Thursday, September 24, 2009

Be sure your sins will find you out

Unlike right-wingers, I've always seen Margaret Thatcher not as a staunch defender of liberty, but as a weasel politician like any other. So it was nice to have that view confirmed by this article in the Times.

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.

You can't trust those Russians - ask them not to write down what you're saying, and they do anyway:

Then she launched her bombshell. She asked that her next remarks should not be recorded. Mr Gorbachev agreed — but the Kremlin transcript included them anyway, noting laconically: “The following part of the conversation is reproduced from memory.” She spoke of her deep “concern” at what was going on in East Germany. She said “big changes” could be afoot.

And this led to her fear that it would all eventually lead to German reunification — an official goal of Western policy for more than a generation.

She assured Mr Gorbachev that President Bush also wanted to do nothing that would be seen by the Russians as a threat to their security.

Hilariously, the article describes how the Russians were left wondering whether they were going to have pull down the Berlin Wall themselves, as no Western leader wanted it to happen. Check out the following conversation:

[Vladimir] Kryuchkov [head of the KGB]: Tomorrow 500,000 people will come out on the streets of Berlin and other cities . . .

Gorbachev: Are you hoping that Krenz [Honecker’s replacement as party boss] will stay? We won’t be able to explain it to our people if we lose the GDR. However, we won’t be able to keep it afloat without the FRG [West Germany].

[Eduard] Shevardnadze [Foreign Minister]: We’d better take down the wall ourselves.

Kryuchkov: It will be difficult for them if we take it down.

Gorbachev: They [East Germany] will be bought up whole . . . And when they reach world prices, living standards will fall immediately.

So, in the end it really was only the Germans who grasped the nettle and tore down the wall. The Western leaders didn't want it because it suited them to have Germany weak and divided. And bizarrely, the main reason Gorbachev didn't want it was because of the disastrous economic effect it would have (and did have) on the DDR. The man really does deserve more credit - and Thatcher a lot less.


Anonymous said...

Ha, that's hilarious.

Fairy will be beside himself trying to figure out how to spin this. Hmmm let's see; Thatcher was actually using reverse psychology to fool the Ruskies into supporting the wall coming down. God, what a diabolical genius the woman was!!!

Judge Holden

Anonymous said...

She needn't have worried. East Germany was merged with West Germany under terms so generous the German economy is still staggering.

Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the Thatcher regime was the cozying up to Pinochet's Chile, at the cost of several UK citizen's lives.

That was not just ideological, it was payback for Chilean support in the bizarre Falklands war.

She stuck with Pinochet to the bitter end, especially during the Spanish court case.

Andrei said...

That's pretty thin PM - so Mrs Thatcher made soothing noises to Mr Gorbachev during a period of great instability in eastern Europe.

For the most part a huge shift in alliances took place without bloodshed.

But what happened in Yugoslavia could have happened all over - it was and remains a real worry. and don't forget that in some of the Soviet republics, like the Ukraine there were Nukes which might have come into play.

Make no mistake about it PM - we were extremely lucky we had leaders like Mrs Thatcher at the helm at that time.

A few years later we had Clinton as leader of the free world, Mrs Thatcher was gone and Yugoslavia melted down and if you think about it that, in itself, might be a pointer to how great Reagan, Thatcher and George HW Bush were and how well they handled things.

Simon said...

And talking about sin and Germany just watched The Grey Zone the other day.

Anonymous said...

Errr - Bull Shit

How about reading

That is one major western leader

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Only a mouth foaming leftie would believe anything written down from memory by the Kremlin during the cold war.

Psycho Milt said...

Now Andrei, if we're talking thin "Clinton woulda done worse" is a fine example.

As it happens, I don't see anything much wrong with what Thatcher was telling Gorbachev. It was typical British foreign policy stuff, as you could expect from any British PM. The fact the PM didn't want her voters knowing what she was actually telling other heads of state is also par for the course.

That's exactly my point - not a staunch defender of liberty, just a standard-issue politician weasel.

Anonymous at 8.29am: so what? Thatcher was also making stirring speeches about liberty while telling Gorbachev to ignore them and try to preserve the status quo. It isn't what these people were telling the public that counts.

Adolf: 1989 wasn't during the Cold War. Also, it doesn't take a "mouth-foaming leftie" to notice that the Soviet leadership were fairly meticulous about recording people's conversations and keeping records. Personally, I'd put more faith in their record-keeping than anything in MoFaT's files.

KG said...

'Realpolitik', anyone?
What a surprise...not!

WAKE UP said...

Next you'll be telling us the Russians didn't build the wall either.

mawm said...

Well done PM - that is an impeccable source. The Ruskies, of course, are well known for their brutal honesty.

Anonymous said...

My understanding from speaking with people from Western Germany is that they wouldn't mind the wall going back up. The reunification has been like an expensive block of concrete chained to their ankle. The capitalists have once again paid for the socialist overdraft.


JC said...

Thatcher was always hesitant about the wall coming down:

And more importantly this


Sus said...

"Fairly" meticulous? So, not really, then ...

Why are you surprised when politicians behave like politicians? Newsflash: politics is political.

Thatcher screwed up big-time over her support for Pinochet (as already noted) and the ludicrous poll tax which, in her short-sighted, arrogant determination to implement it, sought only to galvanise all her various opponents -- not dissimilar to local opposition to Clark's EFA.

However, her successes were legendary which is why, in spite of the above, she will remain one of Britain's most effective and successful politicians. God knows the UK was fiscally stuffed when she came to power.

That she equally irritated the excruciatingly painful chardonnay socialist chatterers, man-hating feminazis, TUC Marxists and archaic old-boy twits in the Conservative party was a delicious bonus! :)


I remember an old joke from the 1980s that Margaret Thatcher loved Germany so much, she wanted two of them!
The issue is that Thatcher was old enough to remember the havoc caused by a German superpower in WW2.
Naturally, she wasn't expecting to see the jackboots out in force again, but she wondered about the impact on the EUSSR of a dominant Germany at the expense of the two other big countries, Britain and France.
Thatcher still wanted the liberation of Eastern Europe, she just had doubts of the impact of as united Germany on the rest of Europe.

Psycho Milt said...

Well yes Fairfacts, as I said above this was typical British foreign policy. Britain's had a long history of trying to kneecap any European country that looks like it might get strong enough to dominate the rest, and Thatcher was just continuing that tradition as a perfectly ordinary British Prime Minister. It's that "perfectly ordinary" bit that's the point: right-wingers like to promote Thatcher as a promoter of liberty - in fact, she wasn't, as amply demonstrated by her giving blustering speeches about freedom while privately telling Gorbachev he should be sure not to offer it to the Germans. Toxic-grade hypocrisy and realpolitik, just like all the other politicians

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the long post. In 1989 the Cold war was very much alive in the military establishment, and to many in the political establishment. Concerns of Western leaders about the fall of the wall included:

(1) How would extreme elements of the Warsaw Pact react? The Soviet and GDR military had a significant number of ideologically motivated troops. They were not anti-Soviet as now portrayed. Most believed in and were dedicated to the Soviet cause and fiercely patriotic. The wall was a powerful symbol of their separation from the decadence and "aggression" of the West. Military personnel are very proud people, so how would they react to such a loss of face or humiliation? The status quo was much preferred by many to the possibility of revolt or insurrection.

(2) How big would the economic refugees problem be? If the walls came down, the flood of refugees from the East would overwhelm the Wests capability to support them. At the time the West believed the economic and social consequences would be serious to catastrophic. West Germany, who would wear the brunt of the flood, was very worried.

(3) France, Benelux and to some degree the UK were wary of a United Germany. While Western Germany had been demilitarised, in the sense of Prussian militarism and martial traditions had been toned down to an "acceptable" levels, the East had not. The East replaced one extreme ideological system for another, one that favoured militarism and encouraged Prussian traditions in a Socialist doctrine.
GDR troops excelled in WarPact competitions. When asked by a Soviet Marshal how the GDR managed such feats, the GDR General replied, "We train like we did in the old army (Wehrmacht)." Some in the West believed a united Germany could easily slip into habits of old. France also benefitted from a divided Germany economically and politically. Having a long time foe and conqueror humbled appealed to the French sense of justice.

These were just a beliefs in the West that existed at the time. As for Thatcher, her administration and the bureaucracy (more correctly, her advisors) of the day only understood the status quo. Such a radical shift such as the falling of the wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union made many nervous. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed at the time. It all went down hill after 1993 with a lack of leadership from the West - all nations, not just the USA.

Ford Anglia

Anonymous said...

Good stuff here.

Britain always worked for the Balance of Power in Europe. Maybe since 1066, certainly since 1600 or so.

Tricky, when after 1900 Germany has regularly matched England and France's combined economic output.

Thatcher's policies aside, North Sea oil was the big saviour of the UK economy from the late 70s.

And now, scarily, it is running out. And the City has crashed as an earner too. Serious trouble ahead.