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[B]Just another colour revolution?

Berlin Wall Legend Shattered

[Image: img-bs-top---mohr-berlin-wall_194535139545.jpg] AP Photo New revelations in Germany have shattered the official story on how the wall came down 20 years ago. Far from a spontaneous protest, it was a carefully planned government plot.
The fall of the Berlin Wall on the night of Nov. 9, 1989, has always been portrayed as the spontaneous result of a foul-up at a press conference: East German government spokesman Günter Schabowski, finishing up an evening briefing, shuffled through a stack of notes and came upon one more thing he needed to announce. He paused before saying that travel restrictions were to be lifted. The freedom for East Germans to travel beyond the wall was at hand. Pressed for details about when the measure would take effect, Schabowski stammered, apparently unprepared, and replied, “Immediately, as far as I know.”
Not only was the GDR leadership planning to open the wall, but by Nov. 6, Kohl’s office knew the East German government was already planning to do so.
Soon afterward, East Berliners lined up at various checkpoints and demanded to be let through to West Berlin. At about 8:30 p.m., a little-known checkpoint between Waltersdorfer Chaussee in the East and Rudow in the West opened; about an hour later, the famous scene at the border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse began to unfold, with a huge crowd gathering there before the gates were fully opened around 11:30 p.m.; then Checkpoint Charlie opened and the party was on. It was all a surprise in the West, sudden and unexpected, with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on a state visit to Poland, rushing back as events unfolded.
This version of history, however, has been contradicted by information about the days preceding the fall of the wall that has emerged in recent German news reports. A new chain of events has commentators wondering whether the seemingly inadvertent fall of the wall was in fact “staged,” as a headline last week in Munich’s nationally significant Suddeutsche Zeitung put it. Not only was the GDR leadership planning to open the wall, but by Nov. 6, Kohl’s office knew the East German government was already planning to do so.
The plan was revealed on Oct. 29, 1989, during a lunch meeting at East Berlin’s Palast hotel between Walter Momper, the mayor of West Berlin, and the official who would open the wall less than two weeks later, Günter Schabowski. At the meeting, arranged by prominent Eastern church leaders and assistants to Momper, Schabowski told Momper in unambiguous language that the GDR would soon lift travel restrictions for all its citizens.
“We’re putting together a travel bill worthy of the name,” Schabowski said. “There will be travel freedom.” Subsequent conversation included discussions of logistical topics such as which checkpoints could be opened to best facilitate use of the subway system, as well as the volume of visitors to expect.
The Berlin municipal government sprang into action, establishing a task force to prepare for the imminent arrival of what they thought could be half a million GDR citizens. The task force met for the first time on Nov. 1, trying to anticipate, among other things, how to prepare the transit system for this massive influx.
On Nov. 6, Momper sent a communiqué to Kohl, explaining that the Berlin government was operating under the assumption that the wall would be opened by December, and suggesting the federal government also prepare for this eventuality. (In an interview in the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung last week, Momper claimed he also alerted Allied forces in Berlin.) In his letter to Kohl, the mayor used the phrase weitgehende Reisefreiheit—broad travel freedom—to describe what was on the way, saying “virtually every GDR citizen will soon be able to travel.” The chancellor’s office did not reply.
Details of the secret meeting between Momper and Schabowski emerged in the last few months; last week came hard evidence, when as part of a documentary about the fall of the wall, the TV station ZDF showed for the first time the letter Momper sent Kohl.
At the beginning of the second week of November 1989, Berlin newspapers reported on the city task force beneath such headlines as “As if the Wall Were Nothing More Than History.” The reports were ignored by the national and international media.
Then on Thursday, Nov. 9, the mayor was interrupted during a meeting and informed that the new travel rules might be revealed by the East German government that day. Momper had his staff notify the mass transit authority to expect additional riders. Schabowski held his news conference that evening, and 2 million Easterners streamed into West Berlin during the first weekend alone.
Tim Mohr spent most of the 1990s as a club DJ in Berlin and much of the current decade as a staff editor at Playboy magazine. He is the translator of the German novels Guantanamo, by Dorothea Dieckmann, which won the Three Percent award for best translation of 2007, and the international best seller Wetlands, by Charlotte Roche. His translation of Broken Glass Park, by Alina Bronsky, will be published in April, 2010. He is currently at work on a book on the punk music scene in East Germany.
Washington, D.C., November 7, 2009 - The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago generated major anxiety in capitals from Warsaw to Washington, to the point of outright opposition to the possibility of German unification, according to documents from Soviet, American and European secret files posted on the Web today by the National Security Archive.
Solidarity hero Lech Walesa told West German chancellor Helmut Kohl on the very day the Wall would fall that "events in the GDR [East Germany] are developing too quickly" and "at the wrong time," that the Wall could fall in a week or two (it would be a matter of hours) and then Kohl and the West would shift all their attention and aid to the GDR, leaving poor Poland "in the background." And indeed, Kohl cut short his visit to Warsaw and flew back to Germany as soon as the news arrived of the breach of the Wall.
British prime minister Margaret Thatcher earlier had told Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev that "Britain and Western Europe are not interested in the unification of Germany. The words written in the NATO communiqué may sound different, but disregard them." Top Gorbachev aide Anatoly Chernyaev concluded that Thatcher wanted to prevent unification "with our hands" and not her own.
Former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski informed Soviet Politburo member Aleksandr Yakovlev, "I openly said that I am in favor of Poland and Hungary remaining in the Warsaw Treaty Organization. Both blocs should not be disbanded right now. I do not know what will happen if the GDR ceases to exist. There will be one Germany, united and strong. This does not correspond to either your or our interests."
One of the few highest-level expressions of joy over the fall of the Wall actually occurred in Moscow, in the diary of Gorbachev aide Chernyaev, who wrote on November 10, "The Berlin Wall has collapsed. This entire era in the history of the socialist system is over… That is what Gorbachev has done. And he has indeed turned out to be a great leader. He has sensed the pace of history and helped history to find a natural channel."
The new documents, most of them appearing in English for the first time, are part of the forthcoming book, "Masterpieces of History": The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989, edited by the National Security Archive's Svetlana Savranskaya, Thomas Blanton, and Vladislav Zubok and published by the Central European University Press (Budapest/New York) in the Archive's Cold War Reader series edited by Malcolm Byrne.

Read the Documents
Document 1: CIA Intelligence Assessment, "Gorbachev's Domestic Gambles and Instability in the USSR," September 1989
This controversial assessment from the CIA's Office of Soviet Analysis separates SOVA from the consensus of the rest of the U.S. intelligence community regarding Gorbachev and his chances for success, or even survival. (Note 1) The document carries a scope note calling it a "speculative paper" because it goes against the general view that would soon be expressed in a Fall 1989 National Intelligence Estimate. That NIE would predict that Gorbachev would survive the coming economic crisis of 1990-91 without resorting to widespread repression (only targeted acts of suppression, as in Tbilisi)--a relatively optimistic conclusion that would play a major role in the Bush administration's embrace of Gorbachev at Malta in December.
In the assessment below, authored by senior analyst Grey Hodnett, SOVA takes a much bleaker view, essentially concluding that Gorbachev's reforms will fail, precipitating a coup, a crackdown, and perhaps even the piecemeal breakup of the empire. The United States "for the foreseeable future will confront a Soviet leadership that faces endemic popular unrest and that, on a regional basis at least, will have to employ emergency measures and increased use of force to retain domestic control." The paper further predicts that "Moscow's focus on internal order in the USSR is likely to accelerate the decay of Communist systems and growth of regional instability in Eastern Europe, pointing to the need for post-Yalta arrangements of some kind." What exactly "post-Yalta" means is unclear, but may simply be a reference to the new non-communist government in Poland (installed in August), that explicitly chose to remain a part of the Warsaw Treaty Organization. Under any circumstances, orchestrating such an arrangement would be a major challenge for the United States.

Document 2: National Security Directive (NSD) 23, "United States Relations with the Soviet Union," September 22, 1989
This National Security Directive, representing the formal expression of U.S. foreign policy at the highest levels, was apparently drafted as early as April 1989, and its conclusions duly reflect how divorced U.S. policy in this period is from the radical transformations occurring in Eastern Europe. Among the document's hesitant predictions: "[t]he character of the changes taking place in the Soviet Union leads to the possibility that a new era may be now upon us. We may be able to move beyond containment to a U.S. policy that actively promotes the integration of the Soviet Union into the existing international system." First, however, "Moscow must authoritatively renounce the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine' and reaffirm the pledge of signatories to the U.N. Charter to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." It is almost as if the authors never read Gorbachev's United Nations speech in December 1988, much less his Strasbourg address in July 1989. Perhaps the most sterile prescription in the document is the president's directive to the secretary of state to eliminate "threatening Soviet positions of influence around the world." Precisely what positions were these in the latter half of 1989? Again reflecting a sense of caution that willfully ignores the events on the ground in Eastern Europe, the authors declare hopefully: "[w]e may find that the nature of the threat itself has changed, though any such transformation could take decades." These policy recommendations would perhaps be appropriate for 1986, but they are completely outdated in 1989.
Document 3: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, September 23, 1989
These notes of Margaret Thatcher's conversation with Gorbachev contain the British leader's most sensitive views on Germany--so confidential that she requests no written record be made of them during the meeting. Chernyaev complies but immediately afterwards rushes outside and writes down her comments from memory. The talks open with a candid exchange in which Gorbachev explains the recent (September 19-20) Party Plenum's decisions on ethnic conflict, and why he does not believe in the Chinese model: "how can you reform both the economy and politics without democratizing society, without glasnost, which incorporates individuals into an active socio-political life?" Thatcher replies, "I understand your position [on Eastern Europe] in the following way: you are in favor of each country choosing its own road of development so long as the Warsaw Treaty is intact. I understand this position perfectly."
At this point, the prime minister asks that note-taking be discontinued. Her words are indeed forceful, and imply a certain tradeoff--I understand your position on Eastern Europe, please accept mine on Germany: "Britain and Western Europe are not interested in the unification of Germany. The words written in the NATO communiqué may sound different, but disregard them. We do not want the unification of Germany." Of course, "[w]e are not interested in the destabilization of Eastern Europe or the dissolution of the Warsaw treaty either ... I can tell you that this is also the position of the U.S. president." No doubt the Russians took note that the U.S. reassurance only applied to Eastern Europe and not to German unification; but the vehemence of Thatcher's opposition to the idea of unification provides a certain comfort to Gorbachev that he would rely on until it was too late for him actually to prevent the merger.
Document 4: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding German Reunification, October 9, 1989
This diary entry reflects the overestimation, by Gorbachev and his top aides, of the strength of West European opposition to German reunification. Chernyaev notes with approval the chorus of French official voices that have spoken quietly against "one Germany," as well as the earlier Gorbachev conversations with Margaret Thatcher (see Document No. 3). But a note of realism emerges as Chernyaev concludes that the West Europeans want Moscow to do their dirty work: "they want to prevent this [reunification] with our hands."
Document 5: Record of Conversation between Vadim Medvedev and Kurt Hager, October 13, 1989
Just a week after Gorbachev's visit to Berlin, senior GDR party leader Kurt Hager and the Soviet Politburo member in charge of ideology, Vadim Medvedev, meet for several hours in Moscow. This memorandum provides an ample dose of the kind of party jargon that was the staple of such "fraternal" conversations in the Soviet bloc. Rote invocations of eternal Soviet-East German friendship are followed by rhetorical commitments to continuing the building of socialism. But the real problems of the day continually force their way into the discussion. Hager admits that an "inconsistency" between "everyday experiences" and "official reporting" has led to the spread of "a justifiable discontent" across society. Yet, the two party loyalists conclude, all this is really the result of "a massive campaign by the enemy" of "psychological warfare against the GDR, the SED, and socialism." For them, the campaign has been a "complete failure," notwithstanding the thousands of recent East German émigrés, the church dignitaries joining the political opposition, the street demonstrations, and all the other visible evidence of the GDR's imminent collapse.
Document 6: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Willy Brandt, October 17, 1989
In this conversation, Brandt and Gorbachev discuss changes under way in Eastern Europe and Germany and note the closeness of Soviet-West German contacts after Gorbachev's visit to Bonn in June 1989. The Soviet leader calls for stability and gradual character of processes, informing Brandt that "I said to Mitterrand, Kohl, and Thatcher: it would be unacceptable for someone to behave like an elephant in a china shop right now." In the one-on-one portion of the conversation Brandt and Gorbachev talk specifically about unification of Germany but set it in the framework of the "all-European process," in other words, building of the common European home comes first and then within that home gradual unification could take place.
Document 7: Record of Telephone Conversation between George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl, October 23, 1989
Not only does Helmut Kohl initiate this telephone call, he also leads the entire conversation, giving the American president a detailed briefing, country-by-country, about the changes in Eastern Europe. Kohl says he is supporting the Hungarian reform communists "quite vigorously," and that "our Western friends and partners should be doing more" to aid Poland. He foresees more than 150,000 refugees from the GDR by Christmas, and reaffirms his commitment to NATO. Bush's response shows his concern from media stories "about German reunification resulting in a neutralist Germany and a threat to Western security"--"we do not believe that," he insists--and he almost plaintively seeks credit for the $200 million that the U.S. will contribute to a Poland stabilization fund (hardly the new Marshall Plan that would be called for by, among others, Lech Wałęsa in his November 15 address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress). But Bush, characteristically, is determined not to move "so fast as to be reckless."
Document 8: Record of Conversation between Aleksandr Yakovlev and Zbigniew Brzezinski, October 31, 1989
The leading Soviet reformer on the Politburo finds surprising agreement on the German question in this meeting with the Polish-American observer, Zbigniew Brzezinski, whom the Soviets had vilified as an enemy of détente when he served as President Carter's national security adviser in the late 1970s. (Cementing his reputation for iconoclasm, Brzezinski would subsequently endorse Ronald Reagan for re-election in 1984.) In a tribute to glasnost, Brzezinski thanks Yakovlev for permitting a ceremonial visit to Katyń, the site of the World War II massacre of Polish officers by Stalin's NKVD, which Soviet propaganda had long blamed on the Nazis.
This frank discussion of the future of Europe features Yakovlev's repeated notion of the mutual dissolution of NATO and the Warsaw Pact versus Brzezinski's argument that the blocs should remain stable, and even the new governments of Poland and Hungary should remain part of the Warsaw Treaty Organization. Like Gorbachev's quotation of Giscard d'Estaing, Yakovlev foresees a Europe with "a common parliament, common affairs and trade relations," along with open borders. He warns against any intervention by the U.S. or Western Europe in the processes underway in the East; and he declares that the lesson of Afghanistan is that "not one Soviet soldier should be in a foreign country with the purpose of conducting warfare." Yakovlev wants the "same understanding" from the American side.
For his part, Brzezinski makes a number of prescient observations, contrasting the state of reform in the USSR (a "rift" between political and economic reform, with the former much further along) to that of China (economic but not political change), predicting that Czechoslovakia would soon follow the path of Poland and Hungary (this would happen only seven weeks later), and warning that any crumbling of the East German regime would soon lead to German unification--a development that "does not correspond to either your or our interests." Here we see the Polish nationalist worried about "the Prussians" and preferring to keep Europe divided into two blocs rather than deal with "one Germany, united and strong." The next day at a Politburo meeting, Gorbachev would compliment Brzezinski for possessing "global brains."
Document 9: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Egon Krenz, November 1, 1989
Here the Soviet leader receives the new East German replacement for Honecker, Egon Krenz. As interior minister, Krenz had declined to use force to suppress the Leipzig and other demonstrations, yet he would later serve time in unified German jails (unlike Honecker, who would be excused for health reasons) as punishment for the GDR's policy of shooting Berlin Wall jumpers. Krenz tells Gorbachev, in effect, that his country's policy has changed, citing "orders to our border troops not to use weapons at the border," as part of an attempt to address the pressing refugee crisis.
Apparently meeting with Gorbachev's approval, Krenz mentions in passing a new draft "law on foreign travel" that would loosen restrictions. This proposed law would figure directly in the most dramatic moment of the entire period. On November 9, a party spokesman's unplanned announcement of the new law's immediate effect (rather than the gradual change intended by the SED) at a Berlin press conference would lead to huge crowds pressing through checkpoints at the border with West Berlin culminating later that night in the actual tearing down of the Wall itself. Perhaps at this point Gorbachev is already resigned to the refugee exodus and this presages Moscow's relative calm when the Wall would fall.
With such developments as yet unimagined, the two leaders commiserate about the failures of Krenz's predecessor. Gorbachev even claims that Honecker might have survived had he reformed earlier, but Krenz says Honecker was too threatened by Gorbachev's own popularity. They frankly discuss their mutual economic problems, including Soviet resentment over providing the raw materials for the GDR's factories, and Moscow's sense of Eastern Europe as a burden. The Soviet general secretary also tells a remarkable story about the Politburo's own ignorance of economic matters, describing an episode in the early 1980s when Gorbachev and Ryzhkov tried to obtain some budget information only to be warned away by then-leader Yuri Andropov.
On the German question, both the Soviet and the East German take comfort that "the majority of Western leaders do not want to see the dissolution" of the blocs nor the unification of Germany. But within a month the East German parliament would revoke the leading role of the communist party, and Krenz himself would resign on December 6.
Document 10: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session, November 3, 1989
In this excerpt of the Politburo notes, head of the KGB Vladimir Kryuchkov makes an accurate prediction about the rallies that would take place next day in Berlin, showing that the Soviet leadership had a pretty good understanding of the developments on the ground. They also realize that they need the help of the FRG to "keep the GDR afloat." In an surprising proposal, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze suggests that the Soviets should take down the Wall themselves. Gorbachev shares his view that "the West does not want unification of Germany, but it wants to prevent it with our hands."
Document 11: Cable from U.S. Embassy in Sofia to the State Department, "The Nov 10 CC Party Plenum: Little Prospect for Major Changes," November 9, 1989
On the day the Berlin Wall would fall, few could imagine that dramatic events were about to take place across the bloc. Typical of the cautious diplomatic discourse only hours before the ultimate Cold War symbol cracked is this cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria predicting calm and continuity, no "major personnel changes" and no "major change towards a more reform-minded system" as a result of the communist party plenum about to meet in Sofia. The Embassy's information comes from limited sources--two Party officials and a published plenum discussion paper. In fact, at this moment, the 78-year-old Bulgarian party boss Todor Zhivkov is trying to fire his more moderate foreign minister, Petar Mladenov, who within a day would take Zhivkov's job, promise a "modern, democratic, and law-governed state" and receive effusive public congratulations from Gorbachev.
Document 12: Notes of CC CPSU Politburo Session, November 9, 1989
On this historic day featuring the breaching of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Politburo pays no attention at all to Eastern Europe. The leadership's regular weekly meeting mentions not a word about the changes in East Germany, but the reason becomes understandable when one realizes that the subject is the even more chilling prospect of the dissolution of the USSR itself. There is a sense of fatalism in the air about the inevitability of the Baltic countries seceding, and even Gorbachev can propose only a media strategy to try to convince the Balts that separating from the USSR will "doom their people to a miserable existence." As he often does, Prime Minister Ryzhkov plays the role of the panicked Cassandra: "What we should fear is not the Baltics, but Russia and Ukraine. I smell an overall collapse. And then there will be another government, another leadership of the country, already a different country." This time, his prediction would come true.
Document 13: Record of Conversation between Helmut Kohl and Lech Wałęsa, November 9, 1989
When the Berlin Wall is breached, West German Chancelor Helmut Kohl is out of the country--visiting the new democratic leaders of Poland. The Poles, represented by Solidarity hero and Nobel Prize winner Lech Wałęsa, are not at all eager for more change in East Germany. Wałęsa is virtually the only major political figure who foresees the Wall coming down soon--"he wonders whether the Wall will still be standing in one or two weeks"--and is anxious that "events in the GDR are developing too quickly." He even suggests to Kohl that "one must try to slow them down" because "what would happen if the GDR completely opened its border and tore down the Wall--must the Federal Republic of Germany rebuild it [East Germany] again?" The problem for Poland, Wałęsa explains, is that West Germany "would be compelled to direct its gaze toward the GDR as a top priority" and no longer help Poland with its reforms. Kohl demurs and reassures Wałęsa that no matter what, Poland's reforms would remain a priority. Besides, he adds, "[t]here is no military alternative [in the GDR]--either involving their own or Russian soldiers." So events in the GDR, he declares, would remain under control. Within hours, however, the news of the Wall would arrive and Kohl would scramble back to Berlin--and ultimately fulfill Wałęsa's prophecy.
Document 14: George H. W. Bush Remarks and a Question-and Answer Session with Reporters on the Relaxation of East German Border Controls, November 9, 1989
In this press conference, which took place just as first reports on the fall of Berlin Wall started coming in President George H. W. Bush expresses his cautious and uneasy reaction to the developments in Berlin. To the question why he does not seem "elated," he responds, "I am not an emotional kind of guy."
Document 15: Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev regarding the Collapse of the Berlin Wall, November 10, 1989
This extraordinary diary entry from inside the Kremlin on the day after the Wall's collapse captures the "snapshot" reaction of one of the closest and most loyal of Gorbachev's assistants. Chernyaev practically cheers "the end of Yalta" and the "Stalinist legacy" in Europe, and sees "the shift in the world balance of forces" towards ideas like the common European home and the Soviet Union's integration with Europe. All of this he attributes to Gorbachev leading, not standing in the way.
Document 16: Record of Telephone Conversation between George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl, November 10, 1989
This memorandum of conversation reads as if the agenda had been set before the Berlin Wall fell. The West German chancellor leads off with a report on his trip to Poland, where the new leaders are "fine people" but with "too little professionalism" because they "spent the last couple of years in prison, not a place where one can learn how to govern." Only after the president says he has no questions about Poland does Kohl launch into a description of the extraordinary scene in Berlin, "a dramatic thing; an historic hour," "like witnessing an enormous fair" with "the atmosphere of a festival" where "they are literally taking down the wall" and "thousands of people are crossing both ways." Kohl hopes that the opening will not lead to more brain drain since 230,000 East Germans have already moved to the West this past year alone. Bush especially appreciates the political gesture Kohl mentions of publicly thanking "the Americans for their role in all of this;" and the president emphasizes his wish to be thoroughly briefed by Kohl before the upcoming Malta summit with Gorbachev. Bush repeats his recurring refrain about wanting "to see our people continue to avoid especially hot rhetoric that might by mistake cause a problem." (In other words, no dancing on the Wall).
Document 17: Record of Telephone Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl, November 11, 1989
With the tearing down of the Wall, the West German chancellor takes the initiative in Europe, reaching out to both Moscow and Washington with assurances of stability in the two Germanys--the epicenter of the Cold War--while simultaneously pursuing his ultimately successful campaign for German unification. Here Kohl calls Gorbachev to express some of the same points made in the previous day's telephone conversation with Bush: the need for more dynamic reforms in the GDR, the crossing back and forth of hundreds of thousands through the open Wall, and the potential impact of high numbers of East Germans migrating to the FRG. But Kohl's core message is that he opposes destabilization in the GDR, and he indicates that he will check in with Gorbachev on all relevant topics immediately after his upcoming trip to Poland.
This appears to reassure the Soviet leader, who mentions their previous "philosophical" discussions about "relations between our two peoples" and how "mutual understanding is improving" as "we are getting closer to each other." Gorbachev also applauds what he calls "a historic turn toward new relations, toward a new world;" but his worries show through when he urges Kohl to "use your authority, your political weight and influence to keep others within limits that are adequate for the time being ... " On a day when banners calling for German unification are billowing on both sides of the former Wall, Gorbachev resorts to euphemisms about this touchy subject, and hears what he wants to hear in Kohl's commitment to stability.
Document 18: Record of Telephone Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Francois Mitterrand, November 14, 1989
Alarmed by "all the excitement that has been raised in the FRG around the issue of German unification," Gorbachev reaches out to the French president to confirm that "we have a mutual understanding" on this issue. Mitterrand's tone is reassuring: "There is a certain equilibrium that exists in Europe, and we should not disturb it." But his words are more equivocal than Gorbachev would have wanted. The French position is to "avoid any kind of disruption," but Mitterrand does not think "that the issue of changing borders can realistically be raised now--at least until a certain time." When that time would be, however, he does not say. Gorbachev believes he has assurances from Kohl that he will "abide strictly by the existing agreements" and that "the Germans should live where they are living now;" but such categorical commitments are not in evidence in the actual texts of Kohl's conversations.

1. The background for this document comes from Lundberg, "CIA and the Fall of the Soviet Empire."
Romania: the "revolution" of 1989, by Dr. Catherine Durandin,

writer and historian. Interview by Pierre Verluise

Quote:Pierre Verluise: With the passing of time, how do you describe the end of N. Ceaucescu’s regime in Romania?

Catherine Durandin: The Romanian "revolution" of December 1989 is more than ever, a subject that continues to raise questions. The Romanian researchers discreetly refer to the "events of December 1989." This is a way of showing that we do not know exactly where we are in relation to the knowledge and the interpretation of those days, presented as "revolutionary."

An agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union?

In 2002, it is still not possible to gain access to the Soviet archives for that period. There is a similar lack - until proven otherwise - of a complete access to the U.S. archives, specifically those of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the same period. But it would seem that there was, if not a direct intervention by the United States, at least an agreement between Washington and Moscow on the issue of the Romanian events.

As we wait for the opening of the archives, there are a number of works from different points of view that have appeared studying the question. A Romanian journalist, Radu Portocala, published An Autopsy of the Romanian Coup (Calmann-Lévy, 1990). He saw in the Romanian events of December 1989 the direct intervention of the KGB. Portocala mentions the cooperation of a part of the Romanian army, the KGB, and a group of associates close to Ion Iliescu. There were, during those days, many Soviet "tourists" in Timisoara, a city close to the Hungarian frontier where the "revolution" began December 16 and 17 1989. Even if this hypothesis is not totally supported, it is likely that there were KGB present in Romania at that date.

Another work was published by the Canadian historian Jacques Levesque. He focussed his work on the end of the Soviet empire, in a book published by the Press at the School of Political Science in 1995. He tried to define the exact role and participation of the Soviet "Gorbachevians" in Romania in 1989. He was not able to gain precise confirmation on the impact of the supposed Soviet actors. The people he spoke with shied away from discussing their roles, saying only that they gave a green light to the overthrow of Ceaucescu, but that they were not directly involved.

The Leninist School

Since 1989, the Romanians have continually debated the question of who actually began their post-Communist phase. In 2002, the consensus leans toward a multifaceted explanation. There was certainly the green light from Moscow for action to be taken by a part of the Romanian intelligence services, the Securitate, and some military leaders - supported by the KGB - and a group of Romanian politicians" Gorbachevians" of which Ion Iliescu may not have been the most courageous, but he was certainly the most efficient. These people are the former Communists, with their foundations firmly set in Leninism. They began to move away from Ceausescu in the 1970s, essentially over differences in views on economic policies. Certain of these people have come back in 2002--having succeeded in the 2000 elections—to the forefront of the Romanian political scene. It must be asked why there has been this return of these cadres from the end of the 1980s.

Strange journeys, strange meetings…

People from the older generation have begun to publish their memoirs. One of them is Silviu Brucan. He shocked certain people in 1989 in declaring that it would take twenty years to install democracy in Romania. Today this seems an entirely practical and realistic assessment. In his most recent works, and in an interview given to the review, "22", he revealed that he spent—in 1988—six months in the United States, in Washington. He opposed N. Ceausescu and still got a visa to go to the USA, and this is strange….

During this period, S. Brucan met with leaders of the Eastern European Bureau of the Department of State. He was also a friend of the Ambassador of the Soviet Union to the United States, Anatoli Dobrynin….This relationship allowed him to meet, in Moscow—while coming back from Washington, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991)

Who is manipulating whom ?

S. Brucan also went to the United Kingdom, for a meeting in London at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Office. Then he went to Austria, where he broadcast from Vienna over the microphones of Radio Free Europe, an anti-Communist radio controlled by the United States. Finally he came back to Bucharest, and went back home, under the surveillance of the Romanian political police, the Securitate ! This voyage permits all sorts of speculation. If a man, placed under surveillance, is able to go out and meet all sorts of Western leaders, doesn’t it mean that the Securitate was infiltrated by various intelligence agencies? If yes, which ones and why? The Securitate, at least a part of its agents, were in the process of betraying the regime.

The trail of research

In 2002, the "events" of December 1989 in Romania are interpreted as being affected by a conspiracy, in part directed from abroad. If the Soviet KGB’s intervention is not in doubt, there rests the need to determine the Western efforts, notably those of the CIA and the Department of State.

At the same time, the events of December 1989 were not the result of a single conspiracy. The students - high school and younger - became involved in a totally sincere and spontaneous manner. For example, in their demonstrations in Timisoara, Iasi, Bucharest, the victims of the shots fired were often young children, sometimes 13 or 14 years old. They went to the streets and acted as heroes in the face of the oncoming tanks.

P. V. It is possible to think, on the subject of Romania, of a form of convergence between the United States and the Soviet Union ?

C.D. There is an hypothesis which appears to me to be more and more interesting to consider. M. Gorbachev sought to appear as the person who brought about a reform, or a détente on the Soviet side and slowed down the arms race that the Americans believed was no longer necessary. He was without doubt the best pawn to move quickly. Because, on the other side, the United States did not find him credible: they saw him as being sincere in his desires to reform the Soviet Union from a Leninist point of view, but they knew, also, that he was extremely weak in his standing in his own country.

A nudge in the right direction

I believe that the American leaders pushed the speed of changes, whether in the process of German reunification or in the manner of putting down the old communist leaders in the ex "people’s democracies." Seen from Washington’s perspective, the ending of N. Ceausescu’s regime in Romania could not be seen as anything else but a positive act. I cannot understand in any other way these contacts, which appeared to be more and more numerous between the personalities who would take power in Romania, in 1989, and the years that followed, after having entered into a dialogue with the United States.

Enduring Contacts

It must be noted that the Romanian political leaders have maintained their privileged contacts with Washington up to the present day. Specifically, Mircea Pascu, Minister of Defense in 2002, was a Resident Fellow in the Institute for East-West Security Studies in 1988-1989, according to his official biography. Mihai Botez after having been a fellow in the United States at the Kennan Center in 1987-1988, and then a lecturer at The University of California at Berkeley, became in 1990 the Romanian Ambassador at the United Nations and then in Washington. This network, these contacts, all the same, are very surprising.

The President of the United States saw in 1989, the moment to play the "Gorbachev card.", the opportunity to back him up, to support him, and to push him. They pushed him very clearly in the process leading up to the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. All of the available documents support this view, for example the Memoires of President George H. W. Bush and the testimony of the close advisers to President Francois Mitterand. The U. S. President pushed the German Reunification while trying to control M. Gorbachev in a friendly way, working through the good relations and easy contacts the Russian had with American leaders. There was, if not a direct interference, at least an American tactical push at work in the fall of the Ceausescu regime.

P. V. Beyond Romania, how to you view the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989?

C.D. The Soviets did not know how to assess the situation. I think that M. Gorbachev and his close advisers such as Edouard Shevardnadze and Sergei Iakovlev believed that the Soviet System was reformable. They were part of a Leninist and technocratic generation. They all waited impatiently to attain power in a "progressive" manner.

The Romanian "Gorbachevians" of 1989, who are still in power in 2002, are people who truly believe in the possibility of the reform of the Communist system from the inside. They have not yet calculated the damage to their cause made by the ideology of the rights of man since the Helsinki summit in 1975. Simply put, because they do not believe in the democratic/liberal ideology, they don’t see the misdeeds of their own ideology. In the same way, the Westerners never understood the communist ideology, and could not appreciate its reach.

It is an error to underestimate others

I also believe that the Soviets underestimated the intelligence of the American diplomacy. It is not necessary to create caricatures or to assert bluntly that there was a habit well installed since the time of Nikita Khrushchev, however it true that the Russians have underestimated their American adversaries. Khrushchev (1953-1964) underestimated John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1960-1963), for example.

M. Gorbachev underestimated the American administrations that he confronted, whether led by Ronald Reagan or George Bush. It was another bad analysis which led the Soviet to not understand, in November-December 1989, the extraordinary work of Chancellor Helmut Kohn (1982-1998) - with the total support of Washington. At that moment, M. Gorbachev totally lost control of the situation. More than that, he lost, at the same time, credibility in his own country, thus his potential to become the spokesman for the messianic and great Soviet Union in transformation. He did not understand the power of the western ideology of the rights of man, or the intelligence of the American diplomacy. He had contempt for the intentions of the German ostpolitik and for the strategy of President G. Bush. His goal was a reunified Germany in NATO and not a European Home. There was, thus, in Moscow, a wrong estimate of the potentials of the game in play at the precise moment of 1989. Finally, they were too clever by half. Second part >

Catherine Durandin

Translate by George F. Jewsbury

Copyright september 2002-durandin-jewsbury/


Second part

Yesterday, Aangirfan produced a useful list demonstrating that successful "revolutions" are the product of governmental/elite sponsorship, not spontaneous poplular uprisings. Well worth a look.