The year 1989 was one of profound political change in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. Communist governments in Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary fell altogether or were forced into reluctant partnership with noncommunist opposition. The way for these developments in Eastern Europe was prepared in Moscow. Following the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev to the position of general secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, the leadership of the Soviet Union embarked on a restructuring -- perestroika -- of its economy that had equally significant implications for political participation. Having argued that democratization was imperative in the citadel of world communism, the Soviet leadership could hardly reimpose the Brezhnev doctrine (Soviet military intervention to prevent the overthrow of existing communist regimes) on Eastern Europe. Quite the opposite was implied by the movement toward "reasonable sufficiency" and other manifestations of defensive military doctrine: The Politburo would no longer use the Red Army as a gendarmerie to bail out those rulers in Eastern Europe who were too incompetent to rule by consent or by coercion.
Obviously, U.S. and NATO strategy would be affected by all these developments. Most dramatically, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, which had stood since 1961 as a symbol of the division of Germany, now opened the door to a large political debate on the future of Germany: one or two? Military strategy in Washington, Brussels, and Moscow would, of necessity, be influenced strongly by the political upheavals taking place in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union from 1985 through 1989.