Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft

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Officials mingled in the lobby of the Oktyabrskaia Hotel—shaking hands, sipping champagne, signing their names—and Germany was united. In this undramatic fashion, the international community closed the book on the drama of divided Germany. But nothing so momentous could be quite so quiet and uncomplicated, as this volume makes strikingly clear. This is the first book to go behind the scenes through access to still not opened archives in many countries. Germany Unified and Europe Transformed discloses the moves and maneuvers that ended the Cold War division of Europe.

Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, who served in the White House during these years, have combed a vast number of documents and other sources in German and Russian as well as English. They also interviewed the major actors in the drama—George Bush, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Eduard Shevardnadze, James Baker, Anatoly Chernyayev, Brent Scowcroft, Horst Teltschik, and many others. Their firsthand accounts merge to create a complete, detailed, and powerfully immediate picture of what happened. The book takes us into Gorbachev's world, illuminating why the Soviet leader set such cataclysmic forces in motion in the late 1980s and how these forces outstripped his plans. We follow the tense debates between Soviet and East German officials over whether to crush the first wave of German protesters—and learn that the opening of the Berlin Wall was in fact one of the greatest bureaucratic blunders in human history. The narrative then reveals the battle for the future of East Germany as it took shape between West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the reform Communist leader, Hans Modrow—East Germany's "little Gorbachev." Zelikow and Rice show how Kohl and George Bush held off the reactions of governments throughout Europe so that Kohl could awaken East Germans to the possibility of reunification on his terms. Then the battle over the future of the NATO alliance began in earnest.

The drama that would change the face of Europe took place largely backstage, and this book lets us in on the strategies and negotiations, the nerve-racking risks, last-minute decisions, and deep deliberations that brought it off. It is the most authoritative depiction of contemporary statecraft to appear in decades.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Written by two former members of George Bush's National Security Council staff, this book is an exhaustive investigation into the delicate diplomatic maneuvering that led to the creation of a unified Germany in 1989-90. The authors studied American, German, and Soviet documents and interviewed many key figures in the decision-making arena. The result is a detailed and fascinating account of behind-the-scenes discussions and deliberations. Although much of the book is dominated by Helmut Kohl's perception and pragmatic skills, other diplomatic deeds stand out as well. Gorbachev's crucial role is analyzed, as is the frequently uncertain position of the Bush administration. There are over 100 pages of descriptive reference notes and a comprehensive index. An important contribution to the literature of European politics and international relations; highly recommended for academic libraries.-Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, Pa.
The authors, who served in the White House during the late 1980s, go behind the scenes to reveal the maneuvers that ended the Cold War division of Europe and led to the reunification of Germany, drawing on interviews with major figures including George Bush, Anatoly Chernyayev, and Hans-Dietrich Genscher. They describe debates between Soviet and East German officials, talks between West German Chancellor Kohl and President Bush, and the many last-minute decisions leading up to reunification. Includes b&w photos and extensive notes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
American Historical Review
This is a remarkable book for a number of reasons. The first is because Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice take a complex story--the peaceful reunification of Germany within the Western alliance--and turn it into a suspenseful, engaging, and illuminating account of successful statecraft...This book will long stand as the definitive account of a diplomatic success story.
— Thomas Alan Schwartz
A valuable, highly readable contribution to the literature on German reunification.
Die Welt
Point after point the two authors list, at every step supporting their assertions and interpretations with documents and interview material...The two show two kinds of insights into the events of the eleven months between the fall of the Wall and the conclusion of the '2+4' Treaty: First Zelikow and Rice succeed in pulling off, what most as a rule portray superficially or through colorful personality publications about the international dimension of German unity, a work of undeniably long, continuing value. Thereby they do not just settle for the saying, 'documents don't lie,' but always try again and again to cross-check their study of the documents and hard-won knowledge from their experience with interviews of the actors in the international negotiations. Second, Zelikow and Rice show clearly that accurate historical writing cannot just be done on the basis of memoirs...and newspaper articles.
— Peter M. Wagner
Foreign Affairs
The book is a rich quarry for contemporary historians...[The] accomplishment [of German reunification could not] have found more astute chroniclers than Zelikow and Rice...Germany Unified and Europe Transformed will for many years remain the definitive treatise on German reunification and on a brilliant chapter in the annals of American statecraft. Indeed, it will--or at least should--be read as a standard textbook.
— Josef Joffe
Historical Journal
[I]t is the book's 'insideness', the extent to which the authors were not merely observers but participants in the negotiations, which gives it its value. The book is rich with quotations as well as anecdotal evidence.
— Hugo Miller
International Affairs
[This] book is remarkable indeed, and very exciting...This superb piece of contemporary historiography will be indispensable to all students of Germany's unification, and powerfully assists our understanding of how the Cold War ended and the 'New Europe' of the 1990s came into being.
— Roger Morgan
International Herald Tribune
For the first time, the inside story--what the policymakers thought and did behind the scenes--is recounted by two participants, using interviews and secret documents...[The book] conveys the sweeping changes devised by a handful of leaders and their aides as they sought to capitalize on a rare, momentary acceleration of history. It also captures the candid exchanges among leaders about long-range fundamentals in Europe."
— Joseph Fitchett
International Relations
[A]s a work of diplomatic history it is nothing short of monumental. By virtue of having been active participants in the innermost circle of American decision making...the authors offer us a gem of a study in two related ways. First they draw on a bevy of primary documents from U.S., Russian, and German sources that have hitherto eluded everybody else and which, alas, will remain, at least in part, elusive to mere mortals for years, maybe even decades. Second, to the authors' great credit, they have succeeded in harnessing the richness of their detailed data to write a veritable page-turner. Anyone interested in recent politics...will find reading this book a truly rewarding experience...Simply put, this book offers an insider's look at the innermost workings of the top elites of the United States, the Soviet Union, West Germany, East Germany, Britain, and France in the forging of a united Germany...Rather than a book of political science, one should see the Zelikow/Rice study as a fascinating play whose outcome one knows yet whose players one gets to meet only through the details of this study.
— Andrei S. Markovits
New York Times Book Review
Zelikow and Rice have drawn on thousands of still-classified documents in the American archives. But their industry has not stopped there: to tell the Soviet and German sides of the story, they consulted the East German and Russian archives and interviewed a host of European leaders. The quality of their writing and the depth of their research ensure that their exemplary study will serve as the starting point for all future work on German foreign policy after the Cold War.
— Jacob Heilbrunn
New Yorker
An important behind-the-scenes account of how East Germany was folded into West Germany at breakneck speed--an event that precipitated the demise of the Soviet Union. The authors, both of whom served on the National Security Council in the Bush White House, persuasively argue that, far from being a passive bystander, the Bush Administration was actively involved in stage-managing the dénouement of the Cold War. They also argue that the historic opening of the Berlin Wall, in November 1989, was actually the result of a bureaucratic error.
Political Studies
The book is full of fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses and anecdotes that bring to life the tremendous problems and the personalities, many of whom are now part of history, involved in those momentous months of intense negotiations...[Zelikow and Rice] have produced a detailed yet highly readable and informative work that no student of international politics should miss.
— John Taylor
Royal United Services Institute Journal
A work of scholarship...written with the conviction and excitement which derive from direct involvement in the events described...Not the least illuminating aspect of Germany Unified is the light it throws on the respective contributions of politicians and of officials, in the US, Germany and elsewhere, to the drama...[E]ssential reading for anyone concerned with the conduct of foreign policy today...It is gratifying that events of this magnitude should have elicited a record of this quality. Read it.
— Michael Alexander
Can nations learn from history? If so, why in [the case of German unification] and not in others? How could German unity be achieved at all, given a long-established (but rarely expressed) conviction among the influential that it could make 'everything' break down?...Those seeking answers to these questions have a new study to turn to, in many ways the best so far, written by Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice on the unification of Germany and the various bilateral and multilateral negotiations that surrounded it...The authors were members of the National Security Council in the Bush administration, and thus participated directly in the decision-making process and diplomatic events surrounding German unification. Equally important, the book is based on the US government's 'official history'--traditionally composed after important negotiations--with its privileged access to all records of conversations, telegrams and Central Intelligence Agency documents. Zelikow wrote that history and was allowed to use it as the basis for this study, which he co-wrote after both he and Rice had interviewed many of the major actors involved and consulted governmental archives not only of the defunct German Democratic Republic but also of the Soviet Union, to which they were given access...The study is written in the best traditions of historical sociology. It analyzes negotiations and examines the motivations of governments, the role of individuals, and the internal economic, political and social situations. Overall, it provides fascinating reading and a welcome respite from the increasingly dull products of contemporary political science scholasticism in the US and Europe.
— Karl Kaiser
Virginia Quarterly Review
A remarkably complete history of the reunification of East and West Germany...The book is very well written and exhaustively researched. It may well become the standard account of a landmark event of 20th-century European history
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674353244
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 6.74 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip D. Zelikow is White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

Condoleezza Rice is Provost and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University.

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Read an Excerpt


"For decades a thick closed blanket of clouds obscured the star of German unity," Germany's former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher recalled. "Then for a short time the blanket of clouds parted, allowed the star to become visible, and we grabbed for it." "Grabbed" is a good word for what happened. It captures the sense of a frantic lunge in 1989 and 1990, what the British scholar Timothy Garton Ash has called a "hurtling and hurling together, sanctioned by great-power negotiations." It was, he wrote, a time when "more happened in ten months than usually does in ten years."

Opinions may vary about the result. A renowned German commentator has called the outcome "the greatest triumph of diplomacy in the postwar era." A former Soviet foreign minister has called it "one of the most hated developments in the history of Soviet foreign policy and it will remain so for decades." Although now the outcome may seem almost preordained, those closest to the events—whether former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze or political figures from East and West Germany—still marvel that this tumult did not lead to a "bloodbath," a war, or at least a new phase of cold war.

The main purpose of this book is to tell the story of this extraordinary episode in modern diplomacy. This is, above all, a diplomatic history. Both authors were involved in the events as members of President George Bush's National Security Council staff: Philip Zelikow was a career diplomat detailed to the White House; Condoleezza Rice was on leave from her professorship at Stanford University. The book originated as an internal historicalstudy which a senior State Department official, Robert Zoellick, invited Zelikow to write as he was leaving the government to accept a faculty appointment at Harvard University. After securing promises of unlimited access to all relevant documents at both the State Department and the White House, as well as access to relevant intelligence documents, Zelikow agreed and began work But as the project took shape, it became dear that the story could not be told properly just from the perspective of the United States.

Historians have rightly criticized works that dwell too much on the perspective of one or another country, neglecting what others were doing or thinking, forgetting that diplomacy is really the interplay of several different sets of beliefs and actions. None of the many books published so far on German unification has tried, for example, to tell the German story and the Soviet story and the American story, and then study how they interacted to produce the results all could see. That is the task we set for ourselves.

To do this we complemented research in the American archives with a careful study of all materials available in German and Russian. We consulted papers that became available from the East German state archives and some significant archival materials available for the Soviet Union, including papers prepared for meetings of the Politburo and policy guidance prepared for Shevardnadze. We also talked to key decision makers in a number of countries; some of them commented on our draft, and we have constantly cross-checked recollections and published accounts against the available documentary evidence.

We made another decision about this book: we have cited all of our sources. It is not unusual for former officials to consult government records in preparing an account of their experiences, but it is unprecedented for them to cite these records just as a professional historian would. Most of the American records we have cited remain classified and unavailable to the public. We were able to cite them because the citations themselves revealed no secrets. Yet, with these American records, we faced a dilemma. Scholars will not be able to check some of our uses of still-classified government documents. They must, for a time, take on faith that we have used our evidence properly. This is a fair and appropriate concern. But the other side of the dilemma is that by failing to include any citations, we would have frustrated still more scholars who would never know what sources we had used. We decided that this latter concern was more important, for several reasons.

A surprisingly large proportion of our assertions can be checked, directly or indirectly, against published accounts and unclassified documents. This point should be apparent from a careful look at our citations. Also, our notes can convey our inside understanding of what the documents mean, who prepared them, which ones mattered and which did not. Furthermore, problems of privileged access to source material are not unique to former government officials. Often papers or materials held by private persons are available only to certain people or with special restrictions. Here we were fortunate in being able to use documents that belong to the American people and will eventually be made available to the public. So we have cited our sources as carefully as possible. Although the American archival material is not yet catalogued in the Bush Library or the National Archives, the citations are complete enough to enable scholars to find the cited documents once the cataloguing is done. Finally, at our request, the National Security Archive has also filed a massive request under the Freedom of Information Act to expedite the declassification of as much material as possible. The archive will make this material available to scholars. All material that can be declassified, including unclassified but hard-to-obtain public affairs material (transcripts of State Department press briefings, for example), will also join the collections of papers scrupulously maintained by the Archival Library of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

This book is a joint effort. Zelikow drafted the original manuscript. As that manuscript was being accepted for publication, Rice drafted the portrait of Soviet thinking that dominates Chapter 1 and the epilogue. She then refashioned the analysis in Chapters 2, 3, and 4, reshaping the narrative and adding material. The authors then together revised and finalized the manuscript, continuing to add new sources as they became available. Zelikow handled research in the American archives and those materials, whatever their origin, published in German. Rice was responsible for the Soviet archival research as well as other materials in the Russian language.

We were involved in the events we describe. We had, and still have, opinions about them. This is natural; indeed, even scholars who experience events vicariously can become just as opinionated about them. As former officials we were also obliged by law to let the government make sure we had not abused our special knowledge to reveal secrets that are still important to the security of the United States. (This was not a problem.) But from the start we have been absolutely free to tell the story any way we chose. No one, on any occasion, has even attempted to tilt or shape our story, except in telling us his or her side of it.

We think this episode was a historic success for the United States and for the Federal Republic of Germany. One could argue that the amicable settlement of the partition of Germany was a farsighted choice for the Soviet Union as well. Some readers will not agree with these conclusions and may doubt the wisdom of many choices that were made. We tried to write this book in a way that would arm any side of this historical debate by laying out the narrative in detail, establishing the arguments as weighed by different officials in the various governments, and exposing to public view the crucial choices and some of the beliefs underlying them. In fact, though we think the net judgment is resoundingly positive, we believe that almost all American (and West German) officials, ourselves most definitely included, made mistakes at one time or another. But we do not spend much time saying who we think was wise or who was not. We usually try to leave it to the reader to supply these judgments.

In preparing this book we have received help and advice from many quarters. For financial support in performing some of the research, we are grateful to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Harvard University's Program for the Study of Germany and Europe, and Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control. We are also indebted to the former officials who agreed to share their experiences from this period. They are listed throughout the notes. We are also especially thankful for the encouragement and advice we received at key points from Robert Zoellick, Robert Blackwill, Coit Blacker, and Ernest May. The research and production of this book was aided by Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control and the talents of Yvonne Brown, Brian Davenport, Kiron Skinner, John Fowler, Chris Fleishner, Artur Khachikian, Elizabeth Ewing, Matthew Bencke, and Deborah Schneider. We have received many useful comments from the scholars who reviewed the manuscript anonymously for Harvard University Press, and from Alexander Abashkiri, Donald Abenheim, Hannes Adomeit, Alexandra Bezymenskaia, Maxim Bratersky, Gerhard Casper, Gordon Craig, David Holloway, Karl Kaiser, Felix Philipp Lutz, Elizabeth Pond, Alfred Rubin, W. R. Smyser, Marc Trachtenberg, and Peter Wagner. We also wish to acknowledge the encouragement and support of our editor, Aida Donald, and the patience and creativity of our copy editor, Amanda Heller.

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Table of Contents

Key Players
Introduction: Solving the German Problem 1
1 When Did the Cold War End? 4
2 Revisiting the German Question 39
3 The Fall of Ostpolitik and the Berlin Wall 63
4 The Goal Becomes Unification 102
5 The Process Becomes the Two Plus Four 149
6 The Design for a New Germany 198
7 Friendly Persuasion 251
8 The Final Offer 286
9 Germany Regains Its Sovereignty 328
Epilogue: Germany Unified and Europe Transformed 364
Notes 373
Index 479
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