Visiting Fellow Stephan Kieninger Conducts Research For His Forthcoming Book

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Dr. Stephan Kieninger

Dr. Stephan Kieninger

During spring 2018, Visiting Fellow Stephan Kieninger used Scholar Support from the Hoover Institution to conduct research for his forthcoming book “The Diplomacy of Détente. Cooperative Security Policies from Helmut Schmidt to George Shultz” which examines the relevance of Western trade with the former Soviet Union as a means to facilitate mutual trust and the emergence of new habits of transparency regardless of recurring military crises. A major theme of the book concerns Helmut Schmidt’s foreign policy and his contribution to the resilience of cooperative security policies in East-West relations. It investigates Schmidt’s crucial role in the Euromissile crisis, his Ostpolitik diplomacy, and his pan-European trade initiatives to engage the Soviet Union in a joint perspective of trade, industry and technology. Another key theme concerns the crisis in US-Soviet relations and the challenges of meaningful leadership communication between Washington and Moscow in the absence of back-channel diplomacy during the Carter years. The book depicts the freeze in US-Soviet relations after the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the declaration of martial law in Poland, and Helmut Schmidt’s efforts to serve as a mediator and interpreter working for a relaunch of US-Soviet dialogue. Eventually, the book highlights George Shultz’s pivotal role in the Reagan Administration’s efforts to improve US-Soviet relations, well before Mikhail Gorbachev’s arrival.

In February 2018, Scholar Research Support from the Hoover Institution provided me the opportunity to mine Hoover’s collections. The papers of Ronald Reagan’s first National Security Adviser Richard Allen contain valuable pre-Presidential evidence on foreign policy issues in Reagan’s 1980 campaign as well as well as materials on Reagan’s pre-Presidential correspondence with foreign leaders. The papers of Seymour Weiss at the Hoover Institution document his long career as an analyst at the US Department of State. Weiss worked closely with his counterparts in the Department of Defense, and he specialized in the fields of nuclear strategy and arms control. The bulk of his papers pertains to intelligence analysis evaluating the strength of the Soviet military. The Weiss papers contain meeting transcripts of the so-called Team B that attempted to counter the positions of intelligence officials within the CIA in 1976.

U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz with West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

My stay at Hoover also allowed me to interview the Honorable George P. Shultz who reflected on his friendship with former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Soon after George Shultz was sworn in as Secretary of State on 18 July 1982, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was his guest in the United States, first at the Shultz home and then at Bohemian Grove 60 miles of San Francisco where both spent a weekend encampment joining their mutual friends Henry Kissinger and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore.  Schmidt and Shultz had been friends since the 1970s when both had played key roles in the establishment of the World Economic Summits. Back at the time, in their capacity as Secretaries of Treasury, both had shared the idea to overcome the 1973 oil shock and the ensuing global recession through a radical redefinition of strategy and world economy: Their answer had been the concept of world economic governance.  Schmidt and Shultz had developed trust in one another’s capability to resolve bold questions of international order. In May 1974, Shultz had resigned to assume a top executive position at Bechtel, one of the world's largest construction and engineering conglomerates. Schmidt had risen to succeed Willy Brandt as Chancellor of the Federal Republic. In 1982, it was vice versa. Shultz had just returned, and Schmidt’s tenure came to an end in October 1982.

My stay at Hoover also allowed me to interview the Honorable George P. Shultz who reflected on his friendship with former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

When George Shultz assumed office in July 1982, he inherited the crisis in US-Soviet relations including the lack of substantial leadership communication. Shultz recalled Schmidt’s advice: “The superpowers are not in touch with each other’s reality. The Soviets can’t read you.  The situation is dangerous. There is no human contact.”  Schmidt highlighted the necessity of US-Soviet leadership diplomacy. Secretary Shultz emphasized the relevance of personal and direct contact between political leaders reiterating that Reagan’s and Gorbachev’s capability for adept personal diplomacy was a major asset in their efforts to transcend the Cold War. Moreover, Secretary Shultz highlighted the importance of trust and predictability as the cornerstone of partnership in security. As a case in point, Shultz referred to his weekly meetings with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin: “The idea was to get rid of little irritants so that they would not grow into unnecessarily major problems. My idea was: If you see a little weed, get it out before it turns into a real problem.”