Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Recent Books: Western Europe: The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall/Berlin Now: The City after the Wall

Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Recent Books: Western Europe: The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall/Berlin Now: The City after the Wall

Article excerpt

Western Europe Andrew Moravcsik The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall BY MARY ELISE SAROTTE. Basic Books, 2014, 320 pp. $27.99.

Berlin Now: The City After the Wall BY PETER SCHNEIDER. TRANSLATED BY SOPHIE SCHLONDORFF. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014, 336 pp. $27.00 (paper, $15.00).

S arotte's lively and engaging book scrupulously details the events of November 9, 1989, when the world watched in shock as the Berlin Wall came down. Sarotte argues that the opening of the wall was " accidental and contingent." It was certainly unforeseen and unintended by world leaders. Neither Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, who sought to reform Soviet communism, nor U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who a few years previously had called on Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," really expected that East Germany would open up. Leaders in East Berlin never issued a definitive order to allow people to pass through; rather, their contradictory commands freed border guards to act autonomously. Yet the book also shows-somewhat contrary to Sarotte's thesis-that the fall of the wall reflected deeper, perhaps inevitable historical trends. …

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