“Kniefall von Warschau” was a symbolic and historic gesture that occurred during Chancellor Willy Brandt’s visit to Poland in December 1970. At a monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Chancellor Brandt unexpectedly knelt. The trip and that moment was one of the stepping stones towards a newOstpolitik, aiming at improving relations with the Eastern Bloc while consolidating the West. It significantly contributed to easing geopolitical tensions and has become a blueprint for a paradigm of “change through rapprochement” in foreign policy.
50 years later, we again find ourselves in a turbulent situation. We face the ongoing escalation between the West and Russia. The EU has been struggling with a political crisis, best manifested by the unclear direction of further integration (Brexit) or disputes on shared values (Poland, Hungary). We also seem to lack a smart strategy for an Eastern Partnership, once a flagship foreign policy initiative of the EU. Last but not least, the transatlantic bond weakened by the last four years of the Trump administration demands immediate attention.
With a change of leadership in the US, there is a glimmer of hope that things will change. Inspired by this important anniversary, we want to seek a progressive answer to the challenges we face. What is left of Willy Brandt’s daring and dialogue-based foreign policy today? Do we need a new progressive Ostpolitik?
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