Copyright © 1995 the President and Fellows of Harvard College.All rights reserved.
"For decades a thick closed blanket of clouds obscured the star of Germanunity," Germany's former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher recalled."Then for a short time the blanket of clouds parted, allowed the star tobecome visible, and we grabbed for it." "Grabbed" is a good word for whathappened. It captures the sense of a frantic lunge in 1989 and 1990, what theBritish scholar Timothy Garton Ash has called a "hurtling and hurling together,sanctioned by great-power negotiations." It was, he wrote, a time when"more happened in ten months than usually does in ten years."
Opinions may vary about the result. A renowned German commentatorhas called the outcome "the greatest triumph of diplomacy in the postwarera." A former Soviet foreign minister has called it "one of the most hateddevelopments in the history of Soviet foreign policy and it will remain so fordecades." Although now the outcome may seem almost preordained, thoseclosest to the events--whether former Soviet foreign minister EduardShevardnadze or political figures from East and West Germany--still marvelthat this tumult did not lead to a "bloodbath," a war, or at least a new phaseof cold war.
The main purpose of this book is to tell the story of this extraordinaryepisode in modern diplomacy. This is, above all, a diplomatic history. Bothauthors were involved in the events as members of President George Bush'sNational Security Council staff: Philip Zelikow was a career diplomat detailedto the White House; Condoleezza Rice was on leave from her professorshipat Stanford University. The book originated as an internal historical studywhich a senior State Department official, Robert Zoellick, invited Zelikow towrite as he was leaving the government to accept a faculty appointment atHarvard University. After securing promises of unlimited access to all relevantdocuments at both the State Department and the White House, as well asaccess to relevant intelligence documents, Zelikow agreed and began workBut as the project took shape, it became dear that the story could not be toldproperly just from the perspective of the United States.
Historians have rightly criticized works that dwell too much on the perspectiveof one or another country, neglecting what others were doing orthinking, forgetting that diplomacy is really the interplay of several differentsets of beliefs and actions. None of the many books published so far onGerman unification has tried, for example, to tell the German story and theSoviet story and the American story, and then study how they interacted toproduce the results all could see. That is the task we set for ourselves.
To do this we complemented research in the American archives with acareful study of all materials available in German and Russian. We consultedpapers that became available from the East German state archives and somesignificant archival materials available for the Soviet Union, including papersprepared for meetings of the Politburo and policy guidance prepared forShevardnadze. We also talked to key decision makers in a number of countries;some of them commented on our draft, and we have constantly cross-checkedrecollections and published accounts against the available documentaryevidence.
We made another decision about this book: we have cited all of our sources.It is not unusual for former officials to consult government records inpreparing an account of their experiences, but it is unprecedented for themto cite these records just as a professional historian would. Most of theAmerican records we have cited remain classified and unavailable to thepublic. We were able to cite them because the citations themselves revealedno secrets. Yet, with these American records, we faced a dilemma. Scholarswill not be able to check some of our uses of still-classified governmentdocuments. They must, for a time, take on faith that we have used ourevidence properly. This is a fair and appropriate concern. But the other sideof the dilemma is that by failing to include any citations, we would havefrustrated still more scholars who would never know what sources we hadused. We decided that this latter concern was more important, for severalreasons.
A surprisingly large proportion of our assertions can be checked, directlyor indirectly, against published accounts and unclassified documents. Thispoint should be apparent from a careful look at our citations. Also, our notescan convey our inside understanding of what the documents mean, whoprepared them, which ones mattered and which did not. Furthermore, problemsof privileged access to source material are not unique to former governmentofficials. Often papers or materials held by private persons areavailable only to certain people or with special restrictions. Here we werefortunate in being able to use documents that belong to the American peopleand will eventually be made available to the public. So we have cited oursources as carefully as possible. Although the American archival material isnot yet catalogued in the Bush Library or the National Archives, the citationsare complete enough to enable scholars to find the cited documents once thecataloguing is done. Finally, at our request, the National Security Archive hasalso filed a massive request under the Freedom of Information Act to expeditethe declassification of as much material as possible. The archive will makethis material available to scholars. All material that can be declassified, includingunclassified but hard-to-obtain public affairs material (transcripts ofState Department press briefings, for example), will also join the collectionsof papers scrupulously maintained by the Archival Library of the HooverInstitution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.
This book is a joint effort. Zelikow drafted the original manuscript. As thatmanuscript was being accepted for publication, Rice drafted the portrait ofSoviet thinking that dominates Chapter 1 and the epilogue. She then refashionedthe analysis in Chapters 2, 3, and 4, reshaping the narrative and addingmaterial. The authors then together revised and finalized the manuscript,continuing to add new sources as they became available. Zelikow handledresearch in the American archives and those materials, whatever their origin,published in German. Rice was responsible for the Soviet archival researchas well as other materials in the Russian language.
We were involved in the events we describe. We had, and still have, opinionsabout them. This is natural; indeed, even scholars who experience eventsvicariously can become just as opinionated about them. As former officialswe were also obliged by law to let the government make sure we had notabused our special knowledge to reveal secrets that are still important to thesecurity of the United States. (This was not a problem.) But from the startwe have been absolutely free to tell the story any way we chose. No one, onany occasion, has even attempted to tilt or shape our story, except in tellingus his or her side of it.
We think this episode was a historic success for the United States and forthe Federal Republic of Germany. One could argue that the amicable settlementof the partition of Germany was a farsighted choice for the Soviet Unionas well. Some readers will not agree with these conclusions and may doubtthe wisdom of many choices that were made. We tried to write this book ina way that would arm any side of this historical debate by laying out thenarrative in detail, establishing the arguments as weighed by different officialsin the various governments, and exposing to public view the crucial choicesand some of the beliefs underlying them. In fact, though we think the netjudgment is resoundingly positive, we believe that almost all American (andWest German) officials, ourselves most definitely included, made mistakes atone time or another. But we do not spend much time saying who we thinkwas wise or who was not. We usually try to leave it to the reader to supplythese judgments.
In preparing this book we have received help and advice from manyquarters. For financial support in performing some of the research, we aregrateful to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Harvard University'sProgram for the Study of Germany and Europe, and Stanford University'sCenter for International Security and Arms Control. We are also indebted tothe former officials who agreed to share their experiences from this period.They are listed throughout the notes. We are also especially thankful for theencouragement and advice we received at key points from Robert Zoellick,Robert Blackwill, Coit Blacker, and Ernest May. The research and productionof this book was aided by Stanford's Center for International Security andArms Control and the talents of Yvonne Brown, Brian Davenport, KironSkinner, John Fowler, Chris Fleishner, Artur Khachikian, Elizabeth Ewing,Matthew Bencke, and Deborah Schneider. We have received many usefulcomments from the scholars who reviewed the manuscript anonymously forHarvard University Press, and from Alexander Abashkiri, Donald Abenheim,Hannes Adomeit, Alexandra Bezymenskaia, Maxim Bratersky, Gerhard Casper,Gordon Craig, David Holloway, Karl Kaiser, Felix Philipp Lutz, ElizabethPond, Alfred Rubin, W. R. Smyser, Marc Trachtenberg, and Peter Wagner. Wealso wish to acknowledge the encouragement and support of our editor, AidaDonald, and the patience and creativity of our copy editor, Amanda Heller.