Two Plus Four

By Zoellick, Robert B. | The National Interest, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Two Plus Four


Zoellick, Robert B., The National Interest


The Lessons of German Unification

TEN YEARS ago, on October 3, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany absorbed the German Democratic Republic, creating a single, united Germany. Less than a year before, the people of East Berlin had breached the Berlin Wall, prompting a flurry of diplomacy. Events moved so quickly that they seemed pre-ordained. But were they?

At the time, I was serving President George Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, as counselor of the Department of State. One of my assignments was to help develop and implement U.S. policy toward German unification. In this article, looking back after a decade, I offer ten observations about American diplomacy during those busy months.

FIRST, the story of German unification underscores the importance of anticipation. Even with the best intelligence, it is difficult to foresee what lies ahead. Nevertheless, officials should seek to identify critical trends so they may then prepare the groundwork to meet various contingencies in a fashion that moves them toward their strategic goals. This precept might seem obvious, but the press of events, a full in-box and a long list of phone calls to return can easily pre-empt long-range thinking and preparatory action. The normal state of affairs is that people turn to immediate and usually easier tasks before facing longer term complex problems.

Consider the world in late 1988, as President-elect Bush was preparing to assume office. Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost had made the Soviet leader a celebrity, even a symbol of hope, around the world. The German public seemed especially charmed by this very new type of Russian leader. Elsewhere in Central Europe, particularly in Poland and Hungary, restive publics were stirring; people were just beginning to test the boundaries of the Soviet empire's new rules. In geopolitical terms, the center of gravity appeared to be shifting to Central and Eastern Europe. Hence, for the United States and the NATO alliance, Germany's posture would be decisive in shaping the future course of events.

Yet there was a tension in the relationship between the United States and Germany, and it was about to burst into the open. President Reagan had successfully pressed the Soviets to scrap their deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. This left principally short-range nuclear missiles in place, situated mostly in Germany, as well as America's ICBMs. In late 1988, NATO was considering a plan to modernize this missile force. But the West Germans were asking why only they and their East German neighbors should have to bear the brunt of nuclear deterrence in Europe. As one West German politician observed dryly, "The shorter the missiles, the deader the Germans."

President Bush was keenly aware of the rapidly changing European scene. He launched a series of initiatives to mold the dynamic environment to America's advantage. At the NATO Summit in May 1989, he advanced a proposal to reduce drastically conventional military forces in Europe. (In doing so, Bush overrode the vigorous resistance of his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Crowe.)

Bush's dramatic move accomplished a number of aims. It seized on Gorbachev's rhetoric about reducing Soviet ground troops and challenged the Soviet Union to cut their numbers further to achieve equal levels with the West. The proposal also shifted the focus of U.S.-Soviet arms control from its traditional concentration on strategic nuclear limitations to the recently launched negotiations on conventional forces in Europe (the CFE talks). By doing so, the United States was directly targeting the Soviet army of occupation in Central and Eastern Europe. It also pushed the debate on short-range nuclear missiles to the background. Indeed, NATO reached an agreement at its 1989 summit to defer the question of the modernization of such missiles, easing a sharp point of contention between the United States and Germany. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Two Plus Four
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.