Under Western Eyes.

Author:Heilbrunn, Jacob

This November marks the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. After Hungary began opening its borders in April 1989, a veritable springtime of nations followed as the Warsaw Pact countries, one after the other, began to emancipate themselves from Soviet rule. The reaction in the West was reminiscent of the fervor abroad that had greeted the French Revolution two centuries earlier. As the poet William Wordsworth rejoiced,

Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy! For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood Upon our side, we who were strong in love! Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven! For all the ebullience about the dizzying pace of events, the peaceful demise of the Cold War came almost as much of a shock to the Western powers as it did the Kremlin itself. German chancellor Helmut Kohl's push for reunification aroused apprehensions abroad about a potential German hegemon in the center of Europe: both French president Francois Mitterrand and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher viewed the prospect with dread. As the French writer Francois Mauriac once sardonically observed, "I love Germany so much that I am glad there are two of them." Now the two Germanies, which had been sundered after the Second World War, were about to become one.

In Washington, the administration of President George H.W. Bush, which had initially been skeptical of Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to create what amounted to a permanent postwar settlement in Europe. Bush, together with Kohl, not only presided over the unification of West and East Germany, but also helped to establish the Charter of Paris for a New Europe in November 1990.

Like the 1815 Congress of Vienna which established the European order that endured until World War I, the aspiration of the Charter was to forge a new framework for European peace--one that envisioned a vastly expanded role for the Organization for Security and Coopetation in Europe. Soon, Washington and its Western allies pushed for the expansion of NATO in two separate phases eastward. The unexpected terminus of the U.S.-Soviet conflict created a sense of euphoria in the West that was also reflected in the pages of The National Interest, which had hitherto viewed the Cold War as an intractable conflict.

In 1985, in the inaugural issue of this magazine, the editors had published a mission statement that contended, "the Soviet Union constitutes the single greatest threat to America's...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP