INTERVIEWER: At the end of those meetings you gave him to come back to the atmosphere, you gave him a pair of cowboy boots, why did you do that and what did you tell him as you gave them to him?
JAMES BAKER: yeah, yeah I remember that we exchanged gifts at the end of the Wyoming ministerial and I gave him something that I thought was befitting the location, a pair of cowboy boots and in giving them to him I told him that we Texans use Cowboy boots to when we're chomping around in the barnyard to make sure we don't get farm substances in our shoes and in our socks and that he might have a need for these during the course of the future negotiations and the future relationship. But you know he gave me something really more significant, he gave me a Russian enamel picture of Jesus teaching the people. And in giving it to me, he said, "You know Mr. Secretary this will show you that even we communists are changing our views." A picture. Here are these atheists now giving me a picture of Jesus teaching the people.
INTERVIEWER: I'm sure you Texans don't usually use words like farm substances. As you got another, one American guy at Checkpoint Charlie talked about defecation about to hit the fan.
JAMES BAKER: What did I tell him exactly I can't remember [reminds him] it's a long hard road ahead and you're gonna need some strong boots to protect you.
INTERVIEWER: As you looked at Eastern Europe the change in Eastern Europe, what basis, with what end in view were you prepared to offer aid to some of those countries?
JAMES BAKER: Well we were we were very anxious to see the countries of both central and Eastern Europe, reform, both economically and politically. We had after all, all of us in the West all countries in the West had been articulating our hopes for freedom and independence for the captive nations of Eastern Europe for 40 years ever since the end of the cold war, that's what we, that's what we hoped for, for them.
INTERVIEWER: But in responding to those events you were also careful not to cause difficulties for the Soviet leadership. Could you say something about that?
JAMES BAKER: Yes it was really important President Bush and I and everyone on the American side as a matter of fact felt it was very important that we assist Gorbachev and Shevernadze and the reformers in the Soviet Union in any way we could, to arrive at a soft landing. The Cold War didn't have to end with a whimper it could have gone out with a bang, and there were a lot of pressures on Gorbachev and Shevernadze and Yacub and the others from the hard-liners and we saw that in the august coup, the august of 91 coup against Gorbachev and we were quite conscious of those pressures. And we didn't want to do something that would jeopardize their position. For instance when the wall came down, we didn't go out there and gloat. President Bush said "I'm not gonna dance on the wall because it would be you know we're delighted to see this development, but it would be the wrong thing to do." It would bring a lot of pressure; we felt the same way with some of the elements of Baltic nationalism that were surfacing. We wanted the reforms to continue, we wanted the Soviet leadership which had adopted this reformist approach to continue making these things happen and we didn't wanna put pressures on them that would result in a hard-line backlash there.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much and on your tour of Eastern Europe and going back a little bit before the Baltics and so on, on your tour of Eastern Europe in July 89, did you think yourself the change was going to fast.
JAMES BAKER: No I don't think we ever felt that the change per se was going too fast. There were times when we felt I think that perhaps some leaders were pushing too hard. That they were trying to get us to stick it in the eye if you will of the Soviet leadership and that that would be counterproductive. There were occasions like that.
INTERVIEWER: In Eastern Europe in July 89 did you think change was going too fast?
JAMES BAKER: No we didn't think change was going too fast, we thought occasionally that certain leaders were pushing a bit too hard and were trying to provoke the Soviet Union into taking action which would be counterproductive. We were concerned about that. There were times when particularly we felt that Baltic Nationalism was going a bit too strong. Now we never wavered from our position that we did not recognize the incorporation of the Baltics into the Soviet Union and we constantly told the Soviet leadership that. And in the January 1991 episode in Lithuania we almost we came as close then to splitting the blanket if you will with Gorbachev as we ever as we ever did during this entire period, because that was something that we simply would not abide.
INTERVIEWER: In that year you supported not Walesa but Jaruzelski in Poland.
JAMES BAKER: Well we supported Jaruzelski in Poland because he was reforming, he was changing. There were reforms going forward at that time. We supported Walesa, I mean we were never shy about supporting the real reformers. But yes we did support Jaruzelski, he was at the time in charge and he was moving in the right direction.
INTERVIEWER: In Hungary Nemeth gave you a plaque with barbed wire on it. What did you feel when you got that?
JAMES BAKER: I thought that was remarkable, I really felt a sense of
JAMES BAKER: Well in Hungary in 1989 Nemeth the Prime Minister gave both President Bush and myself a piece of the iron curtain, a piece of barbed wire that had been mounted on a plaque. The first part of the iron curtain that had been dismantled and that was a very emotional moment and I still have that piece of barbed wire that I have displayed in my office. but it was just a foretaste of course of things to come.
INTERVIEWER: How did you learn personally that the Berlin wall was coming down, can you just tell me what happened.
JAMES BAKER: I learned personally that the Berlin wall had fallen during the course of a dinner that I was, during a lunch that I was hosting for President Aquino of the Philippines and someone came in and passed me a note and said the Berlin was has fallen in the wall between East and West Berlin is beginning to come down and we drank a toast. I remember, I remember proposing a toast to the collapse of the wall at that time, at that lunch and the following lunch I merely went over to the White House to talk to the president about it.
INTERVIEWER: Just to reiterate what you said before, you decided not to publicly rub the Russians noses
JAMES BAKER: President Bush was quite careful not to publicly rub the Soviet's nose in the fact that the wall had come down and in effect the East West confrontation was beginning to come to an end and in effect that communism was collapsing, it was it was tantamount to communism collapsing when that wall came down.
INTERVIEWER: Why did President Bush feel ready for a summit at Malta in December 89?
JAMES BAKER: Well I think President Bush had President Bush wanted a summit from the very beginning, he was quite prepared to negotiate what president Gorbachev after all, this was one of the most important bilateral relationships the United States had in the world. And he had he had been criticized quite a bit for the pause during which time we reassessed our policy towards the Soviet Union. And after that I think and particularly after my visits with Shevernadze and my reporting to him on my trip to Moscow and meeting Gorbachev and so forth. I think he decided it was time to get cracking. It was the right decision.
INTERVIEWER: Tell us about the weather at Malta were you seasick?
JAMES BAKER: The weather at Malta was terrible and I get seasick I get badly seasick but I didn't get seasick on this particular trip because the president's doctor gave me some kind of a little patch to put behind my ear and they worked remarkably, I normally get seasick at the drop of a hat. I think it was something called Spetalamine or something like that.
INTERVIEWER: What was achieved at Malta?
JAMES BAKER: the primary result of Malta in my view was to create a personal chemistry between to create a good atmosphere of personal chemistry between President Gorbachev and President Bush. They got to know each other, they had an occasion to sit across the table they had occasion to take the measure of each other, and I think that was the primary. There were a few specific things agreed to there as well, but that was the primary accomplishment.
INTERVIEWER: To move on to something that is central to matters the reunification of Germany. It was important to Helmut Kohl and to the German people to reunify Germany. Why was it in the United States interest to encourage that?
JAMES BAKER: Well because we had been talking about it, it was in the United State's interest to support the unification of Germany because it was, that had been a goal of the alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and something all of us in the west had supported rhetorically for 40 years And when the opportunity came to do it we weren't about to walk away from that, we thought that that was important because it would help anchor Germany to the west. And as it turned out that has been the result, that has been the case. Because when we supported unification of Germany we supported unification of Germany only as a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, and by cooperating with Helmut Kohl to make it happen we were able to achieve unification as a member of the North Atlantic Alliance. And Helmut Kohl never wavered from his insistence that it be as a member of the North Atlantic Alliance.