Friday, September 11, 2009

Mr. Gorbachev, Don't Tear Down this Wall!

From archives in Moscow comes the startling news that Margaret Thatcher was not quite delirious about the possibility of German reunification. The Times:

"Two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it"

"In an extraordinary frank meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1989 — never before fully reported — Mrs Thatcher said the destabilisation of Eastern Europe and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact were also not in the West’s interests. She noted the huge changes happening across Eastern Europe, but she insisted that the West would not push for its decommunisation. Nor would it do anything to risk the security of the Soviet Union."
People will be shocked to hear this, I suppose, but it actually makes sense. Tories fear sweeping, revolutionary change, as a rule. Andrew Sullivan writes "Toryism, even Thatcherism, is not neoconservatism, is it?" No, it's not; Tories are just conservatives. Also, people forget now, but there were plenty of people in the West who were not exactly corybantic to see Germany getting back together for another gig. She wasn't alone in that. Revolutionary political changes in huge blocs of the world don't usually happen without great bloodletting. 1989 was messy, but still a miracle. Besides, maintaining the balance of power was more of a thing back then.

It is interesting to hear that Gorbachev thought Erich Honecker was an “arsehole”- he definitely was. It still fascinates me that Gorby was so far-sighted. I really think he was a leader not far below Churchill in the twentieth century pantheon. He played a much more active role in the largely peaceful end of communism in Eastern Europe than people realize. I think we still like to believe that the grandstanding of Western politicians was decisive in killing Soviet communism- it was not. But, we can take some comfort in the fact that the Soviet economy nearly collapsed under communism, beginning to contract by 1971. The brilliance of Gorbachev was that he saw what was coming and successfully steered the ship of state into a radically different future while avoiding massive bloodshed. It could have been a lot worse. Other communist leaders were not nearly so prescient or cool-headed.

No comments: