This article identifies and explains the fundamental shift of political and ideological paradigms that drew the Soviet Union's close ally, East Germany, into the détente process. Although economic and political influences and pressures, including from the Soviet Union itself, pushed the East German Communist regime to participate in this era of “peaceful coexistence,” officials in East Berlin were well aware of the dangers this posed to the Communist society in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the long term. Even at this early stage of East-West interaction, détente left the GDR with the unenviable task of squaring ideology with realpolitik—a task that East German leaders found increasingly hard to cope with.

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