Germany has been criticized for a self-centered foreign and economic policy lately: Afghanistan, economic stimulus, Greece. Germany's commitment to the transatlantic alliance and European integration is called into question. I wonder how much of this is influenced by German reunification 20 years ago. We achieved our main goal (the jackpot) back then and need allies less since. Besides, our friends in the West were not very supportive of our main foreign policy goal, if the Spiegel's summary of the road to unification is to believed.
President Bush is described as "rather indifferent to the question of unification" and erecting "the highest hurdle when he stated that the United States would only agree to reunification if the new Germany were brought into the NATO fold."
British diplomats wondered whether this was a trick aimed at postponing German reunification for years to come. Nevertheless, Kohl agreed to Bush's proposal. He was concerned that if Germany became neutral, NATO would collapse. Without the North Atlantic pact, Kohl worried, the Americans would disappear from Europe, and nuclear powers France and Great Britain would then form a tighter alliance. It was an outcome no chancellor could possibly wish for. But if Kohl agreed to NATO membership, Bush would stand by his word -- and American influence in Europe would increase. The only problem was convincing Gorbachev to accept both reunification and NATO membership. His troops were still stationed in East Germany, which was still a member or the Warsaw Pact, and Gorbachev was still convinced that a leftist political party emerging from the SED could save the GDR.
Why did Gorbachev agree so quickly? According to Spiegel he was so busy with the Soviet Union's domestic troubles that he did not care that much about Germany. (Another reason was that he was a moralist and did not want to be seen as an extortionist by putting more demands on Germany.) Though, opposition to reunification grew in the West in 1989 and 1990:
The more East Germany progresses toward collapse in the coming weeks, the more solid the alliance of the opponents of reunification seems to become. Politicians and diplomats alike, and not just those of the four victorious powers of World War II, are deeply concerned about the events along the dividing line between East and West. Rarely is this concern given voice. Indeed, one of the few public utterances opposing German reunification comes from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who speculates in an interview that if a reunified Germany, a country in which "the great majority of the German people (once) decided to kill millions of Jewish people," becomes "the strongest country in Europe, and maybe in the world, they will try to do it again." But behind the closed doors of NATO and European Community conferences, the allies make it abundantly clear to the West Germans that they are adamantly opposed to allowing East Germany to perish. Italy's Giulio Andreotti, a member of 33 governments and now prime minister for the sixth time, warns against a new "pan-Germanism," Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers questions the Germans' right of self-determination and French President Mitterrand says that Europe isn't ready for German reunification. The mood among European leaders was "icy," German Chancellor Helmut Kohl later reports, adding that this is something he has never forgotten.
Perhaps today's generation of politicians has not forgotten the icy mood either and therefore pursue German interests as strongly in icy (?) negotiations over the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003, the economic crisis in 2008 and the Greece bailout in 2010. Helmut Kohl was more of a European visionary and Atlanticist than all chancellors (and foreign ministers, excl. perhaps Joschka Fischer) since then. The negotiations at the UN and elsewhere over Saddam's non-compliance with UN resolution were perhaps as brutal and ruthless as those about German unification. Many Americans still hold a grudge at Germany's for the way Schroeder opposed the Iraq war. Condoleeza Rice says in the Spiegel interview (which focuses on her role in the unification negotiations):
My only disappointment about Iraq was the picture of the German chancellor standing with the French president and the Russian president to protest the war. I have no problem with Germany disagreeing, but the Russian president should not have been standing there, given our history. Friends disagree, but symbols matter.
Spiegel describes the reunification negotiations as a ruthless chess match with
French President Mitterrand warned the Germans against Thatcher, and he warned Thatcher against the Germans. The conservative British leader, on the other hand, despised the Soviet dictatorship, and yet she was in favor of Moscow's troops remaining in East Germany for as long as possible, noting: "We might one day need the Soviet Union as a counter-balance to a united Germany." The Americans, too, coolly pursued their interests, which led them to favor a unified Germany within NATO, a view they openly expressed. When the NATO ambassador in Bonn wanted to know how this was to be interpreted, a US official replied that Washington's preferred solution contained "an element of warning" to all Germans in favor of their country becoming neutral. Germany's diplomats, of course, were equally calculating.
Another Spiegel article discusses whether Germany had to give up the Deutsche Mark and agree to a faster adoption of the common European currency to get French support for the unification and to calm all the other European governments who were afraid of a powerful Germany. Apparently they were still concerned about Germany's foreign policy (military) ambitions and also overestimated the economic power of East Germany. They did not imagine that we would spend most of our resources on domestic politics the next twenty years. Building up the east Germany and unifying East and West Germany proved more difficult and expensive and absorbed more of our attention than they thought possible back then. And even today, twenty years later there is so much to do and keep us from any foreign policy adventures:
East Germans represent 20% of the population but under 5% of the elite in politics, business, science and media, found the sociologists at Bielefeld University. Merkel grew up in the east but her cabinet consists of west Germans. None of the 30 leading companies listed in the German share index have an east German boss.