Foreign Relations of Germany: Diplomatic Missions, Contributions & Alliances

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  • 0:02 German Foreign Relations
  • 0:34 Europe
  • 2:04 UN & NATO
  • 3:30 Foreign Missions
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the diplomatic relations of Germany since the end of World War II, including the larger international organizations of which it is an integral part.

German Foreign Relations

No matter who you are or where you are, it's important to have friends. Whether it's having a close friend to pick you up from the airport, or simply a colleague who can commiserate with you over a drink after work, friends are nice to have for so many reasons. This is not true only for individuals; in fact, it's even more important for countries and governments to have other friendly countries and governments for trade, defensive alliances, and other international issues. In this lesson, we'll explore the foreign relations of one country in particular: Germany.


Since its official founding in the 1870s, Germany had been a rather aggressive state in Europe, often choosing war over diplomacy in its interactions with other European countries. In fact, the first Kaiser of Germany was crowned at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris after Germany destroyed French forces in the Franco-Prussian War! After World War II, however, Germany became a far more cooperative nation.

With Germany formally divided between communist East Germany and capitalist West Germany, the countries went in different directions. While East Germany became a puppet state of the Soviet Union, West Germany gained autonomy from its occupiers in 1949 and began improving its relations with its neighbors. In 1951, for example, Germany was one of the six founding nations of the European Coal and Steel Community, a group which removed restrictions and tariffs on vital industrial resources from moving between the six nations.

In just over half a century, this community has evolved into the modern European Union. The Union is made up of 28 member nations, many of which now even use a common currency, the Euro. Germany is one such nation, and as a founding member and one of the largest nations in the Union, Germany is a key player in the European Union - indeed, the German government is the largest payee into the EU budget. In fact, during the recent spell of financial crises which have hit several EU nations, it's been largely German money which has been used to bail out those countries' financial sectors.


In addition to its leadership in Europe, Germany is also a key player in larger international organizations as well. For example, both West Germany and East Germany were admitted as member states to the United Nations in 1973. Germany kept this membership when it was reunified in 1990. As a sign of Germany's growing international clout, Germany was selected as a non-permanent member of the UN's most important body, the UN Security Council, in 2011. Though it had to relinquish that seat after two years, Germany is actively campaigning to become a permanent member of the board, like the United States or Russia.

Germany also participates in greater military alliances as well. For example, Germany is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and West Germany was a member of NATO since 1955. The organization is a primarily military defense alliance, conceived late in the 1940s to create a solid military alliance to oppose the Soviet Union and its growing group of satellite states in Eastern Europe.

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