Germany's international role is smaller, says reunification expertHistorians in the News
Philip D. Zelikow worked on German reunification as a senior National Security Council official under President George H.W. Bush. Together with Condoleezza Rice, he is the author of"Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (1995)." Zelikow also served as executive director of the 9/11 Commission and as the top adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He is currently the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
Deutsche Welle: While most German politicians up to the fall of the Berlin Wall rhetorically supported the principle of reunification, few believed it would ever happen in their lifetime. Before things started to unravel in Eastern Europe, did you and other US officials believe Germany would be peacefully united in your lifetime?
Philip Zelikow: By the spring of 1989 several of us had come to believe that this was possible. And therefore we urged in writing that the older President Bush put the unification of Germany high on the agenda and spotlight the issue as a topic that we should look at and consider. And that then led to a series of statements, made both by President Bush and then later Chancellor Kohl in the spring and summer of 1989. President Bush stated again and again before the fall of the Berlin Wall that he supported German reunification and would be glad to see it. In the context of the increasing instability in Eastern Europe those comments had quite an impact in Germany and Western Europe.
Going even further back, would you have thought German reunification was possible prior to 1985?
I thought it unlikely. I think when I was a serving diplomat working in places like the Arms Control Talks in the mid 1980s we were resigned to the fact that Europe was going to remain divided for the foreseeable future. We thought that was tragic. By the end of 1988 several prominent people including Prime Minister Thatcher in Britain were happily declaring that the Cold War was over. That was not my view. Because I believe the Cold War did not end just when you had a divided Europe in which there was an understanding, in other words, a sort of modus Vivendi of Europe that could stably be divided....
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