The United States and Soviet Union were undisputed superpowers after 1945, but the bipolarity of the postwar system did not make all other nations onlookers in the Cold War. Konrad Adenauer, formerly mayor of Cologne, became chancellor of West Germany in 1949. He wished to restore the strength, pride, and importance of Germany (even if only the western part of it) by emphasizing the culture and commerce of the Rhine, and especially by establishing a closer relationship with France, which he thought a far healthier role model for Germany than were the nations of central or eastern Europe. He was instrumental in creating the European Coal and Steel Community, the joint French-German authority for the mining of coal and the production of steel. Adenauer also exploited the Korean War to good effect for Germany. He put it about that West Germans were worried about a Soviet attack on their territory or at least that East German police might now probe the border between the Germanys. Given these worrisome possibilities it would be best, Adenauer indicated, for the Allies to end their occupation of Germany and to permit the arming of some West German troops. In this Adenauer ultimately got his way.
Adenauer, who died in 1967 at the age of ninety-one, was a cold warrior as surely as Joseph Stalin and Dean Acheson were. Adenauer accepted the premises of the conflict and believed in its necessity, he was ideologically sympathetic to the West and staunchly opposed to communism, and he never shrank from the prospect of military action to deter, defeat, or at least delay a Soviet attack on western Europe—one that would begin, inevitably, in West Germany. At the same time, Adenauer looked back to a time before the Cold War began, grasping the older and deeper forces that had shaped German political culture and European politics since the early nineteenth century. Because of this, Adenauer's principal goals preceded and transcended the Cold War: he sought the creation of a stable and economically viable Germany (or part of Germany), the end of Germany's pariah status, the attachment of Germany to the largely democratic and capitalist West, and, following on all of these, the return of Germany to its prewar position as a regional power. In his efforts to achieve these goals Adenauer found the Cold War useful. He reminded the British, the French, and above all the Americans that a strong and friendly West Germany was vital to their security. Soviet behavior in eastern Europe and Korea seemed to confirm his fears. At the end of his life he could take satisfaction in what he had done for the Cold War, and what the Cold War had done for him.