Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft
American Diplomacy and the End of the Cold War: An Insider’s Account of US Policy in Europe, 1989-1992
Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany
Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America and Post-Communist Europe
In January 1992 the then prime minister of Hungary, Mr. Jozsef Antall, bemoaned to a Hungarian audience the West’s lack of appreciation for Central Europeans’ heroic role in the downfall of communism: “This unrequited love must end because we stuck to our posts, we fought our own fights without firing one shot and we won the third world war for them.” Whatever his shortcomings as a historian, the late Mr. Antall had inadvertently identified an enduring confusion surrounding the events of 1989 and after. In the course of less than two years the cold war came to an end, a string of authoritarian regimes in Central Europe collapsed, the Soviet empire imploded, and communism, as an ideology of government, disappeared.
These developments are all, of course, intimately connected; but the ways in which they relate to one another—what came first, what was pure chance and what careful planning, what was likely or predictable and what truly unexpected—are already the subject of embittered historical and political contention. The sequence of events, their meaning and outcome—and in particular their consequences for NATO—look quite different depending on whether one is seeing them from Budapest or Washington, Berlin or Warsaw, not to speak of Moscow.
Under normal circumstances, historians would not get involved in such debates until many years later, when the archives have opened and the motives of participants have emerged with some clarity. But the years 1989-1992 were not normal. In the wake of the fallen regimes of Central and Eastern Europe the records of defunct Communist parties and governments have become available, at least in part. High-level advisers and actors from the former Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, and elsewhere have published their memoirs, drawing on restricted materials otherwise not accessible. In the West, too, men and women who participated in the hectic diplomatic rondo have hurried into print, drawing on copious excerpts from their own and others’ records of decision-making and decision-taking. None of this means that we are any closer to a single, undisputed version of what happened and why; but the picture is far more detailed than is usually the case so soon after the fact.
Two new books by Washington “insiders” tell the story as seen from the US. Condoleezza Rice and Philip Zelikow (she is a political scientist who was then on leave from Stanford, he a career diplomat currently teaching at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard) were attached to the National Security Council (NSC) White House staff during the negotiations leading to German unification; Robert Hutchings, a former deputy director of Radio Free Europe, worked for the NSC and then the State Department in the years 1989-1993. Their books tell essentially the same tale, though Hutchings pays more attention to Eastern European matters (he was Lawrence Eagleburger’s special adviser for assistance to Eastern Europe in 1992-1993).
Hutchings is also by far the livelier writer, displaying considerably more wit than his former colleagues.[^3 …