20 Years Ago, a Young Pilot Took a Headlong Flight Into Cold War History
Twenty years ago, Mathias Rust, a 19-year-old dreamer from West Germany, pierced the Soviet Union's air defenses on what seemed like a delusional mission to unite East and West. But in one of the Cold War's most iconic footnotes, he handed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev an excuse to purge his defense minister and other military hard-liners opposed to his glasnost reforms, an important step toward the fall of communism.
"When I look back, I am of two minds about what I did," said Rust, now a wealthy investor and high-stakes poker player who divides his time between Germany and the former Soviet republic of Estonia. "I caused myself a lot of problems, but it was my destiny and you have to live your destiny."
In 1987, Rust was upset over the continuing U.S.-Soviet standoff and deeply disappointed with the failure the previous year of the Reykjavik summit between Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. The two leaders had seemed on the verge of a historic breakthrough on nuclear arms control, but the talks collapsed at the last minute.
"I was full of dreams then, and I believed everything was possible," Rust said in a telephone interview from Hamburg, where he has an apartment. "My intention with the flight was to build a kind of imaginary bridge between East and West."
comments powered by Disqus
- A grandmother’s trove of Civil War photos goes to Library of Congress
- Tribes See Name on Oregon Maps as Being Out of Bounds
- Holy Haystacks! Researchers Have Officially Discovered A New Monet
- Joan Baez, Sly Stone, Steve Martin, Ben E. King -- all honored by the Library of Congress
- StoryCorps to Launch Global Expansion With $1M TED Prize
- OAH denounces anti-gay legislation signed by Indiana governor
- Emory’s Leslie Harris says we should remember the racist roots of American colleges as we think about what went wrong at OU and other schools
- Stanford historian looks to the U.S. Postal Service to map the boom and bust of 19th-century American West
- U.S. historian denounces Japanese scholars' statement over wartime sexual slavery
- Timothy V Johnson Named Head of Tamiment Library