25 January: On the instructions of State Security Minister Erich Mielke, the Stasi economics department, "Hauptabteilung XVIII", presents a strictly confidential analysis on the state of the GDR’s economy. The study, which also gleans the opinions of leading GDR economics officials, concludes that the GDR "is no longer in a position to bring about a fundamental change in the current situation or to permanently solve the problems of the balance of payments with the non-socialist economic territory under its own power by economic means."
The Stasi economics experts therefore put forward a proposal to ask the Soviet Union to take over two thirds of the GDR’s Western debt (ca. 20 billion DM). In return, the GDR is to largely cease trade relations with the West, while the goods that have up to now been exported to the West are to be delivered to the Soviet Union, which can pay the GDR debts by saving on Western imports.
9 February: Start of the CSCE follow-up meeting in Madrid; on 12 March it is adjourned until 9 November owing to the tense East-West situation. Representatives of Western state vehemently criticise the actions of the Polish military regime.
15 February: The permitted reasons for visits to the West are extended to coming-of-age ceremonies ("Jugendweihen"), confirmations, first communions, and 60th, 65th, 70th, 75th and all further birthdays, in accordance with an "Order on Regulations regarding Travel by Citizens of the GDR". The number of permits issued rises from around 40,000 to some 60,000 per year.
The GDR issues new "Information on Customs and Currency Regulations"
15 March: The EC reacts to the imposition of martial law in Poland by restricting imports of products from the Soviet Union.
25 March: The GDR Volkskammer passes a "Border Law". For the first time, the SED leadership gives a legal façade to fatal shootings at the border. The formal resemblance to corresponding Western laws on coercion sits uncomfortably with the practical application against harmless, usually unarmed escapees.
"If necessary, hit them with the first shot," is the wording in the text for a speech by Klaus-Dieter Baumgarten, head of the GDR border troops, in which he encourages the implementation of the Border Law by the troops. The supreme commander of the GDR border troops criticises the non-use and the too careless use of firearms for border security in the same breath – thus shifting the responsibility for fatal shootings down the ladder.
The Political Administration of the GDR border troops issues a paper to "clarify political-ideological problems in the use of firearms". This classified document states that the "proper and effective use of firearms in the border area is not just an obligation under law, but the profound moral and humanistic right of every member of the border troops." Never before "in the history of our people," it says, have "weapons been borne for a more noble cause" and has "armed force [been used] in the interest of more humane goals" than in the "first socialist German state, the GDR."
29 March: A farmer from a Thuringian border town near Bad Soden-Allendorf drives a bucket excavator to the outermost border fence and jumps down onto the western side of the fence from the vehicle. GDR border guards fire warning shots before shooting to kill the escapee. The West German Federal Border Guards positioned only a few metres away cannot intervene, because the escapee is still in GDR territory.
1 April: The German Red Cross says that relief aid worth 17 million DM has been delivered to Poland from West Germany since 1 April 1981. Private individuals can also send parcels to those in need of help in Poland as part of the Red Cross action "Ihr Paket nach Polen" ("Your parcel to Poland").
9 April: The GDR dissident Robert Havemann dies in Grünheide near East Berlin.
24 May: Hans Otto Bräutigam becomes the new Permanent Representative of West Germany in the GDR.
3 June: The economic situation of the GDR deteriorates dramatically. Since 13 December 1981, the day on which martial law was imposed in Poland, the West has not allowed the Eastern Bloc states to take up new loans. During a conversation with the head of the West German Permanent Mission in the GDR, Hans Otto Bräutigam, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski complains: "We are feeling a total credit boycott against the GDR, in which FRG banks that were previously involved in loan allocation by international consortiums […] play a not inconsiderable part."
9-11 June: US President Ronald Reagan is on a trip to West Germany and West Berlin, where he visits Charlottenburg Palace and Checkpoint Charlie. In West Berlin, there are both peaceful and violent demonstrations against the NATO policy of further building up its arsenal.
18 June: West Germany and East Germany agree on an extension of the interest-free overdraft ("Swing"). In return, the GDR raises its annual sum for non-commercial payments. The SED also retrospectively strips all people who have left the GDR illegally before 31 December 1980 of their GDR citizenship. This means they are now exempt from punishment under GDR law and can travel to the GDR for visits.
From 1 July, West Berliners can remain in the GDR and East Berlin on day visits for longer: until 2 in the morning.
29 June: In Geneva, negotiations begin between the USA and the Soviet Union on the reduction and limitation of strategic weapons ("START").
11 August: The Soviet party and state leader Leonid I. Brezhnev and SED General Secretary Erich Honecker meet in the Crimea. Brezhnev comes back to the "worrying nature" of the GDR’s financial dependence on the West and tells Honecker that the GDR and CSSR, together with the Soviet Union, should taken on a "pacemaker function" with regard to the reduction of dependence on Western technology.
29 August: In a conversation with the head of the West German Permanent Mission in the GDR, Hans Otto Bräutigam, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski warns that the West German government will be drawn into the vortex of the "economic war" and further international tensions if "clear signals regarding the restoration of the decades-long credit relations between the GDR and major international banks, including banks in the FRG," were not given.
28 September: Agreement between Bonn and East Berlin on water conservation in Berlin.
1 October: With a "constructive" vote of no confidence, the CDU/CSU-FDP majority in the Bundestag ousts Helmut Schmidt and elects CDU chairman Helmut Kohl as the new West German Chancellor.
11 October: At a central conference of the Ministry for Security in October 1982, Stasi Minister Erich Mielke explains: "The enemy wants to use economic measures to create ‘political constraints" for the party and state leaderships in socialist countries that are meant to lead to internal changes, to so-called reforms, to the ‘liberalisation’ of domestic politics – in other words, to the undermining and weakening of socialist power – combined with the creation of ‘spaces’ for all kinds of hostile, negative, anti-socialist, dissident, revisionist, liberalist, nationalist and anti-Soviet forces." Mielke concludes that the economy "is the decisive field of conflict for the revolutionary action of the party." For this reason, he says, it is necessary to increase the Ministry for Security’s contribution "to enforcing the resolutions of the party and state leadership in the economic and socio-political area."
13 October: West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl assures the Bundestag that his government will uphold the treaties with the East and the obligations they contain.
12 November: The Soviet party and state leader Leonid I. Brezhnev dies; he is succeeded as CPSU General Secretary by Yuri W. Andropov, the previous head of the KGB.
20 November: The inner-German transit motorway between Hamburg and Berlin is opened.
2 December: In a conversation with Central Committee economics secretary Günter Mittag, Philipp Jenninger, secretary of state in the West German chancellery, stresses "that Chancellor Kohl is interested in further developing relations between the two German states. The Chancellor has reaffirmed that the policy of the FRG in relations between the two German states will remain predictable and reliable and that existing agreements and treaties will be upheld. There is to be no breach of promise by the new West German government, and this is being considered as part of efforts towards peace. (…) In general, the intention is to keep up contacts in relations between the FRG and the GDR and to maintain continuity. This is also to be continued after the elections, whoever wins, for there is a broad basis for this view in the Bundestag. Erich Honecker is invited to make a return visit to the FRG for this year. (…) The date and preparations still have to be discussed. At any rate, such a visit would be an important milestone in joint efforts to resolve issues wherever they can be resolved."
16 December: In Warsaw and Gdansk, thousands of Poles commemorate the Gdansk shipyard workers killed in 1970. Church services are accompanied by a massive deployment of state security forces; there is, however, no escalation.
December: The "NSDD-75" document, the Reagan administration’s best-kept secret, strictly confidential to this day, which was drawn up by the Harvard historian Richard Pipes and staff of the National Security Council, replaces the legendary "containment" NSC-68 report (signed by US President Truman, drawn up by Paul Nitze). Its objective is no longer co-existence with the Soviet Union, but to overthrow the Soviet system. It is based on the conviction that the USA has the power to change the Soviet system with external pressure. The inner weakness of the Soviet Union is to be exploited in order to undermine it. According to John Poindexter, the "NSDD-75" defines an integrated policy connecting actions all over the world: a global roll-back strategy focusing on the Soviet economy.