For all the discontinuities of West German policy since 1949, one can but admire the grand continuity in which all chancellors from Adenauer to Kohl, all foreign ministers, all federal governments over forty years, now this way, now that, now in the West, now in the East, pursued the cause of German liberation.
Historians will argue whether Adenauer's integration into the West or Brandt's Ostpolitik contributed more to the success of the past year. There is much to be said for the claim that the East Central European year of wonders, 1989, was a late triumph of Adenauer's "magnet theory"—the idea that the attraction of a free and prosperous West Germany embedded in a free and prosperous Western Europe would sooner or later draw the unfree and impoverished East Germany irresistibly toward it. But could the magnet have exerted its full attractive force if the blocking Iron Curtain had not first been drawn back by the Ostpolitik, which Willy Brandt launched in the late 1960s? And it was not Bonn's Western but rather its Eastern ties—above all, those to Moscow—that directly permitted the transformation of an East German movement for freedom into an all-German state of unity.
Yet this East German rising for freedom was not contemplated in Bonn's policy toward East Germany. Those in the GDR who contributed most to Germany's peaceful October revolution—the tiny minority of human- and civil-rights campaigners—had benefited least from the Federal Republic's governmental policy toward the GDR. Bonn politicians now ritually celebrate the "peaceful revolution." Two years ago [= 1988], most of those same politicians would have described it as "dangerous destabilization." Yes, it was a "dangerous destabilization" that made German unification possible. Without the brave minority that faced down armed police on the streets of Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin, the ultimate goal of Bonn's policy would never have been achieved—Gorbachev or no Gorbachev....
The pioneers of social emancipation and democratization in the GDR were then overtaken rapidly by those who wanted to have done with the GDR altogether. By this time, the two parallel sets of negotiations for unification—the "internal" ones, between the two German states ("1+1"), and the "external" ones, between the two German states and the four post-1945 occupying powers ("2+4")—were already underway.
To describe these seven hectic months of intricate negotiation would require not an essay but a compendium. The 31 August treaty on unification between the two German states is a book in itself—243 pages of small print in the official government bulletin. Formally, they were "1+1" and "2+4" negotiations. In practice, they were "1+1/4" and "1+1+1" negotiations. The first and last freely elected East Berlin government was not an equal partner in the German–German talks. The Bonn government basically set the terms of the internal unification, its officials drafting treaties that bore a remarkable resemblance to the finished product. Many East German politicians and intellectuals in both halves of Germany were understandably miffed by this procedure. "Anschluss," said some. Yet was it not for this that the majority of the people had voted in March? And, despite widespread economic distress, the majority expressed its basic satisfaction with the result, on 14 October , in the first elections for the five reconstituted Lander of the former GDR. Chancellor Kohl's CDU was the overall winner everywhere except in Brandenburg (where the Social Democrats' leader is a prominent Protestant churchman} and secured more than 45 percent of the vote in Saxony and Thuringia.
The external negotiation was basically between the Federal Republic, the Soviet Union, and the United States, in that order. The Bonn government makes no secret of the fact that it was the United States, rather than France or Britain, that was its crucial Western supporter in the whole process. Washington was not just self-evidently more important in talks with Moscow but also more unreservedly supportive than London or Paris—a fact that has done some damage to the Franco-German "axis." Yet the central negotiation was that between Bonn and Moscow. In Moscow in February, Chancellor Kohl secured Gorbachev's assent to unification in one state. In Stavropol in July, he secured Gorbachev's assent to the full sovereignty of the united state, including its membership in NATO—although a NATO redefined by the "London Declaration" a few days before. Soviet troops would leave Germany by 1994.
23 January 2008
Credits for German Reunification
From History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s, by Timothy Garton Ash (Vintage, 1999), pp. 57-59: