Second Conversation between M.S. Gorbachev and FRG Chancellor H. Kohl
On June 12, 1989, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev began a four-day visit to West Germany, just two weeks after a similar visit to West Germany by United States President George H. W. Bush. Gorbachev had by the summer of 1989 become a popular figure and expectations were running high in West German society over the summit. From the Soviet Union's perspective, West Germany represented the largest economy in Europe and welcomed the possibility of increased trade. For many Germans, the visits by both Bush and Gorbachev during the summer of 1989 illustrated joint recognition of the new, pivotal role that West Germany played in East-West relations.
During their second formal meeting during Gorbachev's visit to West Germany (on June 13), West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl discussed his efforts to limit the number of nuclear weapons in Europe and discussed his opposition to the deployment by the United States of the Lance missiles. Because these weapons were to be stationed primarily on German soil and had such a short range, the German people were overwhelmingly opposed.
In his conversation with Gorbachev, Kohl attempted to plead his genuine concern with issues of arms reduction, stating that he has two sons who were officers in the West German army (the Bundeswehr) and that he had lost his brother in the Second World War as well. Coinciding with his talks with Gorbachev on arms reduction, Kohl's wife was accompanying Raisa Gorbachev on a visit to a Soviet memorial in Stuckenbruck, a move intended to further emphasize Kohl's notions that all of Europe was tied together and that West Germany was not the same aggressor as Nazi Germany forty years earlier.
Mikhail Gorbachev, conversation with Chancellor of FRG H. Kohl, 13 June 1989, trans. Svetlana Savranskaya, Notes of A.S. Chernyaev, Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
Kohl. I am in favor of progress in all negotiations, in all spheres of arms control. I took 1992 as a benchmark. And the "Lances" are not the only ones that matter, the point is that in 1992 there will be a year left until the elections in the U.S. We should take that into account in all respects. We have to work in all directions.
Gorbachev. We have a common destiny. Why should we be anybody's hostages?
Kohl. We have not only a common destiny, but also a common history. Now, as we are talking, our wives are visiting the memorial in Stuckenbruck — the place where the Soviet citizens who were killed in the war were buried. There is not a single family in both the USSR and in the FRG that the war did not touch. My two sons are officers of the Bundeswehr[West German Army], and my brother was killed in the war.
Gorbachev. Policy without morality cannot be considered serious policy, immoral politicians cannot be trusted.
Kohl. At a recent NATO meeting at the highest level I told my colleagues directly that I was the only one among them whose both sons served in the army integrated into NATO. I also stressed, that I was not a coward, of course, but that I was a German, and knew history and geography very well.
Gorbachev. I very much appreciate your honest and sincere judgments. And I value the trust that is growing between us with every meeting.
Kohl. Let us communicate more often, let's call each other on the phone. I think that we could accomplish many things ourselves, without delegating them to the bureaucracies that can drag their consideration on and on.