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Document No. 113: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Hans Dietrich Genscher, December 5, 1989

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1A week has passed since Helmut Kohl announced his “10 Points” in a Bundestag speech, and Gorbachev, unlike his demeanor regarding Germany at Malta, does go “ballistic” in this conversation. This is perhaps because he is receiving the German foreign minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher, who heads a separate political party from Kohl but participates in the coalition government, but more likely because Bush has apparently weighed in on Kohl’s side, despite the cautious talk at Malta. Gorbachev angrily remarks, “Yesterday, Chancellor Kohl, without much thought, stated that President Bush supported the idea of a confederation. What is next? … What will happen to existing agreements between us? … I cannot call him [Kohl] a responsible and predictable politician.” Gorbachev says he thought Kohl would at least consult with Moscow, but “[h]e probably already thinks that his music is playing—a march—and that he is already marching with it.” From the Soviet view, the “10 Points” are “ultimatums” and “crude interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.” Gorbachev is personally offended because “[j]udging from all this, you have prepared a funeral for the European process”—his own vision of the common European home. Genscher tries to defend the “10 Points” as requiring “no conditions” and representing “just suggestions,” and that “the GDR should decide whether they are suitable or not.” Gorbachev rebukes Genscher for becoming Kohl’s “defense attorney” and raises the rhetorical attack to the point of making a reference to the Nazi era: “You have to remember what mindless politics has led to in the past.” Genscher responds, “We are aware of our historical mistakes, and we are not going to repeat them. The processes that are going on now in the GDR and in the FRG do not deserve such harsh judgment.” (Shevardnadze is even more blunt with his comparisons, mentioning Hitler by name.) As a final debating point, Gorbachev notes that Genscher himself only heard about the 10 Points for the first time in the Bundestag speech. The German confirms it—“Yes, that is true”—but then deftly slips in a rejoinder to the new champion of non-interference that “this is our internal affair. “ Gorbachev replies, “You can see that your internal affair is making everybody concerned.”

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2Gorbachev: I have to tell you directly—I cannot understand Federal Chancellor Kohl who spoke about his famous 10 points concerning the FRG’s intentions regarding the GDR. It must be stated directly that those are ultimatums that are being imposed on an independent and sovereign German state. By the way, even though he only mentioned the GDR, what the chancellor said concerns us all.

3First of all, these 10 points appeared after we had a constructive and positive exchange of opinions, after we had reached agreement on several fundamental issues. You would think that he should be presenting that kind of document only after relevant consultations with partners. Or does the federal chancellor think that he does not need them anymore? He probably already thinks that his music is playing—a march—and that he is already marching with it. I do not think such steps will contribute to the strengthening of trust and mutual understanding, or contribute to fulfilling our agreements with life. What kind of “Europe building” can one talk about if they act that way?

4You know that I spoke with Chancellor Kohl on the telephone. I told him that the GDR was a factor in not only European but world politics, and that both East and West would carefully follow everything that is happening there. Kohl agreed with that; he assured me that the FRG did not want destabilization in the GDR, and that they would act in a balanced way. However, his practical steps deviate from his assurances.

5I told Kohl that the GDR is an important partner and ally of the Soviet Union. We are also interested in developing our relations with the FRG. This is a triangle that plays a special role in European and global developments. Everything has to be carefully balanced in this triangle. And now he is issuing an ultimatum. He is giving directions for what road the GDR should take, what structures they should create. The FRG leadership is simply bursting with a desire to command, and let me assure you—everybody can feel it.

6Maybe it is Bush who is heating the situation up? Still, you have to think through your moves two or three or five steps ahead, to foresee their consequences.

7[…] Yesterday, Chancellor Kohl, without much thought, stated that President Bush supported the idea of confederation. What is next? What does a confederation mean? Confederation presupposes a common defense, and a common foreign policy. Where will the FRG find itself then, in NATO or in the Warsaw Treaty? Or maybe it will become neutral? And what would NATO mean without the FRG? In the end, what will come next? Did you think about everything? What will happen to existing agreements between us? Do you call this politics?

8Shevardnadze: Today you apply this style to the GDR, tomorrow you might apply it to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and then to Austria.

9Gorbachev: With all responsibility I can tell you that you have not demonstrated the best style of politics; you are not differentiating your position from Kohl’s. In any case, I cannot call him a responsible and predictable politician.

10Genscher: […] On the eve of my trip to Moscow I spoke with Chancellor Kohl in Brussels. His statement of the 10 points does not represent a schedule of urgent measures, it defines the long-term perspective. The GDR will decide on its own whether to respond to his proposal.

11We are interested in the internal stability of the GDR. We believe that by his statement the federal chancellor contributed to the strengthening of that stability. There were no directives or ultimatums in that statement. We know that neither Poland nor Hungary has that impression. These 10 points, and our policy, are supported by all parties represented in the Bundestag, including the SPD.

12At the same time, we dissociate ourselves from the internal problems of the GDR, for which the FRG bears no responsibility.

13Gorbachev: I could not even anticipate that you would assume the role of Federal Chancellor Kohl’s defense attorney. Let us take the third point of his statement. He spoke for the “comprehensive expansion of our assistance, and our cooperation, if the GDR makes the necessary basic changes in its political and economic system,’ and if the state leadership of the GDR reaches agreements with “opposition groups,’ and if the GDR follows this course irreversibly. What do you call that except crude interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state?

14Shevardnadze: Even Hitler did not allow himself anything like that.

15Gorbachev: More than that, Chancellor Kohl demands that the Socialist Unity Party of Germany give up its monopoly on power. He speaks about the need to abolish the “bureaucratic planned economy.” Economic improvement, according to him, can only be achieved when the GDR opens its doors to Western investment, creates conditions for a market economy, and ensures opportunities for private enterprise.

16I think that the GDR has to undertake fundamental reforms. However, this is their internal affair. Chancellor Kohl, meanwhile, is treating the citizens of the GDR, in essence, like his own subjects. This is simply blatant revanchism, which leaves nothing of his positive assurances, and puts all the agreements we have achieved in question. […]

17Genscher: I would like to draw your attention to point 2, where it is said that the federal government of the FRG would like to expand cooperation with the GDR on the basis of equality in all spheres.

18Gorbachev: Stop defending it, Mr. Genscher. Point 2 is completely devalued by point 3. In tsarist Russia, when a political prisoner was released he was told that he could live wherever he chooses except in 18 counties—and there were only 18 counties in Russia. Where do you think he could live? It is the same with this statement.

19Genscher: That is not so. […]

20Gorbachev: The Chancellor’s statement is a political blunder. We cannot just let it go unnoticed. We are not inclined to play diplomacy with you. If you want to cooperate with us, we are ready. If not, we are going to draw political conclusions. I am asking you to take what I have just said seriously.

21Genscher: I am speaking seriously. There are no conditions in the 10 points. These are just suggestions, and the GDR should decide whether they are suitable or not.

22Gorbachev: Then it is even more of an ultimatum. Judging from all this, you have prepared a funeral for the European process, especially in this form.

23Genscher: That is not so. I am in favor of speaking openly. You should not interpret point 2 and point 3 in that way. I would not want to be accused of a lack of good will. The FRG does not want to interfere in anybody’s internal affairs. […]

24Gorbachev: We think that the changes in the GDR are good, but you should not interfere with all kinds of instructions and advice.

25Genscher: We respect these changes.

26Gorbachev: I am speaking about the FRG now. There is some confusion in [people’s] minds there, a bustle. One can feel that some people there are already bursting from what is going on. Some people are beginning to lose their minds, and they do not see anything around themselves. Politics without brains is not politics. This way you may spoil everything that we have created together. The Germans are emotional people, but you are also philosophers. You have to remember what mindless politics has led to in the past.

27Genscher: We are aware of our historical mistakes, and we are not going to repeat them. The processes that are going on now in the GDR and in the FRG do not deserve such harsh judgment. […]

28Gorbachev: In short, you want to say that you are acting correctly and responsibly. That is my conclusion. I would like to emphasize once more that we assign special importance to what is going on, and that we will monitor everything very carefully.

29Genscher: Yes, the policy of the federal government is responsible and predictable; otherwise, I would have nothing to say.

30Gorbachev: I am not speaking now about your overall policy, only about the 10 points. You are forgetting the past. Everybody can see that Chancellor Kohl is rushing, that he is artificially stimulating events, and by doing that he is undermining the European process that is being developed with such difficulty. How can he think that we are unable to render a dispassionate judgment about his behavior?

31Genscher: I have already said that you should not dramatize the events. […] Gorbachev: […] By the way, it seems to me, Mr. Genscher, that you only learned about his 10 points from the speech in the Bundestag.

32Genscher: Yes, that is true, but this is our internal affair. We will deal with it ourselves.

33Gorbachev: You can see that your internal affair is making everybody concerned. But the main thing is that we understand each other.

34It seems to me that you are satisfied with what we are going to tell the press. Today we are still speaking like this. However, keep in mind that if some in your country do not come to their senses, then tomorrow we will make another statement.

35Genscher: Let me assure you that we will take the most responsible approach. Please do not think that I do not mean what I am saying.

36Gorbachev: Do not take everything I said personally, Mr. Genscher. You know that we feel differently about you than we do about others. We hope that you understood everything correctly. Thank you for the conversation.

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

© Central European University Press, 2010

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