The Role of Personal Relationships in German-American Relations

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Teologiska institutionen


For centuries, statesmen have engaged in personal encounters and correspondences with their political counterparts abroad and thereby exercised what can be called ‘personal diplomacy’ with the aim of influencing the other’s foreign policy. By tracing the use of this strategy in the history of the transatlantic relations between Germany and the United States of America from WWII to the present day, this research aims to analyze the applicability of the concept in this particular bilateral relationship and highlight the successes and failures of different statesmen’s attempts at exerting several types of power. To do so, Raven and French’s so-called ‘Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence’ is applied to the five case studies, which are the personal relationships between American presidents or secretaries of state and German chancellors or foreign ministers, namely Adenauer and Dulles, Ford and Kissinger, Kohl, Reagan and Bush Senior, Schröder and Bush Junior and Merkel and Obama. What transpires from the examination of their friendships or enmities is that personal relationships do indeed have an impact on statesmen’s political decisions in the German-American relationship, though, whether this influence has been essential or minor differs from case to case. Be that as it may, by presenting the numerous historical instances in which personal diplomacy can be said to have taken place and thereby demonstrating that there exists a trend, this thesis arrives at the verdict that personal diplomacy is a considerable factor in the two countries’ relations and one that demands attention if the scholarly discourse seeks to gain a full understanding of international political processes.

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