public opinion. The second (Nuclear Crisis) revisits the origins of the crisis and then concentrates on the peace movement.
Armed with memoirs and interviews, and taking advantage of extensive access to the papers of Schmidt, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, Spohr reinforces the work of previous authors who note Schmidt's sure-handedness, Carter's lack of it, and Reagan's fortuitous combination of instinct and timing.Footnote 8 The topical studies, for their part, bring forth new perspectives on the development of “movement politics” and the origins of NATO policy.Footnote 9 On the whole, Schmidt emerges as a figure whose handling of multiple existential crises was abetted by a wisdom that crucially facilitated both the augmentation of Western strength and the Cold War's soft landing. Yet, the antinuclear and peace movements, for all their errors of judgment and their frequently polarizing impact, succeeded at least in deepening democratic engagement and in lastingly enhancing mainstream awareness of major issues at the intersection of politics and applied science.
Lord of the Flood
The crises Schmidt faced were legion. As Chancellor Willy Brandt's third finance minister in three years, Schmidt inherited the collapse in 1971 of “Bretton Woods,” i.e., the dollar-based, gold-convertible, fixed-exchange, international currency regime. In the fall of 1973 came a Middle Eastern oil embargo, bringing simultaneous recession and inflation (“stagflation”) and interrupting the momentum toward European integration. Schmidt's accession to the chancellorship the next spring followed the discovery of an East German spy on Brandt's staff. By retaining the chairmanship of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Brandt, still his party's favorite son, problematically interjected himself between his moderate successor and their party's left-leaning base. Schmidt's chancellorship (1974–1982) coincided with worsening stagflation, radical domestic terrorism, vigorous protests against domestic nuclear power plants, turmoil within the SPD and the North Atlantic alliance over deploying the neutron bomb, another oil price-shock in 1979, and, last but not least, the collapse of superpower détente. This last development involved the post-Vietnam extension of Soviet power into further areas of Asia and Africa, a Soviet naval buildup, and watershed Cold War crises over Afghanistan, Poland, and the missile deployments.
Schmidt's predecessor, Willy Brandt, was known as a visionary. It was he who had transformed German foreign policy through bold but calibrated engagement with the East, known as Ostpolitik.Footnote 10 But the moody Brandt proved better at initiating dramatic change in one area than at handling the daily flood of governmental decision-making. Schmidt seemed to embody the reverse. As a local official, he had achieved national prominence through his life-saving response to a genuine flood: the deadly natural disaster of 1962 in his native city of Hamburg. Over the next two decades, the “Lord of the Flood” built a reputation as a crisis manager—a man who got things done (Macher)—rather than as a man with a vision.Footnote 11 But it was Schmidt whose vision, or at least foresight, led NATO to take timely action on the missile issue.
The conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the liberal and business-oriented Free Democratic Party (FDP) all supported the Dual-Track Decision, whereas much of Schmidt's own party, including Brandt, was skeptical. In 1981–1982, complicated machinations by the FDP over budgetary policy further roiled the governing Social-Liberal coalition, which had been in power since 1969. On September 17, 1982, the FDP's governmental ministers resigned, led by Foreign Minister and Party Chairman Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Two weeks later, the FDP joined the opposition CDU/CSU in voting no confidence in Schmidt and replacing him with Helmut Kohl of the CDU. Schmidt had used the FDP's maneuvers to choreograph the terms of his own fall around economic issues. In this way, his party remained united in its nominal support for him. But it was, in large measure, the missile crisis, and the dissension it caused in the SPD, that made Schmidt reach the end of his tether.Footnote 12 With his departure from the chancellorship, the “crisis manager” left behind his greatest crisis, with no solution in sight.
Yet, even so, a solution did come. In November 1981, President Reagan proposed his “Zero Option”: no INFs for either alliance, with dismantlement and intrusive forms of inspection. Since only the Soviets had already deployed INFs, Reagan's critics deemed this proposal asymmetrical and thus unserious. In November 1983, with negotiations stalled, NATO commenced its counterdeployment. By 1985, new Soviet leaders were rethinking their country's position. The momentous result was the enshrinement of the Zero Option in the INF Treaty of December 1987.
With this unprecedented treaty and inspection regime in place, an entire class of weaponry was eliminated. Each of the next four years brought a further milestone: Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan; the end of martial law and the holding of semi-free elections in Poland; German reunification; the dissolution of the Soviet Union. During his chancellorship, Schmidt had seemed repeatedly astonished that the Soviets would persist in the dangerous peacetime errors—overstretching, overarming, and overestimating the peace movement—that he himself had pointed out to them.Footnote 13 But whereas Schmidt's concern had been that events be stopped short of either inadvertent war or NATO's disarray, the chain of events led instead to Soviet collapse.Footnote 14
Helmut the Great
Despite a host of idiosyncrasies, Michael Schwelien's chatty second edition rightly lauds Schmidt for a long list of major accomplishments.Footnote 15 Among them were rescuing the oil-shocked Western economy; originating voluntary restraints on state sovereignty in order to advance European currency coordination, thereby laying the foundation for the euro; and, when faced with radical, left-wing terrorism, securing German democracy based upon the rule of law. Schwelien further credits Schmidt with imagining and preparing the way for the unlikely Zero Option. Schmidt's aim, he writes, was always to realize major weapons reductions rather than to parry the Soviet deployment: advancing this aim was Schmidt's major “life's work” (336).
While there is truth to this last proposition, the parrying, not the life's work, was first on the docket in the historical situation in which Schmidt found himself. As Spohr shows, a “zero option” had already circulated in the Bonn bureaucracies and flowed to NATO and the Americans in September 1979. And, as Marilena Gala notes in Euromissiles, the West German and Dutch governments both proposed that NATO be explicit in the Dual-Track document about the zero possibility, in the hope that it might defuse popular antinuclear sentiment. Schmidt authorized this wording: “theoretically, total elimination” of Soviet INFs “would make it unnecessary for NATO to deploy such weapons in Europe” (quoted by Spohr, Global Chancellor, 104). But the Carter administration beat back all such language, lest unrealistic hopes for arms control prevent theater modernization (Gala, Euromissiles, 160). Two years later, by contrast, Reagan opted for boldness. As Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger argued on October 13, 1981: “If we adopt the ‘zero option’ approach and the Soviets reject it after we have given it a good try, this will leave the Europeans … [with] no alternative to modernization” (quoted by Gala, Euromissiles, 161). Whereas Carter saw a public zero option as a threat to “theater modernization,” Reagan saw it as abetting modernization.
In Schwelien's study, Schmidt emerges as a chancellor who placed his principles and his country above his hold on personal power. Perhaps as a result, “Helmut the Great,” as one newspaper dubbed him, remained popular with the public.Footnote 16 His consistent literary productivity was both a symptom and a source of his popularity. Schmidt published 30 bestselling books and wrote 282 articles as copublisher of the distinguished newsweekly Die Zeit.Footnote 17 In 2004, his then most recent book, Die Mächte der Zukunft (The Powers of the Future), was the third highest-ranking serious book (ninth overall) on Der Spiegel's annual nonfiction bestseller list, easily outpacing Schwelien's first edition and even the long-awaited memoirs by Bill Clinton (eleventh place) and Helmut Kohl (fifteenth).Footnote 18 Nine years later, his productivity still unabated, Schmidt won a magazine poll conducted by Der Stern as “Germany's most significant chancellor.”Footnote 19
Still, it has sometimes been easy to sideline him historically. It was West Germany's good fortune to have had not one but four chancellors—Adenauer, Brandt, Schmidt, and Kohl—who are legitimate candidates for “greatness.” It was Adenauer who understood that prioritizing democracy meant prioritizing Western integration, even at the price of partition: only if German democracy were first secured in the West, he believed, could East German freedom follow. As he famously put it, “first come the 50 million; then come the 18 million.”Footnote 20 It was Brandt who then took the Eastern part of the aphorism seriously, constructing a network of relations with the Soviet bloc in order to keep alive the possibility of unity. And it was Kohl who was accorded the surprising historic opportunity to turn these ideas, which, after four decades, had begun to feel like pipedreams, into realities. But the history of progress toward a great achievement is rarely linear: amid the switchbacks, it falls to some historical agents to prevent a derailment. Were it not for Schmidt's remarkable achievements, the opportunity cashed in by Kohl might never have arisen.
Why it fell to Schmidt to play this role is the story succinctly told by Kristina Spohr. For many readers, Spohr's book, which is available in both English and German, is now the one “must-read” Schmidt biography.Footnote 21 One-tenth as long as Hartmut Soell's magisterial two-volume, German-language epic, Spohr's accessible profile, while necessarily less comprehensive, is focused, clear in conception, and based squarely on the newest sources.Footnote 22 It challenges the regretful but stoic initial evaluation offered by Schmidt's friend, diplomatic partner, and later eulogist, Henry Kissinger. According to Kissinger, statesmen become great by exploiting the space between structural circumstance and creative possibility. But greatness, for Kissinger, requires historic opportunity. By Kissinger's lights, transitional times can produce significant figures, but not great ones.Footnote 23
The Schmidt era, Spohr counters, was not merely transitional, but transformative. The fact that it was fraught with peril meant that the transformation could well have turned out different from the way that it did. The term crisis manager implies a kind of caretaker, but, asserts Spohr, Schmidt was much more than that. Not only did he astutely recognize the nature of the perils; he also co-conceived, co-developed, co-advocated, and co-directed a systematic pathway through them.
To do so required not just traditional geopolitical strategic thinking—Kissinger's forte—but also something that Kissinger lacked: fluency in economics. Since the West faced seminal problems in both spheres, Schmidt's “versatility”—he had been defense minister before he was finance minister—made him “a pivotal figure” (Spohr, Global Chancellor, 2). Even before the Hamburg flood, Schmidt, like Kissinger, had been a published expert on nuclear issues.Footnote 24 And, as a trained economist, Schmidt was willing and able to reconceive economics (“stagflation”) in a global situation that did not adhere to accepted Keynesian precepts—at a time when the United States was both erratic and distracted. The Vietnamese quagmire, with its associated economic and financial distortions, had contributed to the “Nixon Shock”—the American withdrawal from Bretton Woods. Then had come the all-consuming Watergate scandal, followed by Carter's irresolute economic policies. As Matthias Schulz has shown, Schmidt's notoriously poor relationship with Carter had been impaired by economic clashes even before it was decimated by the neutron-bomb fiasco (discussed later) and by Carter's initial failure to address the INF issue. With the Americans preoccupied or unsteady and the British rent by crippling labor disputes and longstanding industrial decline, it fell to the French and the Germans to fill the leadership vacuum.Footnote 25 In this situation, Schmidt's “versatility,” and the inherent relative strength of the West German economy, made his readiness to take the initiative especially important.
The situation certainly entailed crisis management, but the crisis emanating from the sudden quadrupling of oil prices during and after the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, was, in Schmidt's view, potentially “existential” (quoted by Spohr, Global Chancellor, 16). Schmidt was moved by the memory that, once before in his lifetime (i.e., in the 1920s-1930s), inflation followed by depression had led to political disaster. Panicky protectionist impulses had deepened the Great Depression, heightened national rivalries, and abetted the spread of fascism. European integration after the war was a direct response to that history: Europeanism, a free-trade community, and prosperous democratic coexistence replaced nationalism, protectionism, and fascist aggression. Now, however, the Arabs were using oil as political blackmail. By linking its supply to the policies that individual Western states adopted on the Arab-Israeli conflict, they tempted those states to pursue separate national arrangements that would heighten intra-European resentments and stunt the integrationist project (“Eurosclerosis”). At the beginning of his chancellorship, Schmidt feared that not just prosperity but also democratic comity were at risk. Ten years before Mikhail Gorbachev would give priority to economic malaise as the central systemic danger for Eastern communism, Schmidt was giving priority to economic malaise as the central systemic danger for Western democracy.Footnote 26 A major difference, however, was that Schmidt actually understood economics. Another was that, whereas Gorbachev presided over a superpower, Schmidt governed a partitioned and semi-sovereign state. That a statesman in this limited position supplied the requisite leadership is a major point in Spohr's evaluation of Schmidt's historic stature.
Given cover by his close relationship with French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Schmidt called upon the Western heads of government to cease their drift, to conceive of economics as a matter of security, and to address it, like other matters of security, by acting in concert directly, not through their economics ministers. The unprecedented result was the 1975 Rambouillet economic summit. The participating states included the three most powerful Western victors of World War II, as well as their three onetime fascist adversaries. The idea, Spohr notes, was to facilitate coordination of domestically difficult policies by encouraging appropriate course correctives through frank exchanges among the elected political leaders. The immediate motives were to buttress unpopular policies intended to fight inflation, and to counter popular protectionist impulses in response to the oil shock. With the world economy now so interdependent, success, in Schmidt's view, required synchronized action. In “discerning the dynamics of what would become known as ‘globalization,’” writes Spohr, Schmidt was thus “ahead of his time” (Global Chancellor, 2).Footnote 27
Originally styled as informal and intimate, Rambouillet gave birth to what would become the annual and increasingly formal “Group of Seven” (G7, including Canada) economic summits. Working effectively together, the original summiteers countered centrifugal forces in the Western world in order to preserve a market-based system that could weather the storm induced by the oil shocks. What developed, writes Harold James, was a benign but effective “surveillance” regime, whereby the political leaders provided annual directional oversight of the national and international monetary institutions.Footnote 28 Through specific commitments and new institutional machinery, the statesmen coordinated their policies to produce what the Bonn G7 summit of 1978 called “a comprehensive strategy … a coherent whole, whose parts are interdependent” (quoted by Spohr, Global Chancellor, 28). In subsequent years, personnel, expertise, degrees of consensus, and results all varied. One should not overstate the effect of political summitry on a global economic system based primarily on private enterprise. Nevertheless, until the G7 meetings that followed the fateful American election year in which Spohr's book was published (2016), the expectation and institutionalization of cooperative policymaking helped check less beneficent political temptations.
Spohr's argument also underscores a somewhat different point: because of the leadership gap and Schmidt's particular expertise, the Federal Republic of Germany, for the first time in the postwar era, “advanced to the top table of world politics—what [Schmidt] unabashedly called Weltpolitik—as an equal of the victor powers of 1945” (Spohr, Global Chancellor, back jacket). Given the historic images that the phrase Weltpolitik conjures up, it would perhaps have been advisable to let sleeping dogs lie. Der Spiegel preferred a more personalized phrase: West Germany's chancellor, the magazine wrote in 1976, was now the “World Economist.”Footnote 29
Better Active than Radioactive
If the sudden end to “cheap, secure supplies of energy” was a major contributor to the Western “crisis of capitalism” in the 1970s (Spohr, Global Chancellor, 12, 13, 134), then finding an energy alternative had to be—along with conservation and diplomacy—a crucial part of the solution. Civilian nuclear power offered a pathway not just to lower inflation and energy independence, but also to restored job growth, and to the safeguarding of European integration. On these grounds, industry, labor, and government seemed to have common interests. Schmidt's Social-Liberal coalition thus had numerous incentives to pursue the development of civilian nuclear power.
The rapid emergence of a militant antinuclear movement thus came to the traditionally blue-collar-oriented SPD as an unwelcome surprise. Complicating the matter was the fact that important members of this antinuclear movement, especially intellectuals, academics, and the young, were becoming crucial potential sources of new Social Democratic votes. The 1972 election—the only one before reunification in which the SPD won the most seats in the Federal Parliament—seemed to show that Brandt had integrated at least part of the so-called Extra-Parliamentary Opposition of the 1960s. But, as the 1970s progressed, with both civilian nuclear power and NATO's nuclear defenses increasingly contentious, the SPD's left flank again became exposed. Moreover, the new protest movements started to include people besides those who ordinarily identified with the political left.
In his book Better Active than Radioactive, Andrew Tompkins shows how the new anti-nuclear-power movement differed from the protest movements of the Sixties.Footnote 30 Whereas the Sixties protesters were system-critical war babies or baby boomers, the antinuclear protesters were demographically diverse. There were two main groups: “outsiders,” i.e., perennial protesters who descended upon the latest sites of protest, and “insiders,” i.e., the local residents of those sites. Tompkins uses contemporary sources, private archives, and roughly eighty present-day interviews (treated anecdotally, not statistically) to address why protesters protested and how this activity or identity affected the future progression of their lives. These interviews, Tompkins insists, are no less valid as sources for understanding grassroots agency and subsequent self-understanding than Schmidt's “edited musings” or his “ghost-written memoirs” are as sources for understanding the “formally powerful” (12).
The “outsiders,” writes Tompkins, were driven by moralistically inscribed discourses such as antimilitarism (e.g., concerns that bomb-usable plutonium could be a byproduct of certain civilian-use reactors), anticapitalism, the valorization of nature over technology, and “nonviolent change.” While these discourses often overlapped, they also led to heated debates over tactics and priorities. Nonviolence, in particular, could be interpreted either as a contingent situational strategy, as a ban on targeting people but not property, or as an absolute value. Whereas anticapitalist “resistors” saw violence by protesters as a strategic response to violence by the state, principled adherents of nonviolence saw its breakdown as a defeat for their long-term societal philosophy.
By contrast, “insiders” found themselves on the frontlines, less as a result of countercultural intentionality than of sociocultural circumstance. Since the authorities carefully located power plants away from population centers, “insiders” were generally rural or small-town dwellers whose predilections were grounded either in material interests, resentment about distant authority, or the preservation of their cherished rurality. Moreover, since nuclear power plants required water as a coolant, they were often located along rivers that served as natural boundaries between states. As a result, oppositional movements were truly transnational, and border-crossers demonstrated together at border-hugging power plants in Alsace and Baden. (Tompkins avoids romanticizing the consequences: transnational encounters did create solidarity and possibilities for emulation, but linguistic problems also led to misunderstandings and failures to coordinate.)
The original concern of the “insiders,” notes Tompkins, was not the fear of a nuclear accident; this preoccupation came later, after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and especially after the one at Chernobyl in 1986.Footnote 31 Rather, locals wanted to make sure they were not shortchanged or otherwise disadvantaged by the combined weight of industry and government. Town-versus-country resentments abounded: for example, Alsatian locals justifiably labeled nuclear power a solution not to their energy needs but to those of Paris. Such resentments, however, produced neither reactionary politics nor anti-scientific irrationalism. Instead, local protesters did their homework, often surprising condescending officials by marshaling contesting scientific discourses to challenge those offered by industry and government. Promises of job creation frequently failed to impress locals, whose concern was not to find new work inside a plant but to preserve old work outside with plants (and animals). Concerns over preserving farmland and fisheries were common. Some towns approved by referendum the construction of a power plant, but residents of neighboring towns had no say. They feared similar voicelessness should the power plant's material interests encroach upon their own.
According to Tompkins's interviewees, “local” individuals were often surprised to find themselves making common cause, on grounds of social justice, with “outsider” radicals, whose debates they might earlier have disparaged and whose motives they originally distrusted. Meanwhile, “outsider” radicals learned to replace didactic Marxisant theorizing with greater attentiveness to the concerns that moved their local brethren into action. Interviewees report considerable variety in what these encounters meant for them. For some, the all-consuming protests led to exhaustion, tension in their private lives, and burnout. For others, doors opened to people outside their milieu whom they otherwise might never have met. A substantial portion of those who were interviewed formed lifetime bonds or found unexpected career paths as a result of experiences or skills acquired through their activism.
For some in the movement, shock over the violent escalation of on-site clashes (primarily by the state, argues Tompkins) led to disillusionment. But, in the end, at least in West Germany, the state backed off. By the mid-1980s, nonviolent activism dedicated to feminism, environmentalism, and “peace” (i.e., the anti-missile protests) was being siphoned into parliamentary politics via the emergence of the new Green party. Noting the new partisan challenge, the mainstream parties also moved away from civilian nuclear power. By contrast, France became the most nuclear-dependent country on earth. Tompkins notes one very early reason: having “won” World War II but lost her colonies, postwar France was free to pursue nuclear power, including bombs, as an alternate source of prestige. Moreover, far-left space on the partisan spectrum was available in West Germany but constricted in France because of the pro-nuclear French Communist Party. Civilian nuclear power thus had an established role in France, well before the oil shocks. But this head start also meant that the French had pioneered the model of intense, antinuclear local activism. Differing national outcomes, cautions Tompkins, should not obscure the early French role in what later became a transnational, Franco-German phenomenon.
Tompkins fruitfully points out the personal empowerments effectuated by some of these protesters, but he seems as surprised as some of them were that “the state” might have reacted to the occupation of construction sites for technologically sensitive facilities by using police force to remove demonstrators and then to prevent similar occupations at other sites and plants. Tompkins thus appears to challenge Karrin Hanshew's view that the SPD, in the Schmidt years, consolidated a German constitutionalist democracy that could defend itself (as Weimar had not) against extremist violence. According to Hanshew, the SPD's conception, rather than that of the CDU/CSU, distinctly prevailed. Hence, in dealing with terrorism, Schmidt regularized a “crisis staff” procedure involving multipartisan consultation and state-federal co-responsibility, but he avoided invoking the 1968 Emergency Laws (as urged especially by Franz Josef Strauss's CSU). Schmidt did so in order to underscore his government's position that the crisis involved criminal rather than political activity. In this way, he highlighted democratic normality, even as he dealt with a potential threat to democracy.Footnote 32
To be sure, violence by demonstrators at nuclear power plants did not rise to the level of the assassinations and hijackings conducted in the mid-1970s by groups such as the Red Cells and the Red Army Faction. Still, it was considerable, and even included a small-rocket attack in January 1982 against a neighboring French plant in Malville. As Tompkins notes, a prominent Swiss participant, Chaïm Nissim, claims to this day that this act was carefully “nonviolent” because the attackers had thought that the premises had been vacated at the time (they had not been). Nissim also acknowledges that many antinuclear activists “found the Red Brigade and the Red Army Faction and all those groups heroic” (quoted in Tompkins, 147–48). According to Schwelien, Schmidt was indignantly fond of citing one radical leftist's famous admission in April 1977, in what purported to be a manifesto against violence, that its author “could not … deny having felt clandestine joy” over the political assassination of a federal prosecutor.Footnote 33 But the violence and repression that famously climaxed in the “German Autumn” of 1977 did induce many on the extraparliamentary left to rethink their strategies. This rethinking led in the 1980s to the emergence of the Greens as a parliamentary alternative to the SPD, at a time when Schmidt was attempting to maintain his party's support for the missile resolution. This development cost the SPD votes. Yet, instead of calling Schmidt to task (as Schwelien does) for this weakening of the SPD, it is more appropriate to give credit where it is due: to Chancellor Schmidt, for having coolly confronted, isolated, defeated, and rechanneled political violence; to Party Chairman Brandt, for having had the empathy to reach out to the disaffected, even if that meant accepting the reality of a second left-wing party; and to the new Green Party itself. Each in their own way, they contributed to the constructive democratic integration of the bulk of the radical left—a boon for democracy that had been crucially lacking during the Weimar period.
If nuclear power plants stoked controversy, nuclear weaponry undeniably stoked fear. For Germans, being on the front lines of a potential nuclear war never became normalized. And strategic parity, a reality punctuated by the Soviet-American Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) of 1972, meant for them not stability but risk. The geopolitical asymmetry—the Soviet Union was on the continent, the USA across the sea—meant that strategic nuclear parity magnified Soviet conventional superiority; and this superiority, nearly all Western planners agreed, was growing. Emboldened, some thought, by the outcome in Vietnam in 1975, the Soviets were capitalizing on Western weakness by building up all aspects of their military prowess.
To counter Soviet conventional superiority, NATO planners considered producing and deploying low-blast, high-precision, enhanced-radiation battlefield weapons known as neutron bombs. Using the newest sources, Spohr lucidly explains this well-known but complicated intra-Alliance conundrum. The goal was to raise the vulnerability of invading Soviet tanks while reducing collateral damage and civilian casualties outside a bomb's limited radius. But although neutron bombs might compensate in this rough way for conventional asymmetry, they also lowered the nuclear threshold, gave rise to moral scruples, and invited a Soviet “peace offensive” against this “new ‘capitalist weapon’ that killed people but spared property” (Spohr, Global Chancellor, 64). Coming out against their deployment, Egon Bahr, co-architect of Brandt's Ostpolitik, catalyzed a new round of protests in the summer of 1977 that resonated with the anti-power-plant movement and further shook the SPD base. According to Bahr, the divided German nation “depended” on détente but was harmed by “a confrontational Western nuclear policy” (Spohr, Global Chancellor, 65, paraphrasing Bahr). If Schmidt were to support deployment, he would thus find his political credentials challenged on three counts: as a man of peace in Brandt's image (détente versus confrontation); as a true Social Democrat (people versus property); and as a leader responsible for defending German interests.
The sudden wave of publicity about the neutron bomb in June and July 1977, took the new American administration by surprise. Carter needed to decide whether to commence production, and Schmidt—on the European frontline of any Soviet invasion—needed to decide whether to commit to deployment. Carter tried to make the former dependent on the latter. He was morally uneasy with the new weapon, but he feared shaking European confidence in America's commitment to the continent. Schmidt was equally ambivalent. While he could see the argument for the bomb as a deterrent, it was he who had always warned (in Spohr's words) that, when it came to war-fighting, “the distinction between tactical and strategic weapons was mere casuistry” (Global Chancellor, 40). But Schmidt was also concerned to prevent the Soviets from demonstrating that they could manipulate Western public opinion in order to paralyze NATO's decision-making. He worried further that failure to support this weapon would cause the Americans to pull back from any modernization of theater weaponry, just when the SS-20 threat was emerging.
According to Jonathan Haslam (Euromissiles, 42), Carter and Schmidt then played a round of “pass the parcel,” as each tried to make sure his public would hold the other leader responsible for any decision to produce the neutron bomb. Nevertheless, as the leader of the most affected European country, Schmidt worked behind the scenes with Carter's cabinet to craft an acceptable solution. To that end, the chancellor proposed using the prospect of deployment as a bargaining chip to secure Soviet conventional force reductions. Initially reluctant, the Americans eventually countered by suggesting that procurement of the neutron bomb—linked to an Allied commitment to deploy—be coupled with an offer to forgo the weapon entirely if the Soviets would do the same with the SS-20. Though the prospect of a positive Soviet reply was not great, this solution would at least demonstrate to public opinion that every effort had been made. Then, just when a consensus within the Alliance seemed at hand, a morally distraught Carter shocked his cabinet and his European partners in the spring of 1978, by suddenly declining to authorize the bomb's production. The ten-month imbroglio had succeeded only in sowing distrust within NATO and in furthering the Soviets’ most cherished aim in Europe: undermining the transatlantic alliance. Without a Soviet shot being fired, Carter's fecklessness handed a victory to the Soviets and encouraged them to expect (and to fund) future such victories via Western protest politics.Footnote 34 Moreover, the affair worked to generate further such protests by undercutting Schmidt's relationship with his own party. Loyalty to the Alliance seemed unrequited; Bahr seemed vindicated. As Schmidt told the American ambassador on April 4, he had risked his “personal amity” with Brandt and caucus chairman Herbert Wehner, and neither would speak to him now (quoted by Spohr, Global Chancellor, 82).
Jonathan Haslam is hardly the first to note that it took Jimmy Carter another year to discover the full significance of the SS-20s.Footnote 35 To be sure, he was not alone in needing an epiphany. As William Burr shows, even Henry Kissinger had originally seemed to miss the point. American strategic targeting of Soviet weapons that threatened Western Europe had mollified Europeans earlier. But nuclear strategic parity, plus “modernization” plans by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford that involved reductions in fighter bombers and warheads, made the German Defense Ministry uneasy about diminished targeting. According to SPD Defense Minister Georg Leber in June 1976, the reductions raised the “grave” specter of “strategic decoupling.”Footnote 36 Moreover, the coming SS-20s would be close to invulnerable because they were mobile. That August, President Ford's arms control director, Fred Iklé, suddenly warned that the SS-20s would constitute a “massive, unwarranted, and unexplained expansion” of Soviet military prowess in Europe. In October, German defense official and former ambassador Rolf Pauls asked the US Defense Department to provide a numerical breakdown of each alliance's theater weaponry and to evaluate, “in the context of strategic parity,” whether the new Soviet weaponry “posed a qualitatively and quantitatively ‘new’ threat to Europe which could offer opportunities for ‘blackmail.’” But the State Department found such thinking unhelpful because it raised doubts about the basic premise of seamless “US-European solidarity.” Secretary of State Kissinger then approved his subordinates’ recommendation that numerical “sub-balances” be avoided, and that the Europeans simply be reassured that the “deterrent triad” of strategic, tactical nuclear, and conventional forces constituted a unity that protected European security.Footnote 37
Despite such assurances, notes Oliver Bange, plans to develop Pershing II and cruise missiles were underway already under Nixon and Ford. Bange cautions, however, that the long gestation period makes it hard to ascertain whether the end result was a mere “upgrade,” or whether it was a “response” to the SS-20 (Bange in Nuclear Crisis, 73). Tim Geiger is more definitive: while granting that there had been “two originally independent” rationales, he argues that alarm over the SS-20 proved “decisive” (Geiger in Nuclear Crisis, 54). According to Spohr, British planners, too, had wanted to shore up “structural weaknesses” within the deterrent triad even before the SS-20 issue took off (Spohr in Euromissiles, 146). Kristen Stoddard's tracing of British nuclear “high priest” Michael Quinlan's urgings to mend the “seamless robe of deterrence” by adding a European-based capability for “deep strikes” inside the Soviet Union (quoted by Stoddard in Euromissiles, 185, 181) nevertheless seems to show implicitly that the move from theory to practice came as a direct result of the SS-20s. Stoddard's crucial document, a memorandum dated August 4, 1977, from British State Secretary for Defense Fred Mulley (apparently ghostwritten by Quinlan) to Carter's Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, was directly occasioned by Brown's sideline discussion with Mulley at the Ottawa meeting of NATO's Nuclear Planning Group in June 1977. It was there, notes Haslam, that Brown announced the first SS-20 deployments.Footnote 38
Has Soviet agency in the entire matter been overemphasized? While “theater modernization's” prior momentum was interpreted on the left as demonstrating Western hawkery, the Dual-Track Decision, as both Spohr and Geiger suggest, may have owed more to NATO's somewhat hapless need after the neutron bomb fiasco to reconsolidate its unity.Footnote 39 Either viewpoint renders the SS-20s tangential to a discussion of the Alliance's own perceived or psychological needs. But one can grant the presence of such motives without affording them pride of place. What is clear is that Soviet action in deploying the SS-20s moved the entire discussion from speculative to pressing. Furthermore, the Soviet side doubled down by continuing the deployments, even after the Western side's response demonstrated that the Soviets had miscalculated. According to Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet military experts “were fully aware that to deploy the SS-20 was a dangerous venture,” since a Western counterdeployment would leave the Soviet population utterly defenseless against mobile missiles located just five flying minutes away.Footnote 40 These facts beg the question: What motivated the Soviets to choose this course?
One possibility is that the Soviets may have also thought that what they were doing was a routine upgrade—perhaps, as Oliver Bange suggests, “an anticipatory response to cruise missiles” (Bange in Nuclear Crisis, 73). On the whole, however (and contrary to the impression created by the editors in their introduction to Nuclear Crisis), Bange remains agnostic on this point. A more complex answer involves differentiating among diverse elements in the Soviet leadership. Geiger, Holloway, and Haslam all cite retrospective statements by “leading Soviet participants,” including Colonel-General Andrian Danilevich (a principal strategist) and even Gorbachev himself, that the Politburo, in the years of Leonid Brezhnev's declining health, had let itself be elbowed out of overseeing the decisions of “the military-industrial complex.”Footnote 41 If the military said it needed a weapon, it got the weapon, often without establishing what the incremental gain might be for Soviet security or politics. A proper critical evaluation of how the West might react increasingly failed to take place. Furthermore, the belief that the Western peace movement would prevent retaliation seems to have gained momentum until it eventually became built into the calculation.Footnote 42
Miscalculation, however, does not preclude deliberate intimidation as a motive. Of particular note here are the motives of Defense Minister Dimitri Ustinov and longtime Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Schmidt's interactions with Ustinov and Gromyko convinced him that they were engineering a turn away from détente and toward developing the means for “blackmail.”Footnote 43 When Schmidt pointed out West Germany's endangerment to Ustinov, the latter seemed to revel in Schmidt's predicament.Footnote 44 Holloway and especially Haslam highlight Ustinov's pride-filled role and potentially sweeping motives. As General Andran Danilevich retrospectively boasted, the SS-20 was “a breakthrough, unlike anything the Americans had. We were immediately able to hold all of Europe hostage” (quoted by Haslam in Euromissiles, 37).
After the Soviet collapse, notes Holloway, Gromyko chimed in to blame Ustinov. But other evidence suggests that Gromyko was merely covering his tracks. Gromyko had a forty-year record of aiming to separate Europe from the United States. That was par for the course. But even during détente, Gromyko had been an obstacle to be gotten around. This was part of the reason for the famous Nixon-Kissinger and Brandt-Bahr “backchannels” with the Soviets.Footnote 45 Moreover, an enfeebled Brezhnev increasingly deferred to Gromyko in his later years.Footnote 46 In June 1979, Schmidt sketched out a possible bargain to Gromyko and Premier Alexei Kosygin, whereby NATO would forgo deployment if Moscow placed fewer total warheads on the SS-20s than on prior weapons. Kosygin took the idea to the Politburo, where Ustinov resisted. According to Haslam, “it was Gromyko who held the decisive word” (Euromissiles, 41). Schmidt's proposal went unanswered. Foreign-policy advisor Anatoly Chernyaev's subsequent statement that Gromyko wanted to sow confusion about Soviet policy in order to avoid negotiations and advance the SS-20 deployment suggests the cunning side of this longtime political survivor.
As Haslam observes, Soviet policy in the 1970s revealed certain parallels with Soviet policy in the 1940s. In both situations, it took European alarm about unbalanced Soviet aggrandizement to “awaken the American sleeping beauty” (Euromissiles, 31). Afterward, notes Malcolm Byrne, Soviet efforts to build up and exploit the peace movement were accompanied by ever more SS-20s stationed in locations chosen “to maximize Western anxiety.” Moreover, the decision to walk out of the Geneva negotiations on the eve of deployment “was made months in advance” (Euromissiles, 110).
But these calculations went awry. Not only did Soviet efforts to “drive a wedge” between the Europeans and the Americans fail (Genscher, quoted by Haslam in Euromissiles, 38), but those efforts also ended up increasing tensions within the Warsaw Pact. Its members resented decades of being treated by Moscow not as “homelands” whose own “physical security” was at stake, but as expendable buffer states (Byrne in Euromissiles, 111–12). Moreover, they feared losing the benefits of détente. Only East Germany and Czechoslovakia bowed to Soviet “coercing” (115) to host SS-20s, and both had to deal with petition drives and additional domestic blowback as a result. The other satellites flatly refused.
For Schmidt, the importance for Germany of European détente had been axiomatic; yet, he had been proven right to be concerned lest the Soviets interpret détente to mean that the West's acceptance of the strategic balance freed the Soviets to pursue their “geopolitical and ideological objectives” all over Europe and the world (Spohr, Global Chancellor, 52). Schmidt was left in a paradoxical position: clinging to European détente as a guarantee of Soviet good behavior in Germany and Berlin, yet insisting on deploying the weapons that alone might mean longer-term security—even while preferring that all those weapons on both sides go away. After having sounded the warning, Schmidt thus attempted to become a “double interpreter,” explaining each side to the other in a vain effort to save the situation. Spohr lauds Schmidt for this effort, not least for the legacy of West German credibility, even in “unpropitious” circumstances, that Schmidt had built up and that Kohl could then use when negotiating reunification with Moscow (141). But, in the present moment, being a “double interpreter” put Schmidt in an impossible position. Unable to move the Kremlin, he succeeded only in gaining the distrust of the two successive US Presidents who had responded to his warning. Nor did it help that Schmidt “tried to downplay,” as Spohr too kindly puts it (128), the Polish crackdown of December 1981, on the independent trade union Solidarity, which took place while he was summiteering in East Germany with Erich Honecker. Throughout the missile crisis, Schmidt had acted in good faith. But now, as Genscher soon came to understand, Schmidt's usefulness was over—not as an instrument for others, but as an instrument for his own cause.Footnote 47
In contrast to the intense but short Cuban missile crisis, the long and rumbling Euromissile crisis left much scope for independent manifestations of public opinion. As Maria Guasconi points out in Euromissiles, the two-track structure of NATO's resolution guaranteed an animated public discussion in Europe about what kind of negotiation could best head off deployment. Moreover, the four-year negotiating window meant four years of attempts by nongovernmental players to influence the outcome. Antinuclear demonstrations dating from the immediate postwar years provided some context, but conditions now were different. Both the experience of détente and lowered confidence in the United States fanned the Western European public's skepticism over a nuclear hard line. Détente had produced arms control, eased psychological tensions, and built economic and even personal relations across the European (and especially the German) divide. These palpable benefits were not to be abandoned lightly. Meanwhile, the United States had hurt itself morally in Vietnam, pursued erratic economic policies, and conveyed reluctance instead of reassurance with regard to security.
This did not mean that public opinion had turned against NATO and America. But opinion polls, writes Guasconi in Euromissiles, did show large and stable anti-deployment majorities in all five potential missile-hosting countries: West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and the United Kingdom. This was especially problematic because Schmidt had made it plain that the Alliance must not countenance free riders. In other words, front-line West Germany would not deploy alone. Furthermore, protest demonstrations in all these countries were the largest ever seen in the postwar era. In October 1981, protest rallies drew 250,000 people in Bonn, a similar number in London, and 200,000 in Brussels and Rome. As many as 400,000 people protested in Amsterdam the next month. Demonstrations two years later—just before German and Italian deployment—were even larger: 500,000 in Rome, “several hundred thousand” in Bonn, and “more than a million” across West Germany, including 200,000 protesters who formed a 108-kilometer human chain from Neu-Ulm to Stuttgart.Footnote 48 One analyst counted some 2,800 registered “protest events” annually in West Germany during Schmidt's first four years as chancellor; that number ballooned to 9,237 by 1983 (cited by Michael Sturm in Nuclear Crisis, 275). The polling and protest numbers make the Soviet decision to “bet the ranch on the Western peace movement” seem less reckless.Footnote 49
But, as the Soviets would find out, the “aggregate of attitudes” that constitute public opinion includes abiding elements that may be obscured in moments of flux (Richard Sinnot, quoted by Guasconi in Euromissiles, 286). Polling numbers show that support for NATO stayed robust and may even have grown as deployment approached. In both 1980 and 1984, between 68 and 92 percent of those polled in all five countries deemed NATO membership essential, with Germans the most supportive. As Guasconi cleverly puts it, the public “decoupled” its support for NATO from the two-track decision (Euromissiles, 273). This underlying support reflected concern over the triple crisis of Afghanistan, Poland, and the Euromissiles, and it reinforced the readiness of the public to defer to their pro-NATO governments, even when expressing doubts. As the outcome (namely, deployment) demonstrates, the public was inclined to give its leaders “wide latitude in making security policy” (Guasconi in Euromissiles, 284).
Electoral outcomes, barely discussed by Guasconi (and dismissed by the editors of Nuclear Crisis), also did not reflect the anti-deployment attitudes recorded in the opinion polls. Italy, West Germany, Holland, and the UK—as well as independently nuclear-armed France—all elected pro-deployment governments just months before the Euromissiles arrived. These were not one-issue elections, but the common ground here is striking. In the French and Italian cases, the pro-deployment leaders were Socialists. In the West German case, Schmidt's political fall, new elections, and Brandt's now open opposition to the missiles ended up producing a slimmed, anti-deployment SPD, which won 38 percent of the vote; a new anti-deployment Green party (6 percent); and a solid pro-deployment majority for Kohl and Genscher (56 percent). As Jan Hansen notes, the missile controversy's “mobilizing effect” thus extended now to German conservatives (Nuclear Crisis, 112). Also worth noting is how polling questions were worded. Guasconi supplies no data for surveys where voters were simply asked whether they favored the Dual-Track Decision.Footnote 50 What she does supply is one data point from April 1984, in response to this question: “Do you approve or disapprove of antiwar and antinuclear weapons movements?” (Guasconi in Euromissiles, 278). Except for the UK (where the context included Margaret Thatcher's triumph in the Falklands War), fewer than one third disapproved in all the intended countries of deployment. But, once the deployments happened, the protests largely dried up. The poll numbers thus ended up saying more about the public's desire for a peaceful solution (and its support for civil liberties) than they did about its reluctance to implement NATO's decision.Footnote 51
“Helmut, we're coming, even if we have to swim!”Footnote 52
One result of the entire controversy was nevertheless the emergence and, in Germany, the eventual partisan institutionalization of a large and abiding “peace movement.” Self-consciously assimilative, this movement, writes Christof Becker-Schaum in the anthology Nuclear Crisis, sought to break with the ideological dogmatism, splintering, militant extremism, and “self-imposed exile … from mainstream society” that had characterized the troubled leftist scene of the early-to-mid 1970s (158). While often youthful, participants in the new movement were generally older than their counterparts in the student movement of the 1960s, and they came from more diverse backgrounds. They were also less attached to the labor movement and the Protestant church, and more tied to ecological politics and the women's movement, than the antinuclear protesters of the 1950s could have been.
Among trade unionists, as Dietmar Süß shows in Nuclear Crisis, adherence to the new peace movement split along generational lines. Three factors influenced this split: opposing valuations of “organizational” as opposed to “movement”-style decision-making; discomfort over undermining a Social Democratic government; and opposing assessments of anticommunism. Senior officials’ memories of Communist pressure on and repression of trade unions in the early years of Germany's partition were reinforced by the Polish Communist crackdown of 1981 on the independent trade union, Solidarity. The peace movement also proved contentious in church circles. But, as Sebastian Kalden and Jan Ole Wiechmann demonstrate in Nuclear Crisis, church congresses provided peace activists with significant platforms and transnational ties. According to Silke Mende and Birgit Metzger, the self-styled practitioners of “ecopacifism” and “political ecology” melded the environmental and peace movements by positing that humans were peaceful in the natural world but prone to violence and environmental destruction when transferred into an “unnatural order.” Like Andrew Tompkins, Mende and Metzger believe that the movement was not anti-scientific; instead, it embraced “innovative” science for reinforcing its “holistic concept” of nature and humanity (Nuclear Crisis, 124–25). As for women, they were more prominent and more independent than they had been in prior postwar movements. While some female activists opposed becoming sidetracked by gender issues, many explicitly connected militarism to sexism, male domination, rape, domestic violence, and inadequate social resources. As Reinhild Kreis notes (Nuclear Crisis, 294), some even criticized the “peace dudes.”Footnote 53
Despite the peace movement's wider demographics, its aesthetic strategies, write Kathrin Fahlenbrach and Laura Stapane, remained “rooted in the empathic protest habitus of alternative culture,” where “the personal” was “viewed … as political” (Nuclear Crisis, 223). The peace movement's use of body blockades to dramatize human vulnerability to a militaristic technology, argues Andrew Tompkins, followed directly from the protests against nuclear power; these blockades “rendered the abstract threat of nuclear war concrete” (Tompkins, Radioactive, 212). Also shared was the emphasis on what Suzanne Schregel (following Roland Robertson) calls “glocalization”—the belief that marshalling personal concern and local action was the most salient way to address global challenges (Nuclear Crisis, 180). The movement worked accordingly to create public awareness of the locations of existing nuclear weapons and of other military installations. Deployment sites, military depots, and bunkers were likely wartime nuclear targets, and thus not only sites of localized militarism, but also sites of potential local destruction—of which the prime site was the human body itself. “Mass die-ins” in front of such installations punctuated what Fahlenbrach and Stapane call “the visual-rhetorical polarization between a human body and a missile” (Nuclear Crisis, 229, 232).
Several essays in Nuclear Crisis highlight the wide array of visual and spatial strategies that were used to localize and humanize the nuclear threat: die-ins, dancing protesters, stylized movement, “exuberant dress styles,” “mother-and-child demonstrations” (Süß, 260), a “nuclear-free zone” sign on an occupied baby carriage (Schregel, 180), “a fasting event in the Munich cathedral” (Kreis, 295), dystopian fiction, and the small-town settings of antinuclear films such as the controversial US television-movie The Day After. As exemplified in poster art, the movement's “do-it-yourself aesthetic” united an “expressive pathos” with a “code of authenticity” that combined frank fearmongering—“the courage to express fear”—with the aspiration to liberate the “peace-loving community of activists and citizens” from “glossy” commercial distraction and military authority.Footnote 54 Yet, as Philipp Baur points out, an intriguing twist in the story concerns how commercial art both amplified and exploited the message. Seventeen-year-old singer Nicole's aspirational, catchy, and thoroughly mainstream hit song “Ein bißchen Frieden” (A Little Peace), which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982 and featured verses in multiple languages, was thus calculatedly written by her producers to advance her commercial success. Punk/new-wave performer Nena's acerbic and explicitly antinuclear “Neun-und-neunzig Luftballons,” whose German version reached second place on the charts in the United States in 1983 and featured a powerful antiwar video, was meant to launch her transition from the underground to the mainstream musical scene.Footnote 55
According to Tompkins (Radioactive, 213, 215), the new peace movement therefore proved more centralized and “media savvy” than the anti-power-plants movement: a “professionalization of activism,” he claims, took place.Footnote 56 Perhaps, especially before the massive demonstration in Bonn on June 12, 1982. But, as Becker-Schaum emphasizes, the movement's organizational “triad of grassroots initiatives, regional networks, and central coordination” inclined over time toward decentralization (Nuclear Crisis, 158). Members, he comments, “harbored a profound distrust of centralized decision-making structures” (156), and the human chains and body-blockades that characterized the demonstrations during actual missile deployment required much more active participation and preparation than the earlier massive demonstrations had. All this work was done locally or regionally.
The East-West connection is as intriguing as the local dimension. Unlike the “transnational” Franco-German anti-power-plant movement, the peace movement's international dimension could be explicitly “national.” As Marianne Zepp notes (Nuclear Crisis, 144), German “peace culture” combined not just a sense of responsibility and personal commitment, but also a discourse of victimhood. Activists argued for a new type of national solidarity, pointing out that the two Germanys were linked in a geographical and national community of fate. Both were equally threatened by other peoples’ missiles, and, together, they constituted other peoples’ battlefield. As the editors of Nuclear Crisis comment, “Schmidt's role in initiating the Double-Track Decision gradually vanished” as “the decision came to be reinterpreted as an American imposition” (19–20). Schmidt's fellow Social Democrat, pastor and former Berlin Mayor Heinrich Albertz, even told an audience in June 1981 that “Germany remained an ‘occupied country’” (20). Mende and Metzger (124–25) also detect a “discourse of victimization” that evoked the Holocaust and Hiroshima and that drew “parallels” between Allied bombing and Nazi mass murder.Footnote 57 Meanwhile, as Oliver Bange, Rainer Eckert, and Malcolm Byrne note, the impending Pershing II and Cruise missile deployments caused the East German regime to glimpse advantages in the antiwar activities of some of its own dissidents. The regime consequently eased pressures briefly on the hitherto mostly isolated Protestant peace groups, thus enabling their networking and thereby paving the way—despite another panicky crackdown—for the “national” denouement of 1989–1990.Footnote 58
In November 1983, Cruise and Pershing II missiles were deployed in Britain, Italy, and West Germany. The Dutch government reconfirmed in 1985 that it, too, would deploy them. The Warsaw Pact's military plans now had to be rethought completely. With the advent of Euromissiles, the whole continent was now the battlefield, and that included Moscow. The Eastern side's operational nerve center could be decapitated in six minutes. The tables were suddenly turned, and the Soviet reaction was “dread” (Bange in Nuclear Crisis, 83).
Four years and three Soviet leaders later, the Soviets finally accepted the once so unlikely Zero Option. In the three-and-one-half years following the INF Treaty of December 1987, all ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers—846 American and 1,846 Soviet missiles—were removed and destroyed. Accompanying and then extending this breakthrough was yet another: a fourteen-year regime of intrusive on-site inspection. This outcome marked the first time in the Cold War that weapons were not just limited but reduced.
Helmut Schmidt's contribution to all this had been oracular. Derided on the left as the “Rocket Chancellor” (quoted in Schwelien, 389), Schmidt had warned and rallied the West. At the same time, he had understood better than the Soviet leadership the risks it was running. But Schmidt also knew better than to believe that, just because a policy was unwise, its practitioners would correct it. The history that he himself had experienced in the twentieth century was too littered by evidence to the contrary. In that sense, Schmidt may have simply been too realistic to be the visionary that Spohr sometimes appears to make of him. Her effort to raise him above the status of a “crisis manager” seem to assume something demeaning about that role. Yet, at the heart of her book is her own conviction that managing transformative crises is no mean feat.
When the Western deployments began, Schmidt was no longer in office. But his whole strategy had been predicated on a kind of pumpkin theory: missiles would be deployed at midnight, so one needed to get home before then. But where was home, and what road led there? Schmidt had no way of knowing how the missile crisis would end. Nor did he—the leader of a partitioned, nonnuclear state—have the power to end it. His strategy in the last years of his chancellorship became “keep talking.” All he had was his stature, which he kept throwing onto the scales. Not that that was nothing. He had become, after all, the “Global Chancellor.”
Was Kissinger correct all along that Schmidt had been cheated by history? Perhaps not. Schmidt was the right man for the transformation. He was not the right man for the denouement. First of all, the whole drama was above his pay grade—and Kohl's. But at least the latter did not have to worry that he would lose the support of his own party for what he had to do. The West proved fortunate: it had had its Helmut Schmidt, but it also had its Ronald Reagan. And the East had its Mikhail Gorbachev. People make history. Yet, too much personalizing is weak history, for the “people” who make history are not just the leaders. But neither are they just the persons in the streets. After all, the peace movement's political perspectives proved fallacious. Not the peace movement but the Dual-Track Decision is what led to the dramatic reversal on the road to Armageddon. And the broader European public constituted the people who elected and supported the governments that saw the matter through.
Nevertheless, that is not the last word on the peace movement. For, notwithstanding its view of the personal as political, its cultural and social impact was more important in the long run. As Fahlenbrach and Stapane suggest in Nuclear Crisis, an enduring accomplishment of the alternative milieu was the expression, dissemination, and maturation of a philosophy of self-fulfillment that was not mere hedonism, but rather one that facilitated tolerance through mutual individual empowerment. This empowerment, in turn, allowed the resolution of “collective anxieties and needs” through lifestyles rooted in transformative values (224). This type of fulfillment is palpable among Tompkins's more uplifting interviewees. And these types of values continue to resonate, now not just outside but also inside the mainstream of Western society.
But aspirational values alone are not enough. Nor is luck (as important as it is). As surprising as the soft landing at the end of the Cold War was, it had been prepared by fear. Oliver Bange's point can be extended: the one word that best encapsulated ten years of nuclear crisis was dread. In the end, it was at the root of the calculations of nearly every player—including the overreaching Soviet military and including Ronald Reagan, as historians now understand. This is not to minimize the role played by hope. It animated Reagan, Gorbachev, the Western peace movement, and the Eastern dissidents, and it has been rightly celebrated. But danger cannot be wished away; it must be worked away. First of all, it must be recognized. The mastering of crises requires not just uplifted eyes, but also deep awareness and analytical perspicacity. Without the kind of sobriety and skillful management that Helmut Schmidt epitomized, the Cold War might well have ended differently. But Schmidt, too, was motivated by dread. Today, as people like Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump blithely fiddle with their deadly playthings, one wonders if they appreciate what it means to dread.