Where did all the time go? Thirty years ago this week the Berlin Wall fell. Then Soviet chairman Mikhail Gorbachev freed the Baltic states and allowed divided Germany to reunite. It was a geopolitical earthquake of historic proportions – and a major miracle of our times.
The once mighty Soviet Union had become exhausted by its long military/economic/political struggle to keep up with the much wealthier United States and its rich allies. Moscow had 40,000 tanks, but its economic infrastructure, crippled by Marxist ideology, was an empty shell.
A senior KGB general in Moscow told me that, a decade earlier, the renowned Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov had warned the Politburo that failure by Soviet industry to account for deprecation to modernize and replace outdated equipment would provoke a major crisis by 1990. This is exactly what happened.
By 1990, Soviet industry was broken down, outdated or rusted away. The Kremlin could no longer maintain the Soviet welfare state with its free medicine and education, long holidays, vacation spas, early pensions and unaffordable military spending. Arms alone may have accounted for over 40% of Moscow’s budget.
The Soviet Empire came crashing down after a revolt by East Germans, followed by Baltic peoples and central Europeans. Secretary Gorbachev, an idealistic leader of high ethics, refused to use the Red Army to crush the rebellion.
KGB, fed up with decrepit Communist misrule, abandoned the Party and moved to take control. East Germany broke free of Moscow and joyously reunited with West Germany, altering Europe’s balance of power to the displeasure of Britain and France, Germany’s historic rivals.
According to the Russians, Moscow made oral agreements with Washington, London and Paris that, in exchange for allowing Germany to reunite and then join NATO, the Western powers vowed NOT to extend the alliance into the former Communist states. They agreed to a neutral buffer zone across Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
The West lied. Precisely the opposite occurred. NATO, led by its sponsor, the US, moved relentlessly east, using its economic and political clout to dominate Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland (they were delighted), the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania and the wreckage of former Yugoslavia.