Germany Unbound

He wished to be the chancellor of a liberated not a defeated Germany, said Willy Brandt on the evening of his election victory in 1969. Yet only on October 3, 1990, was Germany liberated. Better still: Germany liberated itself. Not all alone, of course. Every German politician pays tribute to Gorbachev, to the pioneers of emancipation in Eastern Europe, to the Americans, French, and British, without whom, as authors say in their Acknowledgements, this book could never have been written. But it was the Germans who wrote the book.

For all the discontinuities of West German policy since 1949, one can but admire the grand continuity in which all chancellors, from Adenauer to Kohl, all foreign ministers, all federal governments over forty years, now this way, now that, now in the West, now in the East, pursued the cause of German liberation.

Historians will argue whether Adenauer’s integration into the West or Brandt’s Ostpolitik contributed more to the success of the past year. There is much to be said for the claim that the East Central European year of wonders, ‘89, was a late triumph of Adenauer’s “magnet theory”—the idea that the attraction of a free and prosperous West Germany embedded in a free and prosperous Western Europe would sooner or later draw the unfree and impoverished East Germany irresistibly toward it. But could the magnet have exerted its full attractive force if the blocking iron curtain had not first been drawn back by the Ostpolitik which Willy Brandt launched in the late 1960s? And it was not Bonn’s Western but rather its Eastern ties—above all, those to Moscow—which directly permitted the transformation of an East German movement for freedom into an all-German state of unity.

Yet this East German rising for freedom was not contemplated in Bonn’s Deutschlandpolitik. Those in the GDR who contributed most to Germany’s peaceful October revolution—the tiny minority of human and civil rights campaigners—had benefited least from the Federal Republic’s governmental policy toward the GDR. Bonn politicians now ritually celebrate the “peaceful revolution.” Two years ago most of those same politicians would have described it as “dangerous destabilization.” Yes, it was a “dangerous destabilization” that made German unification possible. Without the brave minority that faced down armed police on the streets of Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin, the ultimate goal of Bonn’s policy would never have been achieved—Gorbachev or no Gorbachev. (The real greatness of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner consists in the ability to accept often undesired and unintended faits accomplis—or what Mr. Gorbachev likes to call “life itself.”)

The pioneers of social emancipation and democratization in the GDR were then rapidly overtaken by those who wanted to have done with the GDR altogether. I recorded in these pages the electrifying moment at which, after the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the chant of the crowds changed from “Wir Sind Das Volk” (“We Are the People”) to “Wir Sind Ein Volk” (“We Are One People”).1 That translated into a vote heavily in favor of Chancellor Kohl’s Christian Democrats in the March 18, 1990, elections. It was, as I also recorded in these pages, essentially a vote for rapid unification.2

By this time the two parallel sets of negotiations for unification, the “internal” ones, between the two German states (“1+1”), and the “external” ones, between the two German states and the four post–1945 occupying powers (“2+4”), were already under way. Chancellor Kohl, after giving initial consideration to alternative models, such as that of a Vertragsgemeinschaft (“treaty community”) or confederation, had decided by the end of January to go full steam ahead for one federal republic. The votes of the East German population gave him the domestic political strength to do this. It was his political decision, against the advice of most experts, to introduce monetary union on July 1, and to do so with a large degree of one-to-one (DM:GDR Mark) parity. This had traumatic impact on the East German economy—according to West German statistics, industrial output in August 1990 was down 51 percent from that of August 1989—which in turn imparted a desperate urgency to the last months of negotiation.

To describe these seven hectic months of intricate negotiation would require not an article but a compendium. The treaty on unification between the two German states, the Einigungsvertrag of August 31, is a book in itself—243 pages of small print in the official government Bulletin. Formally, they were “1+1” and “2+4” negotiations. In practice they were “1+1/4” and “1+1+1” negotiations. The first and last freely elected East Berlin government was not an equal partner in the German–German talks. The Bonn government basically set the terms of the internal unification, its officials drafting treaties that bore a remarkable resemblance to the finished product. Many East German politicians, and intellectuals in both halves of Germany, were under-standably miffed by this procedure. “Anschluss,” said some. Yet was it not for this that the majority of the people had voted in March? And, despite widespread economic distress, the majority expressed its basic satisfaction with the result, on October 14, in the first elections for the five reconstituted historic Länder (states) of the former GDR. Chancellor Kohl’s CDU was the overall winner everywhere except in Brandenburg (where the Social Democrats’ leader is a prominent Protestant churchman), and secured more than 45 percent of the vote in Saxony and Thuringia.

The external negotiation was basically between the Federal Republic, the Soviet Union, and the United States, in that order. The Bonn government makes no secret of the fact that it was the United States, rather than France or Britain, that was its crucial Western supporter in the whole process. Washington was not just self-evidently more important in talks with Moscow, but also more unreservedly supportive than London or Paris—a fact that has done some damage to the Franco-German “axis.” Yet the central negotiation was that between Bonn and Moscow. In Moscow in February, Chancellor Kohl secured Gorbachev’s assent to unification in one state. In Stavropol in July, he secured Gorbachev’s assent to the full sovereignty of the united state, including its membership in NATO—although a NATO redefined by the “London Declaration” a few days before. Soviet troops would leave Germany by 1994.

In return, the united Germany would have no ABC—atomic, biological, or chemical—weapons and no more than 370,000 men and women under arms; it would make a hefty financial contribution to the repatriation costs of Soviet troops; and it would become, even more than it was already, Gorbachev’s leading Western partner in his desperate attempt to modernize and bring “back [?] to Europe” the Soviet Union. That was the essential German-Soviet deal which opened the door to unification on Adenauer’s terms. To celebrate this remarkable deal, Kohl and Gorbachev appeared in V-necked cardigans and open shirts. Surrounded by men in suits, they peered into a Caucasian river and mused upon the meaning of life itself.

In Europe these days, “sovereignty” is a controversial word—and not just for Mrs. Thatcher or Jacques Delors. When German conservatives celebrate Germany’s recapture of full sovereignty, German liberals (and liberal conservatives) hasten to say, “But of course this is no longer sovereignty in the classical sense,” and “After all, we share sovereignty in the European Community.” So let us put it more precisely. Until October 3, 1990, the Federal Republic had somewhat less freedom of action than the United Kingdom or the French Republic, both de jure and de facto. After October 3, 1990, it has almost precisely as much de jure, and de facto slightly more. Britain and France have no comparable international treaty restrictions on their armed forces. But their relative economic weakness and their geopolitical position give them less room for maneuver than Germany, which is once again the great power in the center of Europe.

The liberation from the bonds of the Western allies’ residual rights over Berlin and “Germany as a whole” is but a marginal advantage by comparison with the liberation from the half-nelson grip of Soviet control over East Germany. At a meeting in Moscow just a few days after unification I heard a very senior German official say simply: “Now we are no longer open to blackmail.” “Are the Russians our brothers or our friends?” asked an old East German joke. Answer: “Our brothers—you can choose your friends.” By 1994, at the latest, the brothers will be gone—and Germany can choose her friends.

October 3 will now officially replace June 17, the anniversary of the East German rising of 1953, as “the day of German unity.” A better description might be “the day of German liberty.” Externally, the new German state is free—and can use its new freedom of action for good or ill. Internally, more than sixteen million men and women are free who until a year ago were not. Of course they have hard times ahead. Of course their new freedom is relative. But one of the messages of the East Central European “1989” is precisely to warn against the confused and exaggerated relativization of values in which all too many German intellectuals so wordily indulged over the last decade.

A few weeks before the great day we had to stay with us in Oxford a young man, Joachim. As the son of a very remarkable Protestant priest in East Berlin, he had been prevented from completing an ordinary secondary schooling. When I visited him in the early summer of 1989, at the rectory behind the Wall, he described to me how small demonstrations to protest against the falsification of the local election results (in May), and the East German leadership’s endorsement of the repression on Tiananmen Square, had been brutally dispersed. Here, in this very garden, the marchers had assembled. There, on that street, they had been pulled away, the police dragging them along the cobbles by their long hair. He was pale, nervous, angry.

In the early autumn of 1989 he wrote me from West Berlin. He had fled across the frontier from Hungary to Austria. (On the first attempt, the Hungarian border guards had caught him and turned him back.) Life in the West seemed to him in some ways poorer than in the East, he wrote, “inwardly poorer.” But he was still glad to be here, “and I hope to remain so.” Yet the separation from his family, just a few miles away in East Berlin, was very bitter. His little brother and sister had insisted that their mother take them to a point near the Wall where, clambering on some stones, they could at least see their big brother, a distant figure waving from a platform on the other side.

Now, in the early autumn of 1990, he was a different man: bronzed, confident, relaxed. He had just been to America for the first time. “That’s great!” he kept exclaiming, colloquially. He was just off to Dublin to improve his English. But he would probably go back to join his family in Berlin for Christmas. Suddenly he was the citizen of a free, prosperous, and—dare one say?—normal country. The word “liberation” has long been tainted in Central Europe, and most especially since the Soviet “liberation” of 1945. But there comes a time when even the most polluted words must be reclaimed. This, in a single life, was liberation.

So when around half past two on the morning of October 3, as we wandered through the streets of Frankfurt, none of our party being perhaps entirely sober, Adam Michnik turned to me and said, “Now tell me, Tim, what do you really feel about German unification?” my immediate response was “You know, I really am pleased.” And when, seven hours later, and not perhaps entirely rested, I set out from the Hotel Unter den Linden in the former East Berlin to walk westward through the Brandenburg Gate (look for the new asphalt, it’s all that’s left of the Wall) and across a corner of the Tiergarten to the official ceremony for German unity in the Berlin Philharmonic concert hall, my step was light.

At first glance I thought the governing mayor had acquired a wig. But when he began to speak I, together with the rest of the gala audience in the Philharmonic, soon realized that this was an uninvited guest. He had walked through all the security controls and right up to the microphone. Before him, in the first row, sat President Richard von Weizsäcker, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, grand old Willy Brandt, and behind them the country’s most important political leaders. If the uninvited guest had been a terrorist with a gun, he could have decapitated the German body politic, on the day of unification.

Fortunately he was just a nut with a cardboard folder containing a long speech. “Allow me fifteen minutes,” he said, and began a complicated tale of some outstanding grievance against the Justice Ministry. After several seconds of silent bewilderment, the audience began loudly to applaud him, hoping to clap him away. He would not stop. The master of ceremonies, in white tie and tails, politely asked him to leave the stage. On he went, describing in detail the excellent wine he had drunk in the course of his extensive litigation. The interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, could be seen rising from his seat. After whispered consultations, and a good minute more of barmy speech plus ironic applause, two plainclothes policemen very gently led this Herr Mitty away. (According to subsequent press reports they simply took him out to the entrance and released him into the holiday crowd.) Then, at last, we looked down on the familiar bald pate of the governing mayor of Berlin, the next speaker on the official program.

Far more than any of the official speeches, the proclamations of peace and good will to all men, the painfully responsible press commentaries, more even than the grave and beautiful cadences of Richard von Weizsäcker, this little incident exemplified everything that was good about the unification ceremonies, indeed that is good about the forty-one-year-old Federal Republic of Germany: civil, civilian, civilized. The small deed matched the big words—and the music, which was splendid.

With hindsight, since Wolfgang Schäuble was actually shot and badly wounded by another disturbed man at a rally less than a fortnight later, the episode looks less amusing. And of course, the German police are not always so civil. That same afternoon there was what seemed a quite excessive police turnout in the center of Berlin to control a demonstration against unification by squatters, anarchists, and the far left. Riot-squad vans roared through the former Checkpoint Charlie (now a flea market) into the former East Berlin, and police helicopters chuntered overhead, as if to say, “We are the masters now.” Yet the way in which Herr Mitty was treated was nonetheless representative of celebrations that were peaceful and merry, without being triumphalist.

In fact, it all seemed almost too good to be true. Like the East Central European revolutions of 1989, the German wonder of 1990 was so swift, peaceful, and civil that it is still hard to believe it has really happened. If the first unification of Germany was made with blood and iron, the second took only words and money. Among the countless intellectuals asked by newspapers for their response to unification, the (once East) German writer Reiner Kunze stood out. “I expect of Germany,” he replied, “that after October 3, 1990, it will prepare itself for this day.”

There is still a vast gulf between the new pays légal and the pays réel, between the legal fact of unity and the social fact of continued division. On the backstreets, in the factories, and in many, many heads, the GDR still exists. Something like one out of every ten in the former GDR workforce is unemployed. Pensioners have been terribly hard hit by the upward leap in prices. Tenants fear for their security—not to mention their low rents—as old private landlords return, or new ones arrive. And the psychological adaptation after forty years of socialism is perhaps even more difficult than the material ups and downs.

How long will it take before Germany is prepared for October 3, 1990? Estimates vary widely of the number of years it will take before the five Länder of the former GDR are pulled up to a level comparable with that of even the poorest Länder of the old Federal Republic. Undeterred by their failure to reveal the full disastrous state of the East German economy in the past, economists and research institutes are making confident predictions about its future. As diverse are the estimates of the financial cost of reconstructing East German industry. The round figure of a trillion Deutschmarks over ten years is tossed about, but the greatest part of this would be private investment. Chancellor Kohl has bravely promised an official guess at the costs, even before the federal election on December 2. The finance minister, Theo Waigel, does not quite say “read my lips,” but reckons the government should be able to get by without major tax hikes. In the former GDR, as elsewhere in the former Eastern Europe, the costs and problems of economic transformation are far bigger and more fundamental than in Western Europe after 1945. But if anyone in Europe can master the task of postcommunist economic reconstruction, it is the Germans.

The real question is less the economic cost as such than the political implications of the economic cost. These will be seen first on the streets rather than in parliament. The enthusiasm with which ordinary West Germans greeted their liberated compatriots a year ago has largely evaporated, as the newcomers take scarce housing and jobs from poorer West Germans, and jam the check-out lines at the cheaper supermarkets. But the swelling resentment against the so-called Ossis (as opposed to Wessis) is sweetness and light compared with street attitudes to Poles, Romanians, and Turks. In a West Berlin supermarket a sign says: “Polish citizens may only purchase one carton.”

At present the new Germany is home to some five million foreigners, out of a total population of 78 million. With the social tensions that will arise from the reconstruction of the East, the tolerance even of those foreigners who have lived in Germany for a long time is likely to diminish. Already one hears of second-generation Turkish-German citizens losing their jobs to East Germans. It is here, on the streets, that the political culture of the Federal Republic will be put to the test.

At the same time, with the combination of political liberation and economic disintegration in the former Eastern Europe and the Soviet Disunion, the press of would-be immigrants or Gastarbeiter (“guest workers”) will increase, adding to the existing pressure from across the Mediterranean. A new specter is haunting Western Europe: the specter of a postcommunist Völkerwanderung. This is a formidable challenge for the whole European Community, but for Germany above all.

How will it cope? By building a new wall along Germany’s new eastern frontier, the Oder-Neisse line? Or by opening to the East while supporting, with more billions of Deutschmarks, the transformation to a market economy from Poznan to Vladivostok, thus encouraging the Völker to stop wandering westward? The answer given by Germany’s political leaders is, not surprisingly, a qualified version of the latter possibility rather than the former. “We lift our voice for a constructive and common Ostpolitik,” said President von Weizsäcker in his October 3 speech. “All the frontiers of Germany should become bridges to our neighbors.” But even as he spoke, on the day of unity, a visa requirement was introduced for all Poles, many of whom had previously been able to travel without visas to East Germany and West Berlin. So if the German–Polish frontier was a bridge, it was a half-closed one. Reality did not quite match up to rhetoric. However, the Bonn government has now declared its readiness in principle to lift the visa requirement for Poles as they have already done for Hungarians, Czechs, and Slovaks.

Altogether, the problem with the foreign policy of the new Germany would seem to be not that it has any bad intentions but that it has too many good ones. Hans-Dietrich Genscher says: “We Germans want nothing else than to live in freedom, democracy, and peace with all the peoples of Europe and the world.” A modest aspiration. Germany, he declares, will have “a policy of the good example.” No one will use Bismarck’s famous phrase about Germany as Europe’s “honest broker.” But as Richard von Weizsäcker’s unification speech reached its crescendo with an appeal to Germans to set about “preserving the creation” (i.e., the natural world), I could not help recalling the description of Germany’s possible role that Bismarck rejected in his “honest broker” speech. Germany, said the chancellor of the first unification, should not aspire to be the schoolmaster of Europe.

The schoolmaster of Europe—that seems to me perhaps the best summary in a phrase of the aspirations of Germany’s present political leadership. The schoolmaster has passed his own exams over the last year with flying colors. There is a great deal of sense in what he has to say. But one does wonder how much of the school book can ever be translated into practice, even by the Germans themselves—let alone by more recalcitrant pupils (J. Delors, smirking in the front row; F. Mitterrand, looking grandly out of the window; M. Thatcher, giving her own lesson in the corridor). Are they not perhaps aiming a little too high? As Robert Browning has it in “A Grammarian’s Funeral”:

That low man goes on adding one to one His hundred’s soon hit:
This high man, aiming at a million, Misses an unit.

In the immediate future, German foreign policy will face some hard choices. American readers may think first of the decision about how far, and in what form, Germany should take greater responsibility outside Europe. Within Europe, I see two major choices, which in a deeper sense are one. The first concerns the former Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the second, the (West) European Community.

Since 1955, when Adenauer opened diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (but with no other Soviet bloc state), then very clearly since the Moscow Treaty of 1970, the relationship with the Soviet Union has taken top priority in Bonn’s Ostpolitik. On a sober analysis of national interests, this was wholly understandable. As many observed, “The key to German unity lay in Moscow”—from May 8, 1945, one might say, until October 3, 1990. Plainly this priority remained throughout the negotiations on German unity. Chancellor Kohl emphasized that he would have liked to sign a comprehensive friendship treaty with Poland at the same time as he signed the treaty with the Soviet Union. As it turned out, in 1990 as in 1970, the Moscow treaty preceded the Warsaw one, which is still to be negotiated. And what a treaty this Moscow one is!

Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history, but the German–Soviet friendship treaty, initialed in Moscow on September 13, goes one step further. “The Federal Republic of Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,…” says its preamble, “wishing finally to put an end to the past…” (in dem Wunsch, mit der Vergangenheit endgültig abzuschliessen). “Determined to follow on from the the good traditions of their [i.e., Germany and the Soviet Union’s] centuries-old history,” the two sides produce another catalog of good intentions, mainly gluing together prefabricated phrases from German–Soviet documents of the last twenty years, but also declaring:

They will never and under no circumstances be the first to use armed forces against each other or against other states. They call upon all other states to join in this commitment to nonaggression.

If we take this literally, it means that Germany is joining the Soviet Union in calling upon, say, the United States not to use armed force against, say, Iraq.

But,” your German colleague will respond privately, “you mustn’t take it literally!” Then why write it if you don’t mean it? Well, to get Russian agreement to unification of course! Fair enough: Machiavelli dressed as Luther. The question then becomes: Is this really the last page of an old chapter—the forty-five-year-long story of German liberation—or the first page of a new one? (“Germany and the Soviet Union at a New Beginning,” a headline in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung memorably announced at the time of the Stavropol agreement in July.) Time will tell—meaning, the Germans will decide. Or perhaps, will not decide. For my impression is that Germany policy makers do not at the moment have a private set of priorities in Ostpolitik that is much clearer than the public rhetoric.

On present form, the consciousness of promises made, gratitude, habit, the faint hope of great markets to open, above all a deep fear of disorder and chaos—the dreaded “instability”—all this will incline Bonn to make quite substantial efforts to help the Soviet leadership (and nota bene the Soviet leadership, rather than, say, the Russian, Ukrainian, or Baltic leaderships) to proceed along the path of economic transformation. Yet the Soviet Union is collapsing at such a rate that these efforts are probably doomed to failure, at least in this well-ordered form (Germany–Soviet Union). Moreover, so long as the Soviet–American relationship remains highly cooperative, German–Soviet cooperation need not adversely affect German–American relations. In the short term, then, the three sides of the “Big Three” triangle of post–cold war Europe, America–Germany–Russia, can probably remain more or less in sync.

The immediate problem lies closer to home. At the same time as promising extensive help to the Soviet Union—to be set out in a second comprehensive treaty on economic, scientific, and technological cooperation—German policy makers say they want especially to help their neighbors in “Central, Eastern, and South Eastern” Europe. But as the Germans have themselves discovered in the GDR, the problems and costs of the transition from a planned to a market economy are vast. If this is true of the small and relatively prosperous GDR, how much more is it true of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland, let alone of Romania and Bulgaria—not to mention the east European republics of the Soviet Union! If German, European, and Western help is spread more or less indiscriminately across this whole vast region, then the three mutually dependent transitions—to market economy, parliamentary democracy, and the rule of law—will not succeed even in the nearest east of Europe, in East Central Europe.3 And then that region could indeed become Europe’s Near East: not the Central Europe of the intellectual antipoliticians’ dreams, but the Zwischeneuropa of nightmare, an area of weak, undemocratic states, riven by social and national conflicts. This would obviously be bad for all of Europe, but it would be especially bad for Germany, since the resulting chaos would be just fifty kilometers east of the capital, Berlin. The pressure of immigrants would grow not decline, and they would be knocking first at Germany’s doors.

The western frontier of the Soviet Union must not become the eastern frontier of Europe,” says President von Weizsäcker. A noble sentiment, but open to question in two respects. First, the Soviet Union is ceasing to exist, and Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, and Ukrainians no longer wish to recognize that line as “the western frontier of the Soviet Union.” (The Ukrainian republic recently signed a separate treaty with Poland, including mutual recognition of frontiers.) Second, if we understand by “Europe” a community of more or less liberal democratic states with social market economies, then the real question for the next five to ten years is not “Will Europe end on the present western frontier of the Soviet Union?” but rather, “Will Europe reach even that far?” Unless a clear and very high priority is given by Germany and the whole European Community to East Central Europe, where the transition still has a sporting chance, Europe—in the constitutional and economic sense—will not end on the river Bug. It will end on the Oder and Neisse.

This relates intimately to the second hard choice that faces German policy, that about the (West) European Community. As national unification reached its climax, so German policy makers and commentators redoubled their insistence that the EC must move forward, both in domestic and in external policy. Where Bismarck said, “Let us put Germany in the saddle,” the Nestor of German liberal journalism, Theo Sommer, says, “Now we must put Europe in the saddle.” Poor girl: up into the saddle, whether she wants it or not. And of course she herself is, as always, in several minds. A significant part of Germany’s present political elite still has a genuine commitment to moving forward to closer integration at the EC intergovernmental conferences on political and on economic and monetary union (although there are also substantial reservations, for example on the part of the Bundesbank, which fears a softening of the Deutschmark). This commitment is shared, in different ways and varying degrees, by significant parts of the political elite in most of the other continental members of the EC. But there is one quite fundamental and immediate problem.

Germany’s present political leadership says it wants to deepen the Community, but also in the foreseeable future to widen it, to include East Central Europe and some EFTA countries. But many people at the highest levels of the EC consider deepening and widening to be not complementary but contradictory goals. Jacques Delors argues that in order to deepen, for example by adopting a common currency and central bank, you cannot afford to widen. Mrs. Thatcher advocates a rapid widening, partly out of genuine concern for the fledgling democracies of East Central Europe, but also to foil brother Jacques’s designs of rapid deepening.

One can quite plausibly argue that the EC is on the horns of a dilemma. If it moves forward soon in the general direction of a United States of Europe, then East Central Europe will join it only late or never. If East Central Europe joins soon, then the EC will move forward in the direction of a USE only late or never. In the former case, the position of the former Eastern Europe will differ from that of the former Soviet Union in degree, but not in kind. “Europe” will, in some very significant senses, end on the Oder-Neisse line. In the latter case, however, in a looser “Europe des Patries,” Germany would willy-nilly come back somewhat more to the old post-Bismarckian dilemmas of the nation-state in the middle. So German policy makers quite rightly see that they must try to do both. But how?

There are a few people in Germany seriously seeking answers. (Perhaps it is always only a few.) Whether they find any, and, if so, what those answers will be, we will probably begin to learn only after the federal election on December 2. The starting point must surely be, as it was for Adenauer and Brandt, the definition of national interests. For the last forty years (some would say, for the last two hundred) the question of German national identity has provoked some of the longest, deepest, most contorted answers ever given to any question by any branch of humankind. The question of national interest, however, has been much easier to answer. For the last forty years the answer was, in a nutshell: “recovery of sovereignty and overcoming the division of Germany.”

Now, in one united, western Germany, the question of national identity should be easier to answer—although to judge by the hypochondriac effusions in recent weeks of many German writers lamenting unification (like Günter Grass) or discovering a late love for the cozy old Federal Republic (like Patrick Süskind), there is no guarantee that their answers will actually become so. The question of national interest, by contrast, necessarily becomes more complicated. On my analysis, beside the consolidation of the constitution of liberty and an open society inside Germany, the first strategic answer would be: to combine in one design the (still just possible) enterprise of sustaining the democratic transition in East Central Europe and that of further, primarily political, integration of the EC.

If, however, such a design is not clearly spelled out, if the hard choices are ducked, then national (and therefore European) interests will be defined on the hoof—dictated either by dramatic external developments, such as the further collapse of the Soviet Union, or by domestic pressures, such as swelling resentment against immigrants, or by a combination of both.

The second part of my answer to Adam Michnik, on the streets of Frankfurt, at two-thirty on the morning of German unification, was: “If I have a fear for the next few years it is not that Germany will turn outward in any sort of bid for great power (economic) domination, but rather that it will turn inward, become obsessed with the problems flowing from unification, a little self-pitying, self-protective, and with a wall on its eastern frontier which its other West European partners will only help to reinforce.”

In short, the German eagle is unbound. The broken chains lie on the hillside. He has raised his wings a little, and given a few friendly cries. Will he now spread his wings and rise up, this time to help, not to attack? Or will he rather, like the eagle donated to the Washington zoo by Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, sit sulkily on his perch, gobbling his ample food and disconsolately scratching his breast feathers with that great beak?

October 25, 1990

  1. 1

    The German Revolution,” The New York Review, December 21, 1989. See also the extended account in my The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ‘89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague (Random House, 1990).

  2. 2

    East Germany: The Solution,” The New York Review, April 26, 1990.

  3. 3

    See my “Eastern Europe: Après le Déluge, Nous,” The New York Review, August 16, 1990.