Willy Brandt became Foreign Minister in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1966. He developed the policy of Ostpolitik (reconciliation between eastern and western Europe). This replaced the Hallstein Doctrine of the government led by Konrad Adenauer.
In 1969 Brandt became Chancellor of West Germany. He continued with his policy of Ostpolitik and in 1970 negotiated an agreement with the Soviet Union accepting the frontiers of Berlin. In 1971 an agreement was reached that made it easier for people in West Berlin to visit East Berlin.
As part of the policy of Ostpolitik, the Basic Treaty was signed in 1972. In this treaty the Federal Republic of Germany and German Democratic Republic committed themselves to developing normal relations on the "basis of equality, guaranteeing their mutual territorial integrity as well as the border between them, and recognizing each other's independence and sovereignty".
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is first and foremost an effective defence alliance. It prevents potential opponents from being tempted to exert political pressure on any one of the allies through military force. But constant effort is required to maintain this defensive strength in the face of constantly advancing technical development. We realise that the commitment in Europe is a great burden on the United States.... I am afraid that the time for any significant lightening of the United States' burden has not yet come.
NATO and a policy of détente are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, the existence of NATO - that is, its political weight and its readiness to defend our territory against all attacks - has shown that a policy of tensions and crises is of no avail. The weakening of NATO would reduce the possibility of a détente and lessen its effectiveness. The military deterrent has ensured the peace of Europe.... Military security and détente do not contradict, but supplement each other. Without the firm support of the alliance we cannot carry on any policy of détente. Similarly the political objective of the alliance will not be realised without an East-West détente.
It can be argued that Herr Brandt has surrendered a principle and got little in return. The East Germans, and behind them the Russians, have made only a few slight concessions in the matter of human, administrative and trading contacts across the border. But they are real concessions, whereas the reunification of Germany, short of some new world cataclysm, has become an impossible dream. Post-war international relations are difficult enough, but it is better that they should be based on present realities than on a vanished past or an imaginary future.