This year, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary to the fall of the Berlin Wall and supposed end of history, capitalism and liberal democracy having won out, it is easy to forget that the big ideological debate of the first half of the twentieth century was about capitalism versus socialism, often used ideology by Communism. For many Germans the day the Berlin Wall was opened is such a day.
There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. Built in 1961, the Berlin Wall became known as a symbol of communist oppression. 25 years later after the fall of the Berlin Wall November 9th 1989 , a united Germany would become the most significant country in Europe and that was important from a strategic perspective, but it also had implications for the diplomacy.
The division of Germany began with the end of the Second World War in 1945, when the victorious wartime allies Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States marked off four occupation zones in the remaining German territory and the capital Berlin. In the years to follow, the four powers found themselves unable to agree on a common future for Germany.
Yet, like everything else that unexpected event of Berlin Wall also includes events and other changing diplomacy that have been long in making. One is “Ich bin ein Berliner” U.S. President John F. Kennedys famous speech in the 1963 now considered a benchmark in Presidential history. In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Germany and Berlin, a city that had been divided in half by the Berlin Wall as a result of the Cold War. Speaking to an exuberant crowd of West Berliners, JFK stated: What is true of this city is true of Germany: Real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice…When all are free, then we — can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe.
President John F. Kennedy stated the support of the United States for democratic West Germany shortly after the Soviet-supported Communist state of East Germany erected the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement from East to West. Kennedy’s speech marked the first instance where the U.S. acknowledged that East Berlin was part of the Soviet bloc along with the rest of East Germany.
In 1972, US president Richard Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev reached a compromise agreement to hold separate political and military negotiations. During the May–June 1988 Moscow Summit, US President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev emphasized the importance of stability and security in Europe, specifically calling for data exchange, and then reductions. In December Gorbachev announced at the United Nations a unilateral withdrawal of 50,000 troops from Eastern Europe, and demobilization of 500,000 Soviet troops.
Another famous speech is “Tear down that wall”: “Tear down this wall! was the challenge issued by United States President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall, in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin. At that day in that speech Reagan challenged Gorbachev, who was then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear it down as an emblem of Gorbachev’s desire to increase freedom in the Eastern Bloc through glasnost (“transparency”) and perestroika (“restructuring”)
As the speech was being drafted, inclusion of the words became a source of considerable controversy within the Reagan administration. President Reagan’s 1987 visit came at a time of heightened East-West tensions, caused in particular by the debate over verification of these data, and the stationing of short range American missiles in Europe and the United States’ record peacetime defense buildup.
Officially, Berlin was under joint occupation by the four allied powers, each with primary responsibility for a certain zone. Twenty-nine months later, on November 9, 1989, after increasing public unrest, East Germany finally opened the Berlin Wall. With the collapse of the Communist governments of Eastern Europe and, eventually, the Soviet Union itself.
Robert Zoellick, the US Chief Negotiator for the 2+4 negotiations that led to German unification, put this and the diplomacy from the US into a little of perspective and this reflects the debate about what was going to happen to the East-Germany and also a strategic judgment just after the wall was opened.
For President George H. Bush NATO summit in May becomes very important in establishing Bush’s leadership of the alliance, moving the short-range nuclear issue to the side and starting to build what became a very important and indeed historic partnership for the future between Germany within the European Union, the United States and NATO alliance security guarantee that comes from NATO membership.
Relatively early in his tenure President Bush made a rather bold move at the May NATO summit where he moved the agenda away from the nuclear arms control that had dominated the late Reagan years to a very aggressive proposal on conventional forces, to both lower and equalize them in Central and Eastern Europe.
In Zoellick´s view this move was, in part, a way of getting ahead of the debate on short-range nuclear forces, because short-range nuclear forces would be less important if we created a conventional balance. But it was also a way of changing the dynamic to a sense of getting Soviet forces to leave Central and Eastern Europe.
According to Zoellick: what actually made the diplomacy easier from the US perspective than in Britain, France or Italy or elsewhere was that the American people were naturally in sympathy of the idea of Germany uniting. But then later the real challenge was how to try to achieve a united Germany within NATO and within European structures that would create reassurance for others in Europe, but also create an architecture for future security stability in the transatlantic area and with the then Soviet Union.
The Chancellor of Unity and Presiden G.H. Bush, definitely were “on the right side of history” says Zoellick, US Chief Negotiator for the 2+4 negotiations that led to German unification. In this sense Gorbachev was also at the center of these events that can not be denied.
But, ultimately it comes down to the people and the story of freedom. The German people were the moving force on this events, which was one of the most significant events of the past half-century in European history. On the night of November 9th, 1989, the East German people, through their courage and non-violent resistance, unexpectedly brought down that Berlin Wall. In November as the Berlin Wall fell in the following months revolutions broke out in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The images of the peaceful march around Leipzig’s city center ring road became an inspiration which encouraged more and more people in more and more towns and cities throughout the GDR.