The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview

41 Gorbachev and German
Unification: Revision of Thinking,
Realignment of Power

HANNES ADOMEIT

History had decided. It has proven Stalin right in his prediction that, in the long run, it would be impossible to keep Germany down and divided. But Stalin himself failed to draw the right political lesson from his own insight. He permitted, and even actively promoted, the slide toward the division of Germany and hence the partition of Europe. Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev then turned this slide into deliberate policy. They attempted to transform the eastern part of Germany into an economically efficient, politically viable, and militarily effective ally. Lest it be forgotten, until the first half of the 1980's, it appeared as if their policy was and would continue to be successful.

Mikhail Gorbachev has now abandoned this policy. In fact, he has done more than abandon it. He has embarked on a course of action that is unprecedented in modern history: comprehensive withdrawal from what until recently were considered, in both the East and the West, areas of paramount strategic significance for the Soviet Union. He has accepted not only the establishment of non‐ communist regimes in East-Central Europe, including East Germany, but also German unification and even membership of a unified Germany in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization....

Certainly, there are a number of objective indications that a basic shift in the "correlation of forces" has occurred to the disadvantage of the Soviet Union. First, the power base of the Soviet Union has eroded. This development is characterized by the deterioration of economic conditions, the disintegration of the social fabric, the increase in political conflict, and the spreading of secessionism and ethnic violence. Second, the importance and global influence of the "world socialist system" (or what remains of it) has declined. This decline is indicated by the disintegration of the system's binding glue, Marxist-Leninist ideology; the withering away of the socialist system's appeal as a model of development in the Third World; the loss of power and effectiveness of its institutions, including the communist parties, the Warsaw Treaty Organization, and the Council for Economic Mutual Assistance; and the system's inability to keep up in the technological (and military-technological) competition with the Western industrialized countries. Third, Western ideas and institutions have shown themselves to be more resilient and responsive to challenges than expected. This has been demonstrated, among

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