Stunning News Out of London

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THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

Stunning News Out of London

A pretty shocking story from the London Times:

Two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it.

In an extraordinary frank meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1989 — never before fully reported — Mrs Thatcher said the destabilisation of Eastern Europe and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact were also not in the West’s interests. She noted the huge changes happening across Eastern Europe, but she insisted that the West would not push for its decommunisation. Nor would it do anything to risk the security of the Soviet Union.

She describes her reasoning as follows:

"We do not want a united Germany. This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.”

And, slightly less palatably:

Mrs Thatcher knew full well that her remarks would cause a row if revealed. She was already courting controversy — especially among Solidarity supporters in Poland and the West — by telling Mr Gorbachev that she was “deeply impressed” by the courage and patriotism of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish Communist leader. She noted, approvingly, that Mr Gorbachev had reacted “calmly” to the results of the Polish elections, in which the Communists were defeated for the first time in an open vote in Eastern Europe, and to the other changes in Eastern Europe.

“My understanding of your position is the following: you welcome each country developing in its own way, on condition that the Warsaw Pact remains in place. I understand this position perfectly.”

It is difficult to comprehensively analyze this because it demands a reappraisal of so much conventional wisdom. Gorbachev comes across in the excerpts as considerably more astute than Thatcher, and much tougher on Communist authoritarians like East German leader Erich Honecker. Still, it's interesting to hear Thatcher sounding like Kissinger or Nixon or--for different reasons--someone like Gunter Grass. Andrew Sullivan comments:

This was in her final Mad Thatch period. And the underlying reason was deep distrust of Germany, doubtless fueled by her wartime youth. But what's interesting is to see Thatcher, a neocon idol, acting in such brutally realist fashion. Toryism, even Thatcherism, is not neoconservatism, is it?

As is so often the case, however, the "brutally realist" position turns outs to be wrong even on its own terms. The reunification of Germany did not greatly harm what Thatcher calls the "stability of the whole international situation." The problem with this version of Thatcherism was that it was not--to borrow Andrew's terminology--neoconservative enough.

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posted in: the plank, technology, berlin, london, moscow, warsaw, london times, germany, soviet union, person career, eastern europe, western europe, gorbachev, margaret thatcher, president, the london times

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