Superpower Diplomacy and German Unification: The Insiders' Views


1996 Michael M. Boll

From Parameters, Winter 1996-97, pp. 109-21.

"I think Gorbachev and I basically see eye to eye on German unity. It's coming, but it doesn't have to come tomorrow." -- George Bush, early December 1989[1]

"The USSR ended the moment the first hammer pounded the Berlin Wall." -- Boris Yeltsin[2]

"As we now know, [German unification] was possible only for a brief fortuitous moment." -- Horst Teltschik, West German National Security Adviser[3]

Pity the historian of ancient times. Bereft of documents, memoirs, and reminiscences of kings and courtiers alike, he reconstructs events and motivations from hints and fragments. Fortunately, the modern researcher rarely faces such a dilemma since contemporary publishing opportunities and egos produce volumes of recollections even on issues of minor importance. And yet there can be too much of a good thing. The contemporary historian frequently is deluged by sources and recountings pleading for his attention as he practices his craft of historical reconstruction. So is it with one of the most important events of the modern era--the unification of Germany at the end of the last decade.

The studies of this event continue to proliferate as each player, great and small, weighs in with his own unique perspective. A reasoned way to handle this is to construct a common set of problems that confronted each major participant, and then interrogate the memoirs as to how each issue was approached. In this fashion, one can gain some insight into individual motivations and gauge the frustrations and mistakes that accompanied the unification process. And while the particular analyses of this article focus upon the goals and processes of German unification, the essay as a whole confirms Karl Marx's perceptive comment that at least for some, history indeed is made behind the backs of men.

This framework for an examination of German unification involves three crucial questions. First, what steps did each superpower take to ensure close relations with their European allies on the eve of German unification? Clearly, the ability to act decisively and rapidly in a changing situation depended greatly upon American relations with NATO and Soviet ties with the Warsaw Pact. Second, as the possibility of German unification emerged in the summer of 1989, what steps did each superpower take to ensure its interests in Germany's future would be protected? This problem can best be explored by examining how the unique "Two plus Four" forum emerged and evolved as the central locus of negotiating the domestic conditions on unification. And last, but surely not least, what allowed the Western demand for continued German participation in NATO to win the day?

This article concentrates on the memoirs from the three most important countries: the United States, Germany, and the USSR. The Americans are represented by then-Secretary of State James Baker,[4] Ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock,[5] and the memoirs of two important members of the National Security Council with responsibilities for the USSR and Germany, Condoleezza Rice and Philip Zelikow.[6] The German view is expressed in the lengthy memoirs of then-Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher,[7] West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble,[8] and West German Security Adviser Horst Teltschik.[9]

Memoirs from the Soviet/Russian side are even more complete. First in importance is the 1216-page autobiography of Mikhail Gorbachev.[10] Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze also published his recollections,[11] as have two of the Soviet Union's key "Germanists," Valentin Falin[12] and Yuly Kvitsinsky.[13] Two other memoirs also are worth considering: that of Gorbachev's adviser, billed as "Gorbachev's Kissinger," Anatoly Chernyayev,[14] and the insightful account of Soviet foreign and military policy coauthored by First Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Kornienko and former Chief of the General Staff (later Gorbachev's main military adviser) Sergei Akhromeev.[15]

Relations With Allies

The importance of maintaining relations of mutual confidence with one's allies in expectation of any significant crisis requiring multilateral coordination forms a theme in the initial pages of Secretary Baker's memoirs. Shortly after the inauguration of the Bush Administration in January 1989, Baker left for an exhausting trip to all 15 Allied capitals over a short, eight-day period. As he later reflected, "My European journey reinforced for me practically what I had know all along intellectually: The road to success with the Kremlin began not in Moscow, but in the capitals of Western Europe and Canada."[16]

While the trip was designed to acquaint the NATO Allies in general with faces in the new Administration, specifically it focused on the main impediment to Allied unity: disputes over the modernization of NATO's short-range nuclear forces (SNF) which had followed the conclusion of the intermediate-range nuclear forces agreement of December 1987. At stake was a festering dispute over the wisdom of and need for a modern version of the short-range Lance missile on German soil, since the weapon's 500-mile range limited its effectiveness to East German or Polish territory. As Baker recalls, "The divide between Britain and Germany on this issue put us in an extraordinarily difficult position, and finding a satisfactory solution . . . was imperative."[17]

To German Foreign Minister Genscher, this issue was far broader than good relations among Bonn, London, and Washington. He saw it as threatening to undermine the Alliance itself, since various NATO Allies held strong but contrary opinions. Discussing his March 1989 meeting with the Italian and Dutch foreign ministers, Genscher recalled: "It would have been difficult to find more opposite views than between these colleagues. Andreotti as myself had serious reservations about the decision to modernize, while Van der Broek, the same as Mrs. Thatcher, was a supporter."[18] To further complicate this touchy issue, Genscher and German Chancellor Kohl belonged to two different political parties, possessed noticeable differences in their foreign policy views, and functioned under the pressure of the German elections set for the following year.

By April 1989, Genscher and Kohl had reached agreement on a common German position, which they would present to the pending NATO summit. Acknowledging that the earlier NATO decision for modernization was binding, "where necessary," the German chancellor stated that the final Lance decision should be postponed until 1992, with deployment to follow in 1996 in case of an affirmative vote.[19] For Baker, trying to improve relations with all NATO Allies, the challenge was clear. As he informed President Bush in May 1989: "You've got to lead the Alliance, and that means getting Margaret to compromise on SNF . . . If you don't, she won't pay the cost. You will."[20]

By now, other key figures had waded into the dispute. Senator Sam Nunn and former Reagan adviser Paul Nitze pressured Bush to adopt the German position, while the Soviet military adviser to President Gorbachev asserted that modernization by the West would be met by further Soviet defensive measures.[21] As Baker clearly realized:

The SNF debate was at heart a psychological dilemma. Modernization would, indeed, show Alliance resolve, yet it would simultaneously create a public and, above all, nuclear symbol that the Kremlin could use . . . . Moscow would split the Alliance, not by pitting Kohl against Thatcher, but by creating political tensions within Germany that would prevent Kohl's fragile coalition from maintaining unity with the Alliance.[22]

The solution to the dilemma, carefully crafted by Baker and his aides, was to gain an ambiguous NATO resolution promising that the West was indeed willing to negotiate limits on short-range nuclear forces with Moscow, but that the goal would be "partial," not total, removal of such weapons. This placated the British, who had feared NATO willingness to forgo all short-range deterrence. For the Germans, Baker received agreement that the final decision on modernization of the Lance would be postponed pending continuing negotiations with the Soviets--a postponement that would likely last until at least 1992.[23] Unity within the Alliance had been preserved.

Similarly the relationship between Gorbachev and his Warsaw Pact allies was crucial to any future Soviet demarche toward Germany, and was dependent also upon the largest state within the alliance system. But here the similarity ended. If Baker and the Americans were at pains to hold their alliance together, Gorbachev was in the midst of policy changes which inevitably would produce confusion and discord in Eastern Europe.

As early as the spring of 1985, on the occasion of Konstantine Cherenenko's funeral, Gorbachev requested an urgent meeting with the Warsaw Pact leaders. As Gorbachev later explained, two issues were on the agenda of the day, continuity and change:

In my introduction I said that we supported equality of rights, respect for sovereignty and the independence of each land, and cooperation in all areas. Recognition of these basic positions, however, entailed that each party accept full responsibility for the situation in its country. . . . Factually, the explanation which we stated at the end of our meeting signified a change in our relations and the end of the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, which, while never officially declared, in practice determined Soviet policy toward the allies for a long period of time.[24]

Indicative of this new approach, Gorbachev soon informed Polish dictator Wojciech Jaruzelski that "one cannot resolve the problems of a country with force, at least not the fundamental issues. It is a question of a decisive alteration of the public and social order."[25]

If such pointed expressions of Gorbachev's "New Thinking" produced shock among Pact leaders in general, the dismay in East Germany was especially palpable. Gorbachev recalls that East German party leader Erich Honecker had felt himself intellectually superior to Leonid Brezhnev, and upon the latter's death in 1982, Honecker pushed for a leading German role in East European circles.[26] During this pre-Gorbachev period, Honecker was so brash as to inform Soviet leaders they ought not address meetings of the East German leadership for fear that their obvious lack of expertise would "undermine the respect for the Soviet comrades in the eyes of the Politburo."[27] By the time of Gorbachev's ascent to power, East Berlin had decided it was the new model of a socialist future. As Soviet Ambassador to Bonn, Yuly Kvitsinsky recalled:

The password "to learn from the Soviet Union means to learn how to be victorious" was not taken seriously by anyone [in East Germany] for a long time and had become an occasion for derision among SED [the East German Socialist Unity Party] leaders. From the Soviet Union there was nothing more to learn--neither in industry, nor agriculture, nor in ideology.[28]

Given the obvious deterioration in ties between Moscow and East Berlin, and realizing that the advent of Soviet "New Thinking" would produce increased strains, the Gorbachev government might have undertaken special steps to improve or at least stabilize relations with its old ally. Failing this, concerted negotiations with other Pact members as to likely developments should have ensued. Perhaps personal distaste blinded Gorbachev to the larger dangers inherent in the relationship, for the Soviet leader pointedly recalls that "trustworthy relations never developed between us."[29] By 1987 relations had so deteriorated that Honecker personally forbade the East German press to report on the ongoing Soviet Party Plenum, extracting a pledge shortly thereafter in a secret sitting of East German regional party secretaries to swear a rejection of Soviet-style perestroika.[30] According to Valentin Falin, Honecker concluded "that Gorbachev or Shevardnadze had written off the DDR [German Democratic Republic] during their visit to the US at the end of 1988. He maintained this view until the end."[31]

If personal and state ties could not be improved, at the very least Gorbachev should have prepared contingency plans in case East Berlin should either seek to break from the Warsaw Pact or suffer internal disintegration. Yet Gorbachev simply failed to respond to the growing danger. According to Ambassador Kvitsinsky, the Soviet Foreign Ministry became concerned over East German economic developments, especially increased borrowing from West Germany, as early as the second half of the 1970s. And every time Honecker visited Moscow, critical briefing papers were drawn up, only to remain unused. By the mid 1980s the economic and political problems in East Germany were obvious in Moscow; even Eduard Shevardnadze had a premonition as early as 1986 that unification of the two Germanys was inevitable.[32]

In late 1987 and early 1988, Valentin Falin reported to Gorbachev and his close ally Alexander Yakovlev that the roots of East German decay were much deeper than previously thought, and that the situation could spin out of control within the next three months. "But," he wrote, "this information of an impending catastrophe did not lead to a general reappraisal of the situation." Falin concluded: "Perhaps the leadership possessed its own sources concerning the hidden tendencies in the DDR or perhaps they found my information exaggerated."[33]

Falin was not ready to give up hope, however. If Gorbachev showed so little resolve to work with his East European allies or with the East Germans directly, perhaps he could be persuaded to focus on the issue with the Americans, seeking a common solution prior to an East German crisis. Thus, after Gorbachev's December 1988 UN speech, Falin arranged an interview between his boss and Henry Kissinger, hoping this might bring the magnitude of the impending crisis to Gorbachev's consciousness. Yet this too failed, as Gorbachev dismissed Kissinger's assessment with the offhanded remark: "Kissinger has not freed himself entirely from his reactionary ideas. He lives in the past."[34] Three years later, Falin and Kissinger met by chance in a Moscow airport, where they reviewed this earlier discussion:

"Gorbachev didn't react to my assessments," Kissinger stated. "The Soviet Union had the possibility to adopt in an organized manner and without haste a new position. By going it alone, she could not influence the process. But he didn't want to share responsibility with us. How can you explain such unlogical behavior by your President?" [35]

If a tentative attitude to the possible loss of East Germany still was possible in early 1989, it became increasingly dated as the year progressed. That summer, East German tourists flooded Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, seeking routes to the West. In August, Hungary broke ranks with fellow Pact members, permitting the East Germans to cross her borders freely, and in November the Berlin Wall fell. The time for speculation was past; the time for planning had arrived.

German Unification

Curiously, Washington too showed little awareness of the growing prospects for German unification. To be sure, the issue was discussed by President Bush and Party Chief Gorbachev at their December 1989 Malta summit, but only in general terms. Not until early in the new year did a concerted review in Washington produce some divergence of opinion between experts on the National Security Council and those in Secretary Baker's Department of State. NSC papers which favored rapid unification so as to preclude Moscow from playing a significant role were dismissed as unrealistic. Rather, two of Baker's advisers, Dennis Ross and Robert Zoellick, suggested that Soviet participation was inevitable and desirable, but only under certain conditions.

Ross and Zoellick indicated that initial Soviet suggestions--to the effect that unification, if it were to come, should be discussed and determined by a meeting of European powers--should be rejected in favor of emphasizing the key role of the two German states themselves. Among outsiders, they continued, only the four victorious powers of World War II should become directly involved, and then only after the German states had agreed upon the form and conditions of unity. The intra-German negotiations should be postponed until after the scheduled March 1990 East German elections, and they should be recognized by all as involving the issue of unification. The two German states, in turn, also would become fully recognized participants in discussions over the external aspects of unification to be conducted with the four victorious powers. The shorthand expression for this two-track approach became "Two plus Four."[36]

While the NSC and Secretary Baker's staff were debating the unification issue, Soviet experts too were putting forward their first tentative proposals. At the end of January, Gorbachev convoked the first (and only!) meeting of his German advisers, seeking insight and suggestions for the growing crisis. His personal adviser, Anatoly Chernyayev, opened the meeting with a startling proposal which no doubt closely reflected the poor relations between Moscow and the East European capitals. He suggested "that we orient ourselves closely to the position of the [Federal Republic of Germany] because we no longer had sufficient support in the DDR to influence the course of events." In a further touch of the surreal, German expert Valentin Falin replied that "no one in the [Federal Republic] wishes reunification," and suggested orienting Soviet policy toward the more cautious West German Social-Democratic Party. In the ensuing debate, Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze supported Chernyayev. At the meeting's end, Chernyayev's position apparently won the day. His "suggestion to form a six-member group to resolve all the problems which might arise over German unification was accepted unanimously: the four victorious powers and the two German states."[37] The Soviets would therefore support creation of a group of six, Soviet policy would orient itself toward that of German Chancellor Kohl, while not ignoring the position of the West German Socialist-Democratic Party; and the East German leadership would be invited to Moscow for consultation. Gorbachev's military adviser, Marshal Akhromeev, formerly Soviet Chief of Staff, was charged with the task of preparing the withdrawal of the 300,000 Soviets troops stationed in East Germany.[38]

Gorbachev's recollection of this key planning meeting differs only in minor details from that of Chernyayev. While concluding that German unification indeed was now inevitable, Gorbachev suggested that the "USSR should seize the initiative for [convoking] a conference of the `six'; that is, the four victorious powers and the two German states." Ties ought to be maintained with the leadership of the DDR, and "our policy in the German question must be closely coordinated with Paris and London."[39]

The memoirs agree that by January 1990 the two superpowers had independently reached the conclusion that the four victorious powers of World War II and the two German states should be at the center of discussions fixing the terms of German unification. But what remained unclear was the priority to be assigned to these two distinct groups. To President Bush, as well as the West German government of Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Genscher, the two German states should shoulder primary responsibility for resolving intra-German unification issues, calling upon the four powers only after unification was settled, when the abdication of four-power rights as well as Germany's external relations would be at stake. In fact, Genscher himself claims original paternity for the Two plus Four (not "Four plus Two") approach, citing his talks with US National Security Adviser Brent Scrowcroft during a November 1989 visit to Washington.[40] The question as to whether negotiations would occur within a six-person meeting, or first be tackled by the four or the two, remained to be resolved.

Following close consultations with the NATO Allies, and especially with Bonn, Secretary of State Baker flew to Moscow in early February 1990 to seek clarification of the preferred Soviet negotiating forum. Initial discussions with Shevardnadze produced few results, since the Soviet Foreign Minister argued that the four powers should bear primary responsibility for the inevitable unification. Shevardnadze "was annoyed that his Foreign Ministry's pleas to invoke Four Power intervention had been rebuffed. He blamed the Americans."[41] No agreement appeared possible. But Gorbachev was more forthcoming: "I say Four plus Two; you say Two plus Four," Gorbachev told Baker. "How do you look at this formula?" And when Baker had explained the advantages of his approach, Gorbachev replied: "I share the course of your thinking. The process is under way." Delighted with this breakthrough, Baker recalls, "I pocketed his assent quietly and quickly." [42]

Several days later, already having received a report from Baker, Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Genscher arrived in Moscow. During a lengthy discussion at which it was agreed unification was fast approaching, Gorbachev mentioned Baker's idea of Two plus Four. Kohl calmly replied that was "a good suggestion."[43] To Kohl's National Security Adviser Teltschik, final confirmation that it would indeed be Two plus Four, and not the reverse, came with the Soviet Official News Bureau report on the meeting. According to TASS:

Gorbachev affirmed and the Chancellor agreed that there presently are no differences of opinion between the USSR, the [Federal Republic] and the DDR, and that the issue of unity of the German nation must be resolved by the Germans themselves [as well as the issue of] what type of state, at what time, with what speed, and under what conditions this unity should be realized.[44]

One might assume that following these two high-level meetings, the question of which forum would have primary responsibility for unification finally was closed. But when representatives of the 23 nations composing NATO and the Warsaw Pact convened for their first-ever meeting in mid-February 1990 in Ottawa, Soviet objections arose once more. And once again, Secretary of State Baker took the initiative in seeking a solution. Meeting first with his counterparts from France, Britain, and West Germany, Baker drafted a public announcement for Shevardnadze to sign. In this way, with Two plus Four confirmed in black and white, unification might proceed without interruption. The key sentence noted that following the 18 March elections in East Germany, representatives of the two German states "would meet with the [four] victorious powers to discuss the external aspects of German unification."[45] After some insignificant modifications in the overall announcement to placate Shevardnadze, as well as some last-minute discussions between Washington and Bonn, the announcement was signed. The Soviets had once and for all agreed to the Western approach. Domestic issues of unification would be resolved by the Germans themselves--a formula designed to ensure that the resulting single state would maintain a Western orientation.

When Shevardnadze returned home, his assent to the US-sponsored Two plus Four formula was met with near rebellion. According to Valentin Falin, Gorbachev adviser Chernyayev, prior to releasing an official Soviet statement on the Ottawa meeting, asked Shevardnadze to clear up a point of confusion:

Anatoly Chernyayev was preparing a press statement in the name of the President which should define what significance ought to be ascribed to the negotiations in general, and especially to the 4 plus 2 formula. The minister [Shevardnadze] was very forthcoming but suggested a bit more precision. "It would be better to use the formula 2 plus 4." Immediately after this embarrassing discussion, Chernyayev spoke to me [Falin]: "It is outrageous! Mikhail Sergevich [Gorbachev] made it crystal clear to him that for us only the formula 4 plus 2 should be discussed."

When Chernyayev asked Shevardnadze why he had conceded this crucial point, the Foreign Minister simply responded: "Genscher had requested it, and Genscher is a good man."[46]

The Ottawa Conference also ended any Soviet hopes that the NATO Allies might be used to influence unification in a manner favorable to Moscow. Gorbachev's proposal at the January meeting of his advisers to coordinate policy with Britain and France quickly proved itself bankrupt. Both during the conference and before, Baker took pains to coordinate the American-West German approach with the Allies. If any doubts remained as to the possibility of "interference" from without, Genscher resolved it forcibly at the Ottawa meeting himself. Aware of some remaining hesitancy as to the Two plus Four approach, Genscher cornered several NATO Foreign Ministers and read them the riot act. "Do you belong to the Four Powers responsible for Germany? Are you one of the two German states? You are none of the above. You are not part of the game!"[47]

Membership in NATO

If resolution of the Two plus Four approach was the single most important decision concerning the domestic aspects of German unification, membership in NATO undoubtedly was the key external issue. Ten days following the close of the Ottawa Conference, Chancellor Kohl arrived in Washington with an unambiguous statement as to a united Germany's desired alignment. "Germany doesn't want neutrality in any way," Kohl told Baker. "This would be a deadly decision. There is no serious interest in it. A united Germany will be a member of NATO."[48]

For Baker, this was heartening news, since this fully accorded with policy papers he had earlier approved. Equally important, Kohl's assertions revealed that initial ambiguities in the West German approach to the issue had been resolved. As Zelikow and Rice recall: "The American government noted that Kohl, when asked in a mid-January [1990] press interview whether a reunited Germany would be a member of NATO, replied that it was too early to say."[49] Even Foreign Minister Genscher felt compelled, following Kohl's interview, to officially dismiss in a major address in Tutzing any speculation as to German firmness.[50] And yet for the Americans, this was of only modest help, since Genscher too was suspected of harboring his own reservations on the NATO issue. "Intelligence reports available to American officials alleged that Genscher saw NATO as continuing only in the short term and that he was considering announcing new, pan-European security ideas later in 1990."[51]

Resolution of the matter between America and Germany, supported by both France and Britain, with whom policy had been coordinated, placed the ball squarely in the Soviet court. If this issue were designated as beyond the competence of Germany itself, and reserved for discussion by the four victorious powers as an external problem, difficult if not impossible negotiations lay ahead. Moscow's view now was crucial.

In February 1990, during his visit to Moscow, Secretary Baker had raised this very question with Gorbachev. As Gorbachev recalls:

Baker attempted to convince me of the advantages of Germany remaining within NATO compared to her future neutralization. The continuous US military presence in Germany and continued German membership in NATO would give the US and the West some levers of control of German domestic and foreign policy. A neutral Germany, on the other hand, outside of alliance obligations, might again become a source of European instability.

Then trying another tack, Baker suggested that future NATO membership for united Germany would not be accompanied by an expansion of NATO's legal jurisdiction nor by expansion of NATO troops east of the present NATO frontier. But even with this sweetener, Gorbachev remained hesitant. As he recalls, "We reached no agreement."[52]

Gorbachev's hesitancy arose from conflicting suggestions of his advisers. At the January 1990 meeting mentioned above in connection with the Two plus Four debate, Falin had informed his boss, "One ought not to accept an expansion of NATO control into East Germany as inevitable." Shevardnadze, in contrast, seemed unable to find a solution to the issue, commenting that "[we must] follow developments closely," and "avoid statements that tie our hands."[53] To Marshal Akhromeev, who was present at the meeting, and his coauthor First Deputy of Foreign Affairs Kornienko, who was not, no clear resolution of the problem was reached prior to Baker and Kohl's February visit to Moscow:

Essentially, the Soviet position on the issues of German unification during all these meetings boiled down to a common formula--one should take into account the security interests of other states. But how to do this remained unclear. It was not made clear, for example, that the inclusion of a united Germany in NATO would be incompatible with the security interests of the Soviet Union.[54]

In the months following the Baker and Kohl meetings in Moscow, ambiguity continued to dog the Soviet position. In mid-March, Pravda published an official statement from Shevardnadze's Foreign Ministry rejecting the inclusion of a united Germany in NATO. Yet a scant week later, on 21 March, Shevardnadze personally told his German colleague Genscher: "I understand that Germany cannot leave NATO."[55] Conversely, Chernyayev recalls a stormy spring discussion of the German issue at the Soviet Party Politburo, where "Gorbachev allowed himself to be carried along by the discussion, and categorically rejected Germany remaining in NATO."[56] Late in May, Gorbachev confirmed his new, apparently firm, view to Baker, saying "that a unified Germany in NATO was impossible."[57] And yet two weeks later, the Soviet leader was ready to acknowledge united Germany's right to select the alliance it might wish to join.

The time and place of this startling reversal was the Washington summit meeting which opened on 30 May. The general topic was the nature of state sovereignty. The importance of this issue makes a lengthy quotation necessary. As James Baker recalls:

After more fruitless back-and-forth, the President tried a different tack. Under CSCE principles, he said, all countries had a right to choose their own alliance. Thus Germany should be able to decide which alliance it would join. "Isn't that so?" he asked Gorbachev. "Yes," Gorbachev said, nodding in agreement.

The President was as startled as anyone. "I'm glad that you and I seem to agree that nations can choose their own alliances," he said, trying to get Gorbachev to reaffirm his new position.

"So we put it this way," Gorbachev responded. "The US and the USSR are in favor of Germany deciding herself in which alliance she would like to participate," following a Two plus Four settlement.

The President didn't want such a neutral formula. He suggested instead, "The United States is unequivocally advocating Germany's membership in NATO. However, should Germany prefer to make a different choice, we will respect it."

"I agree," said Gorbachev.[58]

Interestingly, Gorbachev too recounts this conversation, confirming the flow of words and the common conclusion. But he adds an additional twist. Gorbachev asserts that it was the Soviet side which insisted Germany be allowed to select the alliance it wished:

"You maintain," I countered Bush, "we have no confidence in the Germans. Why then have we given our support to their wish for unity? . . . We gave them the possibility to make their decision in a democratic manner. On the other hand, you state that you trust the West German Republic, but nonetheless drag them into NATO, giving them no chance, following the final arrangement, to determine their own fate. Let us allow Germany herself to decide in which alliance she wishes to be."[59]

Finally, the case was closed.


With the NATO issue resolved as clearly in Western favor as the question of Two plus Four, the way was open for a soon-to-be-unified Germany to take its place in the Western camp. The month following the May 1990 Gorbachev-Bush summit, Kohl and Genscher arrived in Moscow for the final discussions. And while a number of details remained to be worked through, the devil was not in them.

On the very eve of the Kohl-Gorbachev summit, Valentin Falin tried one last time to caution Gorbachev. By phone, he pleaded with Gorbachev to withdraw concessions Falin saw as inimical to Soviet security interests. NATO was prominent on the list: "No participation of a united Germany in NATO," he urged Gorbachev. The Soviet leader's response did not put him at ease: "I will do what I can but I fear that the train already has left the station."[60]

Four months after the Kohl-Gorbachev visit, a new, enlarged Germany, having achieved unification through intra-German discussions and firmly anchored in NATO, became the newest power on the international scene.


1. As quoted in Michael R. Beschloss and Strobe Talbot, At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War (Boston: Little, Brown, 1993), pp. 168-69.

2. Boris Yeltsin, The Struggle for Russia, trans. Catherine A. Fitzpatrick (New York: Belke Publications, Times Books, 1994), p. 35.

3. Horst Teltschik, 329 Tage: Innen-ansichten der Einigung (Berlin: Siedler, 1993), p. 2.

4. James A. Baker III, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1995).

5. Jack F. Matlock, Jr., Autopsy on an Empire (New York: Random House, 1995).

6. Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1995).

7. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Erinnerungen (Berlin: Siedler, 1995).

8. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Der Vertrag: Wie ich ueber die deutsche Einheit verhandelte (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1991).

9. Teltschik, op. cit.

10. Mikhail Gorbachev, Erinnerungen (Berlin: Siedler, 1995).

11. Eduard Shevardnadze, Moi vybor (Moscow: Novesti, 1991).

12. Valentin Falin, Politische Erinnerungen (Munich: Droemersche Verlagsanstalt Th Knaur Nachf., 1993).

13. Julij A. Kwizinskij, Vor dem Sturm: Erinnerungen eines Diplomaten (Berlin: Siedler, 1993).

14. Anatoli Tschernajew, Die letzten Jahre einer Weltmacht: Der Kreml von innen (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1993).

15. S. Akhromeev and G. Kornienko, Glazami Marshala i Diplomata (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye Otnoshenie, 1992).

16. Baker, p. 91.

17. Ibid., p. 87.

18. Genscher, p. 598.

19. Ibid., pp. 603, 606.

20. Baker, p. 94.

21. Genscher, pp. 615-16.

22. Baker, p. 90.

23. Ibid., pp. 95-96; Genscher, pp. 618-20.

24. Gorbachev, p. 839. Emphasis added.

25. Ibid., p. 847.

26. Ibid., p. 928.

27. Kwizinskij, p. 263.

28. Ibid., pp. 265-66.

29. Gorbachev, p. 930.

30. Ibid., pp. 928-29.

31. Falin, p. 483.

32. Kwizinskij, pp. 265-66; Shevardnadze, p. 223.

33. Falin, p. 480.

34. Ibid., p. 481.

35. Ibid. Emphasis added.

36. Zelikow and Rice, p. 167.

37. Chernyayev, p. 296.

38. Ibid., p. 297.

39. Gorbachev, p. 715.

40. Genscher, p. 667.

41. Zelikow and Rice, p. 181.

42. Baker, p. 205.

43. Teltschik, p. 141.

44. Ibid., p. 143.

45. Baker, p. 211. Emphasis added.

46. Falin, p. 492. Emphasis in the original.

47. Genscher, p. 729.

48. Baker, p. 230.

49. Zelikow and Rice, p. 166.

50. Genscher, p. 713.

51. Zelikow and Rice, p. 175.

52. Gorbachev, p. 715.

53. Falin, p. 490.

54. Akhromeev and Kornienko, p. 259.

55. Genscher, p. 749.

56. Chernyayev, p. 297.

57. Baker, p. 251.

58. Ibid., p. 253.

59. Gorbachev, p. 722. Emphasis added.

60. Falin, p. 494.

Dr. Michael M. Boll is a professor of history at San Jose State University. He previously taught international security affairs at the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, and, before that, Soviet history and government at San Jose State University and at University College, Galway, Ireland. Dr. Boll also served on the Policy Planning Staff in the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, as a Foreign Service Officer with the US Information Agency, and as a Soviet Analyst with Radio Free Europe. He has published widely on Soviet and East European security issues.

Reviewed 5 November 1996. Please send comments or corrections to