Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany

The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (German: Vertrag über die abschließende Regelung in Bezug auf Deutschland[lower-alpha 1]), or the Two Plus Four Agreement (German: Zwei-plus-Vier-Vertrag;[lower-alpha 2] 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. In the treaty the Four Powers renounced all rights they held in Germany, allowing a united Germany to become fully sovereign the following year.[1][2][3] On the other hand, Germany agreed to confirm its acceptance of its existing border with Poland, and accepted that the borders of Germany after unification would correspond only to the territories then administered by West and East Germany, with the exclusion and renunciation of any other territorial claims (e.g., to the Kaliningrad oblast).

Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany
TypeIndependence treaty / Peace treaty
Drafted13 February 1990
Signed12 September 1990
LocationMoscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Effective15 March 1991
Plus Four


On 2 August 1945, the Potsdam Agreement, promulgated at the end of the Potsdam Conference, among other things agreed on the initial terms under which the Allies of World War II would govern Germany. A provisional German–Polish border known as the Oder–Neisse line awarded, in theory within the context of that "provisional border", most of Germany's eastern provinces to Poland and the Soviet Union. Those agreements reached were provisional and the agreement stipulated that the situation 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). Parts of those above-mentioned agreements were burdened with controversy from several sources e.g., Churchill's comment about "stuffing the Polish goose too full" (of German lands). The overall "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.[4]:42–43

Several developments in 1989 and 1990, collectively termed Die Wende and the Peaceful Revolution, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the SED in the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany). In the 18 March 1990 national election in the GDR an electoral alliance of parties that favored German reunification via article 23 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany won a plurality.[4]:229–232[5]:211–214 To achieve unity and full sovereignty, both German states were willing to accept the terms of the Potsdam Agreement that affected Germany.[4] It was then possible for all international parties to negotiate a final settlement.[4]


The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany was signed in Moscow, Soviet Union, on 12 September 1990,[4]:363 and paved the way for German reunification on 3 October 1990.[6] Under the terms of the treaty, the Four Powers renounced all rights they formerly held in Germany, including those regarding the city of Berlin.[4] Upon deposit of the last instrument of ratification, united Germany became fully sovereign on 15 March 1991.

The treaty allows Germany to make and belong to alliances, 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 not integrated into the alliance structures. German forces in the rest of Germany were assigned 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. For the duration of the Soviet presence, Allied troops would remain stationed in Berlin upon Germany's request.[4]

Germany undertook to reduce its 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. These limits would commence at the time that the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe would enter into force, and the treaty also took note that it was expected that the other participants in the negotiations would "render their contribution to enhancing security and stability in Europe, including measures to limit personnel strengths".[7] 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.[4]

Another of the treaty's important provisions was Germany's confirmation of the by now internationally recognised border with Poland, and other territorial changes in Germany that had taken place since 1945, preventing any future claims to lost territory east of the Oder-Neisse line (see also Former eastern territories of Germany) which had historically been part of Germany for centuries before 31 December 1937. The treaty defined the territory of a 'united Germany' as being the territory of East Germany, West Germany and Berlin, 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 these territories to Poland. This was done on 14 November 1990 with the signing of the German-Polish Border Treaty.[4] Furthermore, the Federal Republic was required by the treaty to amend its Basic Law so as to be constitutionally prohibited from accepting any application for incorporation into Germany from territories outside the territories of East Germany, West Germany and Berlin.

Although the treaty was signed by West and East Germany as separate sovereign states, it was subsequently ratified by united Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany).


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 continuator 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.

Claimed violations

The treaty has been alleged to have been violated on a number of occasions. Manoeuvres including NATO troops in Trollenhagen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the area of the former East Germany have been questioned.[8] Under one interpretation of the treaty, only German forces may be deployed in the area of the former East Germany. In September 2007, France offered Germany joint control over its nuclear arsenal, but the Germans rejected this.[9]

Eastward expansion of NATO

Historian Stephen F. Cohen asserted in 2005 that a commitment was given that NATO would never expand further east,[10] 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.[11] On 7 May 2008 the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in an interview with the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, stated his view that such a commitment had been made:

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.[12]

However, in a 2014 interview Gorbachev reversed himself by saying that the topic of "NATO expansion" as such was "not discussed at all", although he maintained that the decision to expand NATO into the east was a "violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990".[13]

Some argue that such a commitment was not made during the discussions on German reunification.[14] Allegedly, the issue of expanding NATO into Central and Eastern European states was not on the agenda at that time, since all of them were Warsaw Pact members and most still had substantial Soviet military forces stationed on their soil,[15][16] and Gorbachev "did not even contemplate seeking a provision that would bar any other Warsaw Pact countries from eventually pursuing membership in NATO".[14] This was rebuked by the National Security Archive in December 2017, which had looked in the declassified record:[17]

The documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991, that discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels.

The invocation of the supposed non-expansion pledge to justify Russia's annexation of Crimea has been criticized by NATO.[18][19]

Absent from the Treaty

The two-plus-four-treaty had the function of a peace treaty, but it was not called a peace treaty. This could not be in their interest "for financial reasons", according to the German State Secretary Friedrich Voss at that time. The reason was the open question of German reparations for World War II, especially in the case of Greece. Today Berlin argues that the Greeks should have made their demands in 1990.[20]

See also


  1. French: Traité sur le règlement final en ce qui concerne l'Allemagne; Russian: Договор об окончательном урегулировании в отношении Германии, lit. 'Dogovor ob okonchatel'nom uregulirovanii v otnoshenii Germanii'
  2. French: Accord Deux Plus Quatre; Russian: Соглашение «Два плюс четыре», lit. 'Soglasheniye «Dva plyus chetyre»'


  1. American Foreign Policy Current Documents 1990 (September 1990). "Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany" (PDF). Roy Rozenweig Center for History and New Media.
  2. "Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany". Foothill College.
  3. Hailbronner, Kay. "Legal Aspects of the Unification of the Two German States" (PDF). European Journal of International Law.
  4. Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice. Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft. Harvard University Press, 1995 & 1997. ISBN 9780674353251
  5. Charles S. Maier, Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany (Princeton University Press, 1997). ISBN 978-0691007465
  7. "German-American Relations - Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (two plus four)".
  8. NATO übt in Trollenhagen Tageszeitung junge Welt, 8 January 2010
  9. Germany, SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg. "Überraschender Vorstoß: Sarkozy bot Deutschland Atomwaffen an".
  10. Gorbachev's Lost Legacy by Stephen F. Cohen (The Nation, February 24, 2005)
  11. Robert B. Zoellick, The Lessons of German Unification, The National Interest, September 22, 2000
  12. "Gorbachev: US could start new Cold War". The Daily Telegraph, 6 May 2008.
  13. Kórshunov, Maxim (16 October 2014). "Mikhail Gorbachev: I am against all walls". Russia Beyond the Headlines.
  14. Kramer, Mark (April 2009). "The Myth of a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia". The Washington Quarterly. 32 (2): 39–61. doi:10.1080/01636600902773248.
  15. Steven Pifer (6 November 2014). "Did NATO Promise Not to Enlarge? Gorbachev Says "No"". Brookings Institution.
  16. Jack Matlock (3 April 2014). "NATO EXPANSION: WAS THERE A PROMISE?".
  17. Svetlana Savranskaya; Tom Blanton (12 December 2017). "NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard". National Security Archive.
  18. NATO (12 May 2014). "Russia's accusations - setting the record straight, Fact Sheet - April 2014".
  19. Michael Rühle (2014). "NATO enlargement and Russia: myths and realities". NATO Review. NATO.

Further reading

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