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3 - The US, the UK and the German Question at the Cold War's End (1985–1989)

from Part 1 - The Special Relationship and the German Question during the Cold War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2018

Luca Ratti
Affiliation:
Roma Tre University and the University of Rome
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Summary

‘Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall’

(Ronald Reagan, 12 June 1987)

‘The preamble of our Basic Law is not negotiable, as it corresponds to our conviction. It wants a united Europe and demands the entire German people to achieve in free self-determination the unity and freedom of Germany. This is our goal’

(Helmut Kohl, 7 September 1987)

‘We are not in a Cold War now’

(Margaret Thatcher, 17 November 1988)

Anglo-American reactions to the prospect of change in Germany (1985–1988)

Gorbachev's election, the European security debate and the German question

Both the US and Britain greeted with enthusiasm Moscow's embrace of glasnost and perestroika following Gorbachev's election as the CPSU's first secretary in March 1985. Even before Gorbachev had come to power there had been signs of easing East–West tensions. Thatcher had already made clear her support for a thaw in relations with Moscow. The Reagan administration, now in its second term, also began to soften its stance. However, the new Soviet course rapidly rekindled latent Anglo-American differences over Germany. In the late 1980s as popular manifestations of dissent in the East forcefully brought the German question back on the international agenda, US and British strategies drifted apart. Washington cheered transformation, backing Bonn's quest for unification, on the condition that a united Germany remained firmly anchored into Western institutions. In contrast, the British reacted with caution mixed with concern at the prospect of change in Germany. Their first response was to reiterate a commitment to the principle of self-determination. However, London viewed with diffidence Bonn's initiatives, feared the implications of dynamics in Germany and attempted to strike an uncomfortable balance between change in the GDR, but not necessarily German unity, and its long-standing commitment to unification. In the following years Britain's preference for preserving the status quo caused irritation in Washington, weakening Anglo-American solidarity. How the special relationship between the US and the United Kingdom was affected by these dynamics is the detailed subject of this chapter.

Type
Chapter
Information
A Not-So-Special Relationship
The US, The UK and German Unification, 1945-1990
, pp. 214 - 254
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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