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A Not-So-Special Relationship

The US, The UK and German Unification, 1945-1990

Luca Ratti

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Examines how German reunification and the end of the Quadripartite Agreement in 1990 impacted the Anglo–American special relationship

Luca Ratti offers new insights into the role of the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ in German reunification, and examines the impact that Germany’s reunification had on Anglo-American and transatlantic relations.

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Part One: The ‘Special Relationship’and the German question during the Cold War

1. The U.S., the UK, and the German question from the first Cold War to détente (1945-1961)
1.1 The ‘Special Relationship’ and Germany from Potsdam to the Federal Republic’s establishment
1.2 The Federal Republic’s Western integration: the Anglo-American allies and German rearmament
1.3 The ‘Special Relationship’ and Germany before and after the 1953 East German riots
1.4 The ‘Special Relationship’ and Germany from 1955 to the second Berlin crisis

2. The U.S., the UK and the German question from détente to the second Cold War (1961-1985)
2.1 The ‘Special Relationship’ and the Federal Republic’s Ostpolitik (1961-1973)
2.2 The ‘Special Relationship’, the GDR, and the CSCE
2.3 The US, the UK, the German question and the second Cold War
2.4 The ‘Special Relationship’ and the FRG in the early 1980s

3. The US, the UK and the German question at the Cold War’s end (1985-1989)
3.1 Anglo-American reactions to the prospect of change in Germany (1985-1988)
3.2 The GDR’s crisis, the fall of the Wall, and the Anglo-American schism
3.3 US-West German convergence: Kohl’s blueprint and Baker’s response

Part Two: Anglo-American relations and the diplomacy of German unification (1989-1990)

4. The US, the UK, and German unification
4.1 The ‘Special Relationship’ evaporates: Britain’s search for a European bloc
4.2 On the road to unification: ‘Two plus Four’ rather than ‘Two plus Zero’
4.3 The not so ‘Special Relationship’: Ottawa and US rejection of a strengthened CSCE role
4.4 The issue of a peace settlement: Anglo-American differences of tone and substance

5. The US, the UK, and German unification within NATO
5.1 Germany’s relationship with NATO and Britain’s alignment with US positions
5.2 The US, Germany, and the Camp David summit
5.3 Anglo-German tension and Thatcher’s growing isolation
5.4 The ‘Special Relationship’ and Germany’s place in the Atlantic Alliance
5.5 Anglo-American views about the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)

Conclusions: Still a ‘Special Relationship’ after Unification?

About the Author

Luca Ratti is Associate Professor in History of International Relations at the University of Rome 3. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Cardiff and also teaches International Relations at the American University of Rome. He has written extensively on post-World War Two international history, specifically on U.S.-European relations, NATO’s evolution and eastern enlargement, European security and defense policies, and international relations theory.


Historical depth applied to a big theme can render rich lessons. That is what Luca Ratti accomplishes beautifully in his intricate exposé of subtle but important differences between the American and British governments on the question of Germany. On this question, the “special Anglo-American relationship” was often strained. Ratti explores why this was so and helps us think about the relationship after Brexit and President Trump, and what role Germany may play in it.
- Alexander Moens, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
When in May 1989 George H. W. Bush offered a 'partnership in leadership' to Germany and not Britain, Margaret Thatcher was in disbelief. Yet the fall of the Berlin Wall less than six months later confirmed the waning importance of the alleged 'special relationship' between the UK and the US. Because it covers an intriguing and all-too-neglected angle of the end of the Cold War and German unification, Luca Ratti’s book is a welcome and important addition to the fast-growing literature on this topic.
- Frédéric Bozo, Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle

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