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Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany
Type Independence treaty / Peace treaty
Signed 12 September 1990
Location Moscow, USSR
Effective 15 March 1991
Signatories Two:
 East Germany
 West Germany
Plus Four:
 Soviet Union
United States
 United Kingdom
Languages English

The Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, German language: Vertrag über die abschließende Regelung in bezug auf Deutschland (or the Two Plus Four Agreement, German language: Zwei-plus-Vier-Vertrag; short: German Treaty) was negotiated in 1990 between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic (the eponymous "Two"), and the Four Powers which occupied Germany at the end of World War II in Europe: France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. In the treaty the Four Powers renounced all rights they held in Germany, allowing a united Germany to become fully sovereign the following year.


On 2 August 1945, the Potsdam Agreement was issued at the end of the Potsdam Conference. Among other things, it agreed on the initial terms under which the Allies of World War II would govern Germany and the provisional German-Polish border known as the Oder-Neisse line. The agreements reached were provisional ones that would be finalised by "a peace settlement for Germany to be accepted by the Government of Germany when a government adequate for the purpose is established" (Potsdam Agreement 1.3.1). The "German Question" became one of the salient and crucial issues of the long-running Cold War, and until it ended in the late 1980s, little progress had been made in the establishment of a single government of Germany adequate for the purpose of agreeing to a final settlement. This meant that in some respects (largely but not only technical), Germany did not have full national sovereignty.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall the German people and the German governments of the Federal Republic of Germany (in the West) and the German Democratic Republic (in the East) made it clear that they wished to form a united democratic German state, and that to achieve unity and full sovereignty, they were willing to accept the terms of the Potsdam Agreement that affected Germany. It was then possible for all the parties to negotiate a final settlement as envisioned in the Potsdam Agreement.

The Treaty

The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany was signed in Moscow, USSR, on 12 September 1990, and it paved the way for German reunification on 3 October 1990.

Under the terms of the treaty, the Four Powers renounced all rights they formerly held in Germany, including in regard to the city of Berlin. As a result, the united Germany would become fully sovereign on 15 March 1991, with Berlin as its capital. It would be free to make and belong to alliances, and without any foreign influence in its politics. All Soviet forces were to leave Germany by the end of 1994. Before the Soviets withdrew, Germany would only deploy territorial defense units to areas where Soviet troops were stationed. After the Soviets withdrew, the Germans could freely deploy troops in those areas, with the exception of nuclear weapons. During the duration of the Soviet presence, Allied troops would remain stationed in Berlin upon Germany's request.

Germany was to limit its combined armed forces to no more than 370,000 personnel, no more than 345,000 of whom were to be in the Army and the Air Force. Germany also reaffirmed its renunciation of the manufacture, possession of, and control over nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and in particular, that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would continue to apply in full to the unified Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany). No foreign armed forces, nuclear weapons, or the carriers for nuclear weapons would be stationed or deployed in six states (the area of Berlin and the former East Germany), making them a permanent Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. The German Army could deploy conventional weapons systems with nonconventional capabilities, provided that they were equipped and designed for a purely conventional role. Germany also agreed to use military force only in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

Another of the treaty's important terms was Germany's confirmation of the internationally recognized border with Poland and Russia, and other territorial changes that Germany had undergone since 1945, preventing any future claims to lost territory east of the Oder-Neisse line (see also former German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line) which had belonged to Germany before 1937. The treaty defined the territory of a 'united Germany' as being the territory of East and West Germany, prohibiting Germany from making any future territorial claims. Germany also agreed to sign a separate treaty with Poland reaffirming the present common border, binding under international law, effectively relinquishing territories to Poland. This was done on 14 November 1990 with the signing of the German-Polish Border Treaty.

Although the treaty was signed by the western and eastern German states as separate entities, it was ratified by the united Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) per the terms of the treaty agreement.

Implementation and claimed violations of the treaty

After the Soviet Union dissolved itself in December 1991, the command unit of the Soviet Group of Soviet Forces in Germany devolved to the Russian Federation. The German government subsequently recognized the Russian Federation's claim to be the successor state of the Soviet Union, including the right to maintain troops in Germany until the end of 1994. However with post-Soviet Russia facing severe economic hardship, President Boris Yeltsin ordered Russian troop deployment in Germany to be reduced to levels significantly below those permitted in the Treaty. The last Russian troops left Germany at the end of August in 1994, four months before the treaty deadline.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the Bundeswehr underwent a gradual transformation to a fully professional force. By 2011, the year Germany voluntarily suspended conscription, the Bundeswehr had retained fewer than 250,000 active duty personnel - barely two thirds of the country's treaty limit of 370,000.

"The Americans promised that NATO wouldn't move beyond the boundaries of Germany after the Cold War but now half of central and eastern Europe are members, so what happened to their promises? It shows they cannot be trusted."

former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.[1]

However, the treaty has been allegedly violated on a number of occasions. German News Information Services has argued that "an international lawsuit should be initiated against the development of installations at Leipzig Airport in preparation for service in NATO and EU combat missions".[2] Similarly, manoeuvres including NATO-troops in Trollenhagen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the area of the former East Germany have also been questioned.[3][verification needed] Under the treaty, only German forces may be deployed in the area of the former East Germany.

The scholar Stephen F. Cohen asserted in 2005 that a commitment was given that NATO would never expand further east,[4] but according to Robert Zoellick, then a US State Department official involved in the Two Plus Four negotiating process, this appears to be a misperception; no formal commitment of the sort was made.[5] On May 7, 2008, the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in an interview with the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, repeated his view that such a commitment had been made.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Gorbachev: US could start new Cold War". The Daily Telegraph, 6 May 2008.
  2. Cooped Up in Leipzig
  3. NATO übt in Trollenhagen Tageszeitung junge Welt, 8 January 2010
  4. Gorbachev's Lost Legacy by Stephen F. Cohen (The Nation, February 24, 2005)
  5. Robert B. Zoellick, The Lessons of German Unification, The National Interest, September 22, 2000

Further reading

  • Full Text of the Treaty (US Embassy in Germany Web site)
  • Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (Harvard University Press, 1995 & 1997).
  • Charles S. Maier, Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany (Princeton University Press, 1997).

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