OCTOBER 30: Tourists from Israel kiss in front
of the mural by Russian artist Dmitry Vrubel
of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev
kissing his East German counterpart
Erich Honecker, painted on a segment
of East Side Gallery, the largest
remaining part of the former Berlin Wall, in Berlin.
Photograph by: Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters
By Anne-Laure Mondesert, Agence France-Presse
PARIS - Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall,
newly released diplomatic files reveal the extent
to which Germany's supposed friends in London
and Paris were fearful of the country's reunification.
France's then president Francois Mitterrand
and Britain's prime minister Margaret Thatcher
were both caught out by the speed with which
the Germans remade their country
in the wake of Communism's collapse.
While Thatcher's supporters would go on
to portray her as the heroine of the West's victory
in the Cold War, a victory symbolised
by the Wall's collapse, at the time the prospect
of German reunification "horrified" her.
And, while Mitterrand has been seen as
a great friend and ally of Germany's then
chancellor Helmut Kohl in the campaign
for European integration, in 1989 he neither
foresaw nor supported the re-integration of Germany.
"In 1989 we gave the impression of wavering
in the face of history. Twenty years on, let's
do it justice," said Pierre Lellouche, French European
affairs minister, as he followed Britain
in opening the 1989-90 diplomatic archive.
Given the subsequent success
of the reunification project, and the warm ties
that Paris in particular now has with Berlin,
the files will make uncomfortable reading
for some French and British political veterans.
"France and Great Britain should pull
together today in the face
of the German threat," Thatcher told
the French ambassador to London
in March 1990, according to a French diplomatic
telegramme released for the anniversary.
"Kohl is capable of anything. He has become
another man. He doesn't know himself any more.
He sees himself as the master and
is starting to act like it," she warned,
according to the French translation of her remarks.
French historian Maurice Vaisse,
who helped supervise the release of the files,
said that Thatcher appeared "horrified" by
the prospect that German reunification
would make Berlin the dominant force in Europe.
According to the British archive, two months
before the fall of the Wall, Thatcher told
the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
that "neither Britain nor Western Europe
wanted the reunification of 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," she said.
In effect, she was asking the Britain's former
Cold War enemy to help her
thwart German ambitions of one
of the West's staunchest allies.
Mitterrand adviser Jacques Attali — who in
another irony of fate would go on
to head the European Bank of Reconstruction
and Development set up to fund
post Cold War reform in Eastern
Europe — also opposed reunification.
The British archive records him meeting
Gorbachev aide Vadim Zagladin in Kyiv
one month after the wall came down
and complaining that Russia had not
intervened in East Germany
to head off reunification moves.
"This has caused a fear approaching
panic," he said, according the files.
Four months later, in April 1990 and
with reunification imminent, Attali reportedly
told Mitterrand that he would
"fly off to live on Mars" if the inevitable happened.
Mitterrand and Thatcher also
shared their concerns in person.
In January 1990, the French leader
told his British counterpart at a Paris dinner
that a united Germany could "make more ground
than even Hitler had" according to a note
by Thatcher aide Charles Powell.
Shortly after the fall of the wall, in
December 1989 — when his foreign ministry
was telling him reunification was
"not a realistic possibility" — Mitterrand even
visited East Germany's moribund Communist regime.
Trapped in a Cold War mentality, and mindful
of their countries' suffering at the hands
of a powerful Germany during World War II,
the leaders of the day had difficulty
envisaging such a rapid sea change in European politics.Link here
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