Between Interest and Interventionism : Probing the Limits of Foreign Policy along the Tracks of an Extraordinary Case Study : The GDR's Engagement in South Yemen




Muller, Miriam Manuela

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This case study is the first comprehensive analysis of the German Democratic Republic’s activities in South Yemen, the only Marxist state in the Arab World and at times the closest and most loyal ally to the Soviet Union in the Middle East during the Cold War. The dissertation analyzes East German Foreign Policy as a case of Socialist state- and nation-building and in doing so produces one major hypotheses: The case of South Yemen may be considered both, an ‘exceptional case’ and the possible ‘ideal type’ of the ‘general’ of East German foreign policy and thus points to what the GDR’s foreign policy could have been, if it hadn’t been for the numerous restraints of East German foreign-policy-making. The author critically engages with the normative and empirical dimensions of the ‘Limits of Foreign Policy’ by including a constructivist perspective of foreign policy. Apart from the case study itself, the dissertation provides the reader with a thorough overview of forty years of East German foreign policy with a focus on the interests and influence of The Soviet Union as well as the first introduction and methodological approach to East Germany's foreign policy in the Middle East. The empirical side of the analysis rests on archival documents of the German Foreign Office, the German National Archive and the former Ministry of State Security of the GDR. These documents are reviewed and published for the first time and are complemented by personal interviews with contemporary witnesses. The interdisciplinary approach integrates and expands methods of both History and Political Science, applicable to other cases. Conducted research is intended to contribute to academic discourse on South Yemen’s unique history, divided Germany’s role in the Cold War, East German foreign policy, but also the long-term impact of Socialist foreign-policy-making in the Global South which so far has been neglected almost completely in academia.



South Yemen, PDRY, GDR, Foreign Policy, Divided Germany, Cold War, Soviet Union, Socialism, State-Building, Nation-Building, Gulf of Aden, Crown Colony of Aden, British Occupation, National Liberation Front, Marxism-Leninism, Postcolonialism, Neocolonialism, German, Identity, Arab Nationalism, Arab Socialism, Arab Nationalist Movement, Al-Hirak, Southern Movement, Constructivism, Socialist, Development, Global South, Middle East, Arab Spring, Marxist, Critical, Bab Al-Mandab, Socotra, Yemeni Socialist Party, YSP, FLOSY, National Liberation Front, NLF, SED, Sozialistische EInheitspartei Deutschlands, Honecker, Ulbricht, East Berlin