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Ostpolitik (German for Eastern Policy) is a term for the "Change Through Rapprochement" policy—as verbalized by Egon Bahr in 1963—the efforts of Willy Brandt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), to normalise his country's relations with Eastern European nations (including the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany).

The proper term is in fact Neue Ostpolitik (German for New Eastern Policy), to set a contrast to the former Eastern Europe policy of the Christian Democratic governments until 1969. The Christian Democrats under Konrad Adenauer and others tried to ignore and isolate the communist regime of East Germany, while Brandt's Social Democrats tried to achieve more freedom for East Germans by a certain degree of collaboration.



After World War II, Germany was divided between the Federal Republic of Germany (West) and the German Democratic Republic (East). Initially, both governments claimed that they represented the entire German nation. However, the Federal Republic said that it was the only German government with democratic legitimacy. Later, at the end of the 1960s, the communist government of GDR claimed that there was no longer a common German nation as the GDR had established a "socialist" nation.

The Federal Governments were dominated by the Christian Democratic Union from 1949 to 1969. These governments refused to have any contact with the GDR government due to its undemocratic character, and the Hallstein Doctrine stipulated that the FRG would withdraw diplomatic contact from any country that established diplomatic relations with the GDR. The first application of the Hallstein Doctrine was in 1957, when the FRG withdrew recognition of Yugoslavia after it accepted a GDR ambassador. In the 1960s it became obvious that this policy would not work forever. When the Federal Republic established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1965, the Arab states countered by breaking off relations with the Federal Republic and establishing relations with the GDR.

Even before his election as Chancellor, Willy Brandt, the Social Democratic mayor of West Berlin, argued for and pursued policies that would ease tensions between the two German states, generally in the interest of cross-border commerce. His proposed new Ostpolitik held that the Hallstein Doctrine did not help to undermine the communist regime or even lighten the situation of the Germans in the GDR. Brandt believed that collaboration with the communists would foster German-German encounters and trade that would undermine the communist government over the long term.

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