October 1, 2010


'I Preferred To See It as an Acquisition': In a SPIEGEL interview, former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discusses America's fight for German reunification, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's woes at the time, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's merits and the later mistakes of his successor, Gerhard Schröder. (Der Spiegel, 9/30/10)

SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, European nations like Great Britain and France were very worried about the prospect of German unification. America was the only country that didn't appear to be concerned. Why not?

Condoleezza Rice: The United States -- and President George H.W. Bush -- recognized that Germany had gone through a long democratic transition. It had been a good friend, it was a member of NATO. Any issues that had existed in 1945, it seemed perfectly reasonable to lay them to rest. For us, the question wasn't should Germany unify? It was how and under what circumstances? We had no concern about a resurgent Germany, unlike the British or French.

SPIEGEL: Because a unified German was in America's strategic interest?

Rice: If you were going to have a Europe that was whole and free, you couldn't have a Germany that was divided. So, with the possibility that Soviet power was going to be receding from Europe, it made perfectly good sense to try to achieve reunification on terms that nobody would have thought thinkable, even four or five years before.

SPIEGEL: When did you start believing that unification might be possible?

Rice: As soon as I saw the stirrings in Eastern Europe in August or September of 1989. [...]

SPIEGEL: Were you concerned that Chancellor Kohl might not get reelected in the parliamentary elections for a reunited Germany in 1990?

Rice: We definitely wanted Helmut Kohl to win again.

SPIEGEL: Because you were afraid of a potential chancellor Oskar Lafontaine?

Rice: We were pretty clear about where Helmut Kohl stood. And that was important. Germany was about to unify. That seemed unthinkable for so long -- and you sure don't want anything to go wrong with a German chancellor who suddenly might decide that maybe Germany ought to unify more slowly or in some kind of transitional way. The details mattered. Membership in NATO mattered. The speed mattered.

SPIEGEL: And that would have been jeopardized under a Chancellor Lafontaine?

Rice: It's inconceivable that any German chancellor could have said, "I don't want Germany to unify." But it is conceivable that you could have had some long transition or a scenario where West Germany is not the surviving state and East Germany goes away, which was how we viewed unification. We had similar concerns about German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who also seemed to think of the unification process as more of a merger. I preferred to see it as an acquisition.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 1, 2010 5:20 AM
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