In the early seventies, one of the first steps towards détente was taken by Willy Brandt - leader of West Germany. He wanted to improve relations with East Germany and Eastern Europe. Discussions between Brandt and the East German leader Willi Stoph began quickly, but no formal agreement was reached as Brandt would not recognise East Germany as a sovereign state.

Initially, this initiative was greeted with suspicion in the East and enthusiasm in the West. In 1970, Brandt signed the Treaty of Moscow with Brezhnev and soon afterwards the Treaty of Warsaw with Poland. The latter was an agreement to respect existing frontiers in Central Europe.

The polices of Willy Brandt took a more lenient line towards the East than those of his predecessors and so this helped to relieve some of the tension that existed. The signing of the Basic Treaty in 1972 gave both East and West the opportunity to 'develop normal good-neighbourly relations with each other on the basis of equal rights'. Further trade, cultural and sporting contacts followed and East Germany made concessions on Berlin.

By the time Brandt retired in 1974, the city of Berlin and the two Germany's had achieved some stability.