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Thatcher Did Not Want Germany Unified

 
 
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 01:19 am
Quote:
Two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it.

In an extraordinary frank meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1989 " never before fully reported " Mrs Thatcher said the destabilisation of Eastern Europe and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact were also not in the West’s interests. She noted the huge changes happening across Eastern Europe, but she insisted that the West would not push for its decommunisation. Nor would it do anything to risk the security of the Soviet Union.

Even 20 years later, her remarks are likely to cause uproar. They are all the more explosive as she admitted that what she said was quite different from the West’s public pronouncements and official Nato communiqués. She told Mr Gorbachev that he should pay no attention to these.

“We do not want a united Germany,” she said. “This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.”

Report in the Times

Quote:
“But can we trust them?” Margaret Thatcher’s doubts about a new, merged Germany surfaced again and again during the months that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The dramatic event, followed by a ten-point unification plan put forward by Helmut Kohl, the West German Chancellor, challenged her political instincts and stirred the buried prejudices about Germans that she shared with much of Britain.

She was not the only leader to have doubts: François Mitterrand, the French president " who famously said “I like Germany so much I would prefer to have two of them” " the Poles and many others were nervous. Was a beast about to be unchained?

“She could accept that the Federal Republic was a responsible, democratic state in its financial and economic policies, helpful and humane all round,” recalled George Urban, former editor of Encounter magazine, after meeting the Prime Minister. “But could the Germans be trusted? What about those Prussians and Saxons who were now joining West Germany but had no experience since 1933 of any political system other than Nazism and Stalinism?”


Thatcher and Kohl clashed over unity after fall of Berlin Wall
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 01:22 am
@Walter Hinteler,
You guys are just waiting for your next chance, aren't you?
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 01:54 am
http://i30.tinypic.com/4ue3p3.jpg

FCO: German Unification, 1989-1990

Quote:
This volume comprises a collection of diplomatic documents covering British reactions to, and policy towards, the collapse of the German Democratic Republic and the unification of Germany in 1989-90.

The peaceful unification of Germany in 1989-90 brought a dramatic end to the Cold War. This volume documents official British reactions to the collapse of East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the evolution of British policy during the 'Two plus Four' negotiations that provided the international framework for the merger of the two German states.

All of the documents fall within the UK's 30-year rule and have therefore not previously been in the public domain. Most are drawn from the archives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but there are also a large number of Prime Ministerial files from the Cabinet Office archives. These are of particular interest for the light they throw on the views of Margaret Thatcher.

Taken together, the documents show that despite Mrs Thatcher's well-known reservations about German unity, the UK played a vital and constructive role in the negotiations that helped to bring it about.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 05:34 am
I didn't know about any of this, but i'm not surprised. Fascinatin' stuff, Walter--thanks.
0 Replies
 
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 06:38 am
Everybody who was interested well understood Mrs Thatcher's position at the time. There's nothing new been revealed here that I can see.

Mrs Thatcher was rabidly anti-European unity and equally rabidly pro American. Which is to say out of touch with political reality.

She was led away eventually.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 07:44 am
Are we to assume that Thatcher's concerns reflect actual prejudice against Germany, or economic, balance of power, concerns? Hitler needed a scapegoat to rally the people around. Not many Jews in Germany today, and the ex-Soviet Jews do not qualify as a good scapegoat in their position in German society. So, I would think any prejudicial concerns are short-sighted, or worse, a concern that there would not be a strong U.S. to help out Britain in the future, if any fears came to fruition?

Do Germans have any prejudicial feelings towards the Turkish guest workers? If yes, then prejudice might just be part of the human condition, and Thatcher is just a human.



Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 08:35 am
@Foofie,
Turkish guest workers, Jews in Germany is okay, Foofie.
But I do miss a bit more what you usually post in my threads.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 08:47 am
@Foofie,
Foofie wrote:

Do Germans have any prejudicial feelings towards the Turkish guest workers? If yes, then prejudice might just be part of the human condition, and Thatcher is just a human.


Well, I haven't read the book (did you read it?), but according to what is published, Thatcher didn't mention our Turkish born co-patriots or the former guestworkers.

And as far as I know and could out, there hadn't been any in the former GDR, at least not in a notable number.
Do you have different informations?
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 08:47 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Quote:
From The Sunday Times September 6, 2009

Listen up, Limey, the special’s off the menu.
Our uniquely close relationship with the US is a myth " America has always played hardball with us. Max Hastings.

It is fortunate for the national blood pressure that few British people read American newspapers. The release of the Libyan Lockerbie bomber has received massive and brutal coverage. The New York Daily News published an editorial obituary of the special relationship under the headline “In a word, gone”.

There is real anger over there. Dogged British efforts year after year to “do our bit” for the Atlantic alliance do not rouse correspondingly positive American passions. Britain’s chief purpose in sending soldiers to fight in George W Bush’s wars was " and in Afghanistan remains " to fulfil its commitment to the Anglo-American relationship.

Unfortunately, however, while our role looms large in British minds, it is nowhere near big enough to buy a real voice in US policy-making. Within the US army, there is a widespread perception that British forces failed to stabilise Basra. President Barack Obama’s troop “surge” in Afghanistan is seen partly as a rescue mission for flagging British efforts in Helmand. A Washington policy-maker said to me in May: “Your army is not what it was 20 years ago. British attitudes about Afghanistan seem frankly defeatist.”

The Obama White House is sincerely grateful for our contribution. But it seems to some British politicians, diplomats and soldiers cause for frustration that, when we think we are trying hard in Afghanistan, we gain little recognition from the American people, or payback from their rulers on contentious bilateral issues.

It was ever thus. In 1951, a British contingent was fighting alongside the Americans in the brutal, bloody Korean war. Major Gerald Rickord of the Royal Ulster Rifles erected a board above the entrance to his unit’s tent lines, bearing the words Britannia Camp. A passing American soldier poked his cigar at the sign and demanded: “Britannia? What’s that?” Rickord asked in astonishment: “Haven’t you ever heard of Britannia rules the waves?” The American said: “That’s a bit out of date, isn’t it?” Rickord said: “I was saddened by how far we had come down in the world.”

The Korean conflict began a mere five years after allied triumph in the greatest of all shared Anglo-American experiences, the second world war. This created the legend of the “special relationship”, which still means so much to anxious British prime ministers and commands lip service from polite US presidents. Yet study of 1939-45 government documents, newspapers and diaries on both sides of the Atlantic reveals chronic tensions, indeed considerable antipathy, between the two nations.

In 1940-41, most British people were bitterly resentful of American neutrality, and especially of Washington’s insistence on cash payment for arms and supplies. President Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease programme kicked in only when Britain had exhausted its gold and foreign currency reserves. British assets in America were sold at knockdown prices to meet the demands of congressional sentiment. The Viscose rayon-manufacturing company, jewel in the overseas crown of Courtaulds and possessing assets worth $120m, went for a mere $54m.

Many British people, especially aristocrats, actively disliked Americans. Lord Halifax, who became Britain’s ambassador to Washington in December 1940, wrote: “I have never liked Americans, except odd ones. In the mass I have always found them dreadful.”

Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India, commiserated with Halifax: “The heavy labour of toadying to your pack of pole-squatting parvenus! What a country, and what savages those who inhabit it!”

Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, later commander-in-chief of Bomber Command, was the RAF’s representative in Washington. He wrote with characteristic intemperance in September 1941: “Up to date they have had a damn fine war. On British dollars. Every last one of them ... They lose no opportunity of impressing upon us how magnificently they are fighting (sic) and how inept, and cowardly, is our conduct of those few miserable efforts we ourselves are making in battle and in industry ... They will come in when they think that we have won it. Not before. Just like they did last time. They will then tell the world how they did it. Just like they did last time.”

Much of this resentment was reflected by Americans’ scepticism about their ally. Senator Allen Ellender of Louisiana asserted sourly that “there was little point in supplying the British with war material since they invariably lost it all”. During one of the prime minister’s American visits, an Ohioan wrote to the White House: “Tell that Churchill to go home where he belongs ... All he wants is our money.”

This view was atypical " most Americans retained warm respect for Churchill. But they reflected widespread doubts about his nation’s will to fight. “She didn’t pay her war debts after the last war. She refuses to grant India the very freedom she claims to be fighting for. She is holding a vast army in England to protect the homeland while her outposts are lost to the enemy,” wrote an analyst for the US Office of War Information.

In the autumn of 1942, the Foreign Office minister Richard Law reported that the US chiefs of staff “were about as friendly to the British as they would be to the German general staff if they sat round a table with them”.

It is against the background of exchanges of transatlantic abuse that Winston Churchill’s wartime achievement must be viewed. I argue in my new book that only he could have performed the extraordinary feat of forging an effective Anglo-American working relationship. From May 1940, he perceived with a clarity that eluded even some of the most exalted of his fellow countrymen that only through partnership on whatever terms were available might Britain emerge from the war among the victors.

By 1945, however, Churchill had become deeply embittered by the ruthlessness of US conduct towards Britain. He never allowed his feelings to show, but he had learnt from painful experience that sentiment exercised no influence upon Washington’s behaviour.

This remains a perennial reality, although our leaders have short memories. Forever expecting more from the relationship, they are disappointed. When we join the Americans at war, we become subordinates in conducting operations we cannot control. Critics challenge the Brown government about its lack of a clear Afghan policy. In truth, this depends on the Obama administration, which has yet to chart a coherent course.

It is a painful irony, that the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi has inflicted more damage upon Britain’s popular standing in America than our efforts in Helmand have gained credit. The decision is regarded as evidence of British infirmity of purpose in the struggle against terrorism, and it will not be quickly forgotten.

Winston Churchill might have told Gordon Brown that there is scant purpose in enduring, for the cause of Atlantic solidarity, military funeral processions through Wootton Bassett, if Britain frees onto the streets of Tripoli a man perceived in the US as a mass murderer and public enemy.

Max Hastings’s new book Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-45 is published by HarperCollins

Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 08:49 am
@spendius,
And that's connected to the book published the Foreign Office exactly how, spendi?
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 08:59 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

Foofie wrote:

Do Germans have any prejudicial feelings towards the Turkish guest workers? If yes, then prejudice might just be part of the human condition, and Thatcher is just a human.


Well, I haven't read the book (did you read it?), but according to what is published, Thatcher didn't mention our Turkish born co-patriots or the former guestworkers.

And as far as I know and could out, there hadn't been any in the former GDR, at least not in a notable number.
Do you have different informations?


I did not read the book. Most books I read are related to American politics, and the position of the U.S. in the world. I do not read about European politics. Nor do I have any "different information."

I do watch occasionally DW tv news, since they give concise news segments about topics not found on American newscasts. Also, a five or ten minute highlight about some specific news topic at the end. The news presenters speak a flawless English; are they German? I would guess that in a decade or two, when a German national is interviewed for a news item, the individual will be replying in English, since the younger generation speaks English so well. Could you envision that English ultimately will function as Esperanto had originally been envisioned, as a world language? I think we would have a better chance at peace in the world, since I do believe similar language is a great pacifier of other cultural differences.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 09:24 am
@Foofie,
Foofie wrote:

I did not read the book. Most books I read are related to American politics, and the position of the U.S. in the world. I do not read about European politics. Nor do I have any "different information."


In that case, why do you want again to derail the thread?
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 11:17 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

Foofie wrote:

I did not read the book. Most books I read are related to American politics, and the position of the U.S. in the world. I do not read about European politics. Nor do I have any "different information."


In that case, why do you want again to derail the thread?


How did my response to your earlier question above (did I read the book?), and my explanation that I do not read European history, and then finally answering your question as to whether I have any "different information" be an attempt to derail the thread?

But, if some readers do not see less than loving feelings towards Germany exactly as a sin, do you expect all readers to react in horror, to the possibility that perhaps there is some residual angst towards Germany?

For that matter, why not question whether angst was the motivating feeling, rather than prejudice? Angst does not have the same negative connotation as prejudicial.

My questionning is really just taking a side, pro-Thatcher. That is not derailing the thread. It is offering another viewpoint to the thread, perhaps. Must I be anti-Thatcher and pro-unified Germany?
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Sep, 2009 11:33 am
Thatcher was hardly alone. There was a fear among quite a number of people 'of a certain age' (i.e. WW II survivors) that a unified Germany could just lead to trouble -- again. Looking back at the two major European wars of the 20th century, it's easy to see why those who had exerienced them would feel that the continent -- and the world -- was safer if Germany was not allowed to become unified power. West Germany at the time was already a major player on the world stage and that was okay because it was a staunch Western ally. But there was no telling what the political leanings of a unified Germany would be. The Soviet Union with its Warsaw Pact allies was still a formideable force to reckon with and the West was, frankly, scared of a Germany resurgent.
0 Replies
 
Adanac
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Sep, 2009 12:33 am
@spendius,
The Americans will always do the right thing . . . After they've exhausted all the alternatives.
Winston Churchill
0 Replies
 
 

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