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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 67: Record of Third Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl June 14, 1989

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1Friendship blooms as Kohl says to Gorbachev, “I am telling you once again that I like your policy, and I like you as a person.” In turn, Gorbachev reveals to Kohl his worries about America: he has intelligence that a “special group” is now “charged with discrediting perestroika and me personally.” According to various sources, including former CIA Director William Webster (in a 1999 speech at Texas A&M University), the White House did form a highly secret contingency group to look at the possibility of a collapse of the Soviet Union, or of Gorbachev’s own ouster (secret because disclosing it publicly might help make it so). But most U.S. accounts describe the group as having started much later, in September 1989, and been coordinated by the NSC’s Condoleezza Rice. Kohl’s response here, like the later American versions, also suggests the group’s role was to monitor rather than to undermine.

2Most striking here is how candid the Kohl and Gorbachev assessments are of events in other countries, compared to Soviet Politburo discussions and certainly to the stilted presentations of the “fraternal” parties. Moreover, Kohl and Gorbachev actually agree on what they think about Jaruzelski, Ceauşescu, and the Hungarians, for example. Kohl continues to assure Gorbachev that the FRG will do nothing to destabilize the situation in Eastern Europe. At the same time, taking advantage of their new close relationship, he complains for the first time about Honecker’s policies in the GDR, and Gorbachev seems receptive to his views. Of course, the Soviet leader is weighing his reactions based in part on the financial power of West Germany which gives it immense influence regarding Eastern Europe.

  • 1 Chernyaev, Shest’Let s Gorbachevym, 291.

3As an interesting aside to the fate of Yugoslavia, Kohl suggests to Gorbachev that “we need to think about how to prevent the Balkans from becoming a source of de-stabilization.” The talks end with a joint declaration by the two leaders that, according to Chernyaev, “de facto began the process of reunification of Germany.”1


4[…] Kohl: We would like to see your visit, Mr. Gorbachev, as the end of hostilities between Russians and Germans, as the beginning of a period of genuinely friendly, good neighborly relations. You understand that these are words supported by the will of all the people, by the will of the people who greet you in the streets and the squares. As chancellor, I join this expression of the people’s will with pleasure, and I tell you once again that I like your policy, and I like you as a person.

5Gorbachev: Thank you for such warm words. They are very touching. I will respond equally, and I will try not to disappoint you.

6I would like to tell you the following with all sincerity. According to our information, there is a special group that was created in the National Security Council of the United States charged with discrediting perestroika and me personally. When Baker was in Moscow, we openly asked him about that. He and his colleagues were somewhat confused and did not give us a clear answer; they only tried to convince us that it was not so. However, I have some evidence that such a group does, in fact, exist. I think you understand me well, Mr. Federal Chancellor; you understand how I feel about it.

7Kohl: Thank you for your openness. I have heard nothing about such a group. Even if it does exist, I do not think it was created at George Bush’s initiative, or that it was charged with the tasks you have just formulated. Maybe if it exists it has some kind of monitoring functions, but not subversive ones. […]

8Kohl: Now a couple of words about our mutual friends. I will tell you directly that Erich Honecker concerns me a great deal. His wife has just made a statement in which she called on the GDR youth to take up arms and, if necessary, defend the achievements of socialism from external enemies. It is clear that she implied that the socialist countries which implement reforms, stimulate democratic processes, and follow their own original road are the enemies. Primarily, she had Poland and Hungary in mind. This is certainly a strange statement.

9Gorbachev: What are your relations with Poland like?

10Kohl: The country is in a difficult situation right now. But we want to help it to get out of the crisis. As is the case with the GDR, we do not want any destabilization.

11Tomorrow François Mitterrand will travel to Poland. We agreed that France will be the first to extend aid to Poland, to give them financial assistance in the form of credits. Then George Bush will visit Poland. As for me, I consciously decided to be the third to visit Poland—after the French and the Americans. The Germans and the Poles are connected by something else. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. I will probably visit Poland on those dates. Anyway, I would like my visit to contribute to the improvement of relations between Germans and Poles, even though I realize that it will be very, very difficult.

12Gorbachev: We need to support the Poles; they do not have anybody who has more authority and respect than Wojciech Jaruzelski now.

13Kohl: We also plan to give Poland financial support. I understand your words, Mr. Gorbachev.

14We have rather good relations with the Hungarians. However, we also do not want destabilization there. That is why when I meet with the Hungarians, I tell them: we consider the reforms that are underway in your country your internal affair, we are sympathetic. However, if you would like to hear our advice, we recommend that you do not accelerate too much, because you might lose control over your mechanism, and it will start to work to destroy itself.

15Of all the socialist countries, we have the most hopeless relations with Romania. There is no movement at all; just complete darkness and stagnation. I do not understand Ceauşescu. How does he not see what a ridiculous cult he has created in his own country? I cannot believe that he can seriously think he has made the Romanians the happiest people on Earth.

16Gorbachev: It is certainly strange that this kind of family clan would be established in the center of civilized Europe, in a state with rich historical traditions. I could imagine something like that to emerge somewhere else, like it has in Korea; but here, right next to us—it is such a primitive phenomenon.

17Kohl: I like the Bulgarians. If you compare Bulgaria in the first post-war years and now, the progress is impressive—like night and day. Bulgarian representatives—leaders as well as simple professionals—often visit my country. They think and operate with very modern concepts, and they avidly absorb our economic experience. They also, as we can observe, implement it in their economic life quite effectively. I really like Todor Zhivkov. He has been in power for a very long time—I think since 1956, when I was still taking final exams in high school. He is a very flexible politician. I met with him several times, and every time we met he criticized those leaders of various branches of the Bulgarian economy who could not manage their responsibilities. It is curious that he speaks about that as if those individuals were not members of his own circle and as if he gave them no directives, just observed them from a distance.

18I am mostly concerned by the situation in Yugoslavia. The economy there is choking, and nobody knows how to help it. We need to think about how to prevent the Balkans from becoming a source of destabilization.

19I have already said that in our policy toward the socialist countries, toward the Soviet Union, we remain on a clear course of non-interference in their internal affairs. However, a policy of non-interference could be of two sorts. It is one thing to sit in a theater seat, to watch what is unfolding on-stage and, when the play is almost over, to rise and say that we foresaw everything that happened, and that it could not have been otherwise. How smart we are. […]

20[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 1. Opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]


1 Chernyaev, Shest’Let s Gorbachevym, 291.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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