West Germany's ‘Missile’ Election

February 25, 1983

Report Outline
Missiles as Election Issue
Alliance Ties and Strains
Europe's Economic Malaise
Special Focus

Missiles as Election Issue

U.S.-Soviet Interest in Election Outcome

On march 6, West Germans will vote in what could be, in terms of NATO politics and East-West relations, the most important European election in decades. The same day German voters go to the polls, France's socialist government will face a test in municipal elections, but the German election is getting more attention in the United States, and with good reason. At stake is the question of whether the Federal Republic will stand firm behind NATO's 1979 decision to begin deploying new American missiles in Europe at the end of 1983 if arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union have failed to produce an agreement limiting intermediate-range nuclear arms on both sides. The German press has dubbed 1983 “the year of the rockets” and the March 6 vote “the rocket election.”

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl sought new elections after he came to power Oct. 1, ousting Social Democrat Helmut Schmidt. Schmidt's government fell when its coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), deserted the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to join Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian faction, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is led by Franz Josef Strauss.

Not since the late 1940s, when the specter of Communist parties taking power in Italy and France haunted U.S. leaders, have outside powers tried so hard to influence the results of a European election. At a press conference at the White House on Feb. 16, President Reagan was asked what he thought the consequences would be for the Western alliance if a new German government took office and declined to deploy the new American missiles. Reagan replied: “I think it would be a terrible setback to the cause of peace and disarmament.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 22, 1989  A Primer on German Reunification
Apr. 19, 1985  German Reconciliation
Feb. 25, 1983  West Germany's ‘Missile’ Election
Jan. 14, 1970  German Reconciliation
Jan. 29, 1969  West German Prosperity
Mar. 30, 1966  German Border Question and Reunification
Aug. 18, 1965  West German Election, 1965
Feb. 24, 1965  War Guilt Expiation
Jul. 01, 1964  German Question
Sep. 01, 1961  Captive East Germany
Aug. 23, 1961  West German Election, 1961
May 04, 1960  Berlin Question
Dec. 24, 1958  Berlin Crisis and German Reunification
Aug. 21, 1957  German Election, 1957
Oct. 19, 1955  European Security
Jun. 15, 1955  Germany and the Balance of Power
Oct. 19, 1954  German Rearmament
Jan. 19, 1954  West German Recovery
Mar. 12, 1953  Harassed Berlin
Apr. 26, 1950  German Problem
Feb. 18, 1948  Rehabilitation of the Ruhr
Oct. 23, 1946  Future of Germany
Nov. 25, 1944  Transfers of Populations
Nov. 01, 1940  Economic Controls in Nazi Germany
Mar. 09, 1939  Foreign Trade in German Economy
Apr. 02, 1936  Germany's Post-War European Relations
Nov. 02, 1934  The Coming Saab Plebiscite
Apr. 23, 1931  The Austro-German Customs Union Project
Feb. 05, 1929  The Rhineland Problem
Nov. 07, 1924  German National Elections December, 1924
Apr. 30, 1924  The German National Elections
Defense Technology and Force Planning
Regional Political Affairs: Europe