INT: Right. Now on the morning of the 3rd, the second day, the weather had calmed. Can you tell me about what Gorbachev said to Bush about wanting the US to stay in Europe, and how you reacted to that?
CR: The second meeting with Gorbachev that morning on the Gorky, was really, I think, a quite remarkable meeting. We began to talk about Europe and (Europe proper?), and two things happened that I remember quite well. One is that President Bush said something about America's allies wanting the United States to stay in Europe, and Gorbachev said, "We want the United States to stay in Europe too. The United States is a European power." And given the history, where we had always believed, and where all of us who had been taught about the Cold War believed that it was the principal goal of Soviet power to get America out of Europe, this was an extraordinary statement, and it stuck with everybody. The other thing that happened was that Gorbachev launched on a long kind of soliloquy about what he wanted to see happen about the Soviet Union in Europe, and it became clear to me that he had in mind the Soviet Union as a legitimate actor in Europe, not feared in Europe but respected in Europe, and that indeed he saw the Soviet Union as the kind of far-left corner of a continuum of political systems in which there was Soviet communism, French communism, German socialism, and on out to CDU Germany. Now that to me was a revelation as well, because I hadn't quite understood what was supposed to replace the old notion of a divided Europe, class conflict in Europe, and the Soviets had been saying, "Class conflict is dead in Europe." Now I understood what they thought was going to replace it, and I remember focusing very much on that.
INT: Wonderful. To sum up, what were the achievements, if you like, of the Malta summit? And can you tell me, do you think the Malta summit ended the Cold War?
CR: The Malta summit's greatest achievement, I think, was to establish a working relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, first and foremost at the level of head of state, but also foreign ministers and the people below them. It was more getting the instruments right than any single achievement. I think we also learned a lot about Gorbachev at that time: we learned that he was not a man who was easily rattled; we learned also that he was a man who didn't particularly like to say no, and I think we believed, from that time on, that if we could avoid facing him with black and white choices, a lot could happen naturally without the Soviet veto.
I do not think that one can think of Malta as the end of the Cold War, because Germany was still divided; there were still countries in Eastern Europe that were communist; the Soviet Union was still dominant in Europe from the point of view of its military power; they were still very active in the Third World. So I would not cite Malta as the end of the Cold War, but it certainly gave us instruments that became very important as we moved toward the end of the Cold War.
INT: That's a wonderful answer. (Consultation with Jim) Can I just ask you quickly about Romania, and we'll look at it mainly from the Romanian perspective, but I'd just be quite interested to know what the reaction was in Washington? There had been these terribly, surprisingly peaceful revolutions, and in Romania it's dreadful, bloody - there's public executions. What was your reaction?
CR: Well, Romania was the case of what could go wrong. The Romanian revolution was everybody's worst nightmare of what could have happened throughout Eastern Europe, and indeed later on in the Soviet Union itself, and it just reaffirmed and confirmed that this peaceful evolution, that this end to the Cold War that was going so well, had a dark side, and that it was possible at any time to have this blow up into a conflagration. Now the real truth of the matter is, I remember very little about the Romanian revolution; we were so busy. Germany was unifying, Eastern Europe was liberating itself, the Soviet Union was starting to have difficulties with the Baltic states - so much was going on that it was hard to focus on the Romanian revolution. And indeed, I'm not even sure that we said very much about the Romanian revolution. There is a state that you get in times like this: it's just overload; you can't deal with one more thing, and I think the Romanian revolution, as difficult and as awful as it was, really might have been subsumed in this sense that we were dealing with bigger issues.
INT: Great, OK. So, to look to the Soviet Union, really - by the beginning of 1990, how bad was the crisis there? It seems to me it was beginning to really threaten Gorbachev's position, if you like. How beleaguered was he, and what was the US reaction?
CR: From the very beginning really of 1989, I think we kept waiting for the effects of what was going on in Eastern Europe to have an effect in the Soviet Union itself. How long could Gorbachev play this very, very delicate game of trying to control events that were out of control? And when would that spin back into the Soviet Union itself? And I think it's the beginning of 1990 that we really began to realize that the consensus, the sort of Politburo consensus that was allowing Gorbachev to move in these directions, was beginning to break down. It was also a period in which other forces were beginning to rise up. Boris Yeltsin had visited the United States in September of 1989; he would be elected to oppose some time during 1990. A lot was happeninat the level of the Baltic states; much was happening in places like Georgia and Armenia and Azerbaijan, and indeed it looked like the Soviet Union was coming unstuck a little bit. At that point, I think we started to believe we were in a race to try to finish the business of ending the Cold War with Gorbachev still in power. It was a very delicate balance, a very short window of opportunity, because the Soviet Union had to be strong enough to sign away its four-power rights and responsibilities, but not strong enough to stop it. That's really a very, very delicate... and not a very big margin for error in getting the timing right. I always try to remind people that some year and a half, 15 months after we managed to unify Germany, the Soviet Union broke apart, so the timing couldn't have been better.
INT: And how did you do that, how did you manage to hit that balance, if you like?
CR: I think the delicate thing for the Administration was to try to figure out how to take account of Soviet interests without being so responsive to Soviet interests that you undermined what we needed to get done - for instance, unifying Germany on Western terms, liberating Eastern Europe with no Soviet presence, keeping American forces in Europe but getting Soviet troops out. Obviously, none of this was going in the Soviet Union's direction; the tide of history, if you will, was on our side. But the Soviet Union was still a formidable player, and so speed was important, while the Soviet Union was still intact, while Gorbachev was still in power, and yet to do this in a way that did not simply accommodate Soviet interests and therefore unraveled what we really wanted to get done. That was the balancing act.
INT: Do you think Gorbachev actually planned, actually wanted to end the Cold War?
CR: I believe that Gorbachev very much wanted to end the Cold War, but I believe that he had something very much different in mind when he thought about what it meant to end the Cold War. Gorbachev had in mind one Europe, of which the Soviet Union was a part, a respected, legitimate part. It was the old pan-European notion, and to our mind he wanted the United States to be a part of that. This wasn't a pan-Europe without the United States in it; but the Soviet Union was going to be a major factor there. I also think that Gorbachev was somewhat disappointed when the East Europeans, given their newfound freedom, didn't choose socialism. He really had believed that by extracting the threat, the coercion, the lies about Eastern Europe, he would create little Gorbachevs all over Eastern Europe, reformist leaders, and you would have a communist and socialist wing for Europe. That was his end to the Cold War, not one in which the West unified Germany on asymmetric terms, where NATO remained and the Warsaw Pact went away, and where ultimately the Soviet Union collapsed. Yes, he wanted to end the Cold War, but not on these terms.
INT: Fine, that's lovely - very interesting answer. Just to talk about German reunification: very briefly, why was it an important issue?
CR: Germany unification was perhaps the most important issue of this entire period, and it was important because that is where the Cold War began, and that was the only place that the Cold War could end. You could not overcome the division of Europe without overcoming the division of Germany. It made no sense to have Europe... to overcome its division and have Germany still split in two. It was also important because Germany was the front line of American power in Europe, and indeed of Soviet power in Europe; it was, if you will, the epicenter of the military conflict between East and West. And so, unifying Germany peacefully on Western terms, fully integrate it in NATO so that Germany could remain a European anchor for NATO - these were to us the core issues for ending the Cold War. I don't think that there is anything else that demanded the attention in the Administration that German unification did.
INT: What were the concerns within the American Administration as to how that would happen, about controlling the process, about speed? And what mechanism, if you like, did it come up with to oversee the process?
CR: The United States was in an enviable position vis-à-vis German unification, because we really weren't worried about the outcome. We wanted Germany to unify. Indeed, the President himself was far ahead of most of his staff on this matter: for him, Germany needed to unify, needed to unify fast, on German terms. He was convinced that German democracy would hold, that there were no ghosts of Germany's past to deal with. And so the American role became convincing, first of all, the Europeans, particularly the French and British, that that was the case; and then finding a way to unravel the Soviet problem concerning German unification. So the United States was relaxed about the outcome; we wanted Germany to unify. For us, though, the issue was: would Germany unify so that the transatlantic relationships, so that the transatlantic institutions like NATO were still intact? If you had ripped Germany out of the heart of NATO, NATO could not have existed; you would not be in a situation now where NATO is talking about expanding into Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic. So anchoring NATO became the primary goal for German unification. But President Bush, from day one, was committed to unifying Germany on German terms, and that gave us such clear direction as staff members, that we didn't spend even a moment debating the issue "should Germany unify?". To process concerning German unification, the United States was somewhat divided, the American Government was somewhat divided about how to take German unification forward. Given that we wanted to end with a unified Germany on Western terms in NATO, how could you best get there? The State Department, particularly Baker's staff, Bob Zoellick and Dennis Ross and those who worked for them, believed that the Soviet Union needed a mechanism, an international mechanism in which to participate in the unification of Germany. I think it's fair to say that within the NSC we were somewhat harder line about it, believing that events were going our way, the Soviets couldn't stop it, and that the only way that they could stop it was to get it into an international negotiation in which the Soviet Union had a veto. So we were very concerned not to do anything to allow the Soviet Union to use its four-power rights and responsibilities to structure the post-unification Germany. Four-power rights and responsibilities spoke only to the nature of Berlin, reaffirming the Polish border, and confirming that Germany would be East and West Germany, Berlin and.. that that would be the German whole. We wanted to limit Soviet comment to those issues. I think, in the long run, the State Department people were probably right: having an international mechanism, which became the two plus four, was very helpful in bringing the Soviets along in a way that was peaceful and that accounted for their interests. But what we tried to do with the two plus four was to do as little as possible within the formal structures of the two plus four, and to have most questions - like, for instance, German-Soviet economic relations - done outside the two plus four by the Germans and the Soviets, and that's how we tried to manage German unification.
INT: I heard some Soviet ministers label the process "five against one". (Laughter)
CR: I think that it's very true that some of the Soviets felt that the two plus four was really five plus one: the Western powers plus one. I think they felt that particularly after the elections in East Germany in March of 1990 produced really a unified Germany, though de facto, even though de jure it was not yet unified. The truth of the matter is that those who say that are not far off. There was a Western caucus; it always met before the two plus four; there was really an effort to disguise that, because no one wanted the Soviets to feel that they were being ganged up on. But once in a while, you know, we would be caught coming out of the Western caucus just before the meetings. I later one of my Soviet counterparts if he knew that the Western parties were meeting prior to the two plus four to try to co-ordinate their policies. He said, "Of course. Do you think we're stupid? We knew you were meeting." So indeed, the West was unified in the two plus four, and that made all the difference. Had there been real differences between France, Britain, the United States and the FRG, we would not have been able to get the deal on German unification that we did.